Cup of Coffee: The Very Short Careers of Eighteen Major League Pitchers

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Following in the footsteps of the fictional Ray Kinsella inField of Dreams, writer Rob Trucks traveled the country in search of modern Moonlight Grahams - former pitchers whose major league careers lasted less than fifty innings. Cup of Coffee (Smallmouth Press; February 2003) collects Trucks's conversations with eighteen of these men - what they went through to reach the major leagues, why they didn't stay, and what they saw, heard, and learned along the way.
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Following in the footsteps of the fictional Ray Kinsella inField of Dreams, writer Rob Trucks traveled the country in search of modern Moonlight Grahams - former pitchers whose major league careers lasted less than fifty innings. Cup of Coffee (Smallmouth Press; February 2003) collects Trucks's conversations with eighteen of these men - what they went through to reach the major leagues, why they didn't stay, and what they saw, heard, and learned along the way.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The Very Short Careers of Eighteen Major League Pitchers contains interviews with 18 men who pitched fewer than 50 innings in the big time. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781588480392
  • Publisher: Smallmouth Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2003
  • Pages: 420
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 1.17 (d)

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"So while I was in the hospital, it so happened that I wassituated right above the ballpark, and I'm looking out the window at a night game, you know? I can see everything, because I was way the hell up in the hospital. And the doctor comes walking in and he says, Hi Bill. What're you doing? Watching the game? I said, Yeah. He's standing behind me, talking to me, and I say, Hey Doc. No bullshitting. Truthfully, do you think I'll be playing ball next year? And he grabbed my shoulder, and I knew right then and there."
—Bill Pierro, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1950

"I wish you could see the contract I got with the Cardinals. I made more in the minor leagues than I did with the Cardinals. They gave me a $900 contract when I went up there. I said, What is this? They said, You got to prove yourself. I said, You brought me up here. That ought to prove something."
—Bill Greason, St. Louis Cardinals, 1954

"I went back to work on the railroad but in a different capacity. Before I had been on the repair track, and this time I went to work as a switchman. I had a regular job, which was very unusual for my seniority, but it was on the graveyard shift. And one night about two o'clock in the morning, the yardmaster was out. The yardmaster is the guy that controls that yard, or that area. And we got to talking about him and they said, Yeah, he's on call seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. The guy says, You want to know something, Joe? We're getting overtime pretty much every day down here. We probably make more money than he does, working overtime. I said, Whoa. Wait a minute. I'm eighteen, nineteen years old and if I even get that far, that's as far as I can go? At eighteen, nineteen, if I can see the farthest I can go, I'm not going very far. So I went home that night and I told Jean, We're going back to play baseball. But if it hadn't been for that conversation, I might've stayed on the railroad."
—Joe Stanka, Chicago White Sox, 1959

"Aaron was scary. I can still remember one of the times I threw against him in spring training. I remember this time very well. Earl Battey was the catcher then and I had Aaron 3-2 and he called for a fastball and I shook it off twice, which would go to a curveball and, as I said, I did have a good one. I busted it off good and you just know that you got him. Even when you let it go. It was going to be right at the knees on the black part of the plate on the outside. You just know you got him. There isn't time to think all this but you know it, and all of a sudden the bat came around but he missed it for strike three."
—Fred Bruckbauer, Minnesota Twins, 1961

"Phil Niekro and I played together at different times when we were coming up and when we were in Louisville, George Susce, an old-timer, he tried to get Phil to quit throwing a knuckleball. And Phil didn't have anything else. He didn't throw hard enough to break glass. I've thought about that over the years. That's a Hall of Famer who would've been out of baseball in a heartbeat if he'd done what the coach had told him."
—Cecil Butler, Milwaukee Braves, 1962

"Del Crandall was the manager in Evansville. I had just found the apartment, just signed the lease, just got the phone installed, just got the checking account set up, just got the furniture. You couldn't rent furniture in Evansville. You had to get it from Louisville and have it delivered. I called my wife in Phoenix. She is literally getting in the car, leaving her parents' house to drive to Evansville, when I catch her. This was before cell phones and everything else. I caught her just as she's going out the door. Stop. I just got traded. I'm going back to the Pacific Coast League."
—Ray Peters, Milwaukee Brewers, 1970

"It seems like when you're traded you ask yourself, Did the other club want me, or did my club want to get rid of me? And you may not know that answer."
—Jim Foor, Detroit Tigers, 1971

"I'm doing military presses and I'm feeling really strong this particular day, I guess, and I was lifting and I could just tell something went wrong. I get back to my apartment and the guy next door to me is an FSU alum. He played baseball a year ahead of me and he's doing the same thing. Back to school in the fall. And I said, Mike, get your glove. I've got to throw. And sure enough, I go to throw and I'm like, Oh, God, what have I done?"
—Pat Osburn, Cincinnati Reds, 1974

