The first half home games of the 1994 Appleton Foxes season were documented on Rattler Radio. This Flashback Friday from November detailed a story from early May of 1994 on how Alex Rodriguez was handling his first professional season. Today's Flashback is an article by Joe Christensen from the June 16, 1994 edition of The Post-Crescent that talks about A-Rod's final day at Goodland Field.
Rodriguez is making his move
The Foxes shortstop has been called up to Double-A
- Foxes fans wait in line for nearly an hour Wednesday to get one last autograph from the top pick in the 1993 free-agent draft
One by one, they filed in to get one last autograph from the 18-year-old star shortstop.
Sitting in street clothes in the fenced-off seats at Goodland Field, Alex Rodriguez signed as he tried watching his first professional team for the last time Wednesday night.
While his Appleton Foxes and the Clinton LumberKings exchanged leads in the middle innings, these fans couldn't see the game, but they waited in line for up to 45 minutes for Rodriguez to sign something.
Rodriguez, the top pick in last year's amateur draft, was scheduled to leave Appleton at 5::30 am today for the Seattle Mariners' Double-A affiliate in Jacksonville, Fla.
Everyone knew the move was coming; Rodriguez had already established himself as one of the best players in the Midwest League. But Wednesday's news came four days before Foxes officials and Rodriguez expected. Appleton played three more home games before the all-star break, and Rodriguez was selected to play in the Midwest League all-star game on Monday.
On their way to Goodland Field, the 787 fans had no idea Wednesday's game marked the end of an era for Appleton, an era that lasted just over two months.
"I could give you his statistics," said Foxes general manager Frank Gahl. "Alex hit .319 with 14 home runs, but more importantly, he really gave us a draw. This year we're 9,108 people ahead of where we were last year for attendance. And he's kept us eight games over .500. I think, at best, we're a .500 team without him. He's made the difference in about 13 or 14 ballgames."
Appleton hadn't seen anything like it since 1970, some said, when the local club included future major-league greats Rich "Goose" Gossage, Bucky Dent, and Terry Forster.
So there were mixed reactions about the move coming without ample warning.
"I'm still in shock," said Rodriguez, who was told Wednesday he needed to be on a plane today. "Some of my friends are here from Miami to watch these last four games and my mom was going to watch me play in the all-star game."
The Foxes were mathematically eliminated from the Northern Division's first-half race when Rockford clinched the title on Tuesday. Jim Beattie, the Mariners director of player development, delivered the news to Gahl on Wednesday morning.
Gahl said Beattie felt an immediate move was necessary when Jacksonville's starting shortstop, Andy Sheets was called up to Seattle's Triple-A affiliate in Calgary, making Rodriguez the logical replacement.
On Wednesday afternoon, Beattie denied that any definite plans for player transactions had been made, and he was unavailable for comment on Wednesday night.
After Appleton's 12-6 loss, Foxes manager Carlos Lezcano showed little interest in speculating why the move was made Wednesday.
"The most important reason is, Alex Rodriguez is ready to move up. OK? It's as simple as that," he said.
Rodriguez was named the Midwest League's player of the week for the first two weeks of May. He hit 13 home runs in May, and leaves with 55 RBI, 22 more than Raul Ibanez, the new team leader.
Gahl knew the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Rodriguez would move up soon with this kind of success. The Mariners will also promote Appleton's ace pitcher, Tim Harikkala (8-3, 1.93 ERA), to Single-A Riverside, Calif., after he pitches in Monday's All-Star Game, Gahl said.
"That's why you can't promote individual players," he said. "You've got to promote the family atmosphere we have at these games."
Still, the Foxes marketed Rodriguez as much as possible this season. Most of their advertisements have included Rodriguez's name, face or both.
"He's a special kid," Gahl said, conceding the exception to his rule.
And in the Foxes clubhouse Wednesday, the other players talked about how they'll miss Rodriguez. The said even with a $1.3 million contract, including a $1 million signing bonus, he never acted likie he was better than anybody else.
"I mean, you'd never know that he was the No. 1 pick," Ibanez said. "He's just one of the guys."
Except from the fans' standpoint.
On Wednesday, Pat Timper, 15, carried a baseball in a plastic bag, the sixth Rodriguez has autographed for him this season, and he waited in line to get another trading card signed.
"I'm going to be sorry to see him go," he said.
And he wasn't alone.
Even early in the career of Alex Rodriguez something as simple and innocuous as being promoted came with a touch of controversy.
Frank Gahl, who was the GM at Duluth a few years later when I was up there, was just about right. The Foxes were 39-30, including a 2-1 record in the final homestand against the LumberKings without Rodriguez, in the first half. They finished the second half at 36-34 without Alex Rodriguez. That would put them at ... um ... 38-35, three games over .500 without the #1 pick of the 1993 draft.