The Jay Ballers
of the World
History of Ballplayers Named Jay,
Part II: Hitters
The hitters named
Jay are not a whole lot more accomplished than their pitching
counterparts, collectively. But
they do feature three players (Bell, Buhner, and Johnstone) who've had long and
somewhat distinguished careers, and two more (Gibbons and Payton) who may yet
do the same (okay, Payton's a bit iffy).
Two Jays started
their major-league careers with a bang, hitting home runs on their very first
pitch. One went on to score the winning run in a World Series Game 7, while the
other, after a brief time in the majors, travelled the world over in search of
another shot at the big time. While it doesn't get any more extreme than that,
my namesakes here have certainly seen their ups and downs in baseball. Like the
of the Jay hitters' careers were brief (six of the 20 hitters played in less than
10 games, and nine of them got fewer than 53 At Bats in the bigs). But some of
these men were just as persistent with their desire to stay in baseball, and many
of them moved on to coaching or managing (and even front office) positions.
At the bottom of
the page are career stats for these pitchers, courtesy of Sean Forman at baseball-reference.com.
Clicking on the player's name takes you to his page at BR. Note: I included pitcher
Jay Hughes's batting stats in the tabel below because he was a pretty fair hitter
for a pitcher, hitting three homers and posting a batting line which would make
Rey Ordoñez green with envy.
One more thing:
as I said before, this is an ongoing project which I will update from time to
time. If any of you out there have information about any of these ballplayers
which you'd like to share for this article, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jay Kleven (C):
A member of the Cal State-Hayward Athletic Hall of Fame. Even in his brief two-game
career he inspired a fan
club which brought signs to the game. Hey, 15 minutes is 15 minutes...
Jay Rogers (C):
Five hitless games for the 1914 New York Yankees, who were managed by Frank Chance,
of Tinker to Evers to Chance fame. Still more valuable than Kenny Rogers in Yankee
Jay Faatz (1B):
The pride of Weedsport, NY. In his four-year major-league career, he played in
three different leagues: the American Association, the National League, and the
Players League. All of those teams were lousy: 30-78, 50-82, 61-72, and 36-96
(he was manager for part of that one). That 36-96 Buffalo Bisons team was truly
wretched, allowing 1199 runs, or 8.95 per game. Then again, the league average
was 6.88. A whopping 425 of those runs were unearned, thanks in part to leftfielder
Ed Beecher's 55 errors (an .810 fielding percentage); second baseman Sam Wise
helped matters with 73 errors of his own. Faatz was the first, and to date only,
Jay to manage in the bigs, posting an abysmal 9-24 record with the aforementioned
Bisons. If I undertand it correctly, team captain Faatz became manager in September,
and Connie Mack was appointed the new team captain. Once hit a home run when the
ball richocheted off of the third baseman's foot and into the stands.
Jay Gainer (1B):
Real name Johnathan Keith Gainer. A 26-year old rookie with the first year expansion
Colorado Rockies, Gainer apparently took advantage of Mile High Stadium. Of his
seven hits for Colorado, three were homers, including one on the first pitch of
his first at bat (ironically enough, Jay Bell also did that; they are two out
of 14). Since then, he's been trotting the globe in search of a baseball jobTaiwan,
Mexico, Italy... He tore up the independent Northern League in 1999 as the DH
for the Allentown Ambassadors (.360, 22 HR, 71 RBI in 59 games), and returned
there in 2001, hitting .331 with 7 HRs in 38 games. There's a nice piece about
his comeback with Allentown here.
(2B): Stuck behind Jeff Kent in the Giants chain, he showed some pop in AAA
in 1999 (26 HRs in 364 ABs), but was waived during the spring of 2000. Signed
by Minnesota, he lit it up in AAA Salt Lake City, freeing the Twins to trade disgruntled
Todd Walker. In Minnesota, Canizaro turned in a replacement-level performance
as the second baseman for the 93-loss Twins. Trying to make the 2001 Twins as
a utilityman, he tore his ACL in his first spring training game in right field
and missed the entire season. Luis Rivas, six years younger, took his job with
about the same performance (though much more speed), and figures to keep it.
