Category Archives: Awards

Frank Thomas and Mike Mussina elected to ULB Hall of Fame!

The Class of 2015 is here, and for the first time we will have two players entering the ULB Hall of Fame. Both players were considered one of the greatest at their respective positions throughout the early decade and a half of the ULB.

player_9363Mike Mussina (Vancouver Canucks,1996-2003; St. Paul Saints, 2004, Las Vegas Vipers, 2004; New Mexico Suns, 2007)

Elected with 82.3% of Votes, Second Year on Ballot (62.5%, 2010)

Mussina was a dominant force in the early history of the ULB, helping the Vancouver Canucks to reach the Union Cup in 1996 and 1997. Mussina totaled 144 wins in the ULB and added 89 in the MLB for a total of 233 wins in both leagues. He led the ULB in wins in 1996, 1997 and 1998. He amassed 3 Nolan Ryan Trophies (1996, 1998 and 2002) and was elected to the All Star Game 7 times in his 10 years in the ULB.

Honors and Awards
Award Years Times Won
Nolan Ryan Award 1996, 1998, 2002 3
All-Star 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 7
Pitcher of the Month 7/97, 9/97, 6/98, 4/00, 6/00, 5/02, 6/04 7

 

player_12902Frank Thomas (Boston Colonials, 1998-2004; Oklahoma City RedHawks, 2005; Phoenix Fire, 2008-2009)

Elected with 76.5% of Votes, First Year on Ballot

The Big Hurt came over to the ULB signing  a 5 year contract with the Colonials in the 1997-1998 offseason worth a then record $102,500,000 million. Gripes about him being overpaid were quickly quieted as he led the league in Home Runs and Runs Batted in his 1998 season. He would go on to hit 243 Home Runs with the Colonials and added 9 more in short seasons plagued by injuries with the Oklahoma City RedHawks and Phoenix Fire. Thomas added a Fielding Bible Award at 1B in 2000 and was elected to the All Star Team four times with the Colonials. Thomas would add another 248 Homers in his MLB career to reach a total of 500 home runs. In his combined ULB and MLB career he had a total of 2,233 hits, and was also an MVP in 1993 and 1994 in the MLB with the Chicago White Sox.

Former San Jose Jedi General Manager Mak Dolnick, now an executive assistant to White Sox Owner Joe Reinsdorf, commented on Thomas’ election.

“He’s the Big Hurt, what else needs to be said?”

Honors and Awards
Award Years Times Won
Fielding Bible Award Winners 2000 (1B) 1
All-Star 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 4

Of those not making the cut, Washington’s Larry Walker fell just short of getting ‘The Call’ in his 4th year of eligibility. He appeared on 58.8% of ballots this season. Walker has to be encouraged by the fact that his percentage climbed higher than in 2010, when he had 50% of the vote. Manno Wickey, the New Orleans Gold Sox poster boy for a decade, received 52.9% of the vote in his first year on the ballot, but will have to wait another year before hopefully receiving his call.

2011 ULB Hall of Fame Ballot Results
Pos Player Votes Vote%
SP Mike Mussina 14 82.3
1B Frank Thomas 13 76.5
LF Larry Walker 10 58.8
1B Manno Wickey 9 52.9
SP Roger Clemens 8 47.1
SP Pedro Luis Lazo 7 41.2
C Mike Piazza 7 41.2
DH Ryan Keith 5 29.4
SP Curt Schilling 5 29.4
SP Kevin Brown 4 23.5
C Tyler Houston 4 23.5
CF Andruw Jones 4 23.5
SS Enrique Aguilar 3 17.6
SP Ramiro Mendoza 3 17.6
RF Mark Merchant 3 17.6
SP Andy Pettitte 3 17.6
C Steve Coture 2 11.8
SP Tom Gordon 2 11.8
DH Mark McGwire 2 11.8
2B Roberto Alomar 1 5.9
LF Mark Anthony 1 5.9
LF Brian Apolskis 1 5.9
LF Darryl Brinkley 1 5.9
LF David Diaz 1 5.9
1B Darren Doucette 1 5.9
CF Christopher Garife 1 5.9
RP Daniel Ginder 1 5.9
3B Brian Heigle 1 5.9
SS Howard Hill 1 5.9
RF Tomoaki Kanemoto 1 5.9
SP Brett Lagerblade 1 5.9
C Ken Love 1 5.9
CF Vernon Maxwell 1 5.9
2B Warren Morris 1 5.9
3B Bill Mueller 1 5.9
SP Hideo Nomo 1 5.9
DH Curtis Parham 1 5.9
LF Roberto Singer 1 5.9
LF Dernell Stenson 1 5.9
CF Zack Watts 1 5.9

