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2001 OQ REPORT

2001 OFFENSIVE LEADERS BY POSITION

AMERICAN LEAGUE  
     
C Jorge Posada  
1B Jason Giambi  
2B Roberto Alomar  
SS Alex Rodriguez  
3B Troy Glaus  
LF Frank Catalanotto  
CF Bernie Williams  
RF Juan Gonzalez  
DH Manny Ramirez  


NATIONAL LEAGUE  
     
C Mike Piazza  
1B Todd Helton  
2B Jeff Kent  
SS Rich Aurilia  
3B Chipper Jones  
LF Barry Bonds  
CF Jim Edmonds  
RF Sammy Sosa  

Bold
indicates 2000 leaders.

To qualify for this list, a player must play at least half his team’s games at the defensive position indicated.

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2001 AMERICAN LEAGUE OQ LEADERS

 
Rank
 
Player
Team
OQ
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
Giambi,Ja
OAK
194
 
 
2
 
Thome
CLE
166
 
 
3
 
Ramirez
BOS
155
 
 
4
 
Rodriguez,A
TEX
153
 
 
5
 
Martinez
SEA
150
 
 
6
 
Alomar
CLE
144
 
 
7
 
Delgado
TOR
143
 
 
8
 
Palmeiro
TEX
142
 
 
9
 
Gonzalez
CLE
139
 
 
10
 
Williams,B
NY
136
 
 
 
 
 
11
 
Boone
SEA
135
 
 
12
 
Glaus
ANA
134
 
 
13
 
Burks
CLE
134
 
 
14
 
Sweeney
KC
133
 
 
15
 
Ordonez
CHI
132
 
 
16
 
Olerud
SEA
128
 
 
17
 
Nixon
BOS
128
 
 
18
 
Clark
DET
124
 
 
19
 
Chavez
OAK
122
 
 
20
 
Beltran
KC
121
 
 
 
 
 
21
 
Catalanotto
TEX
121
 
 
22
 
Mientkiewicz
MIN
119
 
 
23
 
Koskie
MIN
118
 
 
24
 
Valentin
CHI
118
 
 
25
 
Cruz
TOR
118
 
 
26
 
Konerko
CHI
118
 
 
27
 
Posada
NY
117
 
 
28
 
Jeter
NY
117
 
 
29
 
Cameron
SEA
117
 
 
30
 
Higginson
DET
116
 
 
 
 
 
31
 
Conine
BAL
115
 
 
32
 
Martinez
NY
112
 
 
33
 
Dye
KC/OAK
110
 
 
34
 
Stewart
TOR
110
 
 
35
 
Durham
CHI
110
 
 
36
 
Mondesi
TOR
109
 
 
37
 
Suzuki
SEA
108
 
 
38
 
Kapler
TEX
108
 
 
39
 
Halter
DET
108
 
 
40
 
Salmon
ANA
107
 
 
 
 
 
41
 
Vaughn
TAM
106
 
 
42
 
O’Neill
NY
106
 
 
43
 
Grieve
TAM
105
 
 
44
 
Guzman
MIN
105
 
 
45
 
Tejada
OAK
105
 
 
46
 
Lee
CHI
103
 
 
47
 
Anderson
ANA
103
 
 
48
 
Richard
BAL
101
 
 
49
 
Hunter
MIN
101
 
 
50
 
Menechino
OAK
101
 
 
 
 
 
51
 
Fullmer
TOR
100
 
 
52
 
Spiezio
ANA
99
 
 
53
 
Long
OAK
97
 
 
54
 
Jones
MIN
97
 
 
55
 
Offerman
BOS
94
 
 
56
 
Lofton
CLE
93
 
 
57
 
Soriano
NY
93
 
 
58
 
Hernandez
OAK
93
 
 
59
 
Cedeno
DET
93
 
 
60
 
Batista
TOR/BAL
91
 
 
 
 
 
61
 
Bell
SEA
90
 
 
62
 
Guillen
SEA
90
 
 
63
 
Macias
DET
88
 
 
64
 
Easley
DET
87
 
 
65
 
Erstad
ANA
87
 
 
66
 
Knoblauch
NY
87
 
 
67
 
Damon
OAK
87
 
 
68
 
Randa
KC
86
 
 
69
 
Gonzalez
TOR
86
 
 
70
 
Eckstein
ANA
85
 
 
 
 
 
71
 
Rivas
MIN
83
 
 
72
 
Kennedy
ANA
83
 
 
73
 
Vizquel
CLE
82
 
 
74
 
Hairston
BAL
78
 
 
75
 
Anderson
BAL
78
 
 
76
 
Ripken
BAL
77
 

The 2001 American League base-to-out ratio was .710, down from .762 in 2000.

