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Updated: September 21, 2010
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Copyright © 1997-2010
Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar

Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2010 by Marco Stoovelaar

Halman's team misses national Triple-A title!
OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma (USA) - Columbus Clippers, the Triple-A Team of the Cleveland Indians and champion of the International League, defeated Pacific Coast League-champion Tacoma Rainiers of the Seattle Mariners 12-6 on Tuesday-evening to win the overall Triple-A National Championship. The Clippers collected 19 basehits and decided the game by scoring nine runs in the fourth and fifth inning combined to break a 3-3 tie. Whether this means that the season is now over for Tacoma's Greg Halman is up to the Seattle Mariners, but it is expected that the club will recall the Dutch outfielder to be with the Major League-club for the remainder of the season. With this game, the Minor League-season 2010 was completed, as it was the last game played. This year, the attendance was up again in the Minor League, with several clubs setting attendance-records.

It was the fifth time that an overall Triple-A Championship Game was played. For Tacoma and Columbus it was the first time that they reached this final. The first Triple-A title was won in 2005 by Tucson, followed by Sacramento (2007, 2008) and Durham (2009).

In the Play-Offs both Tacoma and Columbus dethroned the reigning champion. Tacoma swept the Memphis Redbirds (which had won nine Play-Off games in a row since 2009) in three games, while Columbus won 3-1 vs. the Durham Bulls.

The game was played at the nice AT&T Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, the home of the Oklahoma City RedHawks, which was the Triple-A team of the Texas Rangers until last Monday. On that day, september 20, it was announced that it has become the Triple-A affiliate for the Houston Astros, who also had its Triple-A team in Oklahoma City from 1962-1972. The Rangers announced a few days ago that it had signed an agreement with the Round Rock Express (in Texas) to be their new Triple-A team. The Express were the Triple-A team of the Astros since 2005 and are owned by former Major League-pitcher Nolan Ryan, who in August of this year became the co-owner of the Texas Rangers, where he already was its President since 2008. Ryan holds the Major League-record with 5714 strikeouts, but also is the all-time leader with 27 seasons and seven No-Hitters.

...AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, the site of the Triple-A Championship Game...
(© Photo: Marco Stoovelaar)
Surrounding Bricktown Ballpark are several statues to honor wellknown Oklahoman baseball players. In front of the main entrance behind home plate is a big statue of catcher Johnny Bench, who was born in Oklahoma City and played a major part in the glory days of the Cincinnati Reds in the seventies, when it was known as 'The Big Red Machine'. Another statue is located at the third base entrance, which honors outfielder Mickey Mantle, born in Spavinaw in the state of Oklahoma. Mantle, who played for the New York Yankees, is by many regarded as the best switch-hitter and one of the greatest players of all time.

Between these two statues at the third base-side are seven busts of Oklahoman players, being Allie Reynolds (born in Bethany, Oklahoma), Bobby Murcer (born in Oklahoma City), Pepper Martin (born in Temple, Oklahoma), Carl Hubbell (grew up in Oklahoma), Paul Waner (born in Harrah, Oklahoma), Lloyd Waner (born in Harrah, Oklahoma) and Wilber Rogan (born in Oklahoma City). The latter was a hero in the Negro Leagues.

The stadium is located in the Bricktown District, a cozy area with several restaurants and shops in the old warehouse district of Oklahoma City. It was in this environment that the final game of the Minor League-season was played.

...Mickey Mantle's statue at the third base entrance...
(© Photo: Marco Stoovelaar)
The Tacoma Rainiers had to do in this final game without first baseman Justin Smoak, who was recalled last Saturday by the Seattle Mariners, along with reliever Dan Cortes, after completion of the PCL-championship series, which ended on Friday.

On Tuesday-evening, it was 83 degrees Fahrenheit (28 Celsius) and partly cloudy in Oklahoma City, where the Tacoma Rainiers (the champion of the Pacific Coast League) and Columbus Clippers (champion of the International League) faced each other for the first time this season. Columbus-starter David Huff, who was 8-2 in the regular season, retired the side in the first inning, including a flyout by Greg Halman. Huff pitched the opener for Columbus in the best-of-five International League-final vs. the Durham Bulls, which was won by the Clippers, 18-5. Tacoma started with Ryan Feierabend (who was 4-7 in the season), who was the starter for the Rainiers in Game 5 of the Play-Off vs. the Sacramento River Cats, which was won 4-1. In that game, the lefthander gave up only two hits in eight innings. In his first inning tonight, Feierabend walked speedy lead-off hitter Josť Constanza, but then picked him off with one out. He then gave up a single, but that runner stranded.

