Tacoma is hosting the 30th annual Triple-A All-Star Game at Cheney Stadium on July 12. We’ll spend the winter looking back at the previous years, to give fans an idea what they can expect in Tacoma this summer.
The first Triple-A All-Star Game was played in front of a crowd of 19,500 at Buffalo’s Pilot Field.
For the first ten Triple-A All-Star Games, there was a little bit of trouble dividing up the teams: there were three Triple-A leagues, so we had players from the Pacific Coast League, the International League, and the American Association selected for the game. For the game, the players were divided up by major league affiliates: National League affiliates versus American League affiliates.
Tacoma was the Oakland A’s affiliate in 1988. The Tacoma Tigers all-stars were infielders Lance Blankenship and Ed Jurak. Blankenship started for the American League, batting eighth in the lineup, and went 1-for-3. Jurak replaced him, hitting a triple in the ninth inning and scoring a run.
Jurak’s run was the game winner as the AL won it, 2-1, and he was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
The huge crowd – Pilot Field is now named Coca-Cola Field and remains home of the Buffalo Bisons, with a current capacity over 20,000 – helped make the event a success, as did the national TV audience on the up-and-coming cable channel ESPN.
Quick Hits from the first Triple-A All-Star Game:
- The only run the NL scored came on a home run by Gregg Jeffries, who at the time was the biggest prospect in baseball. Jeffries had a long major league career, but never attained the superstardom which some projected.
- The Mariners affiliate was in Calgary in 1988. Calgary manager Bill Plummer served as a coach, and the lone all-star player was Phil Ouellette.
- While not yet representing the Mariners, Joey Cora started at second base for the NL. Cora was a San Diego Padres prospect at the time; their affiliate was the Las Vegas Stars. Cora would eventually play for Seattle from 1995 to 1998.
- Nearly everybody in the game appeared in the major leagues. A few players who would have long MLB careers: Jeffries, Cora, catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., and outfielder Steve Finley.
- Two years later, Sandy Alomar Jr. became the first alumnus of the Triple-A All-Star Game to play in the Major League All-Star Game.
- The Albuquerque Dukes were represented by outfielder Chris Gwynn. Gwynn was a fixture at Cheney Stadium the last few seasons, while working as Jack Zduriencik’s Director of Player Development.
- Managers were Ed Nottle (Pawtucket) for the AL, and Terry Collins (Albuquerque) for the NL. Collins is currently managing the New York Mets, while Nottle had been a previous Tacoma manager (1981-82, 1984). Has anyone written a book on Nottle yet? He managed in the minors from 1978 through 2008!
- The home plate umpire was Pam Postema, who was bidding to become the major league’s first woman umpire.
- Columbus catcher Bob Geren won the first-ever Triple-A All-Star Home Run Derby.
That was fun to research. We’ll do another installment next week.
Two key players from the 2016 Rainiers have declared free agency.
Outfielder/second baseman Daniel Robertson and pitcher Jarrett Grube each elected to become free agents. Each player has over six years of minor league experience and is not on the Mariners 40-man roster, which makes them eligible to become free agents.
Robertson played in 114 games for the Rainiers, hitting .287 while providing energy at the top of the lineup and leadership in the clubhouse.
Grube made 15 appearances for the Rainiers, posting a 3.62 ERA.
Each player spent a little bit of time in the majors with Seattle this year, although Grube did not appear in a big league game.
- Rainiers first baseman Dan Vogelbach is ready to work all offseason.
- Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook includes some data showing that Cheney Stadium was one of the top pitcher’s parks in the PCL this season.
We’ve got a big NLDS Game Five tonight!