Mike Hart (TRADING CARD DB)

Mike Hart

This article was written by Evan Katz

Mike Hart (TRADING CARD DB)Mike Hart was so determined to play in the major leagues that he turned down two lucrative offers to play in Japan. A chance to play outfield for the Yankees was denied when the baseball commissioner nullified his trade to New York.

Hart hit over .300 for five teams in Triple-A,1 yet his MLB career was just five games in 1980. Still, Hart’s love of baseball was undiminished. After 12 years as a player, he managed and coached for 22 years.

James Michael Hart2 was born on December 20, 1951, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the elder of two children of James and Patricia Hart. Sister Mary Beth was born in 1955. The Harts lived in adjacent Portage, in southwest Michigan halfway between Chicago and Detroit.

The Harts lived in one of the single-family homes which were popular in the fast-growing suburb, home of pharmaceutical company Upjohn.3 James was a math teacher and coach at Portage High School4 in football, basketball, and baseball. Patricia worked a secretary in the Portage School District.

Before Hart was born, his father was building the Portage baseball program. “Baseball was the love of his life,” said Hart. As coach for the losing Portage High baseball team in 1948, Coach Hart realized the need for feeder programs. “He was the key person in starting the Portage Little League and Connie Mack programs,” according to his 2005 induction into the Portage Central High School Athletic Hall of Fame.5 By 1951 Portage was the undefeated Kalamazoo Valley champion and won two more conference titles during the decade.6

One of Hart’s earliest baseball memories was watching the Milwaukee Braves in County Stadium with his father. Hart said his father “allowed me to be myself,” so Mike pursued the sports he enjoyed. Coach Hart retired as baseball coach in 1965 when Mike started high school. He wanted to avoid any conflicts between being a father and a coach.7

Hart played football, basketball, and baseball, plus spring track in his senior year. As an underclassman Hart was primarily a pitcher and shortstop. He was a natural right-handed hitter but had been switch-hitting since he was eight. “Left-handed probably became my best side as my career progressed,” he said.

As a sophomore Hart led the junior varsity basketball team in scoring.8 However, a collision under the basket slowed his baseball development. “I missed almost the entire junior year of baseball because right at the end of the basketball season I ended up breaking my [right] wrist,” said Hart.

As a senior at his adult height of six-three, Hart was described by his basketball coach as “the best guard in the conference.”9 When baseball began in 1970, Hart moved to first base. His arm was sore from a too-quick return to baseball after his missed junior season. Nevertheless, he hit .346 and was named to the Big Six All-Star team.10

Hart enrolled at nearby Alma College to play basketball and baseball, but the school wasn’t a good match. He transferred as a freshman to Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC), but NCAA restrictions prevented him from playing baseball his freshman spring.

Even though he had missed two of the last three academic baseball seasons, Hart blossomed on the diamond in 1972. “The summer prior to my second year at JC and that year during JC was where things came together,” he said.

The Cougars were coached by Bob James, a former Detroit Tigers minor-leaguer11 and basketball and baseball star. “He was a great athlete in the local area, so everyone looked up to him,” said Hart.

KVCC won the Michigan Community College Athletic Association West Conference with an 11-1 record (21-10 overall).12 Playing second base, filled out to 185 pounds, Hart hit .367 with 13 home runs, second in the nation among junior colleges.13 Hart was named to the Region XII All-Star team.14 The Cougars were eliminated in the Region XII playoffs despite a pitching staff anchored by Chris Knapp, first-round 1975 draft pick by the Chicago White Sox.15

At the regionals Hart learned he was being scouted. “Between our first game and second game I was going to the restroom,” he said. “[Detroit Tiger scout] Bill Lajoie and [Montreal Expos scout] Bill Schudlich16 followed me into the bathroom,” asking about college scholarship offers.

After the playoffs another Tigers scout, Bob Sullivan,17 invited Hart to join the Grand Rapids Sullivans, his internationally competitive summer team stocked with top Michigan college players.18 Hart played for the Sullivans before the June MLB draft, when he was selected in the 11th round by the Montreal Expos.

After a dinner with Schudlich, KVCC Coach James, and his family, Hart signed with the Expos. He passed up scholarship offers based on advice from Coach James. “Something could happen,” James had told Hart. “You could get hurt…It doesn’t matter where you’re drafted. If you are good enough to play in the big leagues, just go and do it.”