This list includes every player who had at least 3 (at bats + walks) for each game his team played.

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2001 NATIONAL LEAGUE OQ LEADERS

 
Rank
 
Player
Team
OQ
 
 
 
1
 
Bonds
SF
260
 
2
 
Sosa
CHI
197
 
3
 
Helton
COL
181
 
4
 
Walker
COL
180
 
5
 
Gonzalez
ARI
179
 
6
 
Berkman
HOU
165
 
7
 
Jones,C
ATL
164
 
8
 
Sheffield
LA
157
 
9
 
Pujols
STL
153
 
10
 
Giles
PIT
153
 
 
 
11
 
Edmonds
STL
152
 
12
 
Bagwell
HOU
148
 
13
 
Nevin
SD
146
 
14
 
Abreu
PHI
144
 
15
 
Green
LA
144
 
16
 
Piazza
NY
143
 
17
 
Floyd
FLA
142
 
18
 
Alou
HOU
141
 
19
 
Klesko
SD
139
 
20
 
Guerrero
MON
136
 
 
 
21
 
Aurilia
SF
135
 
22
 
Millar
FLA
133
 
23
 
Lo Duca
LA
131
 
24
 
Rolen
PHI
126
 
25
 
Sexson
MIL
126
 
26
 
Sanders
ARI
125
 
27
 
Kent
SF
124
 
28
 
Grace
ARI
122
 
29
 
Burnitz
MIL
122
 
30
 
Ramirez
PIT
122
 
 
 
31
 
Vander Wal
PIT/SF
115
 
32
 
Burrell
PHI
114
 
33
 
Cirillo
COL
114
 
34
 
Vidro
MON
114
 
35
 
Ventura
NY
113
 
36
 
Biggio
HOU
112
 
37
 
Young
CIN
111
 
38
 
Wilson
FLA
111
 
39
 
Lee
FLA
111
 
40
 
Walker
COL/CIN
111
 
 
 
41
 
Jordan
ATL
111
 
42
 
Stevens
MON
110
 
43
 
Casey
CIN
110
 
44
 
Hidalgo
HOU
109
 
45
 
Trammell
SD
108
 
46
 
Lee
PHI
107
 
47
 
Jones,A
ATL
104
 
48
 
Lowell
FLA
104
 
49
 
Bell
ARI
104
 
50
 
Finley
ARI
102
 
 
 
51
 
Johnson
FLA
102
 
52
 
Pierre
COL
101
 
53
 
Zeile
NY
98
 
54
 
Anderson
PHI
98
 
55
 
Cabrera
MON
97
 
56
 
Hernandez
MIL
97
 
57
 
Counsell
ARI
97
 
58
 
Alfonzo
NY
96
 
59
 
Rollins
PHI
96
 
60
 
Vina
STL
95
 
 
 
61
 
Ochoa
CIN/COL
95
 
62
 
Gutierrez
CHI
95
 
63
 
Surhoff
ATL
94
 
64
 
Davis
SD
94
 
65
 
Young
CHI
91
 
66
 
Young
PIT
91
 
67
 
Beltre
LA
90
 
68
 
Castillo
FLA
89
 
69
 
Lugo
HOU
89
 
70
 
Polanco
STL
87
 
 
 
71
 
Grudzielanek
LA
86
 
72
 
Renteria
STL
86
 
73
 
Kendall
PIT
83
 
74
 
Blum
MON
83
 
75
 
Gonzalez
FLA
82
 
76
 
Santiago
SF
80
 
77
 
Barrett
MON
79
 
78
 
Glanville
PHI
78
 
79
 
Ordonez
NY
77
 
80
 
Womack
ARI
75

The 2001 National League base-to-out ratio was .707, down from .737 in 2000.

This list includes every player who had at least 3 (at bats + walks) for each game his team played.

Why did offensive production dip so significantly in both leagues? It had to be the much-publicized enforcement of the rulebook strike zone, although the umpires seemed less insistent about it by the end of the season. Major league offense in 2001 dropped almost, but not quite, back to pre-1994 levels. In my opinion, that’s good news, and I hope the umps stay conscientious. A league BTOR of no more than .700 is best for the competitive balance between offense and defense that makes baseball so enjoyable.

