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Where the 15 Minutes of Fame Never End
Guys like John Jaha are my favorite baseball players. Because they’re obscure athletes with flashes of true greatness smattered about their careers. This is especially true during the steroid era, and it’s players like Jaha who remind us that the steroid era isn’t just Bonds, Sosa, and MacGwire—it’s Jaha, Matt Stairs, and David Segui, too. I first remember seeing John Jaha as an inordinately large first baseman for the Brewers in 1996, his breakout year, during which he hit .300 with 34 homers and 118 RBI. This was the first Summer of Jaha, as I like to call it.
Jaha never could stay healthy for the Brewers, however, and in his seven seasons in Milwaukee, played only two full years. His last season in Milwaukee saw Jaha play in just 73 games, logging 273 plate appearances.
The Brewers elected not to bring back Jaha after the ’98 season, and it looked like the Sun may have set on John Jaha’s day in the Bigs. But John Jaha wasn’t leaving baseball without one more magical summer: 1999. The Second Summer of Jaha.
The Oakland A’s took a flyer on John Jaha, giving him a minor league deal during the 1998 offseason, though it was not expected that he would make the team out of camp. Not only did Jaha make the A’s roster, but as a first baseman/Designated hitter during his first year in Oakland, Jaha hit 35 home runs and 111 RBI, almost perfectly mirroring his ’96 campaign with the Brew Crew, save for a dip in batting average. Jaha made the All-Star game for the only time in his career that season, and won the Comeback Player of the Year award.
Jaha’s resurgence in Oakland was short-lived, however, as you might expect—he appeared in just 45 games combined over the next two seasons, and he never played a game in the majors after the 2001 season.
I grew up a baseball fan during the steroid era, and was just as enchanted, if not even more so, by the incredible power displayed by MacGwire and Sosa in the Summer of ’98. But I’m just unable to talk about the 1998 home run frenzy without thinking about the two seasons sandwiching that record-breaking season—the Summers of Jaha. Rock on, John.