Hart reported to Jamestown in the Single-A NY-Penn League. “I struggled,” said Hart. “I think I was emotionally worn out from all the ups and downs and the excitement.” He hit .206 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 52 games.

Hart was introduced to outfield defense in the fall Instructional League. In 1973 he played over half his games in the outfield for West Palm Beach in the Single-A Florida State League alongside Ellis Valentine. Manager Lance Nichols said Hart’s infielder instincts prepared him. “In center field he was reactive. He could anticipate what would take place, and he had the speed.”

At the plate, according to Nichols, “He hit at the top of the order because of his speed and because of his bat. He made contact and had occasional power. He was a threat running and [with] his ability to get on base.” Hart hit .266 with 12 home runs, a league-leading 106 walks, and 25 stolen bases. His .853 OPS was third in the league.

Big hitters Valentine, Hart, and third baseman Larry Parrish were supposed to move up to Double-A in 1974, but the Expos’ signing of highly touted Warren Cromartie19 kept Hart in West Palm Beach. “I was the odd man out,” said Hart, who missed much of spring training with a pulled hamstring. His production suffered as he hit .240 with five homers and 42 RBIs in 130 games. “That [year] probably set me back more than anything.”

In 1975, with Quebec in the Double-A Eastern League, Hart was reunited with manager Nichols, who liked the outfielder’s character. “In the clubhouse he was someone you’d like to have on your team,” Nichols said.

Hart rebounded to hit .278 with seven homers, 44 RBIs, and 24 stolen bases, despite the Eastern League’s notoriously poor lights and field conditions. “If you hit .260 to .300, you’re having a good year in that league.” Hart joked that in 1976, his second year with Quebec, he hit a “hard” .257 and was among the league leaders in home runs, RBIs, walks and steals.

In 1977, with Andre Dawson, Cromartie and Valentine playing in Montreal, Hart started in left field for Triple-A Denver at Mile High Stadium. The altitude’s thin air aided hitters, but the deep outfield dimensions did not.20 Hart struggled and was hitting .237 without a home run after 76 at bats, so he was sent down to Quebec on June 8. In seven games he hit .400 with six extra base hits, and he was back with Denver on June 27 in a new role – pinch-hitting.

Hart was frustrated when manager Jim Marshall told him, “I’m going to hold you out of the lineup tonight and save you for the big spot.” Hart took an aggressive approach coming off the bench and went 8 for 23 (.348) as the American Association’s top pinch hitter. Seven walks pushed his OBP to .500.21 Overall he hit .237 in 85 games for Denver.

The disappointment motivated Hart. That offseason, he said, “I pulled the cars out of the garage and set up an old mattress. I worked off a [hitting] tee all winter long. I came to [1978] spring training and just tore it up.”

In June he hit .438 with 42 hits and 29 RBIs.22 On July 10 Hart was leading the American Association with a .373 average with 10 homers and 50 RBIs.23 Denver manager Doc Edwards had been telling Hart that Cromartie was struggling in Montreal and Hart would get called up. Instead, in mid-July, Edwards told him, “The Japanese are here to see you. The Hanshin Tigers are interested in you. Their scouts are here watching you play.”

Expos General Manager Jim Fanning invited Hart to lunch. “He’s pushing me really hard to take this Japanese deal,” recalled Hart. “It blew my mind. Here I was hitting the ball better than I ever had in my life and they [the Expos] come and tell me to go to Japan. I was in shock.”24

Hanshin would have paid the Expos for the outfielder’s contract.25 The Tigers, one of Japan’s oldest teams, offered Hart $65,000 annually for two years. (The major-league minimum then was $19,000.26) Hart declined. “I wanted to play in the big leagues,” he said. “I think that really ticked Montreal off.”

