Obscure Athletes

Where the 15 Minutes of Fame Never End

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Obscure Spotlight: Matt Murton

"I was in the Nomar trade, ya know.."

Unless you’re one of our many, many Japanese fans, our next Obscure Spotlight will be a guy whose name you haven’t heard in quite some time. The Nippon league’s single-season hit leader, with 214, is not Ichiro, as you may expect, but instead that record belongs to American Obscure Athlete Matt Murton.

Murton was picked 32nd overall by the Red Sox in 2003. His time in the Boston organization was brief, however, as in 2004 Murton was involved in the trade that sent Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs. He made his Major League debut for the Cubs on July 8, 2005, two years to the date after signing his first pro deal with Boston.

Murton spent the ’06 season starting in the Cubs’ outfield. He became a fan favorite and enjoyed a successful campaign, hitting .297 with 13 homers and 62 RBI. Cubs’ GM Jim Hendry, ever the masterful evaluator of baseball talent, however, decided during that ’06 offseason that the team could do better in left field. So he brought in one of the true unsung kings of the Steroid Era, Cliff Floyd. Murton played in only 94 games in 2007 as a result.

Murton was never the same after being platooned with Floyd. In July of ’08 he was moved along with the truly obscure Eric Patterson and Sean Gallagher to the Athletics for Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin. He would play in just 38 more games in his Major League career, spending time with the A’s and then the Rockies in ’09.

Matt Murton’s greatest source of notoriety instead comes from his time in the Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball League, where ‘s become one of the premiere hitters in the country. Perhaps one day the 29-year-old pro veteran will make a return to the Majors. For now we’ll have to settle for watching him from the other side of the world, tearing it up with the Hanshin Tigers. Not the Detroit ones.

Here’s a List of Things I’d Rather be Watching than Mike and Mike on ESPN2

I woke up around 8:50 this morning, and I seemed to have lost the remote. The channel was 35 (ESPN2) when I went to bed, and the sporting gods did have a hearty laugh at my expense, because like everyday Monday through Friday between 6-10AM, Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio was being simulcast on The Deuce. My hatred of Mike and Mike is well-documented, so rather than go on a rant about why I hate them so much, I’ve taken the time to make a short list of things that rank SLIGHTLY higher on my to-watch list.

Whatever crap is on the Golf Channel

Former ESPN substitute janitor Eric Kusilias is chasing his real dream, to be an anchor on the Golf Channel.

That show Pat Robertson has 

Robertson, show here with his own versions of Bynum and Gasol.

Glenn Beck

This dude sucks just as much as Mike and Mike, but he's much funnier so he gets the nod.

Yes, Dear reruns

Mike O'Malley, last entertaining on Nickelodeon Guts

Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS

Directly responsible for many of my psychological issues.

Obscure Spotlight: The Other Mike Stantons

The Florida Marlins were still eight years away from their first game when our first 'Other' Mike Stanton last appeared in an MLB game.

As many pundits accurately predicted, top prospect Mike Stanton has started the season quite well for the Florida Marlins. He currently holds the #3 spot on Baseball America’s list of its top 100 prospects, and has hit 5 home runs and driven in 13 in 99 at-bats. Stanton is, by all accounts, one of the better young players in the game and a sure bet to be a Major League superstar sooner rather than later. But this culturally relevant Mike Stanton is only one of three Mike Stantons to have appeared in Major League Baseball games in the past 30 years. These two other, more obscure Mike Stantons, deserve nothing less than a spotlight today on Obscure Athletes. Because the rising star of the current Mike Stanton will continue to bury the legacy of these other Stantons with every accomplishment the future MLB great, puts on his resume.

Our first Mike Stanton is one you probably don’t remember much of. That is, of course, unless you don’t fall nicely into what our high-priced marketing department, complete with focus groups and double-blind studies, tells me our “chief demographic” is. The first Mike Stanton was a right-handed pitcher who spent 7 seasons in the majors over the course of ten years, between 1975-1985. He was drafted thrice before finally signing in 1973 with the Astros. He made his Major League debut for the team in 1975, but appeared in just seven games, five out of the bullpen. He pitched his way to a 7.27 ERA and an 0-2 record in just 17.1 IP. His big league

He looks like the lead singer of Toto.

journey looked to be over, but alas five years later, in 1980, Stanton made the Indians’ roster out of camp and appeared in 51 games that season. Mike had his best season in 1983 with the Mariners, when he pitched in 50 games out of the Seattle bullpen, and posted a 3.32 ERA. He last appeared in 1985 for the White Sox. And the award for greatest mustache on a baseball player named Mike Stanton goes to….Mike Stanton, Right-handed pitcher!

