A .578 batting average is memorable; so is 30 home runs; 11 complete games, and playing 5 different positions including catcher and having a local field renamed in your honor; Ashtabula’s very own-Harry Klupert; the grinder who never met a ground ball he couldn’t snare,
but there were no field plaque commemorations; not yet anyway; just the wind whispering “endure” and some did and some didn’t and nothing has really changed.
Ashtabula, Ohio has four MLB players on its birth records and none of them were named Harry Klupert, but Farmer Burns is hard to forget in a wino luxury box sort of way and he was from Ashtabula, but Farmer was probably just a nickname.
Then what about Danville, Illiniois? Only seven MLB players, but Sterling Slaughter one of them and maybe that’s not a nickname, that’s an adverb and a noun and I’m stuck in a scrap yard of words where hot dogs come to life and all the other players are swept into mediocre draft realities.
“The dude picked ahead of Matt Latos was spotted in Boise the other day. He’s running a Ferris wheel. I forget his name.”
The Honus of the high school yearbook is nothing but a common denominator; shipped out to gulf coast rookie ball with fellow farm hands. The team is certain of his 5 tools future or pretend to be in the local media; gotta save face. There are videos and spray charts and haiku about the kid, but everyone secretly rubs a rabbit’s foot because so and so already has a sore shoulder. Buy some booze for the bomb shelter. The end is near again.
I love baseball almanac and the birth states of MLB players more than I love WAR and BABIP because I grew up staring mindlessly at the backs of baseball cards and memorized things so I would know them and never considered there might be other numbers made from formulas to enhance our understanding of something.
Baseball cards may cause brain damage, but that’s ok, I bow to our number crunching brothers every time I slip and stare at a Topps and a road opens to play word search with baseball birth places. Illinois has a nice blend of Y’s and Z’s; a Ben Zobrist from Eureka, Illinois grabs my grunt because Zobrist plays infield and outfield and so did Robin Yount.
The Brewers picked third in the 1973 draft like they did in 1971 and Tommy Bianco didn’t really pan out; only 34 career at bats, but Robin Yount sure did. He was the fifth consecutive position player drafted in the franchise’s fifth year of existence. So much for pitchers and following the Mets signing or drafting or however they got Ryan-Koosman-Seaver.
Is Illinois home to versatility like Texas is home to pitchers? Koosman was from Minnesota and Seaver-California and Pedo Martinez-Manoguayabo, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and Ben Sheets from the south too, but not Texas and the best pitcher I ever saw over and over again was Teddy Higuera and he was from Las Mochis, Mexico.
One hell of a team; that Pangea.
I was hoping my half-baked theory of Illinois and utility might grow wings and fly but it didn’t. Tony Phillips is from Atlanta, Georgia and Bert Campanaris and Cookie Rojas-Cuba and they were the kings of two gloves in a holster. Zobrist must be climbing the ladder of all time versatility too and Yount played SS and CF and Yount won MVP’s at both positions.
Yount was born in Illinois, but grew up in California; a shortstop from Taft high school in Woodland Hills, CA. He’s not the first big league player from Taft; not even the first Brewer. Rick Auerback holds that distinction, but Yount was sent to play in the New York Penn League and 242 at bats later; a quick curtains to his minor league development.
Milwaukee baseball needed an identity not named Aaron or Mathews or Spahn and Yount was the next name alphabetically or maybe Gorman Thomas was the key or bring back Hank Aaron to Milwaukee one more time and so they did for the 1975 and 76 season just like they brought back Babe to Boston and trade for Cecil Cooper and Ben Oglivie and jigsaw puzzle coming together.
Yount made 19 errors at SS in 107 games 1974. He was 18 years old and that’s probably when Milwaukee called him the kid. The nickname stuck.
He made 44 errors in full-time play 1975, but he was acrobatic and pretzel twisting right from the starting gun; a 9-5 oil can of effort and driving outside pitches to the opposite field gap; stretching singles into doubles; belly flop head first slides and almost 30 home runs in 1982 and 251 for his career and a not so jaw dropping .285 career BA, but 3,125 hits; his ticket to Cooperstown.
Yount played 20 years; from 1974 -1993; all for the Brewers and now there’s a statue of him outside Miller Park; driving a ball to the right field gap; maybe for a triple. He hit 126 triples for his career and 583 doubles. He even helped design the Miller Park outfield alley depths.
Yount could run for mayor in Milwaukee and win on a ticket of play hard; have fun.