After my brush with the occult, I turned to more mainstream baseball purchases. At a great used book store whose name escapes me at the moment, I scored a copy of Baseball America’s 1989 Almanac.
The Almanac has changed a lot in the past 10 years. Back in 1989 it was a tall, skinny book that published all the minor league and college stats, much as it does today, but didn’t include player birthdates (always a must when searching for the next megastar).
In 1988, Willie Stargell, the only player voted into the Hall of Fame that year, became it’s 200th member. The Dodgers beat the A’s, 4 games to 1, in the World Series (everyone remembers Kirk Gibson’s pinch-hit homer off Dennis Eckersley in Game 1, but it’s also worth noting that Orel Hershiser collected more hits in one game than Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire combined in five games). Tom Gordon was the Minor League Player of the Year, and Stanford, behind future big leaguers Mike Mussina, Stan Spencer, and Ed Sprague, won its second consecutive NCAA Division I title.
The top Triple-A prospects that year were Mike Harkey, John Smoltz, and Sandy Alomar, Jr. Also in the mix were Gary Sheffield, Randy Johnson, Steve Finley, Gregg Jefferies, and Matt Williams.
Hensley Meulens, Pete Harnisch, and Ramon Martinez were the best in Double-A, with Omar Vizquel, Todd Zeile, Greg Vaughn, Kevin Brown, and John Wetteland in the top 10 in each of their leagues.
The California League had Ken Griffey, Jr., as its best prospect, while the Carolina League countered with Bernie Williams. In the Florida State League, things were a little different, with the immortal Chris Nichting leading the way. Tom Gordon, Derek Bell, Marquis Grissom, Stan Royer (who?), Steve Avery, and Jose Offerman nabbed the #1 spot among prospects in each of their respective Low-A leagues. But the player whose line really caught my eye was a middle infielder at Stockton named Charlie Montoyo, who drew a ridiculous 156 walks in 134 games.
Bryan Harvey was named MVP of the Puerto Rican League, and a surprisingly svelte (and goateed) Cecil Fielder won the Venezuelan League batting title. In the Cape Cod League, the prestigious collegiate summer league, a young second baseman named Chuck Knoblauch won the batting title for Wareham.
The Padres selected Evansville righthander and Baseball America Pitcher of the Year Andy Benes #1 overall in the draft. Washington State lefthander/first baseman John Olerud was named College Player of the Year. Robin Ventura won the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur baseball player. The United States, behind LSU righthander Ben McDonald, won the Gold Medal at the Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.
Gregg Olson was the first 1988 draftee (#4 overall, by the Orioles) to make it to the big leagues, and Alex Fernandez was the only first rounder (#24 overall, by the Brewers) not to sign.
Well, that was a nice trip down the well-worn memory lane. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.