The Greatest Stories Ever Told: Baseball Against All Odds and Redemption

Hidden in MLB transaction logs yesterday there is a potential story... a story that might never come to fruition but a story, nonetheless. May 18, 2011 could forever be known as the day that 31 year-old Sean Burroughs, son of 1974 AL MVP Jeff Burroughs, turned around his major league career. Yesterday, the Arizona Diamondbacks purchased Burroughs' contract from their Triple A affiliate. So it sets up that Sean will be wearing a major league uniform for the first time in five years.

A little bit of history... as a prospect, Burroughs burst onto the scene at a young age and was drafted in the first round by the San Diego Padres at age 18. Before there was Bryce Harper, there was Sean Burroughs. In fact, he might be best known for appearing on David Letterman as a 12 year-old little league WS MVP (some of you might remember him telling the world that he wanted to be a gynocologist when he grew up). But Burroughs never materialized as a big leauger, despite his pedigree and success as a minor leaguer. He spent some time with the Padres and then with the Rays but in 2007 he was released and the Sean Burroughs story was over before it ever really started. Or is it?

Most likely, Burroughs' story will end the way we all expect it to but crazier things have happened. Here is a list of what I consider to be baseball's greatest stories of redemption and success against all odds.

Jon Lester - to bounce back from cancer is one thing. To do it in less than one full season and be the winning pitcher in the clinching game of the world series... you can't make this stuff up.

Jim Abbott - a pitcher with one hand who churned out a successful ten year career. I wouldn't believe it unless I saw it.

Satchel Paige - the oldest rookie in history, broke into the major leagues at the ripe age of 41 after a lengthy career in the Negro Leagues. Also noteworthy... Paige pitched five seasons, retired and then returned to play one game for the Kansas City Athletics as a publicity stunt. Despite the lighthearted nature of the event, Paige went three innings giving up no earned runs.

Ed Charles - there are probably a dozen African American players that deserve to make this list but I picked Charles. He didn't have a ton of success as a major leaguer but the colorful player whose nickname was "The Glider" had a huge impact on the outcome of the 1969 "Miracle Mets" season, hitting a home run off of Steve Carlton (playing for the Cardinals at that time) in the division clinching game and scoring the game winning run of a crucial game two of the World Series against the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles. What earns Charles a spot on this list is his perseverance - he had to endure 9 seasons in the Braves minor league system, where he spent most of his time earning little money playing in front of hostile crowds in the deep south.

Chris Coste - spent eleven years playing minor league and semi-professional baseball before making his debut as a "33 Year Old Rookie," which happens to be the title of his autobiography. Coste retired from professional baseball this season and is now working as a Baseball Analyst on Comcast SportsNet, a Philadelphia sports station. He is still beloved in Philadelphia, where success is almost as important as the "never say die" work ethic that Coste brought to the table. His career batting average is a formidable .272 and he will be remembered as a clutch hitter and selfless teammate.

Josh Hamilton - highly touted and then written off as "what could have been," Hamilton won his fight against drug addiction and conquered his inner demons to emerge as one of the most productive players in the game. His 2010 AL MVP award is the culmination of his hard work.

Rick Ankiel - what do you do when you find out that you can't throw strikes in the big leagues? Well, you can always go the Ankiel route and move to the outfield. His power and arm strength make him a wildcard in the outfield. His determination has earned him a spot in baseball lore.

Jim Morris - the man who inspired the movie "The Rookie." Here's the movie synopsis and Jim's life story in thirty seconds... a high school gym teacher and baseball coach whose big league career was cut short by injury promises his players that he will try out for the big leagues if they win a championship, which they do (the first in school history). Despite being thirty-five years old and out of baseball for almost ten years, Morris is stunned to find out that he's still got some gas in the tank. He manages to dial up 98 on the radar gun for 12 consecutive pitches in front of the scouts and is offered a minor league contract with the Rays. Hesitantly, he accepts the opportunity to play and eventually pitches his way into the big leagues. In total, he made 16 appearances over two seasons (1999-2000) before running into some arm trouble.

1 comment:

  1. I'll mention someone from my era, Ron LeFlore. Billy Martin found him in prison playing ball when he was managing the Tigers. When he got out, the Tigers signed him and he had a pretty good career.


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