Obscure Athletes

Where the 15 Minutes of Fame Never End

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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: Ron Coomer

Oft-forgotten is how smooth the Coom Dawg's swing was.

They called Ron Coomer the “Coom Dawg.” What a lame nickname. Like, the guy played in the majors for nine seasons, and that’s the best they could come up with? Ron Coomer really does sound like the name of an obscure athlete, too. I could never picture Ron Coomer being an all-star, yet his Wikipedia page informed me that indeed, Coomer was the Twins’ lone representative in the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park. And with the all-millenium team in attendance, featuring a Ted Williams lovefest, Coomer is a mere footnote upon the 1999 baseball season. Coomer struck out in his only All-Star Game at-bat.

The Athletics took the infielder in the 14th round of the 1987 draft. Coomer kicked around in the A’s, White Sox’, and Dodgers’ farm systems before being traded to the Twins in 1995, for whom he would make his debut on August 1. Most of his major league success would come in Minnesota, where he would play five full seasons, including his all-star performance in 1999. Coomer hit .278 for the Twins with 77 home runs and a .746 OPS.

During the 2000 season, Coomer was moved from third base to accomodate the emergence of power-hitting third baseman Corey Koskie. The Twins released Coomer after that 2000 season, and he played a season each for the Cubs, Yankees, and Dodgers. The Coom Dawg was never the same after he left Minnesota. His last season was in 2003, when he played in just 69 games for Los Angeles.

Just because I was curious, other members of the ’99 AL All-Star Team? John Jaha, BJ Surhoff, Jose Offerman, and Brad Ausmus. Good thing Pedro was pitching.

From the Desk of Mr. Boss

After hearing the news that Cliff Lee was headed to Philadelphia, I was as surprised as anyone. In hindsight, should

And can you blame the Yanks? Why bring in Cliff Lee when Rodrigo Lopez is, no doubt waiting by his phone?!

anyone really be surprised? For the majority of this off-season, who was of higher priority to the Yankees: Derek Jeter or Cliff Lee? I adamantly believe that the distraction Jeter created has played a role in Lee getting away to Philly. I mean, you’ve been targeting this guy for a couple of years now. You reportedly offered him 6 years for $138 MM with a vesting option for 16 MM. How the FUCK do you let him get away? This is the offseason from hell for Brian Cashman and the Yankees. What’s their next step, snagging the human time bomb that is KC’s Zach Greinke? This is going to be hilarious.

PS: Here are some FA’s that the Yankees may now have to settle for now that Lee isn’t walking through that door, fans: Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Duchscherer, Jeff Francis, Freddy Garcia, Rich Harden, Rodrigo Lopez, Kevin Millwood, Brian Moehler, Brandon Webb, Nate Robinson, Jeff Suppan and… Carl Pavano.

Obscure Spotlight: Otis Nixon

A friend of mine and I were having a discussion the other day about the best baseball players never to make an All-Star game, and a name I haven’t heard in far too long came up: Otis Nixon. The 17-year Major Leaguer may never have made it to the Summer Classic, but stuck around because throughout his career offered two scarce Steroid Era commodities: good outfield defense and base stealing ability.

Otis Nixon is 16th all-time in stolen bases with 620, even despite never leading either

Tony Graffanino thinks he's got Otis Nixon, but nobody gets Otis Nixon out on the basepaths!

league in steals, and his .270/.343/.658 line is wholly unimpressive, even for a leadoff hitter. In 5800 career plate appearances, Otis Nixon hit 11 home runs, and had just over half as many RBI (318) as stolen bases in his career.

A well-documented cocaine addict, Nixon was infamously suspended for the 1991 World Series after he tested positive for the substance. But his flashy defense and flair for the dramatic kept him in the Majors for a good while, highlighted in 1999 while Nixon was playing for Atlanta. Down 8-7 in the eighth inning of game 6 of the NL Championship Series, Nixon pinch ran, and with one out, stole second and advanced to third on a wayward throw into center field. He would go on to score the tying run in the game, and Atlanta eventually won both the game and the series.