The other ‘other’ Mike Stanton is the one you’re probably more familiar with. Drafted by the Braves in 1987, Stanton made his major league debut with the same team two years later in August of 1989. In parts of seven seasons with Atlanta, Stanton pitched 289.2 innings in his 304 appearances, all out of the bullpen.

Stanton made just one start in his career, for the Yankees in 1999. The Yanks were the team with which this Stanton enjoyed his highest level of success. He went 31-14 with a 3.77 cumulative ERA for the Bronx Bombers in parts of seven seasons. Stanton also spent time in Washington, Texas, and several other teams in his 19-year career.  He made his

Is it THE Mike Stanton? No, it's the former all-star Mike Stanton!

lone All-Star appearance in 2001, and to date remains the only Mike Stanton in the history of Major League Baseball to make an All-Star game. That’s the last beacon of notoriety that this Mike Stanton cleaves to as of May, 2011.

Why is Mike Stanton such a baseball name? I have no idea. One day I hope to make an “All-Mike-Stanton” team. We currently have two relievers and an outfielder.

Obscure Spotlight: Frank Castillo

I saw a fellow who looked to be in his mid-20’s yesterday who had on a Frank Castillo Red Sox t-shirt. It was a name I hadn’t thought of in years, and all I

Frank Castillo's a man with an intimidating fastball, and an even more intimidating pitching face!

could ever remember about him was how much he would piss me off to watch pitch. His name always comes up when playing a game of “Name everyone who appeared on the ’04 Red Sox World Series team,” usually right after Ellis Burks.

Frank Castillo had three solid seasons in Major League Baseball. Unfortunately for him, he also had ten mediocre ones. The El Paso, Texas-born pitcher was drafted by the Cubs in 1987 and made his debut for Chicago in June of 1991. Castillo spent parts of seven seasons in the Windy City. The wind must have been blowing out most of the time. His best season came in 1995 when he went 11-10 with a 3.21 ERA. During that season Castillo came within one out of throwing a no-hitter at Wrigley Field against the Cardinals. With two outs in the top of the ninth, fellow obscure athlete Bernard Gilkey roped a line drive to left that got by Sammy Sosa and slowly rolled to the fence. The no-hitter, and so too Frank Castillo’s chance at baseball immortality, were over.

From 1997-2000, Castillo played for four different teams. In 2001 the Red Sox brought in Castillo, and in that season he put up a Castillo-like 10-9 record with a 4.21 ERA in 136 2/3 innings. In 2004, Castillo pitched exactly one inning for Boston in time split between Boston and their AAA Affiliate, Pawtucket. That inning earned Castillo a World Series ring as part of the ’04 team.

The Marlins brought in Castillo in 2005, but he was simply unable to recapture the magic that made him a marginally talented Major League pitcher, and started only one game. Castillo ended his Big League career with an 82-104 career record and a 4.56 ERA. Frank Castillo, if you ever read this, I hated watching you pitch, but you’re a friend of Obscure Athletes. And a World Series Champion. And the subject of today’s Obscure Spotlight.

Obscure Spotlight: John Wasdin

The Tokyo Dome is thundering as Wasdin takes the mound!

A quick look at John Wasdin’s career numbers will tell you why the 38-year old last pitched in the majors in 2007. His 39-39 record to go with a 5.28 career ERA make Wasdin, without a doubt, one of the most marginally talented pitchers ever to dawn a major league uniform. Seven major league uniforms in fact, starting with the A’s, by whom he was drafted in 1993. Wasdin debuted in the majors in August of 1995, and played a full season on the Major League roster in 1996, going 9-8 with an era of 5.96.

In January of that offseason, Wasdin was sent to Boston in exchange for Jose Canseco, where he earned the nickname “Way Back Wasdin” for his propensity to give up home runs, both numerous and untimely. Wasdin spent parts of four seasons in a Red Sox uniform, going 19-16 in 170 appearances, mostly out of the bullpen.

