Friday, September 28, 2018

Superstars of the Sandlot (Part 2)

Here are more players from the National Sandlot League, a project that I have been doing via Out of the Park Baseball 19.

Phil Brubaker (1945-1956)
Outfielder / Retired

The Idaho farm boy was predestined by his father to be a long-life fixture in the family's farming business (Brubaker Farms) until his father one day watched his son play baseball in a local league tournament game, in which he had a change of heart. After the game, he approached his son and said,"Son, I have the farm under control, you just play ball."

Brubaker is a quiet-mannered leader on-and-off the field, who would become a fixture in the Detroit committee, while becoming a huge hit with the fans as well.

Brubaker, age 26, was drafted 11th overall by the Detroit Motors in 1945's Inaugural NSL Draft, in which he would play for the Motors during his entire 12-year career.

During that first 1945 NSL season, Brubaker established himself as one of the league's earliest superstars, leading the A.L. in home runs (35), slugging (.562) & runs (109). He would finish 2nd in the MVP voting that season, while his 35 HR mark would be the single-season record mark for a few years actually.

Brubaker's career RBI numbers (919) may have been bigger if it were not for the fact that he played for many losing teams during his career. He only got to see the post-season 3 times during his career, while winning a World Series ring back in 1947.

1947 would prove to be Phil's best all-around season, batting .306 with 28 HR, while winning his only RBI title with 117 ribbies... He also drew a career-high 127 walks, while he owned a .997 OPS that season (a single-season league record at the time).

Brubaker owns a career batting average of .299, while reaching base just short of 40% (.399) of the time. Brubaker had a great blend of power (225 career HR) and hitting (.880 OPS) that was difficult to ignore by any opposing NSL pitcher.

Brubaker at a glance
  • 9-time All-Star
  • 6 Platinum Stick Awards
  • Career .299 batting average
  • Career .880 OPS
  • Career 152 OPS+
  • 48.5 WAR
Brubaker retired after the 1956 NSL Season to help his ailing father get the farm in order. Some baseball critics and fans would argue if he had retired too early, but many don't argue that his career is definitely hall-worthy.

Teams: Detroit Motors (A) (1945-1956)

Manuel Arroyos (1945-Current)
Second Baseman / Pittsburgh Arsenal / Age 33

Arroyos was born in Red Bank, New Jersey, while his family's roots hail from Puerto Rico. His family, some years after the crash, moved from New Jersey to New York City to live with other family members. It would be in the streets of New York and on the sandlot that people realized young Manny had a gift... It was also his early skinny-frame, that he earned the nickname 'Skinny'.

Manuel was drafted 4th overall by the Pittsburgh Arsenal (at age 22) during the 1945 NSL Draft, he was the league's first big prospect, as he was labeled the league's #1 NSL Prospect entering that season.

Arroyos' career numbers have been scary consistent, as they don't vary much, his 162-game average is as follows...
  • .312 AVG, 13 HR, 78 RBI, 100 R & 18 SB / .397 OBP / .852 OPS / 6.0 WAR (158 games)
He doesn't own any red-ink on the year-to-year stat sheets, but he is among the top players all-time in hits (2,138), runs (1,108), stolen bases (201) & WAR (65.8)... with a real good chance (considering his year-to-year averages) to become the first player to collect 3,000 hits.

He did suffer his first injury-plagued season of his career, last season (1956), playing in only 89 games.... prior to 1955, Arroyos never played less than 156 games in a single-season. During his injury-plagued 1956 season, he was on pace to have the best year of his career, as he hit 12 home runs & 51 RBI in limited duty compared to his career-high of 17 HR during a healthy 1949 season. 

Arroyos has been blessed to be playing for a competing franchise that has reached the post-season 9 times in 12 years, while winning the World Series in 1949.

Arroyos at a glance
  • 9-time All-Star
  • 8 Platinum Stick Awards
  • 2,138 Career Hits
  • Career .312 batting average
  • Career .852 OPS
  • 201 career stolen bases
  • 65.8 WAR
Hopefully Arroyos' 1956 season is behind him, so we can watch him chase after career milestones such as his 3,000th hit... he is only 33 & has time on his side if the injuries are behind him.

