Campfires, Volume 4

February, 28, 2010
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The things you learn, hanging around camp:

1. Terry Francona and Joltin’ Joe?: Padres general manager Bud Black was on the Indians in 1988 when Terry Francona was summoned from minor league Colorado Springs, where he had a 21-game hitting streak at the time he was recalled.

“We called him Joe DiMaggio,’’ Black said with a laugh, alluding to the connection the Indians made between Francona and the author of the famous 56-game hitting streak.

Francona didn’t recall the nickname, but he definitely remembered the streak. “I think I hit in my first six games after I was called up too,’’ he said.

Good memory. Francona indeed hit in his first six games before taking an 0-for-3 against the Mariners. In 365 minor league games, Francona had an equal number of home runs and stolen bases: 8. In the big leagues, the totals were 16 home runs and 12 stolen bases.

2. Six degrees of separation from Doc Cramer, the only every-day center fielder 37 or older to play in a World Series, and Mike Cameron. Cramer was 39 when the 1945 Detroit Tigers won the Series; Cameron is 37.

Cramer played with Vic Wertz on the 1947 Tigers. Wertz played with Minnie Minoso on the 1958 Indians. Minoso played with Harold Baines on the 1980 White Sox. Baines played with Cameron on the 1997 White Sox.

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3. Minor pleasures: Well-traveled pitcher Joe Nelson has played for teams in 17 cities, a dozen in the minors and five in the big leagues -- Atlanta, Boston, Kansas City, Miami (Florida Marlins) and St. Petersburg, Fla. (Tampa Bay). He says he has kept mementos from everywhere he has played.
His three favorite minor league towns?

“Durham, for one,’’ he said. “I played there in ’97, 2005 and 2009. If I play there at any point this year, I’ll be a three-decade Durham Bull. I don’t want that.

“Portland, Maine. Great ownership, great town. Really into baseball. You had the Monster. Packed house. Get your Sea Dogs biscuits.

“And I liked Omaha. Really good food, college town. Omaha steaks. I’m a big meat guy. You can’t beat that.

“Those are all places I’d like to bring my kids to see.’’

4. High on Hanley: Nelson on Hanley Ramirez, his former Marlins teammate and one-time Red Sox prospect: “As he matures, he will be a player that generations from now will talk about. He’s special. He’s above the curve. He’s got more talent in his pinkie than I’ve got in my whole body. He’s a special player.

"He’s still got some growing up to do, but he’s young. Remember back when you were 22. If you had the money, the fame, the fortune, sometimes you make bad decisions, and that’s all it is. Hanley’s a good kid. And he’ll grow into it. It’s tough. Thrust into the limelight as face of the franchise, and one bad decision can follow you for a while. I think back to when I was 22. I probably wouldn’t have made as many good choices as he has. I was in the minors. I wasn’t televised when I make bad decisions.’’

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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