Five days before the trade deadline in 2000, the Red Sox and Rockies pulled off a much ballyhooed blockbuster that ended the Way Back Wasdin era in Boston. The Sox sent Wasdin along with Jeff Frye and Brian Rose to Colorado in the deal that brought Rolando Arrojo and Mike Lansing to Boston. Safe to say everybody was a winner that day. Wasdin was traded again mid-season, this time to Baltimore, where he achieved limited success.

Wasdin spent the ’02 season with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan, and the 2003 campaign mostly in the Blue Jays’ organization. I went on John’s Wikipedia page, and found this hilarious bit of Wasdin lore:

On April 7, 2003, Wasdin pitched a perfect game for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds against theAlbuquerque Isotopes at Herschel Greer Stadium in Nashville. Fewer than 750 fans witnessed the perfect game, as it was the same night as the 2003 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Game, plus unseasonably cold weather dissuaded some from coming to the ballpark.

I love minor league records and achievements, because they evoke the ‘tallest midget’

Getting it done for the Rangers

line of thinking.  I’ll say this– I would have been in the front row of that game were I in the area– especially if I were of drinking age in 2003.

Wasdin returned once again to the majors in 2004, this time with the Rangers. After a promising June 18 outing for Texas, the bottom fell out on Wasdin’s season, bottoming out on July 25, when he gave up 11 hits and 7 runs, including four homers, in 4 1/3 innings.

Way Back Wasdin would make 40 more appearances for the Rangers after the ’04 season, and Texas elected not to bring him back after 2006. He signed a deal with the Pirates that offseason, and in 2007 made 12 appearances, all out of the bullpen for Pittsburgh. Wasdin was last spotted playing for the Seibu Lions in 2009. This time, the Japanese baseball league couldn’t provide a springboard for John Wasdin to get back to the majors. Wasdin now coaches at Christian University. Hopefully he brought in a pitching coach.

Stay tuned for the début of Josh Wilson and Ben Ricker and their weekly hockey segment, later today on Obscure Athletes!

Obscure Spotlight: Brian Daubach

This Friday edition of Obscure Spotlight is a VERY special one. I’ve been saving this one for quite some time. My alltime favorite baseball player, Mr. Brian Daubach, is the subject of today’s obscure spotlight, and you’ll find out why today in just a few moments.

Check out Dauber's forced smile juxtaposed with my genuine elation

Brian Daubach, the Belleville Basher, was born in 1972 in Belleville, Illinois. Daubach was drafted by the Mets in 1990, and made his Major League debut eight years later with the Marlins on September 10, 1998. The Dauber had his best years in Boston from 1999-2002, where he developed a reputation as a clutch hitter and a dirt dog. Daubach played well in Boston, hitting at least 20 home runs in all four seasons of his first stint in a Red Sox uniform.

After the ’02 season, Boston brought in fellow dirt dog and obscure athlete Kevin Millar to play first base, and Daubach left Boston to play for his hometown White Sox. In 2003 he played in only 95 games in Chicago, and a year later landed back in Boston, appearing in 30 games for the future World Series champs. The following year the Dauber signed on with the Mets, ending his major league career with the team that drafted him fifteen years earlier.

Brian Daubach was never in any of our baseball video games during his career. This, of course, was because the Dauber was regarded as a scab by the MLBPA after crossing the picket line during the brief work stoppage during his time as a minor leaguer in the Mets’ system. Which is why, when I got a chance to briefly meet him on Wednesday, when he came to Worcester, MA, as the manager of the Pittsfield Colonials of the Canadian-American baseball league, I jumped at the opportunity to ask him to sign my copy of Allstar Baseball 2002. He was a good sport about it and signed the game. That very copy of the game is now being given away as part of the Obscure Athletes 2010 Summer Contest! Subscribe to Obscure Athletes now to be automatically entered to win! Contest runs until August 31st, and the winner will be announced on September 1st. Good luck, and keep reading us!

Wanna win this copy of allstar baseball 2002 for Gamecube signed by Brian Daubach? Subscribe to OA today!

