Bullpen coach Chuck Crim (50) was an eight-year veteran of the big leagues and a star pitcher on the 1986 El Paso Diablos. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Nine 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 #11 team on my list:
"#11 El Paso Diablos, 1986"
The Diablos have appeared twice already on this list (1982, 1994) and it is mostly because of the ballpark effects. Dudley Field was a hitter’s park pure and simple, but many good pitchers threw there, albeit with less glamorous numbers than they were accustomed to. As a team, the hitters finished first in the AA Texas League with runs scored (908) and hitting (.302), and second in home runs (144).
Let’s just say the pitching staff–as a whole–didn’t fare so well, ranking in the bottom half of the league in all major categories. Pitching at Dudley was like pitching at Wrigley when the wind is blowing out. In other words, lots of high-scoring games and sad hurlers.
Long-time big league catcher Duffy Dyer piloted the ’86 team to a 85-50 record and a Texas League championship. He managed eleven years in the minors, but none were better than his 1986 team. Steve Stanicek was named Player of the Year in the league, finishing third in batting and RBIs and second in home runs.
Three pitchers won more than 12 games, although none of the trio had an ERA lower than 4.22.
Thirty-five players dressed for El Paso during the season, with 15 playing in the big leagues at some point.
Catcher Charlie O’Brien had an outstanding year, hitting 324/415/536 with 15 dingers. He would go on to play fifteen years in the majors (four with Milwaukee), playing in 800 games and cranking out 56 home runs. He was also a good throwing receiver, cutting down runners at a 37% clip over his career.
Tiny Mike Felder was a speedy outfielder for the Diablos, but only played eight games before he moved up to AAA Vancouver. In ten big league seasons, he stole 161 bases in 899 career games, including 34 SB in 1987 in just 108 games.
Catcher Bill Schroeder played a handful of games at El Paso–most likely due to injury–and played 64 for Milwaukee that year. He would play eight seasons in ‘The Show,’ appearing in 376 games while smacking 61 homers. He had a career high of 14 in 1984 and 1987, both in less than 250 ABs. He is currently the Fox Sports Wisconsin color analyst for the Brewers.
Chuck Crim had six saves in 16 appearances before moving up to Vancouver. In eight major league campaigns, Crim pawed the rubber in 449 games, winning 47 and saving 45. He led the American League in appearances in both 1988 and 1989.
Billy Jo Robidoux split time between Beloit (A), El Paso, and Milwaukee. He had a crazy slash line of 325/446/667 in El Paso over 114 ABs. He played six years in the bigs, appearing in 173 games.
Pitcher Tim Crews compiled a 5-5 mark in fifteen starts in El Paso. In six years–all for the Dodgers–Crews pitched in 281 games, winning 11 games and saving 15. His life ended tragically in a boating accident during 1993 spring training in Florida. He had signed with Cleveland as a free agent in early 1993. Crews and teammate Steve Olin died when the boat crashed into a dock. Bobby Ojeda was seriously injured but would go on to pitch parts of two more season before retiring.
HR: Steve Stanicek (25)
RBI: Jesus Alfaro (99)
BA: Steve Stanicek (.343)
SB: Billy Bates (23)
C: Charlie O’Brien
1B: Steve Stanicek
2B: Billy Bates
3B: Jesus Alfaro
SS: Robert Allen / Bob Nandin
OF: Alan Cartwright
OF: John Gibbons
OF: LaVel Freeman
Definition of an Organization Man: Jesus Alfaro
Jesus Alfaro was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela in 1958. He was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1976.
He would play for five organizations, but never spent a day in the major leagues. He played well at the Double A level but stalled one step short of the majors at Triple A. He played in the following chains: Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago Cubs, California, and Milwaukee (twice).
In seven separate years, Alfaro batted over .300 in Double A leagues, including two partial seasons with a BA of better than .350.
His problem was Triple A, where he compiled a career .253 average. After 14 years in the minors and three years in the Mexican League, Alfaro hung up his spikes and bat and became an instructor, coach, and manager. He managed for seven years at the lower levels in the the Orioles chain between 1999-2008.
As a player, the infielder–he was drafted as a shortstop–played in nearly 1600 minor league games, knocking out 1652 hits and 937 RBIs. His career slash line read 290/375/441.
Earlier this year. Alfaro was elected to the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame. Alfaro had a unique career but he was above all, an organization man, a kind of person that every big league chain needs to make themselves successful.