In this latest installment of this series, where we choose an all-time Team Virginia, we round out the starting infield with our Shortstop.
And the clear choice here is Pirates SS, and Richmond-native Gene Alley.
Alley played for the Pirates from 1963-1973, a career that was cut short due to injuries. In his time, he was never a great hitter, but made his mark with his glove. He won 2 Gold Gloves in his career (1966-1967) turning double plays with Pirates HOF great Bill Mazerowski, one of only 8 middle-infield duos to win Gold Gloves together in the same year. In 1966, Alley worked with his double play counterpart to turn 161 DPs, a record that still stands today. Alley was a 2-time all-star (1967-1968) and won a World Series with the Pirates in 1971.
Alley was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.
For years, even decades, the University of Virginia has been known as a hotbed of talent for the sport of football. (Every NFL draft since the early 1980s has seen at least one NFL player get drafted out of UVA.) But make way, football, Major League Baseball is gaining steam.
As of Tuesday, September 15th, when the Orioles recalled P Tyler Wilson (Midlothian) from Triple-A Norfolk, a record 10 Wahoos appear on major league rosters. Here is the rundown of the UVA-to-MLB pipeline:
San Francisco Giants reliever Javier Lopez (Fairfax) played at Virginia from 1996-1998. He currently leads all active major league players with 4 World Series rings. (2007 with the Red Sox and the three SF titles of the 2010s.)
St Louis Cardinals IF Mark Reynolds (Va Beach) played at Virginia from 2001-2004. His 236 career homers are 23rd among active major league players.
Washington Nationals IF Ryan Zimmerman (Va Beach) played at Virginia from 2003-2005. In the 2005 draft, he was selected in the first round by Washington, the very first draft choice in the history of the Washington Nationals, who had just moved to DC from Montreal. Zimmerman is the last player left from the team’s inaugural season in Washington, and has clearly become the face of the franchise. His 10 career Walk-off homers are 2 short of the NL record). On March 30th, 2008, he christened the new Nationals Park with a walk-off HR to beat the Braves. In the summer of 2015, he cracked the 200 HR milestone. In his time as a National, his resume also includes an all-star game, a Gold Glove, and 2 Silver Sluggers.
Oakland Athletics P Sean Dolittle played at Virginia from 2005-2007. In 2014 he was 10th in the AL with 22 saves, and made his first all-star game.
Also currently on Major League rosters: Cleveland Indians P Kyle Crockett (Poquoson), Arizona Diamondbacks IF Phil Gosselin, Tampa Bay Rays OF Brandon Guyer (Herndon), Seattle Mariners C John Hicks (Richmond), San Francisco Giants OF Jarrett Parker (Stafford), and Wilson.
Major League Baseball, Wahoo strong!!!!!!!!
When minor league baseball returned to Virginia’s capital city in 2010, it marked a rebirth of pro baseball in the city. From 1966-2008, Richmond was home to the R-Braves. the AAA affiliate of the Richmond Braves. But stadium issues plagued the team’s final years. and the Atlanta Braves finally gave up on seeing a badly needed new facility in Richmond, and pulled the team out and moved them to suburban Atlanta.
After a dark 2009 at the Diamond, baseball returned in 2010, as the Eastern League’s Connecticut Defenders, AA for the Giants, moved south to Richmond and became the Flying Squirrels. Part of the agreement of the team coming to Richmond was that a new facility would be forthcoming.
2015 marked the 6th season at the Diamond for the Squirrels, and no new stadium, and none on the horizon.
While the lack of a new stadium remains a source of frustration for Flying Squirrels management, SF Giants management, and even the Eastern League powers-that-be, as well as throwing some doubt into the future of pro baseball in Richmond, that is not stopping fans from flocking to the ballpark to see future San Francisco Giants. Final attendance figures are in for the 2015 season, and for the 4th time in their 6 years, the Flying Squirrels were tops in the league in attendance. A total of 417,010 fans showed up to the Diamond in ’15 to watch their beloved Squirrels, pulling in approximately 800 fans more than 2nd-place Reading.
Richmond also won the EL title in 2010, 2012, and 2014.
10 former Squirrels now in the Bay Area.
The Richmond Flying Squirrels appear headed nowhere off the field with regards to the ongoing drama in Virginia’s capital city about replacing the aging Diamond. On the field, they are 27-26, 6 games out of first place in the Eastern League’s Western Division, have won three in a row, 7 of their last 10, and sit 2 games out of a playoff spot.
