The Minor League Register

edited by Lloyd Johnson

Durham: Baseball America Inc., 1994

As a follow-up to last year's Minor League Encyclopedia, Mr. Johnson has complied a statistical register of about 900 notable minor league careers. This is only a sampling -- more than 150,000 individuals have played minor league ball -- but it's fascinating. The biggest stars of minor league ball are here, like Buzz Arlett and Jigger Statz, along with curiosities like Mario Cuomo, Bill Sharman and John Elway.

This is real random access stuff -- pick a subject and start reading. For today's subject we'll take Crash Davis. You remember -- this was the name of Kevin Costner's character in the movie Bull Durham.

There really was a player named Crash Davis. His given name was Lawrence, and he born in Georgia in 1919. A second baseman, Crash played ball for Duke University, the Philadelphia A's, and Uncle Sam. After the war he spent two seasons in the New England League (Lawrence, Lowell, Pawtucket). Then Crash moved to the Carolina League, where he played for Durham and Raleigh until 1952. He had 45 career home runs in the minor leagues. Ron Shelton, the director of Bull Durham, found Crash's name in a Carolina League record book, and borrowed it for the film.

In the movie, Crash (a catcher) is said the be the all-time leader in minor league home runs. Who is the real all-time leader? Hector Espino of the Mexican League, which is rated AAA by Organized Baseball. Hector was born June 8, 1939 in Chihuahua. His career lasted 24 seasons, mostly as a first baseman. Like Henry Aaron, he was not a large man, and like Aaron he was a right-handed .300 hitter who built his record on consistency. Espino's best home run year was 1963, when he clouted 46. In his life he played only 32 games outside of Mexico -- at Jacksonville, 1964. (He hit well, but perhaps he got homesick.) After many seasons with the Monterrey Industrialists, Hector's numbers dipped and he went to Tampico, where made a great comeback at age thirty-three. He bounced around for while and finished his career back in Monterrey, with 484 career home runs.

One of our favorite minor leaguers was Rick Lancellotti, whom the sportswriters liked to call a real-life Crash Davis. Here are the places Rick played: Charleston, Salem, Buffalo, Portland, Amarillo, Hawaii, San Diego, Wichita, Oklahoma City, Las Vegas, Tidewater, Phoenix, San Francisco, Hiroshima, Pawtucket, and Boston. (And you could probably add some winter ball towns, too.) A big free-swinger, Lance led four different leagues in home runs, and was popular everywhere he played. He hit 276 homers in the minors, 2 in the majors, and 58 in Japan. He's said to be working on a book, and we'd love to read it.

One last player. He was in the news again recently -- trouble with the law -- but he had one of the greatest seasons of any baseball player ever. Willie Mays Aikens, Puebla, Mexican League, 1986:

202 hits, 46 HR, 154 RBI, .454 avg. -- DN

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