This week in the PCL

by Bruce Baskin
May 21, 2001 - Pacific Coast League (PCL)

THIS WEEK IN THE PCL

by Bruce Baskin

SACRAMENTO FETES AILING AAGPBL STAR

The Sacramento River Cats honored a number of former players from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League on May 14, but one of the stars of the AAGPBL held center stage once again. During her playing career spanning from 1944 through 1950, Faye Dancer was a fan favorite for her exploits both on and off the field. Primarily an outfielder, Dancer also played some first base and had an 11-11 record as a pitcher. She batted .236 and stole 352 bases for her career in a league better known for good pitching than hitting, but her flamboyance transcended mere statistics. She was the role model for the character "All the Way" Mae Morabito in the 1992 movie "A League Of Their Own," which brought about renewed attention to the league. The AAGPBL began play in 1943 during World War II and ran 12 seasons prior to folding in 1954.

Now 76 years old, Dancer was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. Within a month of diagnosis, she underwent surgery to remove her left breast along with 18 lymph nodes and lost her job of 36 years with a power generating company in California. Next month, she'll learn whether she needs any more chemotherapy or radiation. The owners of the All-American Softball School and College Prep Program have set up a fund to help defray Dancer's medical expenses. Persons interested in making a donation or writing a letter of support can contact the Faye Dancer "All the Way Mae" Fund at 4201 South Market Court, Sacramento, CA 95834.

Nearly 12,000 fans turned out for the game at Sacramento's Raley Field. Dancer threw out the opening pitch to former teammate and lifelong friend LaVonne "Pepper" Paire-Davis. Talking with Sacramento Bee reporter Sheila Hudson, Dancer said before she took the mound, "I haven't been this excited in a long time. This will give me something to talk about...I don't want none of that 10-feet away stuff, because I can throw it far. Whether I hit Pepper or not -- I don't know.

"I'm just glad I'm the one doing the throwin'."

PCL ROUNDUP

PACIFIC CONFERENCE

West Division

TACOMA RAINIERS (Mariners)
Season Record: 30-12. Last 10 Games: 8-2.
Top Batters: SS Ramon Vazquez (.357/2/27), 1B Todd Betts (.331/2/23), DH Juan Thomas (.302/11/37).
Top Pitchers: Dennis Stark (7-0/2.79/41k), Rob Ramsey (5-1/2.03/34k), Brian Fuentes (2-1/1.30/5sv).
This Week's Schedule: May 21-24 at Edmonton; May 25-28 at Portland.

CALGARY CANNONS (Marlins)
Season Record: 22-17. Last 10 Games: 5-5.
Top Batters: C Ramon Castro (.368/8/22), 3B Mike Gulan (.358/7/24), OF Ryan Thompson (.342/11/37).
Top Pitchers: Benito Baez (4-0/5.17/1sv)Jesus Sanchez (3-0/3.03/26k), Johnny Ruffin (1-3/5.02/8sv).
This Week's Schedule: May 21-24 vs Portland; May 25-28 at Edmonton.

PORTLAND BEAVERS (Padres)
Season Record: 19-23. Last 10 Games: 4-6.
Top Batters: OF Ryan Radmanovich (.316/5/21), IF Cesar Crespo (.275/15r/11sb), 1B Kevin Witt (.257/.4/21).
Top Pitchers: Jeremy Powell (2-2/1.69/54k), Dave Lundquist (3-1/2.20/34k), Matt Miller (0-3/6.27/8sv).
This Week's Schedule: May 21-24 at Calgary; May 25-28 vs Tacoma.

EDMONTON TRAPPERS (Twins)
Season record: 18-23. Last 10 Games: 3-7.
Top Batters: 3B Casey Blake (.341/5/24), OF Quinton McCracken (.364/1/19), 1B Matt LeCroy (.321/10/41).
Top Pitchers: Mike Oquist (2-3/3.56/33k), Brent Stentz (0-0/3.86/7sv), Willie Martinez (4-3/5.52/36k).
This Week's Schedule: May 21-24 vs Tacoma; May 25-28 vs Calgary.

South Division

SACRAMENTO RIVER CATS (Athletics)
Season Record: 21-22. Last 10 Games: 4-6.
Top Batters: C Cody McKay (.296/1/9), OF Andy Abad (.274/7/30), OF Eric Byrnes (.294/4/14).
Top Pitchers: Eric Ireland (4-3/3.88/35k), Frank Lankford (4-2/2.92/17k), Erik Hiljus (2-4/4.34/55k).
This Week's Schedule: May 21-24 at Fresno; May 25-28 vs Las Vegas.

