Happy Birthday–July 20

Heinie Manush (1901)
Bob Short (1917)
Mike Ilitch (1929)
Dick Stello (1934)
Tony Oliva (1938)
Mickey Stanley (1942)
Mike Witt (1960)
Charles Johnson (1971)
Bengie Molina (1974)
Jason Miller (1982)
Alexi Casilla (1984)
Stephen Strasburg (1988)

Bob Short owned the second Washington Senators franchise and moved them to Texas.  He also owned the Minneapolis Lakers and moved them to Los Angeles.

Mike Ilitch purchased the Detroit Tigers in 1992 and owned them until his death in 2017.

Dick Stello was a National League umpire from 1968-1987, when he died in a car accident.

Outfielder Tony Pedro Oliva played his entire career for the Twins, playing briefly in 1962-1963, making the team for good in 1964 and staying through 1976.  He was born in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, and signed as a free agent with Minnesota in 1961, one of the last Cubans allowed to leave the country to play major league baseball.  The Twins released him, but he continued to train with a friend who was playing for the Twins’ Class A team in Charlotte.  Charlotte manager Paul Howser encouraged the Twins to re-sign Oliva, which they did.  His minor league numbers are impressive:  in three seasons, he hit .342 with 50 home runs.  He got September call-ups in 1962 and 1963, then became the Twins’ starting right fielder in 1964.  He was the Rookie of the Year, leading the league in batting (.323), runs (109), hits (217), doubles (43), and total bases (374).  He finished fourth in MVP voting.  He again led the league in batting in 1965 and finished second in MVP voting to teammate Zoilo Versalles.  Oliva made the all-star team his first eight seasons in the majors, 1964-1971.  He finished in the top twenty in MVP voting each of those years, finishing in the top ten five times, in the top five three times, and finishing second twice (1965 and 1970).  He also won the Gold Glove in 1966.  He suffered a devastating knee injury in 1972, missing almost the entire season, and when he returned he was not the same player.  He was strictly a DH after that, he never topped .300 again (after having done so in six of his first eight seasons), and never hit 20 homers again.  He fell to part-time status in 1976 and his playing career ended after that.  Tony Oliva hit .304/.353/.476 with 220 home runs in 6,301 at-bats.  If not for his knee injury, he would be in the Hall of Fame; it can be argued that he should be in anyway.  For eight seasons, he was as good a player as there was in the major leagues.  After his playing career ended, Oliva remained with the Twins as a coach in both the major and minor league teams at various times.  He is currently living in Bloomington, Minnesota, and continues to make public appearances for the Twins.  He is also an analyst for the Twins Spanish language radio broadcasts.

Left-hander Jason Douglas Miller made four appearances for the Twins in 2007.  Born and raised in Sarasota, Florida, he was drafted by Minnesota in the fourth round in 2000.  He both started and relieved in the minors, as the Twins’ organization never seemed to really settle on a role for him.  He pitched pretty well on his way up, only once posting an ERA over four (4.05 at Elizabethton in 2001) and never posting a WHIP as high as 1.4 until 2007.  He was with the Twins for about ten days in 2007, appearing in four games.  His numbers show an ERA of 18, allowing eight runs and seven hits in four innings, but that’s somewhat misleading.  He was unscored upon in his first three appearances, giving up no hits and one walk in 3.2 innings, then gave up eight runs, seven hits, and two walks in a third of an inning his last time out.  The Twins were trailing 8-3 to the Angels in the eighth, and Gardy obviously did not want to burn up another reliever, so he let Miller get beat on for a while.  Miller went back to AAA the rest of the season, did not do particularly well, had a bad year in AA in 2008, and then the Twins let him go.  He signed with Detroit for 2009 but was released in April, and his playing career came to an end.  At last report, Jason Miller had returned to his home town of Sarasota. where he works as a pitching instructor for Extra Innings, which offers both baseball and softball instruction.

Infielder Alexi (Lora) Casilla played for the Twins from 2006-2012.  He was born and raised in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, and signed with Anaheim as a free agent in 2003.  He had a big year in 2005, hitting .325 at Class A Cedar Rapids.  That off-season, Casilla was traded to Minnesota for J. C. Romero.  He was a September call-up for the Twins in 2006 and has gone back and forth between AAA and the majors ever since.  Casilla was the Twins’ starting second baseman the last two months of 2007, but did not hit.  He began 2008 in the minors, came up to the Twins in mid-May, took over the starting second base job about a week later, and had his best season, hitting .281 with 50 RBIs.  The Twins thought they had their second base position filled for several years, but it did not work out that way.  He did not hit in 2009, lost the starting job in early May, spent some time in the minors, got the starting job back a couple of times but couldn’t hold it, and ended up hitting just .202 for the season.  He was a reserve for the Twins in 2010 and did fairly well in that role.  He began 2011 starting at shortstop, but did not hit.  He was moved to second base in early May and continued to not hit for a few weeks, then started doing better, although he wasn’t exactly getting all-star consideration.  He began 2012 as the starting second baseman again, but lost the job in early June and was a reserve the rest of the year.  As a Twin, Alexi Casilla hit .250/.305/.334 in 1580 major league at bats.  He was placed on waivers after the 2012 season and chosen by Baltimore, for whom he was a backup second baseman in 2013.  He didn't do much, and while the Orioles re-signed him for 2014 they sent him to AAA Norfolk, playing him in only one major league game in September.  He signed with Tampa Bay for 2015, was released at the end of March, was re-signed nine days later, and was traded to Detroit in late June for a player to be named later or cash.  A free agent after the season, he signed with Toronto for 2016 and spent the year in AAA for them.  He was once again a free agent but went unsigned.  He has played for York in the Atlantic League since 2017 and has done well.  He's thirty-four today.  He had stretches in which he played well, but he was never been able to sustain a major league level of play over the course of a season.  As long as you're still playing somewhere there's still a chance, but it's very unlikely that we will see Alexi Casilla in a major league uniform again.

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