Teams: Pittsburgh Arsenal (N) (1945-current)

Waki Kubo (1946-Current)
Outfielder / Cleveland Warriors / Age 39

Kubo is hands-down considered the NSL's first Japanese superstar. Kubo signed a four-year deal with the Brooklyn Atlantics as an international free agent in 1946. Much like players like Konstantin Boden (German-native), Kubo suffered a little backlash for his Japanese background as well, due to the recent World War II (that just ended) -- It must have not phased him, as he would go on to win the 1946 N.L. Rookie of the Year.

Nicknamed 'Killer', he would establish himself and one of the league's premier sluggers, while he would go on to lead the National League in home runs, four times between 1946 & 1953. He has also toppled the century mark in RBIs (a presumed record 9 times), while collecting no less than 93 RBI for a single season -- winning 2 RBI titles in 1950 & 1953. His single-season RBI record of 151 RBI has recently been broken by another Japanese superstar named Shigeo Takasugi.

Loved by the fans in Brooklyn, he would help the team finally win a World Series in 1953.

Kubo ranks near the top lifetime in many career categories including hits, RBI, runs, OPS & WAR, while he currently owns the title as 'All-Time Home Run Champ' with 327 dingers.

Kubo at a glance
  • All-Time HR Champ (327)
  • 1948 N.L. Most Valuable Player Award
  • 1946 N.L. Rookie of the Year Award
  • 9-time All-Star
  • 5 Platinum Stick Awards
  • 4 Post-Season MVP Awards
  • 4 Home Run crowns
  • 2-time RBI champ
  • 1954 N.L. Batting Champ (.336)
  • Career .298 batting average
  • Career .891 OPS
  • 1,185 Career RBI
  • 51.7 WAR
Waki is coming off a season in which he hit 26 HR & 100 RBI for the Buffalo Blues at age 39. He signed a one-year deal with the Cleveland Warriors in which he has transitioned into a full-time designated hitters. Waki's age says that he's in his final years, his bat meanwhile keeps saying he could stick around a bit.

Teams: Brooklyn Atlantics (N) (1946-1954), Buffalo Blues (N) (1955-1956) & Cleveland Warriors (N) (1957-current)

Shigeo Takasugi (1950-Current)
Second Baseman / California Seals / Age 27

Maybe one of the biggest minor-league free agents in some time, the California Seals found a gem on the Pacific League's Colorado Sky Sox roster back in November 1948.

The scouts from 1948-1952 praised Shigeo as a top prospect, but it took some time for Takasugi to get significant playing time, starting in 1952. His 1952 & 1953 NSL Seasons were modestly productive with stat lines of .255-23-74 (.794 OPS) & .272-29-92 (.889 OPS), but his best was yet to come...

He finally busted out in 1954, batting .317 with 25 HR & 75 RBI (1.019 OPS) in only 94 games, until a hamstring injury finished his season.

His breakout in 1954 was just a preview of what was to come, as he would go on to smack 53 HR with 141 RBI for the Seals in 1955, while batting .283. He would follow with an encore 1956 season in which he would set single-season NSL records in HR (63), RBI (160), Slugging Pct (.672) & Total Bases (394), while he currently ranks 1st all-time in career slugging pct (.595).

Takasugi at a glance
  • Back-to-Back N.L. Most Valuable Player Awards (1955-1956)
  • Back-to-Back HR crowns (116 HR combined)
  • Back-to-Back RBI Titles (301 RBI combined)
  • Last 5 Seasons: 194 HR
  • 2-time All-Star
  • 3 Platinum Stick Awards
  • Three consecutive seasons with 1.000+ OPS (1954-1956)
  • Career .960 OPS
  • 25.4 WAR
Takasugi has impressive power that has never been seen by the second base position or any position to this point. He would sign a go on to sign a 7-year extension worth $506,000.