Otis Nixon played for nine teams in his Major League career, including two stints in Atlanta from 1991-93 and then back with the Braves in 1999, his final season in the Big Leagues. Nixon’s career high in home runs came in 1985 for Cleveland. He hit three. Base-stealing ability may make you a 17-year major leaguer, but we all know chicks dig the long ball, and that’s why Otis Nixon lives on today only as an obscure athlete.

And I heard he doesn’t blow coke on the reg anymore, so that’s good. Good for Otis.

Obscure Spotlight: Todd Zeile

Todd Zeile's patented war face.

Well, folks. It’s been 50 posts here at Obscure Athletes. We’ve covered a good many athletes, we’ve had more than a few editorials, and we’ve recruited a handful of readers and added a hockey writer. I guess it’s all downhill from here, all that’s left to do now is sit back and wait until we’re the greatest Deadspin/Barstool hybrid ripoff ever and millions in advertising revenue is just pouring in. Leave a comment on the site,  tell your friends about Obscure Athletes, and send any and all site suggestions to obscureathletes@gmail.com. And as always, Subscribe to the RSS feed to the right of your screen, Follow Us on Twitter, and Join our page on Facebook!

Given that this is our 50th post, I wanted to make sure that it was dedicated to someone who really helped shape my socialization into the world of Obscure Athletes. As a kid I remember seeing a marginally talented third baseman named Todd Zeile; A player who was always alright, so he stuck around for a good while, but never with the same team for too long. After Zeile left the Mets in 2001, I thought he was finally gone, only to see him resurface in Colorado the following season.

Zeile’s pro baseball journey began in 1986 when he was picked in the second round by the Cardinals out of UCLA. In August of 1989 he made his Major League début as a 23-year old catcher. The following season Zeile was moved to third base and in his first full season in the Bigs he hit 15 homers and drove in 57, finishing 6th in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting.

Todd Zeile played sixteen seasons in the majors, gathering over 100 RBI just once, in 1993 for St. Louis. He hit 31 home runs for the Dodgers in 1997, his highest total as a Major Leaguer. Zeile never played in an all-star game. He also led the league in errors by a third baseman four times in his lengthy career–one in which he played on 11 teams, and switched between the American and National leagues seven times.

Oft-forgotten about Zeile, however, is what a beast he was for the O’s during the 1996 ALCS.

Todd Zeile and Robin Ventura? Yeah, they'll give the 2000 Yankees a real series for sure...

He was the best hitter Baltimore had to offer, hitting .364 in the series, with three home runs and a 1.189 OPS–a series the Orioles lost in five to the eventual World Series champion Yankees.

Zeile finished his career with a .265 average, .346 on-base percentage, and a final home run count of 253. He played his last game on October 3, 2004, hitting number 253 in his last ever at-bat. Todd Zeile: known for very little, but always around. One of the foremost obscure athletes of the 1990s. We love ya, Todd!

Single-Paragraph Editorials: RIP Bob Sheppard

This paragraph does not count as the single paragraph. OA’s new segment is called Single-Paragraph editorials, where, in 150 words or less, usually within the midst of a fit of rage, I talk about whatever I want in the wide, topical world of sports. I’ll probably end up saying things I shouldn’t,  but we’ll just have to see what happens…

I saw Bob Sheppard once. In early 2008 I was at Logan Airport on my way to Washington, DC, and a friend of mine with whom I was traveling–a diehard Yankees fan, said to me, “Hey, it’s Bob Sheppard, the voice of Yankee Stadium!” Andthen he was gone. We never got to say Hi to Mr. Sheppard, as he seemed to disappear into the crowd. Bob Sheppard gave 56 years to the Yanks and another overlapping 50 to the Giants as the PA announcer of both teams, and his voice has long since been iconic within the annals of New York sporting lore. Sheppard died yesterday in Baldwin, New York, at the age of 99. He saw more baseball and football than I can even fathom. Sports lost an icon yesterday. I saw him once,  never getting to actually meet him, but the godlike sound of the voice he brought to the announcer’s box will not soon be forgotten by sports fans everywhere–New York and otherwise.

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.

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