TUCSON SIDEWINDERS (Diamondbacks)
Season Record: 20-24. Last 10 Games: 5-5.
Top Batters: OF Midre Cummings (.404/1/17), OF Rob Ryan (.345/8/33), 1B Desi Wilson (.349/1/24).
Top Pitchers: Geraldo Guzman (2-3/4.71/50k), Kennie Steenstra (3-2/4.62/31k), Anthony Chavez (4-2/4.62/22k).
This Week's Schedule: May 21-24 at Las Vegas; May 25-28 at Fresno.

LAS VEGAS 51s (Dodgers)
Season Record: 19-24. Last 10 Games: 7-3.
Top Batters: OF Shawn Gilbert (.331/6/28), 3B Phil Hiatt (.308/7/22), C Brian Johnson (.298/5/16).
Top Pitchers: Jim Daugherty (0-2/2.35/8sv), Onan Masaoka (5-3/8.72/25k), Jeff Williams (3-1/4.76/23k).
This Week's Schedule: May 21-24 vs Tucson; May 25-28 at Sacramento.

FRESNO GRIZZLIES (Giants)
Season Record: 18-24. Last 10 Games: 4-6.
Top Batters: SS Cody Ransom (.297/4/20), 2B Juan Melo (.299/3/17), 1B Damon Minor (.242/7/22).
Top Pitchers: Ryan Jensen (3-0/1.62/29k), Robbie Crabtree (4-5/3.97/26k), Ryan Vogelsong (2-3/3.26/39k).
This Week's Schedule: May 21-24 vs Sacramento; May 25-28 vs Tucson.

AMERICAN CONFERENCE

Central Division

SALT LAKE STINGERS (Angels)
Season Record: 27-16. Last 10 Games: 7-3.
Top Batters: OF Jeff DaVanon (.382/7/36), 3B Jose Fernandez (.361/8/29), OF Scott Morgan (.276/10/31).
Top Pitchers: Steve Green (5-1/3.18/31k), Brian Cooper (4-0/4.45/31k), Bart Miadich (2-0/1.08/6sv).
This Week's Schedule: May 21-24 vs Omaha; May 25-28 at Iowa.

COLORADO SPRINGS SKY SOX (Rockies)
Season Record: 19-22. Last 10 Games: 4-6.
Top Batters: OF Kevin Sefcik (.335/2/20), OF Mike Peeples (.303/5/23), C Adam Melhuse (.289/6/29).
Top Pitchers: Kip Gross (3-2/4.99/14k), Craig House 1-0/3.68/4sv), Jason Jennings (3-1/5.74/26k).
This Week's Schedule: May 21-24 vs Iowa; May 25-28 at Omaha.

OMAHA GOLDEN SPIKES (Royals)
Season Record: 19-24. Last 10 Games: 5-5.
Top Batters: 1B Kit Pellow (.268/9/33); OF Aaron Guiel (.313/3/18), C Mel Rosario (.271/5/18).
Top Pitchers: Chris George (4-1/2.92/40k), Shawn Sonnier (1-1/2.73/25k), Jason Rakers (2-1/5.20/25k).
This Week's Schedule: May 21-24 at Salt Lake; May 25-28 vs Colorado Springs.

IOWA CUBS (Cubs)
Season Record: 19-24. Last 10 Games: 4-6.
Top Batters: OF Roosevelt Brown (.315/5/21), OF Ross Gload (.283/7/27), OF Corey Patterson (.259/5/18).
Top Pitchers: Nate Teut (4-2/4.06/40k), Ruben Quevedo (3-1/2.48/55k), Mike Meyers (3-2/2.96/49k).
This Week's Schedule: May 21-24 at Colorado Springs; May 25-28 vs Salt Lake.

East Division

NEW ORLEANS ZEPHYRS (Astros)
Season Record: 25-17. Last 10 Games: 7-3.
Top Batters: 3B Morgan Ensberg (.299/12/31), 2B Keith Ginter (.295/7/27) C Scott Servais (.300/3/19).
Top Pitchers: Tony McKnight (5-2/3.62/32k), Jim Mann (2-0/1.85/10sv), Travis Driskill (4-1/4.13/42k).
This Week's Schedule: May 21-24 at Oklahoma; May 25-28 vs Memphis.

MEMPHIS REDBIRDS (Cardinals)
Season Record: 21-21. Last 10 Games: 4-6.
Top Batters: DH Darrell Whitmore (.333/3/17), 2B Stubby Clapp (.283/2/19), 1B Shane Andrews (.246/8/26).
Top Pitchers: Bud Smith (4-3/2.33/49k), Alan Benes (3-2/3.72/22k), Jerry Spradlin (1-1/3.93/8sv).
This Week's Schedule: May 21-24 at Nashville; May 25-28 at New Orleans.

