Midland, home of the Loons, experiences record-level flooding

There is record-level flooding in mid-Michigan after days of heavy rain caused two dams to fail and about 10,000 people to be evacuated from their homes. The epicenter of the severe flooding is Midland, Mich., home of the Great Lakes Loons.

Fortunately, no injuries or fatalities related to the flooding have been reported. The Loons’ ballpark, Dow Diamond, also is not in immediate danger. But many people and places in Midland and surrounding communities are, and I hope you’ll join me in keeping them in your thoughts in the coming days, wishing them a safe and speedy recovery. Things were bad enough during this once-a-century-level pandemic without this disaster being added to the mix.

In addition to being home to a Midwest League team, Midland also is the hometown of former MLB manager Terry Collins (1994-96 Houston Astros, 1997-99 Anaheim Angels, 2011-17 New York Mets).

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Midwest League cancels 2020 All-Star Game

It remains to be seen whether Midwest League teams will play games this year, but one thing that definitively won’t happen is a 2020 MWL All-Star Game.

It was announced Tuesday that the 2020 All-Star Game will not take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has halted sports since late March. The game was scheduled to be played in Bowling Green this year; the Hot Rods will host the 2021 MWL All-Star Game instead.

This will be the first year since 1965 that a MWL All-Star Game is not played.

Next year’s All-Star Game is scheduled for Tuesday, June 22, 2021, with a Home Run Derby taking place one day earlier.

The Hot Rods have said they will honor all tickets purchased for the 2020 All-Star Game and related events at comparable events next year. The club is also offering a refund option for fans and intends to reach out to individual ticket buyers with both options. Fans who want a refund will receive it in the manner they paid (check, credit card, etc.).

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Former Foxes and Sox pitcher Bart Johnson dead at 70

Former Chicago White Sox pitcher and scout Bart Johnson, who spent parts of three seasons playing for the Appleton Foxes, died Wednesday at age 70. He had Parkinson’s disease.

Johnson was the White Sox’s top pick in the 1968 draft, and he made his professional debut with the Foxes later that year. He went 3-5 with a 2.69 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 67 innings (12 games/10 starts) for the ’68 Foxes. He returned to Appleton in 1969 and posted impressive numbers (16-4, 2.17 ERA, 200 strikeouts in 170 innings/22 starts) — and was the winning pitcher in the Midwest League All-Star Game — before the 19-year-old righthander was called up to the major leagues in September, just 15 months after signing with the team.

(Side note: The ’69 Foxes earned the MWL championship by winning both halves of the season. The league consisted of nine teams and did not have divisions at that time.)

Johnson ended up back in Appleton in 1972 when an injured right knee adversely affected his pitching. He pitched in only five games, posting a 0.53 ERA, 14 strikeouts and two saves in 17 innings, but also played 38 games as an outfielder after telling the White Sox he thought he could hit well enough to make it back to the majors as a position player. He batted .329 with 23 extra-base hits and 29 RBI for the Foxes, and .277 in 13 games for the Double-A Knoxville Sox that year, but went back to exclusively pitching when he returned to the big leagues the following season.

He became a scout for the White Sox after retiring from playing in 1980, and worked in that capacity through 1997. He later scouted for the Tampa Bay Rays.

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Former Cubs 2B Glenn Beckert dead at 79

Former Chicago Cubs second baseman Glenn Beckert died Sunday at age 79.

Beckert began his professional baseball career in the Midwest League, where he batted .280 with 18 extra-base hits, 40 runs batted in, and 17 stolen bases in 81 games with the 1962 Waterloo Hawks. He was a Boston Red Sox farmhand at that time.

He joined the Cubs organization later that year, and went on to play nine seasons on the North Side of Chicago before ending his career with the San Diego Padres, for whom he played 73 games over two seasons.

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Former MWL manager Webster Garrison battling COVID-19

Former Midwest League manager Webster Garrison, a longtime coach in the Oakland Athletics farm system, is on a ventilator in Louisiana battling the coronavirus, COVID-19, San Francisco Chronicle A’s beat writer Susan Slusser reported Saturday.

Garrison managed the Kane County Cougars in 2003 and the Beloit Snappers in 2018. He was named the Midwest League Manager of the Year in ’03 after leading the Cougars to an 80-59 record and a playoff berth. The ’18 Snappers finished with a nice record of 69-69 and also reached the playoffs. Both teams were eliminated in the first round.

Garrison also served as Beloit’s hitting coach in 2014 and 2015.

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