Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Real Crash Davis

Quick: how many minor league home runs did the fictional Crash Davis hit in "Bull Durham"?

Answer: 247 (and as Kevin Costner's Crash told Susan Sarandon's Annie Savoy, "247 homers in the minors would be a dubious honor, if you think about it.")

Well, screenwriter Ron Shelton undershot reality with that number. The guy you see on your screen hit 362 dingers in the minors (including time in Japan). But with that swing, Scott McClain put himself on the all-time major league home run list. Career total: 1 (tied with Duane Kuiper).

When McClain left high school in Atascadero back in 1990, he undoubtedly didn't expect to spend all those years playing for all those minor league teams (10, including the Durham Bulls, plus 4 seasons in Japan). But he kept plugging away (and swinging away, because his home run totals have been offset by some stunning strikeout totals).

Another guy with McClainish numbers at least has an Olympic medal to show for his efforts. Mike Hessman, with 286 minor league HR's spread over 13 seasons, played in Beijing and got a bronze medal.

But for McClain, it was year after year of rounding the bases in the minors. He even switched from 3rd base to 1st base along the way. He went 28/107 for the A's top farm club two years ago and followed that with 31/100 and 22/83 seasons for the Giants' Fresno team before the September callup that gave him that memorable moment in Denver.

Give McClain credit for hanging in there. And while you're at it, give the Giants credit for giving him the chance to hit that first big-league bomb. The organization has plenty of younger players who actually might have a future, yet the brass recognized and rewarded McClain's commitment to the game.

Remember: for every home run king, there are hundreds and hundreds of Scott McClains.

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