He Knows Where He Belongs

By Lloyd Graff

Detroit Tigers slugger Mike Hessman slams Minor League Baseball home run record. Courtesy of MiLB.com

Mike Hessman, of the Toledo Mud Hens Minor League Triple A farm team of the Detroit Tigers, hit his 433rd home run this week. He is now the all time Minor League home run king of baseball. He is the Henry Aaron of the Minors. This is sort of like being the King of Liechtenstein or the greatest bubble gum blower in history.

I love the Hessman record because it is life mimicking fiction in my all-time favorite sports movie Bull Durham. Hessman is Crash Davis, Kevin Costner’s journeyman catcher who imparted his hard won wisdom to ‘Nuke’ La Loosh, Tim Robbins wonderful young pitcher.

Hessman has had a “cup of coffee” with a few Major League teams during his long odyssey in baseball, but now he is the beloved 37-year-old slugger of Corporal Klinger’s (M*A*S*H) home team, the Toledo Mud Hens.

Hessman loves to play the game and relishes his role as the Babe Ruth of the International League. Kids come and go in the Minors, but a guy like Hessman reminds me of the great setup man in a job shop or the maintenance person who stays 30 years at a company holding things together, while the young hot shots float from job to job searching for 50 cents more per hour.

Evidently the Detroit Tigers see something valuable in having a Mike Hessman on the Toledo roster. He could be considered the consummate 4A player, with AAA the top level of Minor League ball. Smart teams like to have a few 4A players around to demonstrate professionalism to the prospects and add stability to constantly shifting player rosters.

Bull Durham is my favorite sports movie, but there have been a lot of really good ones like Major League and other Costner epics, For the Love of the Game, and Tin Cup.

Question: Do you think Hessman should have retired long ago?

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Kudos, to the folks who posted on my Monday blog about first summer jobs. I loved every one of them and I recommend them to those who missed any of them. We underestimate the value of those early work experiences, but they shape us as men and women and productive workers. One of the many awful things about living in the big city black ghettos is lack of exposure to viable work opportunities. Missing the opportunity to do something productive out of school is part of a long slog into futility. I’d love to hear your story..

Click here to read Monday’s blog, The Summer of ‘61

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5 thoughts on “He Knows Where He Belongs

  1. Seth Emerson

    The term “Journeyman” is often used as a rank in a Union/craft situation, but it really applies to Hessman. He seems reasonably good at his craft, seems satisfied with his life (We can always want better – Major League), and has some notoriety. Not a bad way to go through life. Retire? If you get paid to play a “Kids game”, baseball, and you enjoy it, what the heck would you retire to?

     
    +1
  2. Emily Halgrimson Post author

    I do think people sometimes work too long past retirement age. We get into a routine and are comfortable with it, but change can bring great opportunities too. Sounds like Hessman is still challenging himself though. More power to him. I hope I’m able to continue to push myself like that when I’ve done something as long as he has. Being stagnant in anything is the real retirement.

     
  3. Keith Garrison

    I like reading your stories Lloyd. We have Chicago in common, my wife was born there and is a lifelong Cubs and Bears fan. I think he should play as long as he feels good, and as long as he can help the club! You, please keep up the good work and for sure keep writing.
    With best regards,
    Keith

     
    +1
  4. Brad Chenoweth

    Lloyd,

    I can’t imagine a better job than getting paid to play or coach baseball. Like most “baseball people”, I’d take that life in a heartbeat. I settled for 28 summers of coaching youth baseball, from Little League to American Legion ball, for free, and don’t regret a second of it. The greatest game in the world!

    The antithesis of Mike Hessman was Jeff King, the first -overall draft pick of the Pirates in 1988. He retired with the Royals in May of 1999, the day he became eligible for a Major League pension, because he hated the game of baseball!

     
    +1
  5. Hanan Fishman

    No way. If you love doing something and someone is willing to pay you to do, it you should keep at it. Besides, what’s better than getting paid to play a sport? It’s something many of us would love have had the opportunity to do. Hitting a home run is still the hardest thing to do in any sport. Even if they weren’t all big league caliber, every pitcher he faced was still a pro. I say, great job Hessman!

     

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