Former Clinton Giants manager and Decatur Commodores player Wendell Kim died Sunday at age 64. Although reports didn’t list a cause of death, they noted that Kim was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease after retiring in 2005.
Kim never reached the major leagues as a player — he topped off at Triple-A — but he enjoyed a lengthy career as a big-league coach for the San Francisco Giants, the Boston Red Sox, the Montreal Expos and the Chicago Cubs.
Kim managed 10 seasons in the minor leagues — six for the Giants, two for the Houston Astros, and one each for the Milwaukee Brewers and the Washington Nationals. His first two years as a manager were in the Midwest League, at the helm of the 1981-82 Clinton Giants.
Kim managed only four future major-leaguers in the Midwest League, but two of them are recognizable names to fans who watched baseball in the late 1980s and early 1990s: RHP Mark Grant and catcher Matt Nokes.
Grant was the 1982 Midwest League Prospect of the Year. He went 16-5 with a 2.36 ERA and 243 strikeouts in 198.2 IP, completed 12 of his 27 starts, and pitched four shutouts. He also was the winning pitcher and most valuable player of the MWL All-Star Game that summer.
Nokes also played for Clinton in 1982. He batted .215 with 3 HR and 23 RBI in 82 games.
(Fun fact: Grant and Nokes were born a week apart in 1963, on October 24 and October 31, respectively.)
Before his coaching career began in 1980 in the Texas League, Kim played seven seasons in the minor leagues (plus two games in 1980). His first season as a professional baseball player was in the Midwest League, with the 1973 Decatur Commodores. He batted .264 with 2 HR, 27 RBI and 10 SB in 110 games with the Giants farm club.
Kim’s Decatur teammates included a pair of hurlers who each went on to pitch over a decade in the major leagues, LHP Bob Knepper and RHP John Montefusco.
Knepper went 7-2 with a 1.94 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 79 IP, completed six of his 11 starts, and pitched one shutout.
Montefusco went 9-2 with a 2.17 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 120 IP, completed 11 of his 12 starts (he pitched in 24 games), threw a shutout, and earned six saves.
The Commodores won the second-half Southern Division title that year. They were knocked out of the Midwest League playoffs by the Danville Warriors, who went on to lose to the Wisconsin Rapids Twins in the Midwest League Championship Series.
Baseball card images courtesy of The Trading Card Database (http://www.tradingcarddb.com/).