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AMERICAN LEAGUE RECAP

Ichiro Suzuki’s perhaps surprisingly low 108 OQ doesn’t reflect his value to Seattle. For starters, he’s an excellent right fielder and a high-percentage (80%) base stealer. Right field is usually regarded as a “power” position, and Suzuki neither hits for power nor draws walks. But I’ll take his 108 OQ in the leadoff hole. What settles it for me is Seattle’s winning percentage with Suzuki leading off every day.

As a general rule I watch TV baseball with the sound off, but for some reason I forgot to mute the set the other day when the Mariners were playing, and one of the announcers actually said something I liked. He named Suzuki the American League’s “MEP” : Most Exciting Player. I couldn’t agree more. And are the pundits still crying that Suzuki’s age and experience in Japan should disqualify him for Rookie of the Year honors? Well, if he didn’t play American major league baseball before this season, he’s a rookie in America. If he were a graybeard of 35, he’d still be a rookie. End of story.

There was no worse trade in the major leagues this season than Minnesota’s exchange of Matt Lawton for the Mets’ Rick Reed. Reed couldn’t adapt to the AL, and without Lawton the Twins promptly dived into the tank with unprecedented velocity. Lawton was a 121 OQ performer in Minnesota, but that figure dropped 30 points in New York, not adequate for a guy who plays right field.

Do you think the Blue Jays would trade Shawn Green for Raul Mondesi again? No wonder GM Gord Ash got fired.

Calvin Pickering, Boston’s new man-mountain first baseman, is listed at 6-5, 290, but most observers believe that’s conservative. Pickering makes Mo Vaughn look like Stuffy McInnis. Pickering bats left, like incumbent Brian Daubach, and his 125 OQ in September duty was comparable to Daubach’s 122. The word on Vaughn, by the way, is that the Angels are willing to give him away to any team that will assume his massive contract. There have been no takers so far. After losing the entire season to injury, Vaughn says he’s willing to DH. Is a return to Boston, the only town that ever loved him, in Vaughn’s future, or is he already forgotten in the Hub?

Boston has been crowing about rookie third baseman Shea Hillenbrand, who just missed qualifying as a regular in 2001. But if Hillenbrand’s offensive production doesn’t improve (80 OQ), he’ll have to field like Brooks Robinson if he wants to keep his job. Although Robinson recorded an even uglier 76 OQ in his first season as a major league regular, 1958, his superior glove work convinced the Orioles to stick with him. Robinson learned to hit. If he hadn’t, he would have been Mark Belanger.

Baltimore third sacker Cal Ripken was the American League’s weakest-hitting regular in 2001. Some journalists (the same ones who deplored Ripken’s consecutive-game streak right till the end) took the Orioles to task for keeping him in the lineup in September, complaining that Ripken’s selfishness deprived the team of a chance to audition young talent. My question is, what talent? Baltimore continues to have one of the least productive farm systems in the majors. Besides Ripken, who came up in 1981 (!) the only homegrown regular in the Baltimore lineup this season was second baseman Jerry Hairston. Hairston was a complete bust, and at age 25, he can’t use youth as an excuse.

Remember 1996, when the Orioles switched Ripken from shortstop to third base because they just had to make room for hotshot shortstop prospect Manny Alexander? Alexander got 7 hits, all singles, and struck out in 27 of the 68 at-bats the team gave him before they mercifully pulled the plug. He’s out of the major leagues just 5 years later.

It was true during “The Streak,” and it was still true in 2001: if Ripken was a better player than anybody they could have replaced him with (and he was), Ripken deserved to be in the lineup. It’s that simple.

By the way, how come sports journalists, and even box scores, in 2001 still referred to Ripken as Cal Ripken Junior? Did they think we’d confuse him with Cal Ripken Senior, who never played major league baseball and has been dead for two years? Jerry Hairston Senior played in the major leagues for 14 seasons, but nobody calls his son and namesake Jerry Hairston Junior. Just wondering.

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NATIONAL LEAGUE RECAP

Luis Gonzalez was one of a staggering FOUR major league players who produced 100 extra base hits in 2001. Oddly enough, they were all National Leaguers. The others were Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and Todd Helton. 100 EBH is an extremely rare feat in baseball history.