OKLAHOMA REDHAWKS (Rangers)
Season Record: 22-22. Last 10 Games: 4-6.
Top Batters: OF Cliff Brumbaugh (.305/7/33), 2B Mike Young (.284/8/27), 3B Mike Lamb (.278/4/22).
Top Pitchers: R.A. Dickey (3-1/5.97/18k), Brandon Villafuerte (2-2/3.29/3sv), J.D. Smart (2-2/2.14/3sv).
This Week's Schedule: May 21-24 vs New Orleans; May 25-28 vs. Nashville.

NASHVILLE SOUNDS (Pirates)
Season Record: 19-23. Last 10 Games: 5-5.
Top Batters: OF Tike Redman (.352/2/20r), 2B Warren Morris (.303/1/18), OF Adam Hyzdu (.252/9/23).
Top Pitchers: Mike Lincoln (3-3/3.00/344k), Jason Ryan (3-4/3.45/18k), Dave Pavlas (1-2/1.40/4sv).
This Week's Schedule: May 21-24 vs Memphis; May 25-28 at Oklahoma.

FEATURED PLAYER: C Ramon Castro, Calgary Cannons

Once considered a prized prospect in the Florida Marlins farm system, Castro was relegated to afterthough status prior to this season when the Marlins sent him to Class AAA for a third straight season while dropping him from their 40-man roster. After batting .335 with 14 homers for the Cannons last year, Castro is likely getting some attention from the folks in Miami this season by crushing PCL pitching for a .368 batting average with eight homers for a slugging percentage of .684 in just 95 at-bats. But for a lack of plate appearances, both figures would lead the PCL.

FEATURED PITCHER: R.A. Dickey, Oklahoma RedHawks

A native of Nashville, Dickey won his first professional decision at Herschel Greer Stadium on May 20 as Oklahoma dealt the Sounds a 7-to-5 sour note. Dickey retired the first nine Nashville batters he faced and cruised through four scoreless innings before getting into trouble in the fifth, giving up four runs in the frame. The former University of Tennessee star settled down to retire the final eight batters he faced before giving way to reliever Jayson Durocher in the eighth. Now in his third season with the RedHawks, the win boosted Dickey's season record to 3-1 and lowered his ERA to 5.97.

PCL ROAD TRIP: Sacramento, California

One of the charter members of the Pacific Coast League, Sacramento returned to the fold last season after a 24-year absence. The city has been home to two PCL regular season champions as well as two playoff titlists. The River Cats opened 14,111-seat Raley Field last season, and went on to pull in more than 861,000 fans (often outdrawing the parent Oakland A's when both clubs were at home).

Sacramento has nearly 400,000 residents, and is the state capital of California. The city sits between the Sierra Nevada and Pacific Coast mountain ranges, and is an agricultural hotbed due to its warm summers and mild winters. Perhaps the most-affordable of California's larger cities, Sacramento is one of the fastest-growing areas in the west. The city is also home of the NBA Sacramento Kings, where the Arco Arena has hosted sellouts on a regular basis since the team moved from Kansas City in 1985.

PCL'S HISTORY'S HEROES: OF Oscar "Ox" Eckhardt (1929-35)

One of the greatest hitters in minor league history, Ox Eckhardt made the most of his six-year stint in the PCL. Born in 1901 in rural Texas, Eckhardt played briefly for Austin in the Texas Association in 1925 before really getting his pro career underway in 1928 with Wichita and Amarillo in the Western League (where he hit .376). He entered the PCL with Seattle in 1929, batting .354 and a league-leading 17 triples for the Indians that year. He went back to the Lone Star State in 1930, topping the Txas League with a .379 average for Beaumont. Eckhardt then played the next five season for the PCL's Mission Reds, leading the league in hitting four times while never dropping below .a 369 average. His 315 base hits for Mission in 1933 is a record that will never be broken. He also stroked 56 doubles that year and drove in 143 runs.

Eckhardt split most of the remaining five years of his career between the American Association and Texas League before retiring in 1940 with a minor league career mark of .367 over 13 seasons. He appeared briefly in the National League twice, batting .250 for Boston in 1932 and .182 for Brooklyn in 1936. Never a power hitter, only 66 of Eckhardt's 2,773 minor league hits were homers. He died at age 49 in his hometown of Yorktown, Texas in 1951.

• Discuss this story on the Pacific Coast League message board...

Pacific Coast League Stories from May 21, 2001


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s), and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.


Sports Statistics from the Stats Crew