Jay Difani (2B):
Real name Clarence Joseph Difani. Three at bats over four games with the Washington
Senators in the late '40s, doubled in his last time up. Thus he had almost nothing
to do with the team losing 201 games over two years.
(2B): Real name James Bugg Partridge. Regular second baseman for the 1927
Brooklyn Robins (as the Dodgers were known under manager Wilbert Robinson), where
he led the team in at bats, hits, runs, and total bases. That he did so with a
.289 OBP and .348 SLG should tell you a lot about that Brooklyn team (they went
66-85, a six game decline from the season before). He was lousy in the field as
well, making 52 errors. Replacing Partridge the next year, the team improved by
(2B-PR): Real name John Paul Loviglio. Not to be confused with Joe Lovitto
or Torey Lovullo. A guy almost exactly my size (5'9", 160 lbs), he could have
been known as Greg Luzinski's Legshe made 14 pinch-running appearances as
a September callup for the 1980 Phillies, six of them for the Bull. Those Phils
went on to win the World Series, and Jay got his ring. Coming off of a disappointing
.228 season, Luzinksi was sold to the White Sox in the spring. Two days later,
Loviglio was traded to the Sox, where he again became the Bull's September caddysix
of his eight pinch-running appearances were in the service of the fat former Phillie.
His only two pinch-running appearances the following year were again, courtesy
of Luzinski, though Loviglio got a long look at second base after that. He didn't
hit. Has been coaching and managing in the minors for the past decade and a half,
last year with the Hickory Crawdads (Pirates affiliate) of the South Atlantic
League. He'll serve as Dale Sveum's bench coach for the AA Altoona Curve of the
Eastern League in 2002.
Jay Ward (2B-3B):
Real name John Francis Ward. Not the creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons.
This Jay Ward didn't get much of a taste for prime time in his playing days, getting
three brief cups of coffee poured out over a seven-year span. But he beat the
bushes as a coach and a manager, racking up over 700 victories in 13 seasons.
Along the way he served as Lou Piniella's hitting coach for the Yankees in '87
and as Felipe Alou's in Montreal during '92. Summoned out of retirement in the
late '90s, he found a home managing in the more frigid regions of the independent
Northern League. His Thunder Bay Whiskey Jacks made the playoffs in 1998 despite
spending the first half of the season on the road due to a government strike.
After three years in Thunder Bay, he spent the next three seasons in Quebec, making
the playoffs in 2000. He's now manager of the Schaumburg (Illinois) Flyers in
the same league, replacing Ron Kittle. At least one (Canadian) fan doesn't
think it will amount to much: "Ward is a looser.... Ward doesn't change his
pitcher when it is the time. He wait that the team loose by 5 or 6 points. Good
luck with Jay Ward. Your season will be long loose after loose." We shall see...
Jay Bell (SS-2B):
A solid-to-excellent middle-infielder with some serious pop in his bat, Bell ranks
as the most valuable Jay of all time using Bill James's controversial (and as
yet not-fully-explained) Win Shares measure. Bell accumulated 232 Win Shares through
1999, compared to Jay Buhner's 176, according to the New Bill James Historical
Starting off in
the Twins chain in 1984, Bell was traded to the Indians in a deal involving Bert
Blyleven in 1985. He hit well enough in AA in '86 to earn a September call-up,
and he started with a bang, becoming the 10th player to homer on his first major-league
pitch. Ironically enough, it came against the man he was traded for, and it was
the 47th homer Blyleven allowed during the season, breaking Robin Roberts's record
for most homers allowed in a season.
