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The Last, But Not The Least
Gordon Edes
May 08, 1995
Vince Coleman was the last of the Homestead Homies to be liberated, the call to freedom having come on April 26 from the Kansas City Royals while he was in the indoor batting cage. Rain had washed out the final on-field workout for the nine players remaining in the strangest spring training camp baseball had ever seen, but Coleman had hung around, and now he ducked into an office to take the call. "When he came out, he was grinning ear to ear" said Allyne Price, the players' union official who had coordinated this camp for unsigned free agents. "It was the nicest smile of the spring."
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May 08, 1995

The Last, But Not The Least

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Waiting by the Phone

A sampling of the unsigned veteran free agents, who as of Sunday were still looking for work in the big leagues. Each player is listed with the team he last played for.

Pitchers

Age

Telling Stat

Tim Belcher, Tigers

33

Led AL in losses (15) and runs (124) last year

Chuck Crim, Cubs

33

4.85 ERA over past four seasons with three clubs

Storm Davis, Tigers

33

21-34 since winning 19 games in 1989

Steve Farr, Red Sox

38

On disabled list four times in past three years

Bill Gullickson, Tigers

36

.552 slugging percentage against him in 1994

Jay Howell, Rangers

39

Allowed 10 home runs in 43 innings last year

Catcher

Bob Melvin, White Sox

33

Career .233 hitter with seven clubs

Infielders

Sid Bream, Astros

34

Injuries limited him to 61 at bats in '94

John Kruk, Phillies

34

Nursing two bad knees and contemplating retirement

Outfielders

Daryl Boston, Yankees

32

Batted .182 with 14 hits in 52 games last year

Tom Brunansky, Red Sox

34

.207 hitter over past two seasons

Eric Davis, Tigers

32

Hit .183 in '94 with a strikeout every 2.7 at bats

Dan Pasqua, White Sox

33

Batted .209 over past three years

Gary Redus, Rangers

38

On disabled list five times in past three seasons

Lonnie Smith, Orioles

39

Batted .203 in 35 games last year

Vince Coleman was the last of the Homestead Homies to be liberated, the call to freedom having come on April 26 from the Kansas City Royals while he was in the indoor batting cage. Rain had washed out the final on-field workout for the nine players remaining in the strangest spring training camp baseball had ever seen, but Coleman had hung around, and now he ducked into an office to take the call. "When he came out, he was grinning ear to ear" said Allyne Price, the players' union official who had coordinated this camp for unsigned free agents. "It was the nicest smile of the spring."

A smile was the last reaction you would expect from a man who had just agreed to a minor league contract that would pay him a base salary (if he gets called up to the majors) of $250,000—less than a 10th of the $3 million his contract with the Royals was worth in 1994. "I didn't give up," said Coleman, an outfielder, who was headed for Triple A Omaha. "I know I can play, and I refuse to let financial reasons get me out of the game."

The night before, Coleman sat in a Miami hotel room and watched as Terry Pendleton, his friend and former St. Louis Cardinal teammate, hit a home run in his first at bat as a Florida Marlin. Coleman switched the channel to a movie. "That was kind of hard to watch," he said. "It was very tough, not being on an Opening Day roster."

Coleman, who spent two weeks in Homestead, was one of 57 players who came through the camp. Scouts from 14 teams had come to observe the Homies, as the players called themselves, and 36 players wound up signing contracts, most at going-out-of-business prices like Coleman's. "Every day you got back to your room," Coleman said, "you hoped your message light was on."

There was no light flashing for the 33-year-old Coleman—who last season stole 50 bases in 58 attempts for Kansas City—when he picked up the phone on April 25. "I called [Royal general manager] Herk Robinson myself," Coleman said. "I didn't put my ego in the way." Apparently neither did Robinson in calling back with an offer the next day.

Among those who left Homestead without a job when the camp folded was 39-year-old Jay Howell, who in 15 major league seasons pitched in a World Series and was on three All-Star teams. He went to Homestead because he felt he could still pitch in the big leagues, but headed back home after no team seemed to feel the same way. "I didn't know what to expect, but you had an opportunity to get in shape and give yourself a chance, so why not take advantage of it?" he said. "In the words of that great philosopher, Joaquin Andujar, 'Jooo never know.' "

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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