Orestes Kindelan Elected to ULB Hall of Fame

Kindelan was one of the biggest stars in the early years of the ULB.
Kindelan was one of the biggest stars in the early years of the ULB.

Orestes Kindelan has been elected to the ULB Hall of Fame in his 3rd year of eligibility. He was selected with 76.2% of the vote and named on 15 ballots.

Orestes Kindelán represented Cuba in two Olympic Games. In 1992, he hit .344 while playing left field. In the 1994 Baseball World Cup, Kindelan hit .412/.543/1.000 with 6 homers, 14 runs and 16 RBI in 10 games. When the ULB came into exsitence, Kindelan jumped at the chance to make his mark in the new league.

He was selected with the 1st overall pick of the inaugural ULB draft in 1995 by the Hollywood Stars and then General Manager Marlon Trigg Sr. “El Canon de Dos Rios” would make his mark on the early history of the league, hitting .368 with 44 HR and 117 RBI in 1995 for the Stars. He would lead the Stars to the Federal League Cup, but his Stars would fall victim to the New Jersey Giants. Kindelan would hit .235 in that series with just 4 hits, 2 doubles, a single and a home run in five games.

His 1995 season was honored with the Federal League 1995 MVP Award. Kindelan would go on to play in 810 games, all but 32 with the Hollywood/Los Angeles Stars. He was elected to 4 All Star Games, 3 times a Starter (1995, 1996 and 1998) Kindelan debuted in the ULB at the age of 30 and played only 9 seasons.  He tallied 218 home runs, 572 runs batted in and 949 hits in his career with the Stars and Phoenix Fire, and has a lifetime batting average of .309 in the ULB.

Kindelan was a ready made star for the fledgling ULB, and his immediate impact was shown early in the league. He was one of the biggest stars to come out of the inaugural draft, and while his career numbers will eventually be eclipsed as the league continues, his early impact on the history of the ULB will not be forgotten.

Trailing Kindelan were Larry Walker (52.4%) and Darryl Brinkley (42.9%).

Orestes Kindelan’s Career Statistics
G AB H D T HR RBI R BB HP SH SF K SB CS PA AVG OBP SLG OPS WOBA
Regular 810 3071 949 144 10 218 572 578 319 24 12 35 599 4 1 3461 .309 .375 .575 .950 .401
Postseason 5 17 4 2 0 1 3 3 5 0 0 0 1 0 0 22 .235 .409 .529 .939 .406

Union League Baseball First Ten: Bobby Abreu

We come to our second selection of our trio of outfielders, and we’ve selected one off the most popular players to be traded twice in his Union League Baseball career. Being traded usually means you’re a coveted piece of the puzzle, and this guy qualifies as a key piece of several contenders.

Outfield: Bobby Abreu (Buffalo Blizzard 1996-1998, Boston Colonials 1998-2003, Houston Apollos 2004)

Abreu was drafted in 1996 by the Buffalo Blizzard with the #4 pick, and quickly rose through the ranks before getting a September call up to the ULB. In 25 games, he would hit .379 with 8 home runs and 20 runs batted in, announcing his residency in the Big Leagues.

Abreu accumulated 278 home runs from 1996-2004.
Abreu accumulated 278 home runs from 1996-2004.

In 1997, Abreu would hit .349 with 34 home runs, 92 runs batted in and 24 stolen bases.  He put together a 22 game hitting streak in September that year for a hapless Buffalo team that would go on to finish 77-77. He would lead the league in hitting that year, and also pick up his first major trophy by winning the 1997 Federal League Rookie of the Year Award. His 379 total bases would lead the league and set a then league record. (It was broken the following year by Orestes Kindelan’s 383, however.)

