MINOR LEAGUE NOTEBOOK / ELLIOTT TEAFORD : Springer Wants to Crash the Majors
Remember at the end of the movie “Bull Durham,” when Crash Davis goes to Asheville, N.C., to hit his minor league-record breaking home run and no one calls The Sporting News with the story? And remember how only Crash and Annie Savoy knew it was a record?
Real life, even in the minor leagues, is a bit different. Baseball America keeps track of all manner of records, and the latest edition contains a list of top active minor league players.
Starting the season, Steve Springer, Orange County’s Crash Davis, was among the top five in hits (1,407) and doubles (247).
Springer, 33, from Marina High and Golden West College, began his pro career in 1982 and has had only two short stints in the major leagues.
“Hey, I just got a paycheck the other day,” he said, laughing. “It could be worse. It could be a lot better.”
This season, Springer is the starting third baseman for the Toledo Mudhens, the Detroit Tigers’ triple-A affiliate. He’s batting .280 and hoping the Tigers give him another crack at the majors before the season is finished.
“I keep telling my wife this is going to be it,” Springer said. “But it’s tough to retire. I’ve been the MVP on my team three out of the last five years and I’ve never seen the big leagues in September.”
Earning a promotion to Detroit would figure to be an easier accomplishment than breaking the all-time minor league hit record, though.
Springer probably would have to play into his late 40s to eclipse the mark of 3,617 hits set by Spencer Harris, who played from 1921 to 1948. Harris, who died at 81 in 1982, also played four seasons in the majors with the Chicago White Sox, Washington Senators and Philadelphia Athletics. He had 94 hits.
“Somebody showed me that list the other day,” Springer said. “I think I was higher last year, but Skeeter Barnes, my teammate, moved onto the list. I’m creeping up on my 1,500th hit. I’m sure I’ll get the ball and save it.”
Springer said Toldeo Manager Larry Parrish has dubbed him “Old Man.”
“Old man keeps flying, though,” Springer said. “Old man is hitting third. It’s tough to quit. If I were hitting .220 with no production it would be easier.”
Add Springer: He hopes to continue his career in baseball no matter what transpires this season or next. He said he’s been approached about coaching or scouting when his playing days are over.
One of the great benefits of playing for six organizations is getting to know a number of baseball people, he said.
“I have no real chip on my shoulder,” said Springer, whose first major league hit came on May 22, 1990, off Angel left-hander Chuck Finley. “I feel I’ve gotten two breaks by getting there (to the majors). I can’t complain. I could be going to work 9 to 5 every day. I plan on coaching or scouting when I finish, but there’s always time to do that.
“I don’t know. You play triple A you never know. You still have a chance.”
Add lists: Seattle infielder Rich Amaral, from Estancia High and Orange Coast, the oldest rookie in the majors last year, ranks fifth in stolen bases with 327. The all-time record is 948 by George Hogrieiver, set from 1889-1912.
Amaral and Springer are close friends, speaking on the telephone once every two weeks or so.
Right-handed pitcher Paul Abbott of Sunny Hills is tied for fifth with 865 strikeouts. Abbott is 4-1 for Omaha, Kansas City’s triple-A affiliate.
The late George Brunet, an Angel from 1964-69, set the all-time strikeout record of 3,175 between 1953-85.
Forty-four suspensions, $4,425 in fines and another black eye for the game.
Those were the totals after a fight last week between the West Palm Beach Expos and the Charlotte (Fla.) Rangers, sparked by a home-plate collision between Steve Gill and Daryl Kennedy.
Gill, from El Dorado High and Cypress College, was out by a good 10 feet on a throw home, but he attempted to jar the ball loose by running into Kennedy. And the rumble was on.
Four West Palm Beach and three Charlotte players either were not at the game, in the clubhouse or in the scorekeeper’s shack. Otherwise, it was your typical benches- and bullpen-clearing scrum.
When the dust settled last week, Florida State League president Chuck Murphy came down hard on the brawlers. Gill and Kennedy each were fined $125 and suspended three days.
“It’s the first time this year we’ve had what I consider a brawl,” Murphy told the Associated Press. “This was the turning point, as far as I was concerned, that I was going to take action to get this kind of thing stopped.”
Promo o’ the week: The Lake Elsinore Storm, the Angels’ Class-A affiliate, last week extended an invitation for Mujibar and Sirajul, salesmen-turned-cult heroes on “Late Show With David Letterman” to attend a game.
The two are barnstorming the country, feeding Letterman straight lines from Niagara Falls to Las Vegas to a Montana trout stream. In keeping with the theme, the Storm has offered Mujibar Rahman and Sirajul Islam a chance to take batting practice, serve as bat boys or groundskeepers.
“We’ve already got lockers and uniforms ready for Mujibar and Sirajul,” Storm General Manager Kevin Haughian said.
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