The Stockton Ports have a long, storied history. Dating back to 1941, the franchise has captured 11 California League championships and notable Major Leaguers such as Gary Sheffield, Don Baylor, Ben Sheets, and plenty others.
As with any other franchise though, there are a few individual seasons in Ports history that stand out amongst the rest. With that in mind, let’s have some fun in taking a look back at the Stockton Ports club records for most of the standard offensive and pitching categories.
There are some criteria for the following records. First, all seasons under team names other than the Ports are eligible to register a single-season record. This includes the seasons under the team names Fliers (1941), Mariners (1978), and Mudville Nine (1982-84, 2000-01).
Second, we will not follow the same guidelines that Major League Baseball does when it comes to minimum plate appearances or innings pitched for offensive and pitching records, respectively. The reason for this is simple. In MLB, a hitter must register 3.1 plate appearances per team game and a pitcher one inning pitched per team game in a given season. If a Stockton Port performs well, there is a good chance he will be called up to the next level mid-season, meaning his number of plate appearances or innings pitched in relation to the total number of team games is out of the player’s control. So, for offensive records 250 plate appearances in a season are needed to qualify, and for pitching we will use a minimum of one inning pitched for every two team games.
Without further ado, here are the Stockton Ports club records for the following categories:
Batting Average: .382 | Miles Head, 2012
Miles Head arrived in the A’s organization with a bang back in 2012. Acquired from the Red Sox along with Josh Reddick and Raul Alcantara in exchange for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney in December 2011, Head tore the cover off the ball in Stockton for 67 games before receiving a promotion to Double-A Midland. In those 67 games Head tallied 102 hits, including 47 of them for extra bases, across 267 at-bats.
Home Runs: 39 | Chris Carter, 2008
A prodigious right-handed power hitter, Carter wreaked havoc upon the Cal League in 2008. His 39 home runs easily eclipsed the previous club record of 31 by Roger Freed in 1968 and accounted for more than a quarter of Ports longballs that season. As with Miles Head, this record came in Carter’s first year in the A’s organization after being acquired in the offseason from the Diamondbacks as part of the package for Dan Haren. Carter later led the National League with 41 home runs for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2016.
RBI: 110 | Frank Ernaga, 1954
The 1950’s might as well be known as the golden age of the RBI in the Cal League. Bud Haslet of the Visalia Cubs set the league record in 1956 with 172 runs batted in, Robert Rivich drove in 11 runs in a single game for Stockton against Bakersfield on May 22, 1954 (a record that stood until 2015), and Ernaga in the same season set the club record with 110. Ernaga for the Ports in 1954, an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs at the time, flashed both power (29 home runs) and the ability to hit situationally – his 13 sacrifice flies is 3rd in club history. The outfielder played in 29 games across parts of the 1957-58 seasons with the Cubs, driving in seven runs in his big-league career.
Recently, Seth Brown came within one RBI of Ernaga’s record in 2017, driving in 109 in a monster campaign.
*Runs: *126 | Paul Blair, 1963
The 1963 Stockton Ports won 87 games and swept the Modesto Colts two games to none in the Cal League Championship Series, breaking a 16-year title drought behind an offensive juggernaut that averaged nearly six runs per game. It’s fair to doubt if that club, then a Baltimore Orioles affiliate, would have been so dominant if not for Blair. Along with his 126 runs, the centerfielder also led the team in hitting (.324), stolen bases (60), doubles (30), and triples (10), while also hitting 16 home runs.
Blair’s 1963 season was a sign of things to come. He played in the Major Leagues for 17 seasons, won eight Gold Gloves, played in two All-Star games, and is a four-time World Series champion.
*OPS: *1.149 | Miles Head, 2012
Head’s monster 2012 makes its second appearance on this list with this ridiculous number. OPS calculates the sum of a player’s on-base and slugging percentages, essentially measuring the ability to both get on base and hit for power. In player evaluation circles in recent years it has replaced the triple crown stats (batting average, home runs, RBI) as the most accurate way to assess a hitter’s value. In 2012, Head registered an on-base percentage of .433 and a slugged .715 (his stats are listed in the batting average column of this piece). To put this number into context, the average OPS in MLB during the 2019 season was .758.
