Happy Birthday–August 6

Sam Mertes (1872)
Sherry Magee (1884)
Ray Blades (1896)
Jim Turner (1903)
Prez Jones (1905)
Clem Labine (1926)
Ray Culp (1941)
Andy Messersmith (1945)
Ken Phelps (1954)
Ron Davis (1955)
Bob Horner (1957)
Stan Belinda (1966)
Chris Heintz (1974)
Luis Vizcaino (1974)
Jake McGee (1986)
Wilmer Flores (1991)
John Gant (1992)

Prez Jones was the president of Grambling University and started the school's baseball team.

We would also like to wish a happy birthday to MagUidHir's second child.

Right-handed reliever Ronald Gene Davis pitched for the Twins from 1982-1986.  Born and raised in Houston, he was drafted by the Cubs in the third round in the January draft in 1976.  He was a starter in the minors, and a rather mediocre one, but did substantially better when moved to the bullpen in 1978.  What prompted the move was Davis’ trade to the Yankees in June of 1978 for Ken Holtzman.  He appeared briefly with the Yankees that year, and then spent the next three seasons in New York, pitching very well as a set-up man for Goose Gossage.  He won 27 games out of the bullpen with 22 saves in three seasons, regularly posting ERAs below three.  He made the all-star team in 1981, a rarity for a set-up man.  In April of 1982, he was traded to Minnesota along with Paul Boris and Greg Gagne for Roy Smalley.  He was immediately installed as the closer, and mixed some brilliant performances with some memorable meltdowns over roughly four and a half years with the Twins.  He appeared in 286 games as a Twin, averaging nearly a strikeout per inning, but going 19-40 with 108 saves, an ERA of 4.51, and a WHIP of 1.49.  He fell apart in 1986, posting an ERA over nine and losing the closer role before being traded to the Cubs in August along with Dewayne Coleman for Julius McDougal, Ray Fontenot, and George Frazier.  He bounced around after that.  The Cubs released him in August of 1987; he finished the season with the Dodgers but was released again in March of 1988.  The Giants signed him and he pitched in AAA Phoenix for two seasons, not doing badly but only getting back to the big leagues at the end of the 1988 season.  He went to Japan for the 1989 season.  The Yankees gave him one last chance in 1990, sending him to AAA Columbus, but he could never get his old form back, and his playing career ended after that season.  At last report, Ron Davis was the owner and operator of Team Davis Baseball in Scottsdale, Arizona, which “offers several levels of competitive baseball teams” as well as private lessons.  His son, Ike Davis, was a first baseman who played in the majors from 2010-2016.

Catcher Christopher John Heintz played briefly for the Twins from 2005-2007.  He was born in Syosset, New York, went to high school in Clearwater, Florida, and was drafted in the 19th round by the White Sox in 1996.  He was in the White Sox’ system for six years, hitting well at Class A but not as well at higher levels.   He went to the Cardinals and had a good year for them, hitting .314 at AA New Haven.  St. Louis allowed him to become a free agent after the season, though, and he signed with the Pirates organization.  Heintz did not have a particularly good year at AA Altoona, and was now 29, so he was allowed to become a free agent again and signed with Minnesota in November of 2003.  He had only had ten at-bats above AA at that point, but the Twins sent him to AAA Rochester.  He was a decent but unspectacular batter there, posting better batting averages than one might expect, but without many walks or much power.  Still, he was a catcher, and the Twins are always looking for a third or fourth catcher, so he got brief appearances with the big club.  He was a September call-up in 2005 and 2006 and had three stints with them in 2007, totaling nearly half the season.  He had 82 at-bats in those appearances, batting .232/.267/.268.  Let go by the Twins after 2007, he signed with the Baltimore organization and spent 2008 at AAA Norfolk, after which his playing career ended.  He was the hitting coach for the Beloit Snappers in 2009 and was scheduled to manage the GCL Twins in 2010, but chose instead to take a job as hitting coach with the University of South Florida, a school Heintz had attended.  He continued in that position through the 2014 season.  At last report, Chris Heintz was a commissioner's assistant for Hillsborough County, Florida and was also the assistant minor league batting coordinator for the Philadelphia Phillies.  He was inducted into the University of South Florida Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.

Right-hander John Michael Gant was with the Twins for the last two months of the 2021 season. He was born in Savannah, Georgia, went to high school in Wesley Chapel, Florida, and was drafted by the Mets in the twenty-first round in 2011.  A starter in the minors, he struggled in his first couple of years.  The Mets stuck with him, though, and he rewarded them with solid seasons in 2013 in low-A and 2014 in high-A.  He started well in 2015 in AA and was traded to Atlanta in late July.  He started 2016 with the Braves and bounced between AAA and the majors on a few occasions.  He wasn't awful that season, but he wasn't particularly good, either, and was traded to St. Louis after the season.  He spent most of 2017 in AAA but got a September call-up.  He started 2018 back in AAA, but after eight excellent starts he finally came to the majors to stay.  It seems like he was a veteran by then, but he was still just twenty-five.  He both started and relieved in 2018, but was strictly a reliever in 2019 and 2020, pitching very well in all three seasons.  Atlanta moved him back to the starting rotation in 2021 and he did well for the first two months of the season, but after four consecutive poor starts in June he was shifted back to the bullpen.  He was traded to the Twins on July 30 of 2021 along with Evan Sisk for J. A. Happ and cash.  It did not work out very well:  as a Twin Gant was 1-5, 5.91, 1.37 WHIP in 33.2 innings (14 games).  He became a free agent and signed to play in Japan, but I could not find any stats for him.  He turns thirty today, and we wish him well.

 

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