Obscure Spotlight: Mark Lemke

Of late here at Obscure Athletes we’ve been pretty biased toward the taller of the obscure athletes, forgetting to give some credit to the more diminuitive in sports. And one cannot discuss short, obscure athletes without soon getting to former Braves second baseman Mark Lemke.

The Lemmer's Lem-Goggles give him superior plate vision. But they only work in the playoffs.

When you’re a 5′ 10” second baseman with a career .246 average, an equally putrid .317 on-base percentage, and 32 career home runs, despite playing 11 season in the Majors, you bet your ass that one day you’ll be an obscure athlete. But Mark Lemke is not just an obscure athlete. “The Lemmer” was known for his glove rather than his bat. Despite this, he won a grand total of zero Gold Gloves in his career. Lemke also made a record 3664 plate appearances in Major League Baseball, and not one time was he ever hit  by a pitch. So what did this Braves great and obscure athlete have going for him?

In 62 career postseason games, Lemke established himself as one of the better clutch hitters in Atlanta. In the 1991 World Series, Lemke hit .417, with a record-tying three triples in the series, and a game-winning hit in game three of the series. He hit .234 in the regular season that year.

Lemke finally left Atlanta after the 1997 season, as one of the most beloved members of the Braves. He signed with the Red Sox, and appeared in only 31 games for Boston, suffering a concussion less than a quarter of the way through his first season in a Red Sox uniform, ultimately ending his career.

Braves fans never forget the postseason prowess of Mark Lemke. He wasn’t really all that good at a whole lot on the baseball field for the first 162 games of the season, but Mark Lemke was a small man who knew how to step it up when it counted.


Today’s Obscure Spotlight belongs to former Braves great Mark Lemke. Lemke tied the record with three triples in the 1991 World Series. With whom does Lemke share the record? Comment on the post with the answer to win a piece of Atlanta Braves obscure athlete memorabilia!

Obscure Spotlight: Shea Hillenbrand

When you share the name of one of sport’s worst venues, you can only expect so much out of your career. I guess somebody forgot to tell this to Shea Hillenbrand. Shea Matthew Hillenbrand was born on July 27th 1975 in Mesa, Arizona; and the world would never be the same thereafter. The

Hillenbrand in All-Star form. "I'll be back," he snickers.

prodigy they called Shea was drafted in the 10th round of the 1996 Amateur Draft by the Boston Red Sox.

After floating around in the Red Sox minor league system at various positions for nearly five years, big Shea got his big break. Boggs, Petrocelli, Hobson, Hillenbrand? Not so much. Shea proved to be not only one of the worst defensive third basemen in all of baseball, but he also lacked any ability to sustain a respectable on base percentage (.291) and also sported a poor batting average (.263) Nonetheless, Hillenbrand came back strong for the 2002 season and was named the starting third baseman for the American League in the All-Star game. He rose his OPS to a respectable .789, but of course he led the league in errors by a third baseman with 23. Feeling threatened by the Red Sox’ signing of veteran Bill Mueller in 2003, Hillenbrand did his best to run himself out of Boston. His labor would be rewarded when he was hand picked by the great Bob Brenly to be his middle of the order thumper in Arizona; in exchange for rising star closer Byung-Hyung Kim. We can of course recall that this would cause Shea Hillenbrand to compare himself to the Red Sox trading Jeff Bagwell before he erupted into a star. Boy, leaning a little far off first, Shea?

Hillenbrand would soon be on the move again after the 2004 season, a season in which was arguably his best (.310/.348/.464). After leading the league in errors at first base (13), he was sent off to the Toronto Blue Jays. In his first year with Toronto, he was a utility player, showcasing himself at 1B/3B/DH. Unhappy with being a regular at one position, Hillenbrand began a feud with then manager John Gibbons. Going as far as to deface the team’s billboard, Shea again was in a position where he ran himself out of a perfectly good situation. He was then traded to the Giants for fellow obscure athlete Jeremy Accardo, and in the following off season signed a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. With rising stars Reggie Willits and Casey Kotchman knocking at Shea Hillenbrand’s door, Shea found himself designated for assignment in June of 2007; after requesting the Angels show him “respect” and trade him away.

