The number 71 is an emirp, which means that it’s a prime number that remains prime when its digits are reversed. This, the 71st edition of the Ben’s Biz Beat Newsletter, strives for emirp-itude. Whether you read it front to back or back to front, it’s all prime material.
COMING SOON TO A BALLPARK (THAT MIGHT BE) NEAR YOU
When this newsletter lands in your inbox, I plan to be straddling the Tennessee-Kentucky state line whilst traveling between Nashville and Bowling Green. The Nashville Sounds, I saw them yesterday. The Bowling Green Hot Rods, I’m seeing them tonight. Here’s my current road trip itinerary:
Material from this trip will provide sustenance to this newsletter well into October. But for now, let’s bask in what little Minor League Baseball we have left. Here are five upcoming promotions of note, as well as one that happened just last night. We’ll start with that:
Iona Cubs (Iowa Cubs, Sept. 6)
College basketball coach Tobin Anderson grew up just outside of Des Moines (he was a basketball star at Interstate 35 High School, so-named because of its proximity to, you guessed it, Interstate 35). Last year Anderson led 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson to an upset win over 1-seed Purdue. Then, he took a job as head coach with Iona College in New York. Anderson threw out the first pitch prior to September 6’s Iowa Cubs game, and the scoreboard read “Iona Cubs” in his honor. Today, Sept. 7, he was inducted to the Interstate 35 Wall of Pride.
Conrad the Crawdad is ready for things to go from horrible to even worse.
Night of Even Worse Promotions (Hickory Crawdads, Sept. 7)
Last year, the Crawdads staged a Night of Horrible Promotions. This year is, like Weird Al’s seminal 1988 album, Even Worse. The team says that “From mispronouncing player names and rigging the on-field games, nothing is off-limits.” (I can think of quite a few things that will probably be off-limits, but let’s just take the Crawdads at their word.)
When it comes to this type of promo you have the Altoona Curve to thank (or blame), as they used to annually stage “Awful Night.” I attended 2007’s Awful Night, which marked the first time I traveled to a ballpark in any sort of professional context. The evening culminated with an on-field laser light show, which turned out to be then-broadcaster Jon Laaser dancing in the outfield while wearing a green body suit and waving glow sticks.
Digital Underground Postgame Concert (Hartford Yard Goats, Sept. 8)
Digital Underground are hip-hop legends and stalwarts of the Bay Area scene, and their inventive and wide-ranging discography goes way beyond the (admittedly awesome) “Humpty Dance.” Seeing them perform postgame at one of Minor League Baseball’s greatest stadiums -- Hartford’s Dunkin’ Park -- should be a great time. And yet, I feel sad and conflicted. Shock-G, the heart and soul of the Digital Underground as well as Humpty himself -- died in 2021 at the age of 57. The show must go on, I suppose.
Snooki Night (Hudson Valley Renegades, Sept. 8)
On Friday, the Renegades are doing it all for the Snooki. That, of course, would be "Jersey Shore" star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, who grew up in Marlboro, N.Y. (just west of Hudson Valley’s Heritage Financial Park, on the other side of the Hudson River) and once worked as a Renegades gameday employee. The Renegades will wear Snooki-themed jerseys and give away Snooki bobbleheads while also offering a pregame Snooki meet and greet. Snooki Night is presented by the Snooki Shop, a chain of clothing stores which has a location in nearby Beacon. I really can’t imagine a night with more Snooki than this one and, believe me, I’ve tried.
Huntsville Stars Tribute Night (Rocket City Trash Pandas, Sept. 8)
The Rocket City Trash Pandas play just west of Huntsville, in Madison, Ala. The region’s prior Minor League team were the Huntsville Stars, who operated out of Joe Davis Stadium from 1985-2014 (and then moved to Biloxi and became the Shuckers). The Trash Pandas are pulling out all the stops for Friday’s Huntsville Stars tribute night, during which they will wear Stars uniforms. Thirty former players will be in attendance, including 13 from the inaugural 1985 team, as well as 15 former staff members.
I got the chance to visit Joe Davis Stadium on three occasions, and the first was particularly memorable. Let me explain.
A young Ben’s Biz (left) takes on sword swallower Dan Meyer.
The year was 2009, and two high school pals and I visited Huntsville in order to take part in an all-night game of Wiffle ball scheduled to take place after the Stars game. The game was rained out, however, and all-night Wiffle ball was canceled. General manager Buck Rogers booked sword swallower Dan Meyers that evening -- like, why not? -- and he ended up performing to a small group of people on the rain-soaked outfield after the game was postponed. At one point, Buck removed a sword from Dan’s mouth with a bullwhip (the video is still on YouTube). It was one of those highly surreal “Only in Minor League Baseball” moments that solidified the idea that this is what I want to do with my career.
John Gochnaur baseball card giveaway (Altoona Curve, Sept. 10)
Who’s the worst player in MLB history? According to Google, it’s John Gochnaur, a hapless shortstop who played from 1901-03 (mostly with Cleveland). He hit .187, never hit a homer and, most alarmingly, committed 146 errors in just 264 games. Gochnaur was an Altoona native, and he returned there after his career and worked as a policeman. The Curve, progenitors of the aforementioned Awful Night, are paying homage his life and legacy on Sunday with a John Gochnaur baseball card giveaway.
This is Josh Jackson chiming in to tell Ben to quiet down and listen to me for a second. If my name rings a bell, it's likely because I host Ghosts of the Minors on The Show Before the Show podcast, in which I challenge you to spot the historical Minor League team or player hiding among phonies.
Last time, we buzzed about with the Sweetwater Swatters. This week, I ask you which of these guys was right at home in the Minors of yesteryear?
- Billy Resident
- Charlie Mansemaker
- Eddie Householder
For the answer, tune into the next Ghosts of the Minors on The Show Before the Show!
PERMANENT VACATION: DONNA KIRBY FINDS HER DREAM JOB IN PENSACOLA
In 2009, America was in the grips of a crippling recession and Donna Kirby was out of a job. She went on a three-week vacation to Pensacola to visit her parents, and never left. The primary reason for her unplanned relocation was that she landed a job with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, the Florida panhandle’s finest franchise. Kirby’s been a beloved front office fixture since the Double-A Miami affiliate’s inaugural 2012 season and has pretty much done it all. When I was in Pensacola earlier this season, I spoke to Kirby about her improbable journey to the world of Minor League Baseball.
READ ABOUT DONNA KIRBY’S IMPACTFUL PENSACOLA BLUE WAHOOS CAREER HERE
MY FIRST MINOR LEAGUE GAME
As mentioned in previous newsletters, I have a stockpile of “first Minor League game” anecdotes submitted by readers like you. To close out this week’s edition, here’s a recollection courtesy of Karen and Marty Knox:
We took our older granddaughter to her first Great Lakes Loons game in 2007 when she was 3. She was so afraid of [mascot] Lou E. Loon, she cried and hid when he came into our section. She called him Mini Moo (not sure why), but after that every time we went to a restaurant that served Mini Moo [brand] coffee creamer we always laughed and remembered her first game. To this day she still does not like Lou E. Loon.