Happy Birthday–December 9

Joe Kelley (1871)
Cy Seymour (1872)
Adam Comorosky (1905)
Billy Klaus (1928)
Joe DeMaestri (1928)
Darold Knowles (1941)
Jim Merritt (1943)
Del Unser (1944)
Jerry Cram (1947)
Doc Medich (1948)
Steve Christmas (1957)
Ed Romero (1957)
Juan Samuel (1960)
Tony Tarasco (1970)
Todd Van Poppel (1971)
Tony Batista (1973)

Outfielder Del Unser was drafted by Minnesota in the second round in 1965, but did not sign. Catcher Steve Christmas was drafted by Minnesota in the thirty-third round in 1975, but did not sign.

Left-handed pitcher James Joseph Merritt began his major league career in Minnesota, pitching there from 1965-1968, and had his best years as a Twin. Born in Altadena, California, he went to high school in Edgewood, California, and was signed by the Dodgers as a free agent in 1961. The record does not show that he played in the minors in 1961, but despite that, he was selected by Minnesota in the 1961 first-year player draft. Merritt won 19 games with Class D Erie in 1962, pitching 223 innings that season at age 18. Promoted to AA the next year, he stumbled a little, but he put in two fine seasons at AAA before being promoted to the Twins at the beginning of August, 1965 (Merritt pitched a combined 266.2 innings between AAA and the majors as a 21-year-old). Used mostly as a starter, he was a solid contributor to the Twins through 1968. Merritt apparently got little run support (it was a low-run era), as he compiled a 37-41 record with a 3.03 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in 122 games, 89 of them starts. After the 1968 season, Merritt was traded to Cincinnati for Leo Cardenas. The Reds apparently supported him better than the Twins did (of course, the rules changed in 1969), as Merritt won 37 games the next two years despite ERAs over four. In 1970, his only 20-win season, Merritt made the all-star team, finished fourth in Cy Young voting and 21st in the MVP balloting. After that, though, Merritt fell off a cliff. The cause was apparently an arm injury which began during the 1970 campaign. His ERA did not significantly increase, but in 98 more appearances (32 starts) over the next five years, he went 7-24. The first two of those years were with Cincinnati, although he was in the minors for much of 1972. After the 1972 season, Merritt was traded to Texas, where he played until his release in July of 1975, which finished his career.  He was recently honored with a plaque in the West Covina, California Walk of Fame.  At last report, Jim Merritt was living in Hernet, California.

Right-hander Gerald Allen Cram did not play for the Twins, but was originally signed by them. The right-hander was born in Los Angeles, and was signed by Minnesota as a free agent in 1967. He had a couple of fine years at Class A, and was chosen by Kansas City in the expansion draft. He again pitched well at Class A in 1969, and was able to pitch decently in AAA as well, earning a September callup that season. He continued to pitch decently in AAA, and you'd think that an expansion team would have given him a shot, but instead the Royals appear to have given up on him. They moved him to the bullpen in 1972 (where he did very well), and after that season traded him to the Mets. He had three good years in the bullpen at AAA Tidewater, but again struggled to get a chance in the majors, making 10 appearances for the Mets in 1974 and four in 1975. Before the next season, Cram was traded back to Kansas City. He continued to pitch well in Omaha, but could not get a shot at the majors, making four appearances there in 1976 and none thereafter. He remained in the Omaha bullpen through 1980, made two appearances there in 1981, and then called it a career. For his major league career, he made 23 appearances (two starts) and pitched 48.1 innings, posting an ERA of 2.98 and a WHIP of 1.35. He spent a total of 13 seasons at AAA (including 1981), making 411 appearances, 74 of them starts. He was 79-61 with a 3.53 ERA. As desperate as teams have always been for pitching, it's odd that nobody would give him a shot. Since his retirement as a player, Jerry Cram has gone into coaching, and is currently the pitching coach for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in the Northwest League.

Infielder Leocadio Francisco "Tony" Batista spent part of 2006 with Minnesota near the end of his career. Born in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, he attended Mao High School and was signed by Oakland as a free agent in 1991. He was up and down early in his minor league career, and nearly had his career end in 1993 when a collision with an outfielder resulted in a fractured skull. Batista got things going in 1996, when he hit .322 in his first two months at AAA, earning a promotion to Oakland. He hit .298 for the Athletics that year, finishing seventh in the rookie of the year voting. He had a sophomore slump the next year, hitting only .202 and spending some time back at AAA. He was left unprotected in the expansion draft, and was selected by Arizona. Batista suddenly developed some power in 1998, hitting 18 homers to go with a .277 batting average. In June of 1999, he was traded to Toronto. He hit 31 homers that year and 41 the next, when he made his first all-star team. He slumped in 2001, hitting only .207 in late June, and the Blue Jays placed Batista on waivers. He was quickly chosen by Baltimore, and he rebounded in 2002, hitting 31 homers and again making the all-star team. By this time, he had become strictly a low-average, low OBP slugger. Batista became a free agent after the 2003 season and signed with Montreal, where he hit 32 home runs. He again became a free agent, and went to Japan to play for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks. He returned to the United States for 2006 and signed with Minnesota, where he was handed the third base job. He promptly handed it back, hitting .236/.303/.388 with poor defense in fifty games. He was released in mid-June, and was out of baseball the rest of the season. Washington signed him for the 2007 season, but with his power gone he really had no positive to offer. He began 2008 at AAA Columbus, but was released on May 1, ending his career. No information about Tony Batista's life after his release was readily available.