Happy Birthday–September 24

Mike Gonzalez (1890)
Dixie Walker (1910)
Clyde Vollmer (1921)
George Banks (1938)
Chuck Nieson (1942)
Norm Angelini (1947)
Eric Soderholm (1948)
Hubie Brooks (1956)
Jim Acker (1958)
Rafael Palmeiro (1964)
Scott Leius (1965)
Bernard Gilkey (1966)
Kevin Millar (1971)
John McDonald (1974)
Levale Speigner (1980)

Outfielder/third baseman George Edward Banks played for the Twins from 1962-1964. He was born in Pacolet Mills, South Carolina, and was signed by the Yankees as a free agent in 1957. He showed substantial power in the low minors, hitting 56 homers in 1960-61, but could not get above Class A with the Yankees organization. After the 1961 season, Banks was chosen by the Twins in the Rule 5 draft. Given his lack of experience at high levels, he did well for the Twins in limited duty in 1962: .252/.372/.408 in 103 at-bats. That was to be the most he would ever play in the majors, however. He had a good year for AAA Dallas/Ft. Worth in 1963, playing briefly with the Twins that year. In 1964, he got off to a poor start for AAA Atlanta, and was traded in June to Cleveland along with Lee Stange for Mudcat Grant. He continued to slug the ball at AAA, but got only brief major league appearances with the Indians through 1966. The Indians let him go after 1966, and he spent a year each in the California and Philadelphia organizations, but never made it back to the majors. George Banks hit 223 minor-league home runs in 11 seasons, but only 9 in the big leagues in 221 at-bats. As a Twin, he hit .211/.327/.377 with 7 home runs and 23 RBIs in 175 at-bats. George Banks passed away on March 1, 1985.

Right-hander Charles Bassett Nieson made two appearances for the Twins in 1964. He was born in Hanford, California, attended Cal State—Fresno, and was signed by the Twins as a free agent in 1962. He did not have a lot of luck in the minors, going 6-12 in 1963 and 4-17 in 1964 despite ERAs around 4.00, which was not that bad even in the 1960s. The Twins gave him a September call-up in 1964, and he pitched two innings over two games, giving up one run. That was to be his only time in the majors: his lifetime ERA is 4.50, with the run he gave up coming on a homer by Frank Malzone. Nieson remained in the Twins organization for a few more years, having fair-to-poor results for AAA Denver in 1965-66. He had good years for AA Charlotte from 1967-69, but again did poorly when promoted to Denver in 1968. 1969 was his last season in organized baseball. At last report, Chuck Nieson was living in Clinton, Minnesota, where he enjoys fishing and was the Big Stone Walleye champion in 2010.

Third baseman Eric Thane Soderholm played for the Twins from 1971-1975. He was born in Cortland, New York, went to high school in Miami, and was chosen by the Twins with the first pick of the secondary phase of the 1968 January draft. Initially a shortstop, he began playing some third base in 1970 and was moved there permanently in 1971. A low average slugger who drew a good number of walks in the minors, Soderholm reached the Twins in 1971 after a good year with AAA Portland. He stayed in the majors in 1972, but hit only .188, and was returned to Portland for most of 1973. He won the third base job in 1974 and had two seasons as a regular for the Twins. He was a solid contributor in those two seasons, batting around .280 with a total of 21 homers and 35 doubles. He injured his knee in 1975, and missed all of 1976, becoming a free agent after that season. Signed by the White Sox, he was a productive player for them as well, winning comeback player of the year in 1977. He hit 51 homers and drove in 168 runs for the White Sox over 2 1/2 seasons. Soderholm was traded to the Rangers in June of 1979. He finished the season with them, and signed with the Yankees for 1980. He did well for the Yankees when he was able to play, but suffered injuries there as well, and 1980 would be his last season. He was invited to spring training with the Cubs in 1982, but decided that his knees could no longer handle the strain of playing. As a Twin, he hit .257/.336/.389 in 1,345 at-bats. After his playing career ended, Soderholm did some scouting for the Cubs for a couple of years, and then went into business for himself. He opened a youth baseball camp as well as a ticket agency. At last report, Eric Soderholm owned the SoderWorld Wellness Center and Academy of Willowbrook, Illinois, with his daughter, Misty.

Infielder Scott Thomas Leius played for the Twins from 1990-1995. He was born in Yonkers, New York, and was drafted out of Concordia College by the Twins in the 13th round in 1986. He did not hit well in the minors with the exception of 1989, when he batted .303 with 22 doubles for AA Orlando. Despite hitting only .229 the next year for AAA Portland, Leius got a September callup in 1990 and was in the majors to stay in 1991. He batted .286 as a platoon third baseman (with Mike Pagliarulo) that year, and was a solid contributor to the Twins’ world championship team. He would never hit that well again, however. Given an expanded role with the 1992 team, he went down to .249. Leius was hurt for most of the 1993 season. He came back to hit in the .240s again in 1994 and 1995 as a semi-regular, and became a free agent after the season. Free agency did not treat Leius well. He suffered a variety of injuries, and never stayed in the majors for a full season again. Leius was in the Cleveland organization in 1996, with the White Sox system in 1997, and in the Kansas City organization in 1998. He played 37 games with the Royals in an injury-filled 1999, and called it a career after that. As a Twin, Scott Leius hit .252/.316/.353 in 1,373 at-bats. He played well in his one World Series, hitting .357 with a home run that was the game-winning run in game 2. A good defensive player, he finished second in gold glove balloting in 1994. He did some coaching for the Royals, and at last report was a senior client executive for Forsythe Technology, an IT company, in the Twin Cities area.

Right-hander Jimmy Levale Speigner did not play for the Twins, but was in their minor league system. Born and raised in Thomasville, Georgia, he went to Auburn and was drafted in the 14th round by Minnesota in 2003. He pitched well in the low minors in 2003 and 2004. He did not do as well in 2005 as a starter in AA New Britain, but did much better as a reliever for the Rock Cats in 2006. He pitched poorly in a couple of brief stints at AAA Rochester, however, and when the Twins left him off the forty-man roster, he was chosen by Washington in the rule 5 draft after the 2006 season. Speigner struggled in the majors in 2007, with the exception of one game in June. The Nationals worked out a trade with the Twins for Darnell McDonald, and sent him to the minors. Speigner had a good year in the minors in 2008, but again failed a brief trial in the big leagues. Levale Speigner spent 2009 in the Florida Marlins organization, pitching well in a season split between AA and AAA. A free agent after the season, he moved on to the Seattle organization. He had a rather mediocre year out of the bullpen for AAA Tacoma. He did not sign with anyone for 2011; rather, he became an insurance agent and at last report was a registered representative for American Global Wealth Management in Opelika, Alabama, which is where ex-Twin Roy Lee Jackson is from.

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