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   L E A D I N G   O F F

JANUARY 25 , 2002

The Jay Ballers of the World
A 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 pitchers, several 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 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

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 history.

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 job—Taiwan, 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.

Jay Canizaro (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.

Jay Partridge (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 12 games.

Jay Loviglio (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 Legs—he 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 caddy—six 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 Baseball Abstract.

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.

While remaining 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-time—by 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.

Buhner started 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 Phelps.

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.

Buhner continued 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 baseball?

Nicknamed "Bone," 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 1998—in 1999, he even gave his own father a 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?

Pondering retirement, 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, Bone—going, going, gone.

Jay Gibbons (OF): Tore 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.

Jay Hankins (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.

Jay Johnstone (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 .319 AVG/.378 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 by teammates.

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 undisputed 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."

Johnstone parlayed 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 cellar—7th place with 95 losses. Played in only 17 more games in the bigs, but had a hell of a minor league career, racking 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 renown—at 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!

Jay Schlueter (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 prowess—as a defensive back at Utah State, he led the nation in interceptions in 1948—placed 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.


  Player       From  To    G    AB    R    H   2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB   SO    BA   OBP   SLG   SB   CS
 Jay Bell      1986-2001 1959  7233 1109 1934 392  67 193  846  826 1396  .267  .344  .420   91  60
 Jay Buhner    1987-2001 1472  5013  798 1273 233  19 310  965  792 1406  .254  .359  .494    6  24
 Jay Canizaro  1996-2000  157   484   59  125  27   2  10   57   34   97  .258  .309  .384    5   4
 Jay Difani    1948-1949    4     3    0    1   1   0   0    0    0    2  .333  .333  .667    0   0
 Jay Faatz     1884-1890  298  1135  159  274  24  12   3  105   39   33  .241  .293  .292   93   0
 Jay Gainer    1993-1993   23    41    4    7   0   0   3    6    4   12  .171  .244  .390    1   1
 Jay Gibbons   2001-2001   73   225   27   53  10   0  15   36   17   39  .236  .301  .480    0   1
 Jay Hankins   1961-1963   86   207   25   38   0   4   4   10    8   20  .184  .218  .280    2   1
 Jay Hughes*   1898-1902  149   453   68   99  17   9   3   55   39    0  .219  .283  .316    2   0
 Jay Johnstone 1966-1985 1748  4703  578 1254 215  38 102  531  429  632  .267  .329  .394   50  54
 Jay Kirke     1910-1918  320  1148  122  346  49  13   7  148   35  112  .301  .328  .385   21  16
 Jay Kleven    1976-1976    2     5    0    1   0   0   0    2    0    1  .200  .200  .200    0   0
 Jay Loviglio  1980-1983   46    52   17   10   0   0   0    4    3    6  .192  .236  .192    5   5
 Jay Partridge 1927-1928  183   645   90  167  17   7   7   52   33   42  .259  .299  .340   11   0
 Jay Payton    1998-2001  281   879  110  243  41   2  25   97   49  118  .276  .318  .413   10  16
 Jay Pike      1877-1877    1     4    0    1   0   0   0    0    0    0  .250  .250  .250    0   0
 Jay Porter    1952-1959  229   544   58  124  22   1   8   62   53   96  .228  .300  .316    4   0
 Jay Rogers    1914-1914    5     8    0    0   0   0   0    0    0    4  .000  .000  .000    0   0
 Jay Schlueter 1971-1971    7     3    1    1   0   0   0    0    0    1  .333  .333  .333    0   0
 Jay Van Noy   1951-1951    6     7    1    0   0   0   0    0    1    6  .000  .125  .000    0   0
 Jay Ward      1963-1970   27    49    4    8   3   0   0    4    9   19  .163  .293  .224    0   0