Stolen Bases: 92 | Mike Felder, 1982
Based on the way the game is played today, there are a few records on this list that may never be broken. In my opinion, this is the first of them. Simply put, the stolen base has faded away from prominence; it’s been ten years since someone reached the 70-steal plateau in an MLB season. With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine this record falling in a 140-game minor league season.
Felder in 1982 as a Brewers farmhand swiped those 92 bags in 106 attempts for the Stockton Mudville Nine. The speedster would go on to log 161 steals in a ten-year Major League career.
Fewest strikeouts: 7 | Nino Bongiovanni, 1946
I know what you’re thinking, and yes, Mr. Bongiovanni qualifies for our list. That’s because he achieved this feat in 517 plate appearances during the 1946 season. Think about that. Seven strikeouts in 517 trips to the batter’s box! That’s unbelievable. For a lot of players nowadays, seven strikeouts is an impressive feat for a week of games. It’s no surprise that Bongiovanni’s low strikeout number during the 1946 season is also a Cal League record. Of all the unbreakable records on this list, this one may be the most so.
ERA: 1.30 | Bill Wegman, 1983
In his first season in the Cal League pitching for the Stockton Mudville Nine, the 20-year-old Brewers prospect gave up just 27 earned runs over 186.2 innings. His 1.30 ERA is still a Cal League single-season record. Wegman was also a workhorse in 1983, firing complete games in 15 of his 23 starts that year, including four shutouts. The right-hander went on to win 81 games in his 11-year big league career with the Brewers
Wins: 28 | Bob Thorpe, 1954
Complete Games: 32 | Bob Thorpe, 1954
*Innings Pitched: *300.1 | Bob Thorpe, 1954
These three records are grouped together because Thorpe accomplished these feats, all still Cal League records, in the same season. And what a season it was. Aside from the wins, complete games and innings pitched, the 19-year-old Thorpe went 28-4 with a 2.28 ERA and five shutouts in 1954. Considering these numbers, perhaps it’s not a surprise that Thorpe pitched in the Major Leagues with the Cubs the following season in 1955, although he logged just six innings before being sent back down to Des Moines of the Western League where he went 10-10 for the remainder of the season. But Thorpe’s name should live on forever in the Cal League. Considering the way organizations handle young arms, these records will likely never be touched.
Strikeouts: 321 | Ed Barnowski, 1964
Another club record that will likely never be touched, Barnowski led the Cal League with his 321 K’s in 1964. Having reached this number over 222 innings, the 20-year-old Orioles prospect averaged 13 strikeouts for every nine innings pitched. Much like Thorpe, Barnowski’s big year in Stockton helped vault him to the big leagues the very next season, appearing in four games for Baltimore in 1965 and two games for the World Champion Orioles in 1966.
Shutouts: 7 | Bill Kirkpatrick, 1969
A 22-year-old rookie out of City College of San Francisco in 1969, Kirkpatrick’s seven shutouts were at the time a league record that stood for 13 years (Mark Ferguson had eight for the 1982 Modesto A’s). While the right-hander didn’t post big strikeout numbers that season– 178 in 211 innings – he had great control, walking just two batters for every nine innings pitched. Kirkpatrick, who along with his shutout numbers went 16-6 with a 1.96 ERA, was the leader of a pitching staff that posted a 2.81 ERA, helping carry the Ports to their third Cal League title in the 1960’s.
*Winning Percentage: *1.000 (16-0) | Charlie Beamon, 1955
There are plenty of pitchers who have recorded a 1.000 winning percentage in a Ports uniform, but none of them come close to Beamon’s 16-0 campaign in 1955, also a Cal League record. This mark, like many of the records listed above, will likely never be topped. The Oakland native also posted a 1.36 ERA that season, and gave up just 80 hits over 139 innings pitched. Beamon went on to pitch in 27 games over three seasons with the Orioles in the late 1950’s.
*Saves: *28 | Paul Smyth, 2010
The save did not become an official statistic in baseball until 1969, but there have still been eleven separate seasons in which a Ports pitcher reached at least 20 saves. None match Smyth, who nailed down 28 victories for Stockton, who that season won 74 games and a second-half Cal League crown. The right-hander finished 45 games and struck out 94 batters in just 77.2 innings. Unfortunately for Smyth, his big year came at the wrong time in terms of leading the league; Brad Brach of the Lake Elsinore Storm set the Cal League record that season with 41.