Eight 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 #12 team on my list:
#12 Beloit Brewers, 1984
Tom Gamboa led the Brewers to a 86-53 mark in 1984, and would finish with nine years in the bosses’ chair, going 566-486. In ’84, the Brewers farm club handily won the Midwest League (Class A) Central Division but fell to Springfield in the semi-final round of the playoffs. Home field was Harry Pohlman Field, and Beloit drew over 92,000 fans during the season.
Thirty-six players logged game time and 11 of those would spend time in the majors, including Tom Candiotti, who was an injury rehab in ’84. Every pitcher that started games for the Beloit team played in the majors, including a pitcher that took a detour and didn’t make it to the bigs until 1999. More on him later…
Even though they were unable to win the league title, this was a special team. 1B-DH Joey Meyer won the Triple Crown, putting up some spectacular numbers: 30 HR, 102 RBI, .320 BA. Brian Finley ‘nabbed’ the stolen base title with 66 steals in 88 attempts. The team finished in the top half of the league in most measurables: fifth in runs scored (639), sixth in HRs (75), tied for second in batting (.254), and third in steals (167).
On the mound, the Brewers finished fourth in ERA (3.26), HR allowed (69), and WHIP (1.33). They led the league in strikeouts with 1090, having three pitchers with over 150 Ks.
Pitcher Chris Bosio led the ’84 Brewers with 17 wins and would go on to pitch 11 years in the bigs, winning 94 games in his career and winning more than 15 on two occasions. He is currently the Chicago Cubs pitching coach.
Tom Candiotti rehabbed at Beloit on his way back to the majors, where he would play for 16 years, mostly with Cleveland and the Dodgers. The knuckleballer earned 151 wins with an ERA of 3.73. In 1986 he threw an amazing 17 complete games for the Indians.
Righty Mike Birkbeck was the best pitcher for Beloit in ’84, going 14-3 with an ERA of 2.18. His big league career lasted six years (four with Milwaukee) and he won ten games in 1988.
Meyer had a special season and would finish with 135 career homers in the minors, but never found his stride in Milwaukee, playing parts of two seasons but still showing the power stick, smacking 18 HR in 156 games.
The player who never had a chance to move up was pitcher Jeff Parrett, who was selected in the 1985 Rule 5 Draft by the Phillies. Parrett pitched for six teams in ten big league seasons, winning 56 times and saving 22 games in that time frame.
HR: Joey Meyer (30)
RBI: Joey Meyer (102)
BA: Joey Meyer (.320)
SB: Brian Finley (66)
C: Angel Rodriguez/Michael Gobbo
1B: John Thornton/Joey Meyer
2B: Fred Williams
3B: Kerry Everett
SS: Hector Quinones
OF: Edward Irvine
OF: Brian Finley
OF: Larry Jackson/LaVel Freeman
DH: Joey Meyer
SP: Chris Bosio
SP: Mike Birkbeck
SP: Mark Ciardi
SP: Alex Madrid
SP: Jim Morris
CL: Dave Stapleton
Player That Had a Disney Movie Based on Him: Jim Morris, P
Although his Brownwood (TX) high school did not have a baseball team, Morris was still drafted fourth overall by the Brewers in the 1983 Draft. He began his pro career with Paintsville in the Rookie Appalachian League and pitched okay in 13 starts and earned a promotion to Class A Beloit. He had a similar year for Beloit and then pitched mostly for Stockton in the California League in 1985, with an ERA that nudged just past 6.00
He suffered numerous arm injuries and was released by Milwaukee during the 1987 season.
Morris threw in a couple games for Sarasota in the White Sox chain, but retired back to Texas, where he became a teacher and baseball coach in Big Lake.
In 1999 while coaching Reagan County, he made a promise to attend a major league try-out camp if his team won the District Championship. They won the title, so Morris kept his end of the deal and tried out for Tampa Bay. After throwing a dozen straight 98 MPH fastballs, he was signed to a minor league contract.
He started at AA Orlando and after three appearances, moved up to AAA Durham. He performed there until the Major League rosters expanded in September and was called up to Tampa Bay. At age 35, he made his major league debut, striking out Royce Clayton on four pitches.
He pitched five times in 1999 and 16 times in 2000, but recurring arm problems forced him out of the game.
In 2002, Disney released The Rookie, a film based on Morris. He often appears as a motivational speaker.