Happy Birthday–December 18

Ty Cobb (1886)
Dick Coffman (1906)
Gino Cimoli (1929)
Moose Skowron (1930)
Zoilo Versalles (1939)
Steve Hovley (1944)
Drew Coble (1947)
Roy Howell (1953)
Jim Clancy (1955)
Scott Bailes (1961)
Willie Blair (1965)
Joe Randa (1969)
Jose Rodriguez (1974)
Byron Buxton (1993)

Drew Coble was an American League umpire from 1982-1999.

We would also like to wish a very happy birthday to cheaptoy.

Zoilo Casanova (Rodriguez) Versalles played for the Twins from their inception through 1967, and is still arguably the best shortstop the Twins have ever had. Born in Veldado, Cuba, he was signed by the Washington Senators prior to the 1958 season. He had three solid seasons in the minors, getting cups of coffee with Washington in both 1959 and 1960. Versalles came to Minnesota with the team in 1961 and became the team's regular shortstop that year at the age of 21. He remained in that position through 1967. He had some fine years with the Twins. He made the all-star team twice, in 1963 and 1965. He also won the Gold Glove in both of those years. He finished 21st in the MVP voting in 1962 and won the award in 1965. 1965 was probably his best season: Versalles hit .273 with 45 doubles, 12 triples, and 19 home runs. He led the league in runs, doubles, triples, and total bases in an era when sub-.200-hitting shortstops could be major league regulars. Only 25, it looked like Versalles might be a star for a long time, but he never came close to repeating that season. By 1967, he had slumped to a .200 batting average, and after that season he and Mudcat Grant were traded to Los Angeles for Bob Miller, Ron Perranoski, and Johnny Roseboro. The next year, 1968, was Versalles' last as a major league regular, as he hit only .196. He was taken by San Diego in the expansion draft, but was traded to Cleveland before the 1969 season started. The Indians traded him to Washington in mid-July; he finished the season there, but was released just prior to the 1970 campaign. He played in the Mexican League for a year and a half, came back to Atlanta at the end of May in 1971, but was released again after the season. He played in Japan in 1972, and played briefly in the Kansas City organization in 1973. As a Twin, Zoilo Versalles hit .250/.296/.383, which, again, is better than it may sound when considered in context. Sadly, life after baseball was difficult for Versalles. His proficiency in English was limited, and he held a series of low-paying jobs. His health failed, and he eventually had to sell his awards. Zoilo Versalles passed away in Bloomington, Minnesota on June 9, 1995. He was posthumously inducted into the Twins' Hall of Fame in 2006.

Left-hander Jose Ilich (Jose) Rodriguez pitched in four games for Minnesota in 2002. He was born in Cayey, Puerto Rico, attended Florida International, and was drafted by St. Louis in the 24th round in 1997. A reliever throughout his career, Rodriguez started slowly in the minors. He had a good year in 2000, though, making the majors for about three weeks. He had another good year for AAA Memphis in 2001. In 2002, Rodriguez started in Memphis, came up to St. Louis for two games in early May, went back to Memphis, and was released in early June. A week later the Twins signed him and sent him to AAA Edmonton. He pitched 5.2 scoreless innings there and came up to Minnesota at the end of June. Rodriguez pitched 3.2 innings, giving up six runs on eight hits and four walks for an ERA of 14.73. He remained in the Twins' organization through the end of the year and was released, but then re-signed with Minnesota for 2003. He began the year in AAA Rochester, pitched poorly in 7.2 innings, and was released again in late April. Rodriguez moved on to the Montreal organization for the rest of 2003, went to the Baltimore system in 2004, was released in mid-July, hooked on with the Florida organization, and stayed there through 2005. Rodriguez was apparently out of baseball in 2006, made three appearances with independent Newark in 2007, and then signed a contract with the Indians organization for 2008. He was released again, and apparently went to Taiwan; at least there’s a 2008 Taiwan baseball card of him. As you might guess, there are lots of people named Jose Rodriguez in the world; one source indicates there are over two thousand just in the state of Florida, and b-r.com indicates there have been fifty-five of them in professional baseball.  No current information about “our” Jose Rodriguez was readily available.

Outfielder Byron Keiron Buxton has been with the Twins since 2015.  Born and raised in Baxley, Georgia, he was drafted by Minnesota with the second pick of the 2012 draft.  He has climbed through the Twins system pretty quickly, playing in both the GCL and the Appalachian League in 2012, going through low-A and high-A in 2013, and reaching AA in 2014 after spending the first half of the season in high-A.  Unfortunately, he was injured in his first game of AA and missed the rest of the season.  He started 2015 in AA but came up to the majors in mid-June.  He played in eleven games before getting hurt and missing about six weeks.  He played thirteen games of AAA and then came back to the Twins in mid-August.  He didn't do a whole lot, but the trade of Aaron Hicks opened the center field job for him in 2016.  He struggled at the plate and was bounced back-and-forth between Minnesota and Rochester a couple of times.  He hit quite well when given a September call-up, though, and was the Twins regular center fielder at the start of 2017.  He got off to a horrible start at the plate but hit very well in the second half.  Those second half offensive numbers, combined with his outstanding defense, had a lot of people thinking he was going to be a superstar.  In 2018, however, he again got off to a bad start, got hurt, and then got sent back to AAA.  He didn't get healthy there until the last few weeks of the season, when he hit extremely well.  The Twins refused to give him a September call-up--they claimed it was due to health concerns, but most observers felt it was an attempt to keep him under team control for an extra year.  He began 2019 as the Twins' center fielder and was having a fine season until he got hurt on August 1, missing the rest of the season other than a few appearances as a pinch runner/defensive replacement.  He again had injury problems in 2020, playing in less that two-thirds of the team's games.  He turns twenty-seven today.  Sometimes he looks like a potential superstar, but his career numbers are .238/.289/.430 in 1504 plate appearances.  If he's actually going to be a star, he needs to start doing it on a consistent basis, and he needs to start doing it soon.