In the second inning, Tacoma left two runners, but Columbus then opened the score in the home half off Feierabend, who gave up some hard hits. Jason Kipnis, who was just promoted to Triple-A, led off with a homerun, then next hitter Jared Goedert doubled and scored on a double by Jerad Head. After a groundout, Josh Rodriguez singled to bring in the third run, but then also was picked off by Feierabend, who is known for his pick-off move.

Tacoma came back immediately in the top of the third inning and also scored three runs. Dustin Ackley walked with one out to bring up Greg Halman, who led his team this season with 33 homeruns, which was the second highest total in the league. The Dutch centerfielder lined a single into centerfield to bring Ackley to third base and advanced to second himself on the throw to third. Moments later, Tacoma scored its first run on a grounder by Matt Mangini. Next, David Winfree drilled the ball into left-centerfield for a 2-run homerun to tie the score.

In the home of the third, Columbus got another runner on base, but again Ryan Feierabend picked him off, this time to end the inning.

...The statue of Johnny Bench in front of the main entrance...
(© Photo: Marco Stoovelaar)
Columbus broke the tie and re-took the lead in the fourth when Feierabend again gave up some basehits. Jason Kipnis, who hit-for-the-cycle in Game 4 of the IL-final, led off with a double, advanced on a grounder and scored on a single by Jerad Head. Hereafter, Luke Carlin also doubled and moments later Head scored on a wild pitch. Columbus then made it 6-3 when Carlin scored on a bunt-single wit two outs by Josť Constanza. It marked the end for Ryan Feierabend, who was replaced by Ian Snell. Constanza then stole second base and advanced on a throwing error. Shortly hereafter, Constanza made it 7-3 when he scored on a single by Ezequiel Carrera against his former team. The Venezuelan started the season playing for Tacoma (hitting .268 in 64 games), but was traded on June 18 to the Cleveland Indians, who assigned him to Columbus (where he hit .286 in 41 games).

In the top of the fifth inning, Greg Halman got to bat with one out and a runner on first base. He hit a line drive to second base, but that ended up in a double play.

Columbus increased its lead to 12-3 in the bottom of the fifth inning by adding five more runs. Jerad Head doubled in two runs, but was eliminated in a run-down when he tried to stretch it into a triple. A wild pitch by new pitcher Andrew Baldwin led to another run, then a double by Ezequiel Carrera added two more runs.

...The row of busts at the third base-side...
(© Photo: Marco Stoovelaar)
Tacoma, which arrived in Oklahoma City last Saturday, came back with three runs in the top of the sixth inning. Matt Mangini and David Winfree led off with singles, then Mike Wilson also singled with one out to bring in a run. With two outs, Tug Hulett doubled to give Tacoma two more runs and make it 12-6.

In the top of the seventh inning, the Tacoma Rainers threatened to score again, but instead stranded two runners. Columbus-starter David Huff was relieved by Zach Putnam, who gave up an one-out single to Greg Halman. With two outs, David Winfree also singled to bring Halman to third base, but then a force out ended the at bat.

In the home of the eighth inning, Jason Kipnis tripled for Columbus with two outs, meaning he had a double, triple and homerun in this game after having hit for-the-cycle in his last game. Kipnis was left at third base when a pop-fly in foul territory ended the inning.

In the ninth inning, Tacoma got one last chance, but were retired in order. Greg Halman was the last hitter in the game and thus the last hitter in the 2010 Minor League-season. In his last at bat, Halman lined the ball back to the pitcher, but ended up just short of his third basehit in the game, as the short stop threw him out to end the game.

Jared Head, who went 3-for-4, scored twice and had four RBI's, was named Most Valuable Player of the game. Head was presented the Bobby Murcer/Baseball America Most Valuable Player-trophy by Kay Murcer, the widow of Bobby Murcer, who passed away on July 12, 2008, due to complications related to brain cancer. Murcer, who lived in Oklahoma City, played the majority of his Major League-career for the New York Yankees (1965-1966, 1969-1974, 1979-1983). In 1989, he became the part-owner of the then Oklahoma City 89ers. Murcer was involved in several charities and since 1990 held an annual golf tournament to raise money for the American Cancer Society. After he retired in June 1983, Murcer became one of the broadcasters for the Yankees the next month and he remained behind the microphone until May 2008.

(September 21)

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