"The Sports Illustrated came out the following year, in 1982. I'm working at Lowe's selling lumber and my father-in-law calls me up and says, Shelly, did you take a look at Sports Illustrated? This is a year after I'm out of baseball. I say, No. He says, Your picture's in it. I said, It ain't funny. Kiss my ass. He says, No, no. He comes to work and there it is. He opens up the magazine and there I am with Tom Seaver and everything. I'm not on the cover but I get a full-page spread in Sports Illustrated and I'm not even playing baseball."
—Sheldon Burnside, Detroit Tigers, 1978

"I didn't keep the ball that I pitched with in the big league game. As I was walking off the field there was a kid right on top of the dugout, little kid, maybe three years old-I'd seen him when I came in before-and it was the end of the game and he was just really having a big time with his mom and dad, so when I came off and saw him there I just rolled the ball across the top of the dugout to him. I thought, I'll get more of these. I never dreamed, after that, that I would never pitch in another game so I gave him the ball."
—Roger Slagle, New York Yankees, 1979

"He was bigger than life. I'll never forget his smile. He had a great smile. That Oklahoma drawl, or whatever you want to call it. I appreciated him taking five minutes of his life to spend with me. It was a different experience for me than I had ever had, because I had never had other heroes. And I met him, and I talked to him, and he was a real guy. And I shook his hand and his hand was like super, super big and strong and thick. This was I don't know how many years after he played baseball, but I wanted him to go up there and hit. I wanted some of these young kids that I was playing with to see Mickey go up there and hit a ball over the right-field stands, because in my thoughts he could still do it."
—Steve Ratzer, Montreal Expos, 1980

"Roy Smith started that game and just got pounded. Well, Jim Poole went in first, pitched two innings, didn't give up a hit. Pitched great. Jonesy, get up and throw a little bit. Well, I'm throwing. I'm thinking, I'll just get the kinks out a little bit. I'm throwing. Didn't really throw any away. And then all of a sudden our half of the inning was over with and we're in the top of the seventh and I'm still throwing and Elrod Hendricks is catching me. He's the bullpen catcher. He tells me, You're in. And I'm like, You got to be kidding me. I'm going in this game. I'd talked to my parents and a few other people earlier, and this game's on ESPN. And it didn't bother me. I'm still warming up. I'm not loose yet. I got in the game. Went right out there. Threw my two innings. Didn't give up a hit. Struck out two. The first batter was Dave Cochrane. I struck him out. Two nice innings and I'm done. And then it hit me. Man, that was on ESPN. My parents got to watch. Everybody at home saw me. Anyway, it hit me. I called Dad on the phone. I was under the stands. I couldn't get out on one phone so I'm up underneath the stands on a pay phone. Game's over with, everybody's gone home, and I started crying, because I'm here, Dad. He said, Did you sign your contract? I said, I did. I'll never be back in the minor leagues again."
—Stacy Jones, Baltimore Orioles, 1991

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Table of Contents

Bill Pierro --Pittsburgh Pirates --1950
Bill Greason --St. Louis Cardinals --1954
Ted Wieand --Cincinnati Reds --1958
Joe Stanka --Chicago White Sox --1959
Fred Bruckbauer --Minnesota Twins --1961
Cecil Butler --Milwaukee Braves --1962
Larry Yellen --Houston Colt .45s --1963
Arnie Umbach --Milwaukee Braves --1964
Mike Jurewicz --New York Yankees --1965
Fred Rath --Chicago White Sox --1968
Ray Peters --Milwaukee Brewers --1970
Jim Foor --Detroit Tigers --1971
Pat Osburn --Cincinnati Reds --1974
Sheldon Burnside --Detroit Tigers --1978
Roger Slagle --New York Yankees --1979
Steve Ratzer --Montreal Expos --1980
Stacy Jones --Baltimore Orioles --1991
Sean Whiteside --Detroit Tigers --1995
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Reading Group Guide

"Every young boy dreams of a full meal of baseball, yet someonly get a cup of coffee. This compilation shows the trials and tribulations of each young man's attempt to sit at that table. From Bill Pierro to mi compadre Steve Ratzer, see how the fates conspired to keep them from becoming two-hundred-game winners. I enjoyed the journey as much as William Least Heat-Moon's Blue Highways."
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2003

    The Real Heroes

    These 18 interviews will remind you of why baseball is the Great American Past time. The players of today have no idea what paying the price means. These 18 did not get paid millions, but instead, played for the love of the game. Each individual has a different story on how they got to the Majors and why they did not last. Some these players were there for only a couple of games. If you like the way baseball was played in the past, You will enjoy these adventures.

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