Teams: California Seals (N) (1950-current)

Fernando Garcia (1945-1954)
Starting Pitcher / Retired 

The right-handed Mexican Garcia was one of the best pitchers in the entire NSL between 1945-1950, and to this day still owns the single-season ERA mark at 1.87, set in 1946 as a member of the Denver Miners.

The Miners drafted Garcia & his mean cutter in the 5th Round of the league's inaugural draft in 1945.

Garcia was compile 106 wins during the first 6 NSL seasons, while he had only one season with an ERA over 3.00 during that period (3.59 ERA in 1949).

1946 was the best season of his career, which he went 18-13, 1.87 ERA, 148 K & a league-leading 1.05 WHIP in 288.2 innings of excellent work. His next best achievement that season, besides his 1.87 ERA mark, was his no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Arsenal on August 13th.

Garcia at a glance
  • Owns Single-Season ERA mark (1.87)
  • 4-time All-Star
  • 131 Career Wins
  • Career 3.19 ERA
  • 38.5 WAR
Garcia's career started going south in 1951 due to a torn rotator cuff & numerous injuries that followed. From 1951-1953, he posted season ERAs of 4.84, 4.82 & 4.22.

Teams: Denver Miners (N) (1945-1946), Brooklyn Atlantics (N) (1947), Washington Capitols (N) (1947-1952, 1954) & the Chicago Union (1953).

Gerardo Garcia (1945-1956)
Closer / Retired

Gerardo 'Cool Papa' Garcia, a Dominican native, was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 3rd Round of the 1945 NSL Draft. For opponents, Garcia was probably the most feared closer in his day, as he would compile 182 career saves.

He only had two seasons with season ERAs over 3.00, and that was during 1950 (3.58) and his final season in 1956 (4.41 over 13 games).

He owns a few career records in ERA (1.98), Winning percentage (.677 / 63-30 record) & Opponent's OPS (.566).

Garcia played for numerous teams over his career, while he owned a career 1.11 WHIP.

Gerardo at a glance
  • 9-time All-Star
  • 2 A.L. Reliever of the Year Awards (1945 & 1949)
  • 182 career Saves
  • Career 1.98 ERA (NSL Career Record)
  • Career 221 ERA+
  • 32.8 WAR

Teams: Toronto Maple Leafs (A) (1945-1946), Louisville Sluggers (N) (1947), Atlanta Generals (N) (1948), Kansas City Athletics (A/1949, N/1956), St. Paul Saints (A) (1950), Ohio Buckeyes (A) (1951), Boston Shamrocks (A) (1952), Seattle Pilots (N) (1953, 1955) & Brooklyn Atlantics (N) (1954).

and finally...

Victor Gonzales (1945-1955)
First Baseman / Retired

The 6'2", 230 lb Cuban star nicknamed 'Grizzly' or 'El Oso Grizzly' was one of the most feared, polished hitters during the early years of the National Sandlot League.

He had an excellent eye at the plate, batting a lifetime .305, while reaching base 43.5% of the time -- leading the NSL in Bases on Balls, the first 5 years of the league's existence, while striking out very little (267 times over 1,393 games).

Gonzales would average 22 HR and 99 RBI per 162 games during his solid career, he would reach the 100 RBI mark in 5 of his first 7 seasons, while he had a lifetime .918 OPS.

The one crying shame is that we did not get to see more of Gonzales in the post-season, only appearing one year (1945) for 7 games... which he batted .310 with a .929 OPS & HR in 7 games.

Gonzales at a glance

  • 7-time All-Star
  • 5 Platinum Stick Awards
  • 1949 A.L. Batting Title (.345)
  • Led A.L. in On-Base Percentage (3x)
  • Led A.L. in OPS (3x), topping 1.000 twice.
  • Career .918 OPS
  • 47.7 WAR
Gonzales career was cut short due to a ruptured finger tendon that would plague his final 1953, 1954 & 1955 seasons, in which he played a combined 111 games, while only batting .235 with 7 HR & 44 RBI in 336 at-bats. 

Teams: Los Angeles Knights (A) (1945-1950), Seattle Pilots (N) (1951-1953), Toronto Maple Leafs (A) (1954) & Washington Capitols (N) (1955)

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