Happy Birthday–August 7

Adonis Terry (1864)
Bill McKechnie (1886)
Rocky Bridges (1927)
Art Houtteman (1927)
Don Larsen (1929)
Ron Henry (1936)
Jerry McNertney (1936)
Gary Dotter (1942)
Mike Poepping (1950)
Steve Kemp (1954)
Jason Grimsley (1967)
Danny Graves (1973)
Edgar Renteria (1976)
Wade LeBlanc (1984)
Brock Stassi (1989)
Mike Trout (1991)

Catcher Ronald Baxter Henry played for the Twins in 1961 and again in 1964.  He was born in Chester, Pennsylvania and began his professional career in 1954 with independent Class C Boise.  He went to the Milwaukee Braves’ system in 1955 and stayed there six years.  He looked like a pretty good player, really;  he hit over .300 twice, and had double-digit home runs three times.  Still, the Braves apparently did not believe in him, as he played only 60 games above AA in his six years with them.  The Twins selected Henry in the Rule 5 draft after the 1960 season.  He spent all of 1961 with the Twins as the third catcher behind Earl Battey and Hal Naragon, but played in only 20 games  (only six of them in the field) and got just 28 at-bats.  Still only 25, he went back to the minors, spending all of 1962 in AAA Vancouver and splitting 1963 between AA and AAA.  He had a strong year with AA Charlotte in 1964, hitting .307 with 17 homers, resulting in his getting 41 more at-bats with the Twins in 1964.  He was in AAA Denver in 1965-1966, but by then his time had passed.  In 1967, the Twins sent him to Houston; as a Twin, Ron Henry hit .130/.176/.261 in 69 at-bats.  He was in the Houston system through 1968, but did not play in the majors again.  His playing career came to an end after that.  He joined the Army for a couple of years, then moved to Denver, where he became a locally popular singer and actor.  Ron Henry passed away on May 14, 2016 in Denver from cardiovascular disease and kidney failure.

Left-hander Gary Richard Dotter pitched briefly for the Twins in 1961, 1963, and 1964.  He was born in St. Louis and signed with the Cardinals as a free agent in 1960.  He did not do that much that year, but was drafted by the Twins in the first-year player draft after the 1960 season.  He went 14-8, 3.08 for Class B Wilson, getting a September call-up and appearing in two games with the Twins at age 19.  He went to Class A Charlotte in 1962 and AAA Dallas-Ft. Worth in 1963, and pitched well in both spots, getting another two-game cup of coffee with the Twins in ’63.  Dotter appears to have been injured in 1964–he did not play in the minors at all, and only appeared in three games in September with the big club.  After 1964, he went to the Houston organization, pitching for them through 1967.  He did pretty well, but he never got another chance at the major leagues.  His playing career ended after the 1967 season.  Altogether, he spent three seasons in AAA, pitching 333 innings with a 3.43 ERA, but only pitched 12.1 major league innings, all with the Twins, and was out of baseball at age 25.  As a Twin, Gary Dotter appeared in seven games and pitched 12.1 innings.  He gave up eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits and seven walks with ten strikeouts, for an ERA of 5.11.  He had control problems throughout his career, but he seems like he might have been able to help somebody if he’d been given more of a chance.  At last report, Gary Dotter was living in Granbury, Texas.

Outfielder Michael Harold Poepping played in fourteen games for the Twins in 1975.  A big man (6’6″, 230 lbs.), he was born in Little Falls, Minnesota, went to high school in Pierz, Minnesota, and attended Brainerd Junior College and St. Cloud State.  He signed with the Twins as a free agent in 1969.  He was in rookie ball for two years and Class A for four years, never hitting as high as .240 but developing some power.  He had his best year in the minors in 1974 at AA Orlando, hitting .262 with 23 home runs.  He dropped to .249 with 19 homers in AAA Tacoma in 1975, but that was good enough to get him a September call-up.  He started eleven games for the Twins in right field that September, hitting .135/.238/.162 in 37 at-bats.  He was back in Tacoma in 1976 but dropped to .225 with 15 homers.  That was all the Twins needed to see; his playing career came to an end after that season.  Still, he was an undrafted free agent who made the big leagues, and that’s something not a lot of people can say.  Sadly, life after baseball did not go entirely well for him; he went back to Pierz, but was jailed in 2002 for watching and videotaping his stepdaughter through a two-way mirror in the bathroom over a period of six years.  It appears that he is still living in Pierz; it is to be hoped that he has managed to get his life straightened out.

Right-handed reliever Daniel Peter Graves did not play for the Twins, but was in AAA Rochester in 2008.  He was born in Saigon to an American serviceman and a Vietnamese mother, the only Vietnam-born player to appear in the major leagues.  He went to high school in Brandon, Florida, attended the University of Miami, and was drafted by Cleveland in the fourth round in 1994.  A reliever throughout his minor league career, he did very well in the Indians’ farm system and was with the Indians for about seven weeks in 1996.  He appeared briefly with the  Indians in 1997, then was traded to Cincinnati in a trade that involved ex-Twin John Smiley.  He pitched well in a set-up role in 1998 and became the team’s closer in 1999.  He remained in that role through 2004 with the exception of 2003, when an experiment to convert Graves to a starter proved unsuccessful.  He did a good job as the Reds closer, saving 182 games and being named to two all-star teams.  His best year as a Red was probably 2000, when he went 10-5, 2.56 with 30 saves.  2004 was his last good year, however; he was released in late May of 2005 after posting an ERA over seven in 20 games.  He signed with the Mets in June, was released again in August, and was out of baseball the rest of the season.  He started 2006 with Cleveland, but was sent to the minors in early May and would not make it back to the majors.   He signed with Colorado for 2007, was released in March, and spent the 2007 season pitching for the independent Long Island Ducks before signing with the Twins organization in the spring of 2008.  He pitched well in New Britain, but did not pitch well in Rochester, and was released after the season.  He signed with Houston for 2009, but was released at the end of spring training and his career came to a close.  Danny Graves is a member of the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame.  At last report, Danny Graves was living in San Antonio and has been a baseball analyst for a variety of media outlets.  It appears that he is also doing some color commentary for the Cincinnati Reds in 2018.

First baseman Brock James Stassi did not play for the Twins, but was in AAA for two months in 2018.  He was born in Sacramento, went to high school in Yuba City, California, attended Nevada-Reno, and was drafted by Philadelphia in the thirty-third round in 2011.  He really didn't do much for a few years, but despite his draft position the Phillies didn't give up on him.  He finally had a solid year in AA in 2015, batting .300 with an OPS of .863.  Promoted to AAA in 2016, he again posted an OPS of over .800 and at the start of 2017 he was in a Philadelphia uniform.  He stuck with the Phillies for the first half of the season as a pinch-hitter and backup first baseman.  He appeared in fifty-one games but got just seventy-eight at-bats, which is a tough role.  He wasn't up to it, batting .167/.278/.295.  He finished out the year in AAA and became a free agent after the season.  He signed with Minnesota for 2018 and went to AAA Rochester, where he batted .211/.316/.316 in 114 at-bats.  He was released in late May and went to the Atlantic League, playing for New Britain.  He has done very well there, batting .371 at this writing with an OPS of over 1.000.  He turns twenty-nine today.  If he keeps doing what he's doing in New Britain, one would think he'd at least get a spring training invitation next season.  I don't expect him to ever be a star or even a regular, but it's not out of the question that we could see Brock Stassi in the major leagues again.

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