At the end of the season Fanning acknowledged Hart’s production (.320, 19 HRs, 98 RBIs, .424 OBP, .969 OPS), but told him he wouldn’t be called up when rosters expanded in September. Perhaps Fanning saw Hart’s July remarks in The Sporting News when he turned down the Japanese offer. Looking at the Expos outfield of Dawson, Cromartie, and Valentine, Hart said, “They’re all younger than I am. So, my hope is to have a big season and get traded or sold.”27

In December Hart got his wish. He was traded to the Texas Rangers for Jim Mason. He learned of the trade while playing for the Caracas Leones in the Venezuelan winter league. Leones manager Felipe Alou, also the Expos Double-A manager in Memphis, advised Hart to return home. “I was tired emotionally, because it [the season] was such a roller coaster,” said Hart. He was hitting just .140 in 17 games.28

Hope for a fresh start with Texas in 1979 faded when Hart’s agent reported General Manager Eddie Robinson’s plans: “I don’t care what he does, he’s going to play Triple-A.” By then 27, Hart was slotted for the Tucson Toros of the Pacific Coast League. He passed up another offer from the Hanshin Tigers, concerned that if he did not meet their expectations, he would have a steeper climb to get to the majors. “You may not get an opportunity again,” he said. “There’s a lot of unknowns there at that time [period] anyway. Guys now come back and forth from Japan.”

Toros starting pitcher Jim Umbarger, a four-year major leaguer, said Hart was an all-around asset. “He was a good player, and all five tools were good,” said Umbarger. “He would sacrifice and move a guy over. In the outfield he usually played left field. I knew left field was taken care of.”

On July 30, the MLB trade deadline, Hart, Gary Gray, and Domingo Ramos were traded to the New York Yankees for Mickey Rivers. But Toros manager Rich Donnelly advised, “You’re staying here. It’s a weird deal. It’s being worked out but you’re going to stay here.”

The New York Times reported Hart and Gray would finish the season in Tucson and join the Yankees after the season. Ramos would report to the Columbus Clippers. Rivers left New York and played for the Rangers that day.29 Hart and Gray did as well for Tucson.

The next day Donnelly announced, “The deal’s off. They [the Rangers] didn’t get waivers on you, Gray or Ramos,” a requirement because all three were on the 40-man roster. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn nullified the deal.30 Instead, Texas sent Oscar Gamble to the Yankees and the transaction was recast to involve six different players.31

Had Hart gone to the Yankees, he might have played in the majors in 1980. The Yankees’ aging outfield included Reggie Jackson (33), Lou Piniella (35), and Bobby Murcer (33). But Hart might have been held back at Triple-A Columbus. The Clippers were stockpiled with talent, in the middle of a championship three-peat from 1979 to 1981.

The three-year-old free agency system diminished promotions from Triple-A, said Hart. “The free agent thing was so big then that every club was going, ‘We have to go sign this experienced big-league guy,’ instead of using your farm system and giving one of your guys a chance.”

Hart commemorated the aborted trade with a T-shirt that said, “Yankee for a Day.”32 He wore it during batting practice and a picture was published in the Dallas Morning News, drawing the ire of Rangers owner Brad Corbett, said Hart.

Hart finished 1979 hitting .303 with 23 doubles, 11 triples, eight home runs, and a league-leading 122 walks. His 11 assists led Toro outfielders. Fourth-place Texas announced there would be no September call-ups, ending Hart’s season at Triple-A again.33

In early February 1980, the Rangers dropped Hart from the 40-man roster.34 “I intentionally reported late for spring training,” said Hart, who informed the team he wanted to be traded. “Farm Director Joe Klein felt sorry for me and gave me a substantial raise.”

Hart started the season in Charleston (West Virginia), the Rangers’ relocated Triple-A affiliate in the International League. The Charlies played in Watt Powell Park in mountainous Charleston where the outfield sloped towards home plate. Rain runoff would soak the infield and force postponements. “So, they dug holes in the outfield,” Hart said, “and put wood covers over them and when it rained, they’d lift up the covers to catch the rain coming down hill.”

Hart got off to a good start, but when the Rangers’ Rusty Staub broke his finger in May Texas called up Danny Walton instead. Walton was an eight-year MLB veteran with a .234 career average, who had last hit over .200 in 1971. Hart wondered about getting called up. “What does it take?”35 In retrospect, he added, “I was so disenchanted.” He had no home runs and one RBI from May 19 to June 7.36

But in early June, another Ranger (John Ellis) got hurt – and Hart was called up at last. “I don’t deserve this,” Hart said to manager Tom Burgess, who responded, “Do the best you can. Impress somebody.”

