There are 92 teams within the Premier and English Football Leagues, and fans who have visited them all are proud members of the sensibly named 92 Club. There should be a similar organization -- The 119 Club -- for those who have visited every Minor League ballpark, but now I’m getting ahead of myself. Welcome to the 92nd edition of the Ben’s Biz Beat Newsletter.
Super Bowl Sunday is imminent, with this year’s iteration featuring a quarterback matchup of Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs) and Brock Purdy (San Francisco 49ers). You are probably already aware that Mahomes’s dad, Pat Sr., is a former pitcher who logged 11 seasons in the Major Leagues. But did you know that Brock’s dad, Shawn, was a professional hurler as well?
The elder Purdy’s baseball career came to my attention via a Jan. 29 quote-tweet issued by the Gwinnett Stripers:
That 1998 season with the International League Richmond Braves – who relocated to Gwinnett County following the 2008 season -- was Purdy’s eighth and final Minor League campaign. It was only his second in Triple-A, and he was on the verge of a breakthrough. Through the first 16 games of that ‘98 season he compiled a 1.83 ERA and, as he recounted to the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2019, “My agent called me, he said ‘I think you’re out of here [and to the Braves] in a couple days.’”
“You know what?” Purdy replied. “I think I hurt my arm last night.”
He had arthroscopic surgery on his elbow later that summer and rehabbed throughout the offseason, but ultimately decided to retire. He was at this point running his own business – now known as Fantastic Spa Outlet in Mesa, Ariz., still operating today -- and had recently become a dad. Whittney, his and his wife Carrie’s oldest child, was followed by Brock and Chubba (given name Preston).
“That’s the path I chose. I don’t regret it,” Purdy told the podcast, regarding leaving baseball for a new life devoted to family and entrepreneurship.
Purdy began his professional career with the Boise Hawks of the Northwest League, after he was selected by the California Angels in the 26th round of the 1991 Draft. This was the fourth time in a five-year period in which he’d been drafted, beginning with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1987 (he attracted their interest after attending one of their tryouts as a walk-on). Purdy opted for higher education within his native Florida, however, attending Valencia Community College and Indian River State College before spending his junior and senior years at the University of Miami. (You can watch him pitch a game as a member of the Miami Hurricanes HERE.)
Purdy went 8-4 with the short-season Hawks, tying for the team lead in wins while compiling a 3.01 ERA. The only pitcher on that squad to make the Majors was longtime Angels closer Troy Percival, who struck out 63 batters in just 38 1/3 innings. The Hawks won the Northwest League championship over the Yakima Bears that season, with Purdy starting the deciding game and Percival closing it out.
He spent the next three seasons within the Angels system, making two stops with Double-A Midland but pitching primarily in the California League (the Palm Springs Angels in 1992-93 and then, in 1994, the franchise’s new iteration as the Lake Elsinore Storm).
Purdy played for the Lake Elsinore Storm in 1994, after the franchise relocated from Palm Springs.
Purdy told the Sports Spectrum Podcast that he was “always high up, as far as the pecking order goes” but that injuries often curtailed his career. He was left unprotected by the Angels in the 1994 Rule 5 Draft and was selected by the San Francisco Giants, who sent him to Double-A Shreveport for the 1995 and 1996 seasons. He made 104 appearances -- all but one of them in relief -- over those two Texas League campaigns.
In 1997, the Giants assigned Purdy to the Phoenix Firebirds, giving him his first taste of Triple-A baseball. He did well, recalling that at one point he had a “20-inning scoreless streak going.” Rumors of his impending promotion circulated in the clubhouse, but then the Giants made a trade with the White Sox that netted them pitchers Roberto Hernández, Wilson Álvarez and Danny Darwin. There was no longer room at the top, so Purdy finished the year in Phoenix and then signed with the Braves as a free agent for his next, and last, season.
“Back then, 29 was old,” said Purdy, regarding his age at the time of retirement, “I had no regrets. I’ve been blessed for my children to run into people that I played with, people that I played against, coaches who coached me. ‘Your dad, he came hard. He gave it his all.’”
The entirety of Purdy’s Minor League career overlapped with that of Mahomes Sr., who began his professional journey at the age of 17 in 1988. At no point did the two play in the same league at the same time, however, so there was never any sort of Purdy-Mahomes Minor League matchup that could be looked upon today as some sort of idiosyncratic precursor to Super Bowl LVIII. But no matter who wins on Sunday, rest assured that the victorious starting quarterback will be the son of a professional pitcher. That’s gotta count for something, right?
This is Josh Jackson, thinking summery thoughts from the teeth of winter. You know me as host of Ghost of the Minors, the segment on The Show Before the Show podcast in which you're asked to identify a historical Minor League Baseball team or player hidden among a couple of phonies.
Last time, we got a charge out of the Anderson Electricians. This week, I ask you which of these players couldn't get enough in the Minors of yesteryear:
A. Sayler Insatiable
B. Timmy Tentims
C. Joseph Morjoseph
For the answer, check out the next Ghosts of the Minors on The Show Before the Show!
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I was thinking about the Lake Elsinore Storm after the team came up in the course of my Shawn Purdy research, and this made me think about my most recent visit to The Diamond in 2017. In a career first, a mascot served as my Designated Eater. Here’s a picture of Thunder the Dog as he contemplates The Dogginator (a footlong all-beef hot dog topped with chili and cheese).