Thursday, November 6, 2014

#316 Dave Nilsson

About the Front: I like it when you can see the hitter tracking the ball with his eyes. Whether it's a pop-up or a home run, only Dave Nilsson knows.

About the Back: Baseball has really flourished in the Land Down Under over the past few decades. The Aussie roll call in the major leagues is up to 28 total; in 1993, reliever Graeme Lloyd debuted with the Brewers and he and Nilsson comprised the first-ever Australian battery in MLB.

Triple Play:

1. He hit the first home run at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on April 11, 1994 - a fifth-inning solo shot against Kenny Rogers.

2. Nilsson became the first Australian-born All-Star in 1999, when he hit .309/.400/.554 (141 OPS+) in 115 games with a career-high 21 home runs. He then retired from MLB at age 29, so that he might represent his native country in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. He batted .565 and slugged .957 for the Aussies, who won only two out of seven games. In the 2004 Olympics, he posted an .885 OPS in eight games and threw out five of eight would-be base stealers, helping his country to a silver medal.

3. Throughout the 1990s Nilsson played winter ball in the Australian Baseball League, then bought the financially troubled league and replaced it with the International Baseball League of Australia. That league folded in 2002, but a new ABL launched in 2009 with sponsorship from MLB. Dave was the Brisbane Bandits' manager for their inaugural season. He had the highest career batting average in the original ABL, a .356 mark.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember Nilsson being something of a novelty because of his nationality. Not much has changed in that regard - current Rays reliever Grant Balfour is often identified first by his birth country.

Bill James Said: "He threw out only 23% of opposing base stealers, poorest in the American League, and there were other problems." Bill doesn't elaborate, but I'll assume that Dave's nine errors and seven passed balls in 91 games caught, along with the 23 wild pitches that whizzed by on his watch, were cause for concern as well.

On This Date in 1993: November 6. Ed Sadowski, a light-hitting backup catcher for the Red Sox, Angels, and Braves in the 1960s, passes away due to ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) at age 62.

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