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Tuesday, October 21, 2014
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Published: Monday, 9/3/2001

So long, Skeldon: Around the horn -- the best Mud Hens

Who are the greatest players to put on a Mud Hen uniform since the team returned to Toledo in 1965? The answer depends on what you mean by "greatest players."

If you define the Hens' best players as those with the greatest professional career, you'd have to consider stars such as recent Hall of Fame inductee Kirby Puckett.

But if you define "greatest players" as those with the best careers in a Mud Hen uniform, well, Puckett wouldn't make the list. In 1984 he hit .263 with one homer, five RBIs and eight stolen bases in just 21 games before the Twins called him up to the big leagues for good.

So who would be on the list of the Mud Hens' greatest players since the team returned to Skeldon Stadium in 1965?

Here is one man's choice for the greatest players to wear a Hens uniform and play at Skeldon Stadium, with the criterion that each player spent at least one full season in Toledo.

  • FIRST BASE: Greg "Boomer" Wells (1982). Wells led the league in batting average (.336) and RBIs (107) that season, and tied for third in homers (28). He also led the league in runs, hits and total bases in one of the most dominant seasons in International League history. Others: George Kalafatis, Joe Lis, Jesus Vega, Dave McCarty.

  • SECOND BASE: Tim Teufel (1982-83). Teufel gave a hint at what was to come by slamming six homers with 20 RBIs in just 45 games in 1982. The next season he was the IL's MVP after hitting .323 with 27 homers and 100 RBIs. Others: Dave Campbell, Frank Catalanotto.

  • THIRD BASE: Phil Hiatt (1986). It's hard to imagine anyone ever matching his single-season record of 42 home runs. But that season he also led the IL in RBIs (119), runs (99) and total bases (304) on his way to IL MVP honors. Others: Scott Livingstone, Brian Rios.

  • SHORTSTOP: Tom Matchick (1967). Matchick was named the IL's top shortstop that season after finishing ninth in the league in batting with a .289 mark. He also had 11 homers and 55 RBIs. Also: Bobby Murcer.

  • OUTFIELD: Michael "Tack" Wilson (1983-84), Andre David (1982-86), Billy McMillon (2000). Wilson holds the team's stolen-base record with 53 in 1983, then added 48 in 1984; he also hit .325 in 1983. David won the IL batting title in 1986 with a .328 mark, and he hit .290 or better in three of his four full seasons in Toledo. McMillon set a modern-day record with a .345 batting average last year, a mark that was 17 points higher than his nearest competitor. Others: Wayne Comer, Bubba Trammell, Dave Engle, Bob Christian, Shawn Hare, Mike Hart, Greg Johnston.

  • CATCHER: Rich Rowland (1991-93). Rowland consistently ranked among the top home-run threats in the league, finishing second in 1992 with 25 round-trippers. He also is one of only two Hens to be named an IL post-season all-star more than once; the other is Rey Palacios. Others: Palacios, Bill Nahorodny.

  • RIGHT-HANDED STARTER: Mike Marshall (1967-69). Marshall helped lead the Hens to the 1968 IL title by winning 15 games, tied with Dick Drago for the team lead, and still has the best total in club history. He posted a 2.94 ERA that season. Others: Drago, Ron Reed, Fred Holdsworth, Dennis Burtt.

  • LEFT-HANDED STARTER: Jim Rooker (1967-68). Rooker led the IL with a 2.61 ERA while winning 14 games for the 1968 pennant-winners; he also won the game that clinched the Governor's Cup in 1967. Others: Steve Searcy, Paul Gibson.

  • CLOSER: Mike Christopher (1995-96). Even though Eddie Gaillard holds the team's single-season save record, Christopher had a better ERA by more than a full run. Christopher saved 21 and 22 games in his two seasons with the Hens. Also: Gaillard.

  • UTILITY PLAYER: Ike Brown (1967-69). A popular player who was a fan favorite, Brown also was a good hitter and a clutch performer. And talk about versatile: He played in the outfield as well as at every infield position during his time in Toledo, and also pitched in four games in 1967. Also: Torey Lovullo.

  • MANAGER: Jack Tighe (1967-69). I'd love to choose Cal Ermer, who holds the team record for victories and longevity at this position. But there's only one man who managed a Governor's Cup Champion in Toledo, and only one man who managed a regular-season champ. And that's Tighe. Also: Ermer.

    - JOHN WAGNER



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