You may wonder why the NL had so many players in the upper reaches of offensive stardom. Bernie Williams’ 136 OQ was good for 10th place on the AL list, but he would have finished 20th had he toiled in the NL last season. Here’s the explanation: the NL had a host of semi-regulars with a lot of plate appearances but very low OQs who, collectively, helped balance out the performance of the stars and drive the league average down to 100 (1.00). These offensive stiffs included Atlanta’s Quilvio Veras, Rico Brogna, Ken Caminiti, and Wes Helms; Chicago’s Joe Girardi and Todd Hundley; Cincinnati’s Pokey Reese, Jason Larue, and Frank Castro; Florida’s Dave Berg; Houston’s Brad Ausmus; Los Angeles’ Eric Karros, Tom Goodwin, Alex Cora, and Marquis Grissom; Milwaukee’s Henry Blanco; Montreal’s Milton Bradley and Peter Bergeron; New York’s Timo Perez; Philadelphia’s Johnny Estrada; Pittsburgh’s Jack Wilson and Pat Meares; St Louis’s Mike Matheny; San Diego’s Damian Jackson; and San Francisco’s Ramon Martinez, Pedro Feliz, and Calvin Murray.

Albert Pujols seems to have sprung full-grown from the forehead of Zeus. Was Pujols the best rookie ever? If you’re talking about the best rookie in over a century, well, Pujols was right up there. Nobody’s likely to top the 210-OQ impact that slugging Pete Browning made when Louisville signed him in 1882.

Pujols set several rookie offensive “counting stat” records. But when you normalize for league performance you can see that Pujols’ 153 OQ, spectacular as it was, ranks a bit below Ted Williams’ 166 in 1939, Carlton Fisk’s 161 in 1972, Johnny Mize’s 160 in 1936, Richie Allen’s 160 in 1964, Rico Carty’s 159 in 1964, Fred Lynn’s 158 in 1975, Elmer Flick’s 156 in 1898, and Stan Musial’s 155 in 1942. (Paul Waner recorded a 151 in 1926.)

Pujols was tremendously valuable to the Cardinals in 2001. There’s no way they would have made the postseason without him. He’s just 21, too. If Albert Pujols and Adam Dunn were playing in New York instead of St Louis and Cincinnati, you’d be hearing a lot more about these youthful stars.

Pujols’ fellow Cardinal, J.D. Drew, was a stellar 160 performer when he wasn’t on the DL. That’s superstar production. I hope everyone noticed that the Cardinals got a lot better after they jettisoned Ray Lankford. Lankford’s 123 OQ didn’t nearly compensate for his defensive deficiencies and complaints about getting no respect. The guy struck out 145 times in just 389 at bats, and the Cardinals already had a guy who could strike out (Mark McGwire, 118 in 299 AB).

In the realm of the strikeout, both Milwaukee’s Jose Hernandez and Cleveland’s Jim Thome with 185 whiffs fell just short of Bobby Bonds’ single-season record of 189, set way back in 1970. Keep flailing away, guys, it will happen for you one of these years.

Barry Larkin’s production (OQ 104) is still adequate when he’s healthy, but he’s never healthy and will probably never be healthy again. Why the Reds signed this brittle 37-year-old to an expensive longterm deal baffles me. Cincinnati’s other big-bucks commitment, Ken Griffey (OQ 124), was about as good a player this year as former Red Reggie Sanders of Arizona, although Griffey doesn’t hustle and is a lot better paid.

(How did a dumb organization like the Reds end up with a prospect like Dunn, who gave them a 141 OQ in the 66 games he got into after they called him up? You have to like this kid’s future.)

In Colorado, after two years of trying to win with “pitching, speed, and defense” (management’s words), do you think they’ve learned their lesson yet? In that ballpark, why would you want to load up with punch-and-judy hitters?

San Diego left fielder Rickey Henderson (OQ 103) wants to come back for another year, but now that he has his 3000 hits and owns the runs and walks records, I doubt if anyone will sign him. This season proved to me, however, that Henderson can still be useful as a utility outfielder, and he’s willing to accept the role of a nonregular. Henderson’s fascinating career has been unique in baseball history.

Fred McGriff was even better in Chicago (140 OQ) than he was in Tampa Bay (135). Another welcome development (for McGriff and baseball fans in general) is that McGriff seems finally to have shed baseball’s most ridiculous nickname, “The Crime Dog.” I suspect that the Cubs plan to keep McGriff until first base prospect Aesop Choi is finally ready. They insist that Choi’s talent is no fable.

I don’t like Arizona’s decision to employ Tony Womack, whose 75 OQ was the lowest of all 156 major league regulars, as a leadoff man. Why would you want to give this feeble hitter more plate appearances than any other Diamondback? If you must play Womack, bat him 8th, for heaven’s sake.

If a team’s leadoff man contributes less offense than the average performer (i.e. below 100 OQ), the manager has a serious need to rethink his batting order. But managers still exist who have not learned this lesson.