Hart’s debut was on June 12 at Milwaukee’s County Stadium, home of the American League Brewers. Hart hit seventh and played center field. As he walked up the runway to the dugout, he thought, “Geez, I was here as a kid.”

Hitting against Mike Caldwell, Hart struck out in the second inning. Leading off the top of the fifth, Hart said that manager Pat Corrales advised him to bunt. “Lay one down on [third baseman Sal] Bando. He can’t field bunts.” Hart did but was thrown out on a close play.

In the bottom half of the inning, Rangers starter Gaylord Perry, who was known to make baseballs slick, gave up a single to Ben Ogilvie. Hart fielded it and prepared to throw the ball in. “I’m hanging on to that ball for dear life,” he said. “I’m feeling it slide around in my hand, but I got it back to the infield.”

In the seventh inning, Hart singled up the middle for his first and only major-league hit. Hart ultimately become the 487th non-pitcher in major-league history (as of 1980) with one career hit.37

Hart played four more games, two as a pinch-runner, one as a defensive replacement, and one as a pinch-hitter. His parents were at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto on June 15, when he walked in the ninth, pinch-hitting for shortstop Pepe Frías.

After two weeks Hart returned to Charleston. In July, according to transaction reports in the press, the Rangers traded him to the Kansas City Royals’ Triple-A team in Omaha for Dave Augustine. But Hart’s manager, Joe Sparks, told him the deal was actually a loan, with completion contingent on his strong play and restructured compensation. Hart did his part, hitting .335 in 49 games with 13 extra base hits and a .457 OBP. “Texas wanted one of their top pitchers for me,” he said, but the Royals wouldn’t budge, and the trade was reversed at the end of September.

A winter trade to the Orioles sent Hart to Rochester in 1981. He hit well (.259 with a .412 OBP in 108 games) and the game of April 18 against Pawtucket connected Hart to baseball history. In the 12th inning of Organized Baseball’s longest game, he replaced Drungo Hazewood in right field.

Hart went 1-for-6 in ten plate appearances that very long night.38 He singled and scored in the 21st inning, putting Rochester ahead, 2-1. His run could have made the game just another extra-inning marathon, but Pawtucket tied the score in the bottom of the 21st. The game was suspended after 32 innings and completed two months later after 33 innings.

In August, manager Doc Edwards informed Hart he was being loaned again, this time to Toledo, the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate. The reason, Edwards explained awkwardly, was that Hart was “making too much money.” He played 19 games for Toledo and in 1982 was back with Rochester, playing a third time for manager Lance Nichols.

Hart, by then 31, was discouraged. After 33 games he was hitting .237. The Red Wings released him on May 26, but “before the night was over,” said Hart, “the phone was ringing. It was George Sisler [Jr., general manager] with the Columbus Clippers.”

Columbus became Hart’s fourth International League team in two years. The Clippers had won the league championship three straight years, and “We should have won that year too,” said Hart, but Tidewater’s league-best pitching shut down Columbus in the first round of the playoffs.39 In 71 games Hart hit .313 with 10 homers.

In 1983 Hart was assured by the Yankees that he’d start in the Columbus outfield or be the fourth outfielder at worst. The words he recalled were, “You’ll play a lot.” But when spring training ended, manager Johnny Oates told Hart, “I know this isn’t right but they want to take you north on the disabled list.”

Hart cooperated with the irregular plan, staying in shape and waiting. On May 24, the Yankees assigned him to Double-A Nashville. Hart refused and called the organization’s director of player development, Murray Cook,40 and asked for his release. The Yankees refused and placed him on the suspended list.

Hart called Jim Burris, general manager of his former team, the Denver Bears. Hart rejoined the Bears in late June, contributing to their fourth American Association championship in eight years. He hit .319 in 50 games, with a .398 OBP. The Bears participated in the first three-league Triple-A World Series (held in Louisville, Kentucky), finishing third.41 “That was my last hurrah,” said Hart, reflecting on his 12th year in the minors. “There were guys with really good numbers, better than mine, that didn’t get a shot.”

He returned to Portage and enrolled in the Business Administration program at Western Michigan University. In April 1987 graduation was imminent and job interviews were underway, including one with Upjohn. Hart was starting his third year as junior varsity baseball coach at Portage Central High School. Then his baseball past became his baseball future.