Bell spent the
next two seasons trying to crack the Indians' lineup, but he struggled against
major-league pitching and spent a good share of those years in the minors. The
Indians traded him to Pittsburgh in 1989, where he finally won the job on a team
which went on to win three straight NL East flags and came heartbreakingly close
to a World Series trip (damn you, Francisco Cabrera, wherever you are!). Bell
quietly emerged as an All-Star and a Gold-Glover, but he suffered through the
departures of Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, and Jim Leyland, and the subsequent
decline of the Pittsburgh franchise. For his trouble, he was sent on a tour of
declining franchises, traded to the Royals in December '96.
Bell had a breakout
season with the bat in KC, stroking 21 HRs and driving in 92 runs. He parlayed
this success into a windfall. The expansion Arizona Diamondbacks signed him to
a 5-year, $34 million deal, making him baseball's highest-paid middle-infielder.
He hit 20 homers for Arizona in 1998, but slumped to a .251 average. The next
season, though, he had a monster year, hitting 38 homers, driving in 112 runs
and scoring 132. He was shifted to second base to accommodate Tony Battista, but
Battista was traded midway through the season and Andy Fox ended up getting the
bulk of the time there.
in the double-digits in homers, Bell's offense has fallen off over the last two
years. During the 2001 postseason, Craig Counsell saw most of the second-base
duty for the D-Backs. But Bell had his moment in Game 7 of the World Series against
the Yanks. Batting for Randy Johnson in the bottom of the 9th against Mariano
Rivera with runners on first and second, he reached on a fielder's choice bunt
play. He took third on Tony Womack's game-tying double, and then entered the annals
of history by scoring the winning run on Luis Gonzalez's bloop single. Bastard.
Jay Buhner (OF):
My favorite ballplaying Jay of all-timeby a mile, or at least a tape-measure
home run. It was Buhner's September
comeback with the Mariners after missing most of their historic 2001 season
due to injury which triggered this project.
his career in the Pirates chain, but was traded to the Yankees along with Dale
Berra for Steve Kemp, Tim Foli and $400,000 in 1984. A 31-homer season at Columbus
in 1987 earned him a September callup with the Yanks. After being promoted again
from Columbus in 1988, he hit only .188 for the Yanks, who, in typical Dark Ages
of Steinbrenner fashion, ran out of patience with him quickly. On July 21, 1988,
he was shipped off to the Mariners (along with two pitching prospects) for Ken
The deal turned
out to be one of the worst in Yankees history, bad enough that it earned a derisive
line on the most popular TV show in the country, Seinfeld. An irate Frank
Costanza (Jerry Stiller), after being informed by George Steinbrenner that his
son is missing and presumed dead, blurts out "What
in the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for? He had 30 home runs, over 100 RBI's
last year. He's got a rocket for an arm. You don't know what the hell you're doin'!"
Costanza had a
point. Buhner went on to become a fearsome slugger for the Mariners, hitting 307
homers, winning a Gold Glove, and become the third player ever to hit 40 or more
home runs in three consecutive seasons (the first two were Babe Ruth and Jimmie
Foxx; Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa reached the mark in the next
two years). Meanwhile Phelps lasted only parts of two seasons with the Yanks,
hitting 17 HRs. In Seattle, Buhner joined Griffey and Edgar Martinez as the power-hitting
nucleus of a club which built itself up from being a laughingstock to becoming
the Yanks' worst possible postseason nightmare in 1995. Serving up a cold dish
of revenge, Buhner was virtually unstoppable in that series, hitting .458 (11-for-24)
with a 1125 OPS, as the Mariners won in five thrilling games.
his torrid pace in the ALCS against Cleveland, and provided one of the most poignant
moments of the postseason in Game 3. After homering early, he committed a two-base
error in the eighth inning which allowed the tying run to score. The game went
into extra innings, and Buhner, who'd been shown teary-eyed on the bench, atoned
for his sins with a decisive three-run shot off of Eric Plunk in the 11th. He
broke down again during the postgame interview. Who says there's no crying in
the classy Buhner was one of the Mariners's most beloved players. In 1994, the
team held a "Jay Buhner Haircut Night" in honor of the balding slugger,
and over 400 fans with shaved heads were admitted free of charge. Rechristened
"Buhner Buzz Night," the event became an annual affair for the M's,
growing to over 4000 shaved heads in 1998in 1999, he even gave his own father
cut. Buhner was something of a cut-up himself. He could vomit on cue, and
during one spring training was seen skipping around the clubhouse, wearing nothing
but a pair of black socks and a bagel.
