Three months 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 #8 team on my list:
"#8 El Paso Diablos, 1991"
This is the fourth time an El Paso team has been on this list (15-14-11) and they will appear one more time before this Top 20 journey is over. Most of the time the hitters (as a group) were great and the pitching sucked. This time, the pitching was okay, too.
The Diablos (81-55) lost in the AA Texas League championship to Shreveport. Manager Dave Huppert led El Paso, with the team drawing over 273,000 fans in Cohen Stadium, leading the loop in attendance.
John Jaha won his second league MVP award in three years (1989 Stockton), bashing 30 homers, driving in 134 runs, and hitting at a .344 clip. The HRs and RBIs led the league and the BA was second-best behind Mark Howie (.364). Pitcher Jeff Schwarz ranked second in strikeouts with 134.
As a team, the hitters placed first in runs scored (920), home runs (137), and batting average (.303). The pitchers ranked at the top of the league in strikeouts (950) and fewest homers allowed (54). They were able to keep the ball in the park, but not keep runners off base, as they placed seventh in WHIP (1.601).
Lefty Angel Miranda split the closer’s job and led the team with 11 saves in El Paso. He started 47 games in five seasons with the Brewers and relieved in 69 others. His record was 17-21 with an ERA of 4.46.
Mark Kiefer went 7-1 in 12 starts for the Diablos. In four years with Milwaukee, he pitched in 44 games and compiled a 5-1 record with one save.
Southpaw Tim Fortugno was a long reliever/spot starter and won five of six decisions with an ERA of 1.99. He pitched for three different teams in the bigs, appearing in 76 games, notching a win/loss record of 3-4 and an ERA of 5.06.
Infielder/outfielder Jim Tatum was one of the top offensive players for El Paso, slashing 320/399/517 with 18 home runs and 128 RBIs. In five major league seasons, he played in 173 games for Milwaukee and four other teams.
HR: John Jaha (30)
RBI: John Jaha (137)
BA: John Jaha (.344)
SB: Dave Jacas (27)
W: Jeff Schwarz (11)
ERA: Tim Fortugno (1.99)
SV: Angel Miranda/Jim Czajkowski (11)
K: Jeff Schwarz (134)
WHIP: Otis Green (1.176)
C: Craig Faulkner/Dave Nilsson
1B: John Jaha
2B: John Finn
3B: John Byington
SS: Jim Tatum
OF: Dave Jacas
OF: Ruben Escalera
OF: Kenny Jackson
SP: Jeff Schwarz
SP: Mark Ambrose
SP: Stephen Lienhard
SP: Mark Kiefer
SP: Chris Johnson
CL: Angel Miranda/Jim Czajkowski
BREWERS MOONLIGHT GRAHAM: Dave Liddell
Riverside, California product Dave Liddell was drafted in the fourth round of the 1984 June Amateur draft by the Chicago Cubs. He had a rather inauspicious debut that season, batting a meager .065 in 46 at-bats at Rookie League Pikeville.
He spent most of the next four years in Rookie or A ball, while being traded to the Mets in June 1986. His best season was in 1988, when he batted 272/377/357 for St. Lucie and Reno in 235 ABs.
Liddell played at the AA or AAA level in 1989 and 1990, once again struggling with batting average (.170 and .212) while having a higher on-base percentage than slugging percentage.
After the 1990 campaign, he was released and signed as a free agent by Cincinnati.
Before the 1991 season began, he signed with Milwaukee and played at AA and AAA, batting .250 in 128 at-bats.
After playing a few games for the Brewers at AAA, he got released and signed with Baltimore, finishing the year at AAA Rochester, batting just .107 to end his pro career.
But the interesting part of his career happened during the 1990 season.
He got called up by the Mets and on June 3, 1990 he appeared in his first big league game, pinch-hitting in the eighth inning against Pat Combs of Philadelphia. On the first pitch, Liddell banged out a base hit and would move around to score. He played catcher in the bottom of the eighth, recording one putout.
He would never play another inning in the majors.
The real Moonlight Graham played two innings in right field for the New York Giants in 1905 but would not get a time at bat, being stranded in the on-deck circle when the third Giants out was made. Graham’s story was popularized in the movie Field of Dreams.
Dave Liddell got a opportunity to hit, and will leave his legacy as being tied for highest career batting average in major league history.