10 Biggest Names to Play Baseball In “The Magic City”
Most Major League Baseball fans are smiling this week as the league conceded to the player association’s salary requests for the potential 2020 season.
The next discussion, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, is the number of games that will be played in the shortened season. With the MLB’s latest proposal at 60 games, baseball fans could likely expect to see anywhere between 65-75 games for each club.
Even though we’re close to seeing big leaguers take the field, the seasons for all 261 minor league teams was permanently canceled in May.
Birmingham is certainly missing baseball this summer, so Tide 100.9 is counting down some of the most well-known talent to come through the Barons’ organization!
10) Tony La Russa - This 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee is widely known for his time as a manager in the major leagues. However, prior to his time in coaching, La Russa played 15 seasons in the minors and three of those in Alabama. As a skipper, he’s a three-time World Series Champion, four-time Manager of the Year, and he has his jersey retired with two MLB teams.
9) Vida Blue - In 1969, this power-lefty started for the Birmingham A’s, a minor league team in the Oakland Athletics organization. However, as a big-leaguer he earned a Cy Young Award (1971), made six All-Star teams, and three consecutive World Series Championships starting for the Oakland Athletics.
8) Rollie Fingers - Inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992, Fingers completely changed the role of the reliever and shaped the position modern-day baseball would call “The Closer”. Though he was used later in games while in the majors, he was a starter in both of his seasons with the Birmingham A’s (1967-1968). Rollie Fingers is a seven-time-All-Star, three-time World Series Champion, and won both the American League Cy Young award and Most Valuable Player in the same season (1981).
7) Tim Anderson - After being invited to spring training by the Chicago White Sox, Anderson spent his 2015 with the Barons. The Tuscaloosa-native was selected in the first round from East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi. Before Anderson’s 2017 season with the White Sox, he signed a six-year contract worth $25 million. In 2019, the 26-year-old won the American League batting title with a .335 batting average.
6) Frank Thomas - “The Big Hurt” was selected by the Chicago white Sox in the first round of the 1989 MLB draft after excelling in both football and baseball at Auburn University. Thomas played 19 MLB seasons after a rather short career (and campaign) as a Birmingham Baron in 1990. The five-time-All-Star was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player in consecutive seasons (1993-1994) and made the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.
5) Reggie Jackson - Five-time World Series Champion and 14-time-All-Star, this former Birmingham A is more affectionately known as “Mr. October”. Jackson started his 1967 season in The Magic City before making his debut with the Oakland Athletics in the same year. After 21 MLB seasons, his number is retired by the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees along with becoming a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993.
4) Willie Mays - Still in high-school, Willie Mays officially started his professional baseball career in 1948. In the same year Mays would join the Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro American League. He would only stay in Birmingham until 1950 when he signed an MLB contract on the day he graduated high school (MLB rules at the time prohibited signing players that have yet to complete high school). Mays wouldn’t stay in the minors very long as he made his pro debut in 1951. The Westfield, Alabama-native played in 24 All-Star games, has 12 Golden Gloves, and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, on the first ballot, in 1979.
3) Leroy “Satchel” Paige - A product of Mobile, Alabama, Satchel Paige is one of the most important figures in Negro Leagues and professional baseball history. He played in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Mexico before becoming the MLB’s oldest rookie in 1948 at the age of 42. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971 and is one of few players to win both the Negro League World Series (1942) and the MLB World Series (1948).
2) Bo Jackson - Another Alabama-native, Bo Jackson has been electrifying fans since he was a teenager. After staring in football, baseball, and track at Auburn, he was picked by Tampa Bay in the 1986 NFL Draft. However, the 1985 Heisman-winner chose (at least for the time being) to stay on the baseball diamond and fulfilled is draft selection to the Kansas City Royals. Historically, Bo decided to pick up football again after the 1987 baseball season, “as a hobby”. His decision would change his career and the possible outcomes of sports history. A severe hip injury in 1991 was the main cause of his retirement and the abbreviation of what could’ve been the best athlete to ever live. Bo Jackson was the first athlete to ever be named All-Pro in two major American Sports.
And of course…
1) Michael Jordan - Quite possibly the greatest basketball player of all-time, “His Airness” famously played for the Birmingham Barons sporadically through the 1994-1995 seasons. The owner of MJ’s three-time champion Chicago Bulls was also the owner of the Chicago White Sox. When Jordan decided to retire for the first-time in 1993, he stated that his intention was to fulfill his father’s dream of having Micheal play professional baseball. The White Sox signed Air-Jordan in 1994 and after spring-training, the club designated him to the Birmingham Barons. MJ played 127 games in the Southern League and significantly contributed to the Barons drawing over 450,000 fans to Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in 1994.
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