In 1998, he would start off hot for the Blizzard, hitting .393 in 28 games before the Boston Colonials GM Steve Horner would make Buffalo GM Curt Rogers an offer he couldn’t refuse. Abreu and teammate Curt Schilling would be traded for 2 top prospects and draft picks on May 3rd. Buffalo would not contend again until 2001. With Boston, Abreu was selected to the All Star Game 4 times, 3 as a starter. In six seasons, Abreu would bat .303 with 947 hits, 188 doubles, 30 triples, 184 home runs, 582 runs batted in and 526 runs scored.

Abreu would again be traded, this time to Nick Strongbad’s Houston Apollos club in 2004. He would go on to have a career year, with 199 hits, 43 doubles, 6 triples, 43 home runs, 115 runs batted in, 113 runs scored and a .323 batting average. He would lead the league in hits, runs scored, batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base plus slugging percentage while enjoying a trip to the All Star Game for 5th time and his second trip into the postseason. The Apollos would run into a brick wall in the Union Cup playoffs, losing 4 games to 1 to the Portland Pioneers in the Divisional Cup. Abreu would be named the Federal League MVP in 2004, and would then promptly be traded to the Bees by his new General Manager Trevor Wills following Strongbad’s retirement, ending 2004 on a sour note for the Apollos.

Abreu has been part of three franchises, and has been a clubhouse leader in all three. His offensive production has led to him being a Rookie Of The Year Award winner, an MVP and a 5 time All Star.  He’s been a main stay, and could very well be a future ULB Hall of Famer. Time will tell.

Union League Baseball First Ten: Ichiro Suzuki

With three outfield spots to choose from, we’ve selected the best position players, regardless of which spots they have manned in the outfield. Naturally, this values left fielders slightly less, but think it’s a fair position to take. Having said that, we come to the first of three outfielders we’ve chosen to honor as the ULB’s First Ten.

Ichiro won the Fielding Bible Award at his position seven times in seven seasons.
Ichiro won the Fielding Bible Award at his position seven times in seven seasons.

Outfield: Ichiro Suzuki (Vancouver Canucks 1998-2003, Las Vegas Vipers 2004)

Ichiro might be one of the best players to come out of Japan in the history of the ULB. He was posted for sale by the Nippon Professional Baseball in the 1997-1998 offseason, and former Vancouver Canucks GM Matthew Monagle pounced on the chance to secure himself a sure thing Fielding Bible Award winning caliber player.

When asked about the Star youngster being offered by the Orix Blue Wave, Monagle simply exclaimed “He’s Mine!” and dashed off to the Canucks offices to make a 6 year,  $140,670,000 offer (On to of the $9 Million Posting Fee he paid to the Blue Wave, mind you.) This combined with the Addition of Mike Mussina, helped propel the Canucks to a… er… second place finish in from 1998 to 2000. Monagle would find himself addicted to painkillers and antacids after the 1998 season, and made a quiet exit from the league.*

Ichiro meanwhile would proceed to win the 1998 Players League Rookie of the Year Award while batting .352.  In 2000, he would win the Players League MVP Award while batting .379 with 224 hits. He was named an All Star seven times, and was elected as a starter in very year thanks to his loyal Japanese and Canadian fans. He would also go on to win the Fielding Bible award at his position (right field) every year as well.

From 1998 to 2004, Ichiro batted .358 with 1521 hits, 233 doubles, 29 triples, 102 home runs, 600 runs batted in,  865 runs scored, 671 walks, and 257 stolen bases. He led the entire league in Value over Replacement Player (VoRP) with a score of 588.6, narrowly beating out Fellow First Ten Award Winner Kenneth Payne who had a score of 583.2.

Ichiro would be unable to come to an agreement with the financially crippled Canucks organization who moved to St. Paul and became the Saints in 2004 and would go on to sign a new deal with the Las Vegas Vipers. He helped guide the previously hapless Vipers to their first ever Playoff appearance, and batted .314 in the postseason, in which they would be knocked out the Divisional Cup by the Oklahoma City RedHawks.

Ichiro’s spectacular defense in right field and his ability to drive pitchers and catchers insane net him a spot in the ULB’s First Ten.

*Monagle now runs an ice fishing business in Anchorage. He has several pet Reindeer.

