Five weeks ago I began a weekly series looking back at some of the top farm squads in the history of Brewers baseball, dating back to 1970 when the Seattle Pilots headed northeast from spring training in Arizona and became the Milwaukee Brewers. I have not included short-season Class A or Rookie ball teams, as their seasons are generally too short to compare to full-season squads in A, AA, and AAA levels.
With this week’s edition of Beating the Bushes, I present the #15 team on my list:
#15 El Paso Diablos, 1982
The Milwaukee Brewers firmly established themselves on the Major League baseball scene with their American League championship in 1982. Fifteen hundred miles away in the west Texas town of El Paso (with a nod to Marty Robbins), a team with the nickname Diablos had a devil of a season, earning a spot in the AA Texas League championship before getting swept by the Tulsa Drillers in three games.
The Diablos were a Milwaukee affiliate from 1981-1998. They played their home games at Dudley Field, which had been constructed way back in 1924. The ‘Dudley Dome,’ an open-air stadium, probably deserves a whole page alone, much like many of the old minor league venues.
After hitting a home run, the Diablos player would head to the box seats and hold out his helmet, which would get filled with dollar bills from the adoring fans.
In order to hit a home run to center, the batter would have to hit the ball over a 36-foot wall atop a slope that kept the canal behind it from flooding the field.
And the best touch of all? The visiting dugout had the word ‘ENEMY’ painted in bright yellow letters on top.
Ah, yes–the good old days.
To say the park favored the hitters might be an understatement. In 1983 at Dudley, El Paso beat Beaumont 35-21. Yes, that is a baseball score, and yes, that was a nine-inning game. In 1982, the Diablos led the league in runs scored (928), home runs (161), and batting average (.303). The pitching numbers were another story.
El Paso finished second-to-last in ERA (5.46) and runs allowed (832), and last in home runs allowed (162).
In 1982, the Diablos ended with the top mark in the Western Division of the Texas League, finishing at 76-60. Manager Tony Muser was in his third year as a skipper (his second in El Paso) and would go on to manage eight years at three different levels in the minors and also spend six years at the helm of the Kansas City Royals from 1997-2002.
Thirty-one players appeared in games that year for El Paso, with six of them going on to play in the major leagues.
Randy Ready had one of the top seasons in the Texas League that year. The third baseman led the league in hitting with a .375 average. He socked 33 doubles, 20 home runs, 99 RBI, and had an OPS of 1.066.
Ready went on to play 13 years in ‘The Show,’ including four years in Milwaukee. He finished his career with 777 games played and hit 259/359/387. He also hit .326 during his minor league career, which spanned eleven years.
Nineteen-year-old Dion James was a first round pick in 1980 by the Brewers. The outfielder batted .322, had an OPS of 864 and stole 16 bases for the ’82 Diablos. He went on to play 11 years in the bigs, playing 917 games for four teams. He had a nice career, hitting 288/364/392.
The other Bob Gibson was the closer that year, saving 18 games, which ranked second in the Texas League. He posted a 2.17 ERA in 47 appearances. As a big leaguer, he played five years (four with Milwaukee), saving 13 games and winning 12 in 98 games pitched (80 in relief, 18 starts).
Right hander Jaime Cocanower split time between AAA Vancouver and AA El Paso, starting nine games for the Diablos. He won 3 of 4 and posted an ERA of 3.32. He went on to pitch four years for Milwaukee, making 47 starts and 32 relief appearances. He ended with a record of 16-25 and an ERA of 3.99.
Outfielder Mark Corey played for Baltimore parts of the three previous seasons and then never played another game in the majors. He was traded to the Brewers in late July 1982 and played 36 games at El Paso, batting 345/376/576 with five homers and 35 ribbies. His three-year stint with the Orioles saw him play in 59 games, batting just .211 with one home run.
Starter Andy Beene went 8-2, 4.15 in a dozen starts. As a Brewer, he was in the majors for parts of two season, making three starts and three relief efforts, going winless in two decisions.
HR: Bill Foley (23)
RBI: Bill Foley (106)
BA: Randy Ready (.375)
SB: Dion James (16)
W: Daniel Burns, Robert Schroeck (10)
ERA: Bob Gibson (2.17)
SV: Bob Gibson (18)
K: Robert Schroeck (89)
WHIP: Daniel Burns (1.346)
C: Kurt Kingsolver/Bill Foley
1B: Robert Schuster/Steven Michael
2B: Ronald Koenigsfeld
3B: Randy Ready
SS: Daniel Davidsmeier
OF: Eric Peyton
OF: Dion James
OF: Jon Hansen
SP: Robert Schroeck
SP: Jim Koontz
SP: David Grier
SP: Stephen Parrott
SP: Daniel Burns
CL: Bob Gibson
Best Player to Never Make the Major Leagues: Bill Foley, C
Foley was drafted in 1974 by the Minnesota Twins, but elected to attend Clemson University. Later, he was drafted by Milwaukee in the sixth round of the June 1977 draft and started his pro career at low A Newark, where he hit 13 HR in 188 ABs, hitting 282/372/559.
In 1978 he had a great year at Burlington in the A Midwest League, hitting 34 HR with an incredible slash line of 318/403/648 while winning the league MVP award.
Another promotion sent him to Holyoke, which was Milwaukee’s AA team at the time. In 96 games, he smacked 18 HR and 74 RBI, moving in the late summer to AAA Vancouver, where he hit five homers in just 28 games, although his BA dropped a bit, down to .255 from something normally in the .270 range.
He played a full season in Vancouver in 1980, hitting only four homers. He repeated that level again in 1981, but played in only 25 games, presumably due to injury.
Demoted in 1982 to AA El Paso, he had a great (healthy) year, hitting 23 HR, 106 RBI and batted .308. He led the league in RBI and was eighth in home runs, trailing league leader Darryl Strawberry, who had 34.
His final season was 1983, where he played only nine games at Vancouver before ending his season.
Foley hit 102 dingers in his 536 game minor league career, with a slash line that read 289/361/518. He had a nice career that ended just short of the bigs.