Yes, the same Richmond Flying Squirrels who not long ago went through the misery of a 15-game losing streak.
On April 13th, Richmond defeated Altoona in a rout 10-3, in the opener of a 3-game series. The next day, the game was rained out, and on the 15th, the Squirrels lost to Altoona 3-0, kicking off a losing streak that reached 15 games. It got so bad that team front office man Todd Parnell pledged to abstain from showering until the team won a game. That losing streak put the team at 3-17 after 20 games, by far dead last in the league. They broke their losing streak on May 4th, defeating that same Altoona squad by a score of 5-1, the first of 6 straight wins.
Since that hellish losing streak, they have gone 24-9, and are now just 2 games out of a playoff spot.
What has fueled this squad’s turnaround? SS Rando Moreno is batting .331 in 40 games, and has increased his batting average by 16 points in the last 10 games. 2B Kelby Tolmlinson is batting .421 over the 5 games, .359 in the last 10 games. On the mound, RHP Joe Biagini is 4-3 with a 1.82 ERA in 9 starts, and has 35 strikeouts to only 12 walks. posting a 1.03 WHIP. Returning LHP Jack Snodgrass won 4 games for Richmond before he was promoted to AAA.
Should be an interesting summer for the Giants AA affiliate.
C John Hicks (Richmond) certain to start 2015 at AAA, but could be in Seattle this season.
In the latest installment of this series where we look at ballplayers inducted in the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, we turn to a 2-sport star, OF Brian Jordan.
Jordan grew up in Baltimore, MD, but came to Virginia to play his college ball, choosing Virginia’s capital city, the University of Richmond Spiders. After graduating from Richmond, he was selected in the first round of the 1988 MLB draft by the Cardinals, a year before he was a 7th round draft pick of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. (The Bills would cut him during training camp.)
Jordan started out his baseball career in the Cardinals system, climbing the ranks while at the same time playing for the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL. In 1991, he even led the Falcons in tackles and was voted as an alternate to the Pro Bowl squad. That, however, would be the end of his football career, as in 1992 he signed a new contract with the St. Louis Cardinals that included a signing bonus of $1.7 million to focus on baseball exclusively and end his football career.
Jordan made his major league debut in 1992, and for those first three seasons he was a utility outfielder. In 1995, he became an everyday outfielder for the Cardinals, and delivered big time, batting .296 with 22 HR and 81 RBIs in 135 games, and even posted a respectable .339 on base percentage. In 1996, he continued to excel, batting .310 with 104 RBIs, and his .422 batting average with Runners in Scoring Position held up as a new Cardinals record until it was surpassed in 2013. He also hit a major league leading .684 with the bases loaded.
Jordan had a horrendous 1997 season, batting .234 in 47 games with ho homers and only 10 RBIs, but bounced right back in 1998, batting .316 with 25 HR and 91 RBIs. This power surge landed him a huge contract with the Atlanta Braves. In 1999, his first season with Atlanta, he would bat .283 with 23 HR and a career high 115 RBIs, and made his first and only all-star game. (Also appearing on the NL squad that year was fellow Richmond Spider and fellow Virginia Sports HOF inductee Sean Casey, ’14.) Jordan’s exploits would be a key factor in the Braves going to the playoffs, and he even keyed the Braves NLDS win over Houston, batting .471 with 7 RBIs, including a 12th inning GWer in Game 3. He hit 2 HR in the NLCS but was held to only one hit in the World Series.
Jordan’s numbers leveled off in 2000, but in 2001 he got himself back on track, hitting .295 with 25 HR and 97 RBIs in helping the Braves hold off the Phillies and Mets to win their 10th straight division title. The following winter he was traded to the Dodgers in the blockbuster deal that brought Gary Sheffield to Atlanta.
He hit .285 with the Dodgers in 2002, but injuries started to catch up with him. He left and signed a 1-year deal with the Texas Rangers, but hit a paltry .222, and again was hampered by injuries. He returned to Atlanta for 2005 and 2006, but could not shake the injury bug, and retired from playing baseball after that 2006 season. He finished his MLB playing career with a .282 batting average, 184 HR, and 821 RBIs.
Brian Jordan was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in the Class of 2009.