Union League Baseball First Ten: Nomar Garciaparra

The shortstop position is possibly the most important fielding position in baseball. When you see top 10 lists, shortstops are usually featured in some fashion. Typically of smaller stature than the other fielders on defense, shortstops tend to be of the scrappy variety rather than the prototypical slugger. Over the first ten years of the ULB, we’ve had many great shortstops suit up in ULB uniforms. Here’s our selection for the #1 shortstop from 1995-2004.

Nomar Garciaparra's 34 game hitting streak in 1998 is the longest in ULB history.
Nomar Garciaparra’s 34 game hitting streak in 1998 is the longest in ULB history.

Shortstop: Nomar Garciaparra (New Orleans Gold Sox 1996-2004)

Nomar Garciaparra was the 3rd overall pick in the 1996 ULB First Year Players Draft, behind Andruw Jones and Matt White. One could make the argument that Nomar was the second best pick from that draft, after the number four pick, Bobby Abreu. Nomar rose through the minors at a rapid pace, and debuted that July. He went on to play in 1292 games, most by a shortstop in the first ten years of the ULB. He hit .305 over that span, with 251 home runs, 903 runs batted in and 119 stolen bases.

In 1998, Nomar electrified the league with a 34 game hitting streak that ended on August 22nd. That record still stands today.

“34 games is a hell of a long time. I give him major props on breaking the record. He’s an awesome player, and I hate him.” said Salt Lake City’s Brian Constandas, the previous record holder on the day Garciaparra hit in game number 30. He went on to league the league in hitting that year, batting .357 and racking up 242 hits, which is also still a league record.

Nomar racked up five All Star Game appearances, and was selected as a starter in 3 of them, with Alex Rodriguez getting the top vote in the other two years in which they both played.

Garciaparra also helped lead the Gold Sox to back to back Union Cup Championships in 2001 and 2002. His championship pedigree and offensive leadership over the first ten years of the ULB secure his legacy as the best shortstop in the game.

Union League Baseball First Ten: Ray Rice

Rice won two Union Cup Championships as a member of the Jersey City Giants.
Rice won two Union Cup Championships as a member of the Jersey City Giants.

Arriving at Third Base, we had a bit of a problem, as we had a couple players we could have selected and called it a day. The ‘hot seat’ of the baseball diamond has seen some great players man the position in ULB  history. Jim Thome played a couple of his early seasons at the position. It came down to a trifecta of Jamie Taylor, Aubrey Huff and…

Third Base: Ray Rice (Jersey City Giants 1997-2004)

Now for Third Base, we perhaps have an unsung hero in Jersey City’s Ray Rice. His stats place him slightly higher than Jamie Taylor on our list, and the only player with a higher VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) is Las Vegas’ Aubrey Huff. Huff didn’t debut until 2001 however, so we’ve gone with Rice as our selection for Third Base. Rice is also a three time All Star and led the league is On Base Percentage in 2000. He amassed 126 home runs and 488 runs batted in from 1997-2004. He also drew more walks (533) than strike outs (482).  And he’s a two time Union Cup Champion as a member of the Giants. Defensively, Rice started 575 of his games as a Third Baseman, and while he will never be known as a Fielding Bible Quality 3B (-20.7 ZR) he made up for it with his bat.* Also without Ray Rice’s clutch RBI single in the one game playoff against the New Orleans Gold Sox in 1999, the Giants might not have won the 1999 Union Cup.

We could go on about why we selected Ray Rice, but we’ll leave it up to Jersey City Giants GM Ryan Huff to make the case for him:

“Rice was drafted in the in the eighty fifth round of the ULB inaugural draft. He was nothing more than a 21 year old utility infielder prospect at the time. Rice spent 1995 between AA and AAA while playing subpar and having minimal impact but 1996 was a completely different story. Something just clicked for Rice as many scouts raved about his intangibles and intelligence for the game. Rice always knew what to do in any given situation one Jersey City scout stated. Rice finished 1996 in AAA for the Newark Bison’s. He won two Player of the Week Awards, four Batter of the Month Awards, and the Morgan Burkhart MVP Award. Not to mention he won the Frontier League Series as a Newark Bison. The final stat line for Rice’s MVP season was a .303 BA, 41 HR’s, 141 RBI’s (the numbers that the voters count).”

