The Terry Francona You Don’t Know

First off congrats to Terry Francona for taking home the 2013 AL Manager of the Year award.  Coming into the season with a rotation that included lost causes Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir no one thought that this Cleveland Indians team was going to win 92 games.  Props to Tito and a pitching staff that far exceeded expectations!

Speaking of pitching…did you know that Terry Francona posted the lowest ERA on the 1990 Louisville Redbirds?  After ten major league seasons which included 474 hits and a .274 batting average the slick fielding first baseman was released by the Brewers after four at-bats in April of 1990.

Francona was 31 years old and coming off a season where he backed up Greg Brock on the ’89 Brewers squad.  It appeared to be the end of the line for the former first round pick of the Montreal Expos.  Tito was picked one slot ahead of uber prospect Billy Beane in the 1980 MLB draft.

So two weeks after Francona is released by the Brewers he signs his final playing contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.  He is sent to triple A Louisville to bring a veteran presence into a clubhouse full of future MLB all-stars.  The ’90 Redbirds team featured Ken Hill, Ray Lankford and Bernard Gilkey. Francona would get three-hundred at-bats on the ‘Birds while hitting a solid .263.

As triple-A managers are bound to be, Gaylen Pitts found himself in a few late inning binds that season.  He needed an arm to get a few outs.  Fortunately he realized that his fourth outfielder Terry Francona had major league pitching experience.  The ’89 Brewers found themselves getting blown-out by the powerhouse Athletics team in mid-May.  Milwaukee manager Tom Trebelhorn turned to Francona to get through the 8th inning in Oakland.  How did he do?

Terry got Terry Steinbach and  Tony Phillips to make the first two outs of the inning on flyballs before strike-ing out Stan Javier to end the inning. 1-2-3 go the A’s.  Armed with this awesome performance and a career ERA of 0.00 in the majors Terry volunteered to help out Pitts on five occasions during the summer of 1990 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Terry Francona would end his playing career as the relief ace for the Redbirds.  He pitched 7 2/3 innings in five games for Louisville that year. The future world series winning manager whiffed six batters and allowed just one run to post a 1.17 ERA.

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Posted on November 21, 2013, in 1980s stars, managers, pitching rants and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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