Shea Hillenbrand then signed a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres in July of 2007 before failing miserably with their triple a affiliate, and was released on August 8th. On August 10th, he signed a minor league deal with the division rival Los Angeles Dodgers; undoubtedly to show the Padres what they were missing. After having absolutely no effect whatsoever on the season’s outcome, he was not retained by Los Angeles for 2008, and found himself with the York Revolution of the Independent League; only to have his season cut short by an injury. Tough break. So for a man with an unwarranted chip on his shoulder, who turned out to be quite mediocre; we salute you Shea Hillenbrand.

Obscure Triumphs: Pete Munro

So this comes a week late, and that might have something to do with the fact that I smoke entirely too much pot and just plain didn’t remember. What you may remember,  is that last Friday marked the seven-year anniversary of the Astros using six pitchers to combine for a no-hitter at Yankee Stadium. What you may not remember, however, is that the biggest part of that game shared by those six pitchers, 2 2/3 no-hit innings, were pitched by obscure former Astros hurler Pete Munro.

Pete Munro was picked by the Red Sox in the sixth round in 1993. After five years in the Sox organization, Munro was finally traded in 1998 to the Blue

Little did a young Mike Stanley know, one day he would bounce around the AL East like the slightly above average player he was

 Jays for longtime AL East darling Mike Stanley. He made his first major league appearance in 1999 with the Jays and spent parts of two seasons on the roster, coming out of the bullpen and making spot starts for Toronto, before ultimately being dealt again, this time to the Astros.

Munro allowed five of the six New York baserunners in his 2 2/3 no-hit innings, walking three Yankees, hitting one with a pitch and allowing one runner to reach on an error.

Munro’s 15 minutes weren’t over yet, however, as in 2004, he started two games in the NLCS against St. Louis, including game 6. Munro finished the series with two no-decisions, and 7.0 innings pitched, allowing 7 runs on 14 hits, including two home runs. Munro would never make a major league appearance again.

He last appeared on the baseball radar in 2008, where he had a brief stint with the York Revolution of the Atlantic League, before which he made an appearance in a league in Taiwan. Since being released by the Revolution after sustaining an injury, Munro has not appeared in a professional baseball game at any level, and his whereabouts are now unknown.

Munro, seen here at the height of his noteriety in Houston

Munro has quickly faded into obscurity since his performance in the 04 NLCS and now finds his name to be the answer to a six-part trivia question about that one glorious June afternoon in 2003, where he pitched 2 2/3 no-hit innings in one of the oddest no-hitters in major league history. And so the obscure triumph we celebrate today, is that of Mr. Pete Munro….wherever he is today.

Have I told you how much I love Daniel Nava?

I love professional baseball journeymen. AAAA players who spend huge amounts of time in the minors, and we only see them when we wind up roster spots for some reason. Chris Carter comes to mind. AAAA players are a beautiful tease, as they are characterized by great minor league production, but spotty playing time in the majors. Players like, my boy Daniel Nava.

What do this man, named Bill Duggleby and Daniel Nava have in common? I knew nothing about both of them one hour ago.

Nava became only the fourth player to hit a grand slam in his first at-bat in the majors, mere minutes ago–a distinction held also by teammate and future obscure athlete Jeremy Hermida. “The first one?,” you might ask. Bill Duggleby, of course, in 1898. Nava swung his way into the history books and the answer to endless trivia questions today; the slam came on the first pitch Nava saw.

Nava is so obscure, in fact, that he hadn’t even been to Fenway Park until last year when he played on everyone’s favorite Red Sox day off, at a promotion called ‘Futures at Fenway,’ in which the team swindles unreasonable ticket prices out of the general public in exchange for a minor league baseball game and ‘The Fenway Experience.’ But I digress.

A well-deserved curtain call for a player

This photo taken directly from the Daniel Nava scrapbook that he made the last time he was at Fenway. Seen here, in a class AA Portland Sea Dogs uniform.

 who will probably live on as an obscure athlete one day in the future, and as the answer to a trivia question. Oh, and did anyone see those two asshole Philly fans with Flyers t-shirts in the front row as he was giving his curtain call? I did, and I laughed heartily. Congrats Daniel Nava.

And then he struck out with the bases loaded in his second at-bat. Watch this kid, he has ‘future obscure athlete’ written all over him. But seriously, congrats.

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