“Lance Nichols is looking for you,” said a former teammate by phone. Nichols, who’d become director of on-field operations for Baltimore,42 asked Hart to manage the short-season Single-A Newark Orioles. Nichols said, “He knew how I operated. I knew how he operated, and it would be a good fit.”

Newark was the first stop on a 22-year managing and coaching career with seven franchises. What lured him back? “The love of the game,” Hart said. “Just being in it. There’s nothing like it. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve done it. It’s like a drug…It’s got you.”

As manager Hart made open communication with players a priority. “I want to tell them the truth. I want make sure they have every opportunity no matter what level of skill they have and get the most out of their career.”

Newark finished 10 games over .500 in 1987. Their winning percentage was the highest in Hart’s managing and coaching career, but that wasn’t how he measured success. He wanted to know: “What’s your record with your players? What the respect you have with your players? How many guys did you help get to the big leagues?”

For nine years Hart managed Single-A and Double-A teams with Baltimore, Philadelphia, the Yankees, and the Giants. In 1996 Hart’s hitting knowledge brought a shift to hitting coach with the Giants’ Double-A affiliate in Shreveport. He continued in that role in 1997, managed the team in 1998, but was a hitting coach again after that. “I got the tag of being a hitting guy then, but I was pretty much a hitting guy all of my [managing] career,” said Hart.

He emphasized practice and pregame work habits. “It’s not so much mechanics all the time. It’s a lot of mental preparation that takes place.” He pushed hitters to understand the situation before they stepped in the box. “If you don’t know what to do when you step in the batter’s box, you’re in for a tough night. My motto is: ‘Be prepared.’”

Hart encouraged hitters to stay in the middle of the field. “I tried to get guys to drive the ball in the gaps, left center and right center,” he said. “Stay in those gaps. Let the ball travel. In a game that’s going to be critically important.”

Hart’s manager/coach career had international angles. In 1992 he managed the Venezuelan winter league’s Aragua Tigres during a crossroads in the country’s history. “At 5:30 in the morning [on November 27] we were awakened by jets taking off and breaking the sound barrier,” said Hart.

The Venezuelan military, at the direction of jailed officer (and future President) Hugo Chávez, was attempting a coup. Hart turned on the TV. “Guys were standing there with big guns. There were big holes in the wall. People were dead on the ground. There was blood all over the place,” said Hart. About 170 people were killed during the unsuccessful coup, the second that year. The baseball season was suspended for about a week.

The Tigres finished the season 31-28.43 Hart’s Venezuelan baseball card proclaimed, “He showed steadfastness in his excellent manner of handling on the field strategy, an ability that allowed him to battle until the last day of classification [the season].”44

In 1995 Hart managed the West Oahu CaneFires in the Hawaiian Winter League. It was the CaneFires’ inaugural season in the MLB-funded venture, which featured many Japanese players.45 In 1998 Hart was the hitting coach for the Taipei Suns in the Taiwan Major League. The team, managed by former teammate Tim Ireland, won the championship.

From 1999 to 2005 Hart was a Triple-A hitting coach, first with Fresno (Giants), then Rochester (Twins), Edmonton (Expos), and New Orleans (Nationals). From 2006 to 2008 he was with Harrisburg (Double-A, Nationals) and with the Mets (Single-A, Savannah and St. Lucie).

Hart left professional baseball in 2008 after 34 years. He started a career in property management and transitioned to private hitting lessons. In 2015 he joined his father in the Portage Central High School Athletic Hall of Fame. As of 2021 he lives in Naples, Florida, with his wife Mary Kay, whom he married in 1991. They have two sons.

In total, Hart played in 1,297 games and managed or coached in over 4,300 others. Teammate Umbarger said Hart stood out. “Mike Hart was one of my top three favorite guys. I have the utmost respect for him,” said Umbarger. “To get to the big leagues he didn’t quite cut it because he wasn’t flashy and didn’t spotlight himself. He had an exceptional attitude and was always there for his teams.”

