I once saw an interview with Mickey Mantle where he was asked about the movie Bull Durham. The interviewer thought Mickey would find the movie to be funny (it is.)
Mickey didn’t think so. He thought it was sad. Asked to explain what he meant, Mickey explained that he knew a lot of Crash Davis type players in minor leagues. There were a lot of players whose paths to the big leagues were blocked and the team never wanted to get rid of them for fear of losing their depth. So they never got the chance in the show.
It was a poignant and insightful observation by the Mick. And that situation reminded me of the predicament of Dyar Miller.
He was a talented right handed pitcher signed by the Phillies organization in 1968. If he had stayed with the Phillies, he probably would have been in the big leagues in no time. But he only threw one game in the Phillies system.
Instead he found himself with the Baltimore Orioles in the 1970s. By 1970, he was pitching well for the Double A Dallas Fort Worth squad. But the Orioles had four 20 game winners on their staff in 1971, so there was no rom for Miller.
In 1973 and 1974, he was pitching effectively for Triple A and was no longer super young either. He was 28 years old in 1974 and despite 6 strong minor league seasons, had yet to pitch a game in the Major Leagues. Baltimore was just too pitching rich. Several other teams could have used his arm. He probably would have been a third starter for the San Diego Padres that year. Instead he toiled in Triple A while the Orioles went back to the playoffs with an air tight rotation of Ross Grimsley, Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally and Jim Palmer while using relievers such as Grant Jackson, Doyle Alexander and Wayne Garland.
In 1975, Miller went to Orioles spring training camp hoping to burst through. That spring in Florida he dazzled and posted the lowest ERA of any Baltimore pitcher in the Grapefruit League. At the end of Spring Training manager Earl Weaver informed him he did not make the club.
Miller had a temper tantrum, one that Weaver publicly acknowledged was justified. Everyone knew he pitched well enough to earn a spot on the team. There just was no room on the team, so he remained a minor leaguer.
He was converted to a reliever in the minors and ultimately that was his ticket. On June 9th, 1975, he was brought into the game in the 14th inning between the Orioles and A’s. He let up a run and took the loss.
But two days later he came into a game in the 9th and earned the victory in relief. He pitched well and with solid control out of the pen, posting a 2.72 ERA in his 46 1/3 innings.
In 1976 he also was effective out of the pen but after a shaky start in 1977, he was traded to the Angels for veteran closer Dick Drago.
Now in his early 30’s, Miller was a steady reliever in Anaheim, not getting many wins nor saves but keeping games close.
Between 1979 and 1981, he bounced around between the Angels, Blue Jays and Mets as well as the Expos organization. He kept going in the minor leagues until 1984 before turning to coaching.
Starting 1985 right up through this decade, Miller went from organization to organization, usually in the minor leagues, as a bullpen or pitching coach. He was a big league coach for the White Sox in 1987 and 1988 and in St. Louis when they won the pennant in 2013.
But even in St. Louis, his path to the big leagues was blocked by Dave Duncan, the St. Louis guru coach.
In all, Miller spent a lifetime in baseball including part of 7 seasons as a big league pitcher, which is a lot better than Crash Davis’ month in the show.
But if he was with another team, he might have developed as a starter and who knows? He might have a very different career.
I wonder if Mickey Mantle knew about him.
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