Saturday, January 15, 2005

January 15th, 1969

Delino DeShields Born

Delino DeShields holds the relatively obscure distinction of being the best Major League player born in Delaware. He is in fairly rare company, only forty-seven Major Leaguers were born in Delaware, which is one of the lowest totals among the states, although ahead of a handful including obvious ones like Alaska (just nine, although five of them played in 2004, including Curt Schilling) and Vermont but also Nevada which has only managed twenty-two Major Leaguers. California being a large warm weather state has far and the away the most (1,762) ahead of Pennsylvania (1,309) and New York (1,092) the only states above one thousand players. Not surprisingly the Dominican Republic is the largest source of foreign players with three-hundred eighty-five trailed by Canada (two hundred and three). Western Europe is obviously somewhat short on Major Leaguers, Ireland leads the way with thirty-nine but like its nearby neighbor England (who can boast thirty) the vast majority of them played in the 1800s, suggesting they were likely converted cricket (or rounders) players. Scotland has nine, again largely from the 1800s, although one Scot hit arguably the most famous walk-off home run in history: Bobby Thomson, who was born in Glasgow. Among Asian nations, Japan leads the way with twenty-nine, followed by South Korea (ten) with various others having one or two each.

Getting off that geographical tangent and back to DeShields, he is probably best remembered today for having been traded--straight-up--to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Pedro Martinez. In hindsight, of course, the trade seems laughable. DeShields wasn't a bad player (and he was versatile, capable of playing everywhere but the battery) but Pedro Martinez was (and on some days still is) Pedro Martinez. There is a point however, at which one uses too much hindsight. At the time, DeShields was a young player coming off a season where he hit nearly .300 (and gotten on-base at nearly a .400 clip) and Martinez was a twenty-one year old with major durability questions, albeit coming off an excellent season (10-5, 2.61 in 107 IP) in his own right. DeShields is also notably for having been one of the first modern ballplayers to wear his socks at knee level, which he did as a tribute to the players of the Negro Leagues.
Delaware’s best ballplayer retired after the 2002 season into the legend of other famous First Staters.

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