Last revised: December 6, 2021

 

Author’s Note

The author met Mike Hart in 2003 at a baseball instructional camp in Fort Myers, Florida, where Hart managed his team. In the ninth inning of the tied championship tournament game, Hart used a five-man infield to cut off the winning run at the plate with a third-to-home-to-first double play. The “Hart Attacks” won the championship game in extra innings.

 

Acknowledgments

This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Phil Williams and fact-checked by Kevin Larkin.

 

Interviews

All observations and quotations attributed to and by Mike Hart were obtained in telephone interviews on August 8 and 29, and September 30, 2021, or in subsequent emails and text messages.

Lance Nichols, telephone interview, August 12, 2021

Allen Simpson, telephone interview, August 16, 2021

Jim Umbarger, telephone interview, August 30, 2021

 

Notes

1 Quebec, Tucson, Omaha, Columbus, and Denver (twice).

2 Another Mike Hart, born as Michael Lawrence Hart in Milwaukee in 1958, played 47 games for the Minnesota Twins in 1984 and Baltimore Orioles in 1987.

3 www.portagemi.gov/DocumentCenter/View/174/Community-Snapshot—2014-Comprehensive-Plan-Appendices-PDF#:~:text=During%20the%20past%2050%20years,13%2C409%20persons%20or%2066.4%25). Last accessed December 5, 2021.

4 Originally known as Portage Township High School when it opened in 1949. Renamed Portage High School in 1963 then Portage Central High School beginning in 1965 when Portage added Portage Northern High School. www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/2011/08/post_180.html. Last accessed December 5, 2021.

5 portageps.org/chs/activitiesathletics/athletics-hall-of-fame/hall-of-fame-members/ Last accessed December 5, 2021.

6 portageps.org/chs/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2017/06/Jim-Hart-2010.pdf Last accessed December 5, 2021.

7 Ibid.

8 “Bears Ready New Offense,” News Palladium (Benton Harbor, Michigan), December 12, 1968: 24

9 “St. Joe’s Ends Experiment,” News Palladium, December 11, 1969: 34.

10 “Two Bears on Big Six All-Star Team,” News Palladium, May 28, 1970: 18.

11 James played first base for the Decatur Commodores (Class D) in 1961. His obituary, published on February 18, 1979 (page 3) in the Battle Creek Enquirer did not list his work as baseball coach at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, but an untitled story excerpt from the Kalamazoo Gazette on May 24, 1972 (page unknown) says James coached the baseball team.

12 KVCC would win the conference title four more times in the next 12 (1973, 1978, 1980 and 1984) mccaa.prestosports.com/sports/bsb/PastChampions (Last accessed December 5, 2021.) and have three more players selected in the MLB draft. They were Steven Schneck 1976 (3 rd round January by the Red Sox, Jeff Stewart 1983 (12 th round January by the Phillies), and Arnold Garritano (1983 11 th round January by the Phillies). Stewart and Garritano did not play professionally. Prior to Hart’s selection, Felix Skalski was taken from KVCC in 1968 by the Red Sox in the 20 th round and did not play professionally.

13 “Montreal Organization Moving Portage’s Hart to First Base,” Kalamazoo Gazette, June 12, 1972: page unknown.

14 Untitled story, Kalamazoo Gazette, May 24, 1972: page unknown.

15 Knapp had transferred to Central Michigan for the 1974 and 1975 seasons.

16 In college Schudlich was a first baseman and played with Dick Radatz at Michigan State. He had a scouting career of over 40 years that continued with the Tigers and Indians.

17 Bob Sullivan ran a highly successful carpet and furniture businesses in Grand Rapids and scouted for the Detroit Tigers. sabr.org/bioproj/person/mickey-stanley/ Last accessed December 5, 2021.

18 The Grand Rapids Sullivans were founded in 1953 and from 1955 to 1987 qualified for the National Baseball Congress tournament which it won four times. Internationally, the Sullivans competed in the Harleem Baseball Week Tournament in the Netherlands through 1999, the team’s final year. It won the Dutch tournament five times. www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Grand_Rapids_Sullivans (Last accessed December 5, 2021.) Over 200 Sullivans played professionally, including 40 major leaguers. www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1989-08-15-8901050285-story.html Last accessed December 5, 2021.

19 The Expos were the fifth team to draft Cromartie over a two-year period. (At this time there was also a January amateur draft.) The last three times he was a first round pick.