Elbow and foot
injuries limited Buhner's playing time after 1997,
though he retained his power stroke and his postseason prowess. He hit a key home
run in Game 2 of the 2000 ALDS against the White Sox, and his final blast came
in last year's ALCS against the Yankees in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium. The pitcher:
none other than Jay Witasick. Who writes this stuff?
Buhner said after the season, "Based on the way I feel right now, I think I got
just about everything out of my body that I could get." In December, he made it
official (the Seattle Times ran a sizable tribute to him here).
So long, Bonegoing, going, gone.
up league after league in the Blue Jays chain, making the All-Star team three
straight years, and winning MVP honors in the Pioneer League in 1998. Gibbons
was taken by the Orioles in the Rule 5 draft (in which minor leaguers of a certain
level who are left off a 40-man roster can be drafted on the contingency that
they remain on the drafting club's major-league roster for the entire season)
in December 2000. In his rookie year, Jay showed good power (17 HR and a .480
Slugging Percentage in 225 ABs) despite hitting only .236. A wrist injury ended
his season in early August, but he remains one of the brightest young jaystars
of the Orioles dim galaxy.
(OF): Played 76 games for a 100-loss Kansas City A's team in 1961, contributing
to the wretchedness with a .185 average. In 207 career at bats, he hit four triples
and four homers, but zero doubles. Spent four years as director of scouting for
the Phillies, drafting Mike Lieberthal and Andy Ashby but leaving their farm system
a mess. Last seen scouting for the Angels.
(OF): Remembered more for his flaky antics than his playing ability, Johnstone
was a key role player for several winning clubs. Reaching the majors as a 20-year
old switch-hitting centerfielder with the Angels in 1966, he abandoned hitting
from the right side after his rookie year and became almost exclusively a platoon
player. He spent several years as a mediocre regular for the Angels and the White
Sox, but after an abysmal .188 season in 1972, the Sox released him. He was rescued
from the scrap pile by the Phillies in 1974. After a solid season as a fifth outfielder,
he earned a more-or-less regular job and had three very solid seasons (a combined
OBP/.463 SLG), while the Phils won two division titles. In a losing cause in the
1976 NLCS, he went 7-for-9. He got off to a slow start in 1978, and the Phils
traded him to the Yankees for Rawly Eastwick. Though he didn't do much for the
Yanks, he did get into two World Series games as they beat the Dodgers. The Yanks
exiled him to San Diego the next year, but he signed with the Dodgers as a free
agent in 1980 and showed his old form, hitting .307 in 109 games, though the Dodgers
lost a heartbreaking one-game playoff to decide the NL West.
Though he hit only
.205 in 1981, Johnstone excelled as a pinch-hitter for the Dodgers, going 11-for-38
(.289). He continued his pinch prowess in the World
Series, hitting a two-run homer off of Ron Davis which cut into a Yankee 6-3
lead in Game 4. The Dodgers tied the game later that inning and went on to win
both the game and the Series, and Johnstone's hit was called the turning point
Johnstone had earned
his reputation as a flake by the time he came to the Dodgers, drawing
mention practically every time a writer put together a survey of the game's
cut-ups. Regarding Johnstone, Phils manager Danny Ozark observed, "What makes
him unusual is that he thinks he's normal and everyone else is nuts." In
the company of Tommy Lasorda, Johnstone flourished as a prankster, becoming the
clown prince of baseball. His exploits included painting Dodgertown green,
running Steve Howe's underwear up a flagpole, visiting concession lines in full
uniform with the game in progress, and trapping Lasorda in his Dodgertown room
by tying the doorknob to a palm tree (he also disassembled the phone so Lasorda
couldn't call for help). "I thought I'd apologized for my sins," said Lasorda
after the 1981 World Series, "but I guess the Lord is paying me back. He gave
me Johnstone and [Jerry] Reuss."
his reputation and his Series success into three books, co-written with Rick Talley.
