Monday, March 27, 2017

Redbirds XX: 20 Years of Memphis Baseball

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 9:17 AM

The Memphis Redbirds’ 20th season begins (unofficially) this Thursday, when the St. Louis Cardinals visit for an exhibition game at AutoZone Park. (Memphis opens the regular season April 6th at New Orleans. The home opener is Tuesday, April 11th.)

In celebration of two decades of Redbirds baseball, here are 20 historical facts to flavor your next conversation at AutoZone Park.

• The first batter in Memphis Redbirds history was none other than Vince Coleman on April 7, 1998. The outfielder who won six stolen-base titles with the Cardinals in the 1980s played just 20 games for Memphis (and stole eight bases) before retiring for good.

• Three Redbird pitchers have gone on to homer in their first at-bat in the major leagues (with the Cardinals): Gene Stechschulte (2001), Adam Wainwright (2006), and Mark Worrell (2008).

• In 2000, during a brief stint with the Cardinals, Redbirds catcher Keith McDonald became just the second player to homer in each of his first two big-league at bats. (The first was Bob Nieman with the St. Louis Browns in 1951.)

• Albert Pujols hit the most famous home run in Redbirds history, one that clinched the 2000 Pacific Coast League championship for Memphis on September 15, 2000. Pujols played a total of 14 games for Memphis and enters the 2017 season (with the L.A. Angels) nine homers shy of 600 for his career.

• Five former Redbirds have been named MVP of a League Championship Series: Adam Kennedy (Angels, 2002), Pujols (Cardinals, 2004), Placido Polanco (Tigers, 2006), David Freese (Cardinals, 2011), and Michael Wacha (Cardinals, 2013).

• No Redbird pitcher has thrown a no-hitter. Four have tossed one-hitters: Clint Sodowsky (1999), Britt Reames (2000), Anthony Reyes (2005), and Tim Cooney (2014).

• Adam Kennedy owns the longest hitting streak in Redbirds history: 20 games in 1999.

• Rick Ankiel has the Ruthian distinction of having led the Redbirds in strikeouts (as a pitcher) one season (1999) and home runs (as a hitter) another (2007).

• One former Redbird has earned more than 150 big-league wins: Dan Haren (153). The Cardinals’ longtime ace, Wainwright, enters the 2017 season with 134.

• Five Redbirds have won the PCL ERA title: Brady Raggio (1998), Clint Weibl (2000), Jason Ryan (2003), Kevin Jarvis (2005), and Mitchell Boggs (2008). But no Redbird has won a PCL batting title.

• Five members of the Redbirds’ 2009 PCL championship team also played for the 2011 World Series champs in St. Louis: David Freese, Allen Craig, Jon Jay, Fernando Salas, and Jaime Garcia.

• A former Redbird has appeared in every MLB All-Star Game since 2003.

• Two former Redbirds have compiled more than 2,000 hits in the major leagues: Pujols and Polanco.

• Only five Triple-A franchises have been affiliated with their parent club longer than Memphis and the St. Louis Cardinals: Omaha (Royals), Pawtucket (Red Sox), Iowa (Cubs), Toledo (Tigers), and Tacoma (Mariners).

• Before the Redbirds’ arrival, the longest affiliation Memphis professional baseball had with one MLB franchise was 11 years (1984-94) with the Kansas City Royals.

• He only played in 147 big-league games, but Nick Stavinoha dominates the Redbirds career-record book. The slugger ranks first in franchise history in games played (479), hits (531), home runs (74), RBIs (316), and runs (260).

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• Stubby Clapp’s uniform number (10) is the only one to be retired by the Redbirds. It was painted on the bullpen wall at AutoZone Park in 2007. The number was removed, though, in 2012 when the St. Louis Cardinals retired the same number in honor of longtime manager Tony LaRussa. The Cardinals’ policy calls for a honored number to be retired throughout the farm system . . . for the same individual. (Clapp will, in fact, be wearing number 10 as manager of the 2017 Redbirds. You could say his number has been unretired twice.)

• Redbird first-baseman Larry Sutton hit the first home run in AutoZone Park history on April 14, 2000. (The Cardinals’ Eli Marrero and Mike Matheny homered in the inaugural exhibition game on April 1, 2000.)

• Three Redbirds have led the PCL in home runs: Ivan Cruz (2002), Kevin Witt (2004), and Brock Peterson (2013).

• Redbird outfielder John Rodriguez hit four grand slams in less than a month (June 15 to July 9) in 2005.

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