Happy Birthday–February 17

Pat Pieper (1886)
Nemo Leibold (1892)
Wally Pipp (1893)
Ed Brandt (1905)
Red Barber (1908)
Rod Dedeaux (1914)
Roger Craig (1930)
Cliff Gustafson (1931)
Dick Bosman (1944)
Dave Roberts (1951)
Jamie Easterly (1953)
Mike Hart (1958)
Michael Jordan (1963)
Scott Williamson (1976)
Cody Ransom (1976)
Juan Padilla (1977)
Josh Willingham (1979)

Pat Pieper was the public address announcer for the Chicago Cubs from 1916-1974.  For the first sixteen of those years, he made the announcements with a megaphone.

Rod Dedeaux and Cliff Gustafson were highly successful college baseball coaches, Dedeaux with USC and Gustafson with Texas.

Already known as a basketball star, Michael Jordan played one year of minor league baseball for AA Birmingham in the White Sox organization before returning to the less-challenging sport.

Outfielder Michael Lawrence Hart played in thirteen games for the Twins in 1984.  Born in Milwaukee, he attended the University of Wisconsin and was drafted by Seattle in the 13th round in 1979.  He was in the Mariners' organization for four years.  The best of those years was 1980, when he hit .298 with an OBP of .402 for AA Lynn.  He did not duplicate those numbers in two years at AAA, but he still had a couple of decent seasons.  They were not good enough for the Mariners, however, and Hart was released after the 1982 season.  He signed with the Twins and was in their organization for three years.  He spent all of those years at AAA Toledo, with the exception of about six weeks in May and June of 1984.  He developed some power in Toledo, hitting 24 homers in 1985.  His averages were decent, but nothing to get excited about.  He got only 29 at-bats with the Twins, going 5-for-29 with a walk.  At the end of March, 1986, the Twins traded Hart to Baltimore for Ben Bianchi, Steve Padilla, and a player to be named later (Jeff Hubbard).  He was with AAA Rochester for two years, again hitting decently but not exceptionally.  He got another month and a half in the majors in 1987, getting 76 at-bats, but did not hit any better than he had for the Twins.  Hart's playing career came to and after the 1987 season.  Hart then went into coaching.  He was the head coach at Greenfield (Wisconsin) High School from 1988-1993 and was AAU coach for West Allis and Greendale (Wisconsin) from 1994-2000.  More recently, Mike Hart has been an assistant baseball coach at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  At last report, Mike Hart was a physical education teacher at Greenfield Middle School in Greenfield, Wisconsin.

Right-handed reliever Juan Miguel Padilla did not play for the Twins, but was drafted by them.  He was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, but attended Jacksonville University, one of eight major league players that University has produced.  He was drafted by the Twins in the 24th round in 1998.  He was in the Twins' system for six years posting an ERA under 3.5 every year except 1999, when he was overmatched in AA at age 22.  He saved 29 games and had an ERA of 3.31 in 65 innings at New Britain in 2002, and went 7-4, 3.36 with six saves in 91 innings for Rochester in 2003.  After the 2003 season, the Twins sent him to the Yankees as the player to be named later in their trade for Jesse Orosco.  Padilla had another fine year in AAA and made his major league debut in 2004, playing for the Yankees for two weeks in July.  He did pretty okay, posting a 3.97 ERA in 11.1 innings, but was placed on waivers in early September and claimed by Cincinnati, for whom he finished the season.  He became a free agent again after the season and signed with the Mets.  Padilla was having another excellent year in AAA when he was called up in mid-July of 2005.  He pitched very well for the Mets, going 3-1, 1.49 with a 1.02 WHIP in 36.1 innings.  Unfortunately, what could have been a positive turning point in his career became a negative one:  Padilla was injured, needed Tommy John surgery, and did not pitch for two years.  He was not the same pitcher when he tried to come back in 2008.  He pitched poorly in the minors for the Mets and was released in mid-July.  He then pitched in the Can-Am League through 2010 and did quite well.  In 2011 he pitched in the Atlantic League and in the Mexican League and did not do as well.  He continued to play winter ball for a couple of years, but then his playing career came to an end.  Juan Padilla provides senior desktop support for Global Payments in the Baltimore area.  He also gives private baseball instruction.

Outfielder Joshua David Willingham played for the Twins from 2012-2014.  Born and raised in Florence, Alabama, he attended the University of North Alabama and was drafted by Florida in the seventeenth round in 2000.  His first couple of years in the minors were nothing special, although he did show an ability to draw walks early on.  His power started to develop in 2002, when he hit seventeen homers in the Florida State League.  He has never failed to hit double-digit home runs since then.  The Marlins brought him along very slowly.  He did not reach AA until 2003 and then had to spend all but a few weeks of 2004 there despite an OPS of over a thousand.  He was in the majors for those few weeks, but was in AAA almost all of 2005.  Defensive struggles may have been the reason he did not progress faster; he was tried at first and third base and at catcher in the minors.  An OPS of over a thousand again in 2005 got him a September call-up, and he never went back to the minors.  He was the Marlins’ regular left fielder from 2006-2008, putting up unspectacular but very solid numbers.  He was traded to Washington at the end of the 2008 season and played two season of outfield there, mostly in left.  He continued to be productive, but was traded again after the 2010 season, this time to Oakland, where he had another solid season.  A free agent after the 2011 season, he signed with Minnesota for 2012 and turned in his best season, going .260/.366/.542 with 35 homers and 110 RBIs and winning a Silver Slugger Award.  That appears to have been his last hurrah, however.  In 2013 he battled injuries and turned in the worst season of his career.   He was not much better in 2014 and was traded to Kansas City in August for Jason Adam.  He did little for the Royals, became a free agent after the season, and retired.  He has founded the Josh Willingham Foundation to raise money for various projects that benefit children in Alabama.

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