Beating the Bushes: Top Farm Teams in Brewers History: #7 Evansville, 1972
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 #7 team on my list:
"#7 Evansville Triplets, 1972"
Just over forty years ago, the Evansville Triplets won the 1972 AAA American Association championship, defeating the Wichita Aeros. The Triplets–so named because of the proximity of three surrounding states (Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky)–also had three managers that year. Del Crandall went 20-17 before he was called up to manage the major league Brewers. Al Widmar and Mike Roarke also skippered the pennant winning team.
The Triplets (83-57) played at Bosse Field, where the movie ‘A League of Their Own’ was filmed in the early 1990s. The stadium had a capacity of 8,000.
With what seems to be a trend throughout these posts, Brewers hitters had solid seasons while the pitchers lagged behind. Bob Hansen led the loop with 25 home runs. Not to be outdone, pitcher Lloyd Gladden led the league in wins with fifteen. But as a group, the hitters performed better.
The Triplets led the league in home runs (121) and stolen bases (64). The pitchers ranked second in ERA (3.22) and third in WHIP (1.287). The team performed well in the field, ranking in a tie for second in fielding percentage (.972).
Of the 30 players that played for the Triplets, 23 of them spent time in the bigs.
Two players went on to have great big league careers.
Catcher Darrell Porter spent some time in the bigs in 1971 and 1972, but played 88 games at Evansville, hitting for a low average but showing a good OPS (800). His big league resume spanned 17 seasons and 1782 games, including a third place finish in the 1973 Rookie of the Year voting and four All-Star appearances.
Pitcher Jim Slaton went 11-2 for the Triplets, with an ERA of 2.92 in 16 starts. As a big leaguer, he pitched for 16 years, winning 151 games for three big league teams.
Infielder Pedro Garcia had a solid season, showing some power with 14 homers and 51 RBIs. He would play five years in the bigs and placed second in the 1973 R.O.Y. balloting, just ahead of Porter’s third place finish.
Bob Coluccio (The Italian Stallion) was a 20-year-old in 1972 and slashed 300/377/421 in his fourth professional season. As a major leaguer, he played five seasons and appeared in 370 games, including two seasons in Milwaukee as a starting outfielder.
HR: Bob Hansen (25)
RBI: Bob Hansen (77)
BA: Bobby Mitchell (.381)
SB: Wilbur Howard (14)
W: Lloyd Gladden (15)
ERA: Ray Newman (2.05)
SV: Carlos Velasquez (15)
K: Lloyd Gladden (141)
WHIP: Ray Newman (1.046)
C: Darrell Porter
1B: Bob Hansen
2B: Pedro Garcia
3B: Bill McNulty
SS: Pepe Frias
OF: Bob Coluccio
OF: Wilbur Howard
OF: Bobby Mitchell/Bernie Smith
SP: Lloyd Gladden
SP: Gene Ammann
SP: Michael Herson
SP: Jim Slaton
SP: Archie Reynolds/Gary Ryerson
CL: Carlos Velazquez/Ray Newman
THE SAD TALE OF THE ‘SUNDOWN KID’: Dan Thomas
Danny Lee Thomas was drafted with the sixth pick of the first round in the 1972 June Amateur Draft from Southern Illinois University. He was assigned to Low A Newark (New York Penn), where he hit 271/352/396 in 48 ABs. He also played at the AA and AAA levels that year, hitting a combined .202 in 223 at-bats.
Thomas spent the 1973 season at AA Shreveport, hitting a respectable 266/355/376 in 458 ABs.
The following season, he made a return appearance at Shreveport but only played in 59 games, possibly due to injury.
In 1975 he played at AA Thetford Mines and played in only 53 games, as he was suspended for half the season after striking an umpire.
He played in AA in 1976, this time for Berkshire (Brewers had five different AA affiliates between 1972 and 1977) and won the the Eastern League Triple Crown, hitting .325 with 29 HRs and 83 RBIs. He earned a promotion to Milwaukee and hit 276/372/457 in 105 ABs.
After the season, Thomas joined the Worldwide Church of God and began practicing a Sabbath observance, stating he would not play baseball between sundown on Friday and sundown on Saturday, thus earning the nickname ‘Sundown Kid.’
He started the season in Milwaukee and played 22 games (271/350/457) before being sent down to AAA Spokane, where he hit 237/320/344. When the Brewers demoted him to AA Holyoke, he refused to go and did not play the rest of the season.
Thomas played for Low A Boise in the Northwest League (Independent) in 1978 and led the league in hitting with his .359 average, along with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs in just 170 at-bats.
The following season he played for the Miami Amigos in the Inter-American League, but shortly afterward retired from baseball.
In June 1980, he was arrested for rape and a few days later, committed suicide by hanging.
Thomas was 29 years old.