20 Mile High Stadium’s dimensions were 335 feet to left, 423 feet to center, 400 feet to right center and 375 feet to right. The fence was a minimum of 12 feet high and 30 feet in center. ballparks.com/baseball/national/milehi.htm Last accessed December 5, 2021.

21 Frank Harroway, “Hot Hart Turns Down Japan for Shot in Major Leagues,” The Sporting News, July 22, 1978, page 40

22 Harroway

23 American Association Batting and Pitching Averages, The Sporting News, July 22, 1978: 41.

24 Paul Domowitch, “Hart surviving twisted journey,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 24, 1980: 25.

25 According to Allan Simpson, former editor of Baseball America, foreign leagues’ signings were not regulated at this time. If a player agreed to sign with a team outside of Major League Baseball, the player’s team was compensated by the signing league.

26 legacy.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/league-info/cba-history/ Last accessed December 5, 2021.

27 Frank Harroway, “Hot Hart Turns Down Japan for Shot in Major Leagues,” The Sporting News, July 22, 1978: 40.

28 www.pelotabinaria.com.ve/beisbol/tem_equ.php?EQ=LEO&TE=1978-79 Last accessed December 5, 2021.

29 Deane McGowen, “Yanks Win, 7-2; Rivers to Texas, The New York Times, July 31, 1979: C11.

30 Murray Chass, “Gamble Sent to Yankees as Rivers Deal Is Settled.” The New York Times, August 2, 1979: page unknown.

31 The final configuration, completed after the season on October 8, was Yankees Rivers, Bob Polinsky, Neal Mersch, and Mark Softy for Rangers Oscar Gamble, Amos Lewis, Ray Fontenot, and Gene Nelson.

32 Pacific Coast League notes, The Sporting News, September 1, 1979: 59.

33 Hart said the Rangers advised there would be no call-ups. A review of the 1979 Rangers roster in Retrosheet showed that only two players appear to be September call-ups from Tucson, starting pitcher Larry McCall and catcher Greg Mahlberg.

34 On February 1, according to The Sporting News Player Contract Card data base. https://digital.la84.org/digital/collection/p17103coll3/id/43092/rec/1 Last accessed December 5, 2021.

35 Domowitch.

36 “Class AAA Standings and Statistics,” The Sporting News, June 14, 1980: 40 and May 31, 1980: 36.

37 As of December 5, 2021 there are 730 players with exactly one career hit in all major leagues since 1876, according to Baseball Reference. stathead.com/tiny/ssCwQ. Subtracting the 174 who got their hit after 1979, the total at the start of the 1980 season was 556. Of the 556, 71 were pitchers, leaving 485 non-pitchers. Ray Cosey got his only career hit in April, the 486th. Hart became the 487th on June 12.

38 Hart had three walks and a sacrifice, according to the game’s scoresheet on file at the Baseball Hall of Fame. baseballhall.org/discover/short-stops/33-inning-game Last accessed December 5, 2021.

39 The Clippers had averaged 5.5 runs per game during the season, but were defeated 9-3, 10-3, and 5-2 by Tidewater’s league-leading pitching, whose ERA (3.87) was almost a full run below the league average (4.82).

40 On June 30 Cook was named General Manager of the Yankees, replacing Bill Bergesch.

41 The first Triple-A World Series was organized by Louisville Cardinals owner A. Ray Smith. It was a double round robin tournament involving the champions of the American Association (Denver Bears), International League (Tidewater Tides) and the Pacific Coast League (Portland Beavers). Tidewater became the first Triple-A World Series winner by winning three of four games.

42 This is the title of his position in this story. www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-1987-03-11-8701150868-story.html Last accessed December 5, 2021.

43 www.pelotabinaria.com.ve/beisbol/temporadas.php?TE=1992-93 Last accessed December 5, 2021.

44 www.pelotabinaria.com.ve/beisbol/mostrar.php?ID=hartmik001&COLECCION=mostrar Last accessed December 5, 2021.

45 In 1997 and again in 2008 the league shut down when its funding was terminated. www.mlb.com/news/hawaiian-winter-league-look-back. Last accessed December 5, 2021.

Full Name

James Michael Hart

Born

December 20, 1951 at Kalamazoo, MI (USA)

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