And that’s before he even made the Big Leagues. How about some ULB action?
“After spending a few months of the 1997 season in AAA Rice finally got the call he was waiting for, a chance to play for the big club. Rice would end up spending 8 seasons with Jersey City before leaving through free agency in 2005. He was instrumental in the two Jersey City championships (1997 and 1999). He enjoyed his best seasons from 1998-2000 and was a perennial All-Star. Rice has always hit RHP all over the field, he just never really got those lefties figured out. Because of this he will never have those HOF numbers. He will never be remembered as an elite slugger but he still had solid power. He had above average defense, a good arm, and could make all plays on the field. Rice averaged a 2.5 WAR while in JC and I would take that any day of the week.”

*If we went by defense only, we'd have selected two time Fielding Bible award winner Frank Valdez of the Boston Colonials and Portland Pioneers. But he jumped to the MLB in 2001 and retired after bouncing around as a backup in 2003. Defense isn't everything.

Union League Baseball First Ten: Mike Peeples

With our third selection of the ULB’s First Ten, we’ve selected the best Second Baseman from the first ten years of the ULB’s history. This one was a pretty easy selection.

Peeples was named to the All Star Game in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004.
Peeples was named to the All Star Game in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Second Base : Mike Peeples (San Antonio Wolves 1997-1999, San Antonio DireWolves 2000-2003, San Juan Storm 2004)

Peeples led all Second basemen in nearly every  hitting category of note. The young 20 year old Peeples debuted in 1997, and has never looked back. The 5th overall pick in the inaugural draft, Peeples came to the San Antonio Franchise straight out of Clay High School in  Green Grove Springs, Florida.  The 6 time All Star was also named the Federal League MVP in 2003 after hitting .320 with 47 home runs and a league record 179 runs batted in. He is also among the elite fielders in the league, and was named a Fielding Bible award winner in 2000.

Peeples current General Manager, Wally Tims,  is clearly enamored with his star player.

“What can you say about this guy? Well Mike has a combination of Power (Averaged 41 Doubles and 35 Homers) and Speed (averaged 22 Stolen Bases) over his ULB career. Mike has also been an asset on the field with good defensive skills especially at his second base position. During his career he has been and still is a force to be feared by his opponents.”

Peeples was the clear winner at second base, and will likely continue to be a ‘force to be feared’ for the future. He led the Storm to the Union Cup in 2004, and could very well collect more moments with the Cup before his career is over.

Union League Baseball First Ten: Tyler Houston

Houston Hit .311 from 1995-2004, leading all catchers in BA.
Houston Hit .311 from 1995-2004, leading all catchers in BA.

Union League Baseball celebrated it’s 10th year in 2004. Now with some perspective on the early years of the league, we will announce the ULB’s First Ten. These are Ten Players from the formative years of the League who contributed the most at their positions.

Catcher:  Tyler Houston (San Jose Jedi 1996-2004)

Houston was the  8th pick in the 1996 ULB Draft. He emerged as  one of the best young catchers of the ULB’s early years.  He led the league in hitting in 1997 with a .337 batting average. Over the period from 1995-2004, he had a .311 batting average, 1,343 hits, 273 doubles, 167 home runs and 769 runs batted in.

Former General Manager Mak Dolnick:

“The main thing about Houston that I remember is how his injury in his rookie season of 2006 screwed us over and led to us finishing 2nd. He healed up nicely. He never was a very good defensive catcher, but he was one of the best hitting catchers out of the gate so that’s pretty impressive.”

Houston’s current GM Todd Bleess however, is less than thrilled with him getting this prestigious award.

“Felipe Cisneros should be in over Houston.”

The Selections committee explained the reason for choosing Houston over Cisneros. While both have similar stat lines over the ten year period, Houston  just edges out the Jersey City Giants mainstay in most lines. The Main caveat may be that Cisneros hit more home runs, 211 to Houston’s 167.  Cisneros was selected to the All Star Game seven times, while Houston selected six times. Houston missed several weeks in 1999 due to a hamstring injury which is likely why he did not appear in that year’s ASG.  Both have won one Fielding Bible Award,  and Cisneros has two Union Cup Championships to Houston’s lone Championship ring.