The first one, Temporary Insansity: the Uncensored Adventures of Baseball's
Craziest Player, was published in 1985, Johnstone's last year as a player
(he spent three seasons with the Cubs before finishing his career back in L.A.).
Two of the books hit the bestseller charts, and he went on futher celebrity narrating
videos and hosting syndicated TV shows like ""The Lighter Side of Sports,"
"Baseball's Funniest Pranks," and "Super Sports Follies." He currently works
for Fox Sports Net, and has co-founded a company, SporThings,
which provides sports collectibles to charity auctions.
Jay Kirke (OF-1B):
Real name Judson Fabian Kirke. From the Baseball Library: "Kirke was legendary
as an eccentric who lived for his base hits. His fearsome hitting offset his poor
defense..." Was apparently renowned enough as a comedian to have a section of
anecdotes in a book by the great baseball writer Fred Lieb. Had a good season
as the fourth outfielder for the 1912 Boston Braves, hitting .320 (7th in the
league) with 4 HR and 62 RBI in 103 games. The team lost 101 games, though, and
by the time they turned in their 1914 miracle season, he was in Cleveland, with
a 102-game loser. Winning their regular first base job in 1915, he led the team
with a .310 average, as they made it out of the cellar7th place with 95
losses. Played in only 17 more games in the bigs, but had a hell of a minor league
up over 3000 hits between 1906 and 1935. His son, Jay Kirke Jr., also played
and managed in the minors.
Jay Payton (OF):
A highly touted prospect for the Mets whose career has featured more major surgery
than major league, Payton finally stuck with the Mets and stayed healthy during
2000. He had a solid season, hitting .291 with 17 HR and 62 RBI, and played a
decent centerfield. His hitting took a big step back last season, and he now labors
under the hazy notion of the strike zone being somewhere between Hoboken and Montauk.
Vastly overrated by the Mets management, who should have stuck him in a trade
for Gary Sheffield before the Braves landed him.
Jay Pike (OF):
Real name Jacob Emanuel Pike. His brother Lipman had much more renownat
a salary of $20 a week, Lipman was the first professional baseball player, for
the Philadelphia A's in 1866. Lip was an excellent player who hit .320 in 425
games in the bigs and is a member of the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Jay's claim
to fame is much smaller; he's the first Jay to reach the majors, in 1877. Playing
for the Hartford Dark Blues of the National League, he got a hit in his only game,
but he made an error in his only chance in the field. D'oh!
(OF): Was traded by the Astros to the Orioles with Lee May for Enos Cabell
and Rob Andrews. A solid deal for both clubs, as Cabell became the Astros third
baseman for the next six years and May settled into the DH role for the Orioles.
it didn't help Schlueter much, though. He was three seasons past his cup of coffee
in Houston, and never made it back to the show.
Jay Van Noy
(OF) : His football prowessas a defensive back at Utah State, he led
the nation in interceptions in 1948placed him in the Top 50 Greatest Sports
Figures from Utah, as chosen by Sports Illustrated in 1999 (he was 43rd).
Van Noy never played pro football, but he did reach the majors. In seven at bats
for the 1951 St. Louis Cardinals, he stuck out six times. He returned to Utah
to coach the Brigham Young University baseball team. They qualified for the College
World Series in 1958, but couldn't participate due to the university's policy
of not playing on Sundays.