The Braves didn’t show much sense when they signed Ken Caminiti after Texas discovered that he could no longer play. The Braves already had a third baseman (all-star Chipper Jones), so they stuck Caminiti at first, a position he’d never played. Predictably, he was a butcher out there, costing the team run after run, and his 92 OQ was a sorely inadequate offensive contribution. Atlanta finally got wise, benched Caminiti, and signed ageless Julio Franco for the stretch run. Franco held the fort with a 112 OQ.

Atlanta rookie Marcus Giles’ very creditable 105 OQ at second base may herald future stardom. He’s just 23.

Baseball’s nuttiest free agent signing had to be Derek Bell by Pittsburgh. The Pirates inked Bell to a multiyear, multimillion dollar deal and installed him in right field, even though John Vander Wal, the incumbent, out OQ-ed Bell by 44 points last year and is no worse a defensive player. Bell rewarded the Pirates with a 77 OQ, and after he got hurt, the team found itself better off with anybody and everybody they found on their bench. Then Bell was implicated in a child prostitution scandal in Florida!

Speaking of the Pirates, are they still making noises about converting catcher Jason Kendall to an outfielder? If they do, what they’ll have is the least productive regular outfielder in baseball. Not even an outfielding whiz like Richie Ashburn could hold onto regular status with an OQ of 83. If Kendall is any kind of a decent defensive catcher, they need to keep him behind the plate.

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BARRY BONDS BONBONS

Barry Bonds’ 2001 season was the fourth best in the 126 years of major league baseball, trailing only Babe Ruth in 1920, Ruth in 1923, and Ted Williams in 1941. Bonds’ 1.8375 base-to-out ratio was second only to Ruth’s 1920 mark of 1.874.

In breaking Mark McGwire’s home run record, did Bonds have it tougher than McGwire did when he set the mark in 1998? Absolutely. Bonds’ team was battling for a postseason berth, while McGwire’s Cardinals were never a factor in the race. McGwire surpassed the old record on September 8, and everything he did thereafter was icing on the cake. Bonds had to chase the old record right down to the wire. And Bonds saw even fewer pitches in the strike zone than McGwire did.

Bonds actually broke two of McGwire’s major league records. The less-publicized record was for fewest singles in 150 or more games. Bonds hit just 49 singles this year. (McGwire hit 53 in 1991 during an inadequate 108 OQ season.)

Bonds’ season was all the more remarkable when you consider that he’s 37 and doesn’t get to DH. I’ve said before that Bonds’ career has been very comparable to that of Williams, another celebrated lefthanded hitter.

1. Both had self-absorbed, churlish personalities. They hated reporters and were hated by them in return. They were often resented by their teammates, and they were not beloved by the public.

2. Both played left field exclusively. Both were above-average defensive players. (Forget what you've heard about Williams' fielding. I often saw him play in 1959 and 1960, and even at age 40+ he was a very good left fielder.)

3. Both hit for average and for power. Both drew a lot of walks, because both believed in waiting for their pitch.

4. Both failed to perform well in big games. To be fair, in these games the opposition's entire game plan was to shut down the big man. Given nothing good to hit with so much at stake drove these guys crazy, and they began swinging at bad pitches rather than accepting bases on balls.

Like all the really great hitters of baseball history, Bonds has the discipline to be selective, to wait for the pitch he can hit. But it should also be noted that Bonds is the new spearhead of a revolution in batting style similar to the one Ruth wrought in the 1920s. Bonds never seems to “go with the pitch.” When he sees one he can drive, no matter if it’s high, low, inside, or outside, he swings from the heels with every ounce of his strength, knowing that if he connects he’ll muscle it out of the park.

Every major league player, big or small, wants to hit the ball hard. That’s been true since time immemorial. But today’s’ behemoths are so strong that they’re willing to sacrifice bat control for a pure power swat, relying on brute strength to propel the ball over the wall more frequently than ever before. These guys disdain singles, doubles, and triples.

Bonds is not the first to employ this approach. McGwire has been doing it this way for years, and other beefed-up sluggers and wannabes are copying. But Bonds has developed it and flourished with it to an unprecedented degree.

By the way, when was the last time you saw a major league player choke up on the bat in a non-bunting situation? It’s been many years for me. I remember when Nellie Fox, playing in another power era, the 1950s, made a good living by choking up and punching the ball through the infield. Fox was the American League MVP in 1959!

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THE CONTINENTAL LEAGUE

Do you remember the old Continental League, that third major league that existed on paper for one year (July 1959- August 1960)? Branch Rickey was its president. They were supposed to begin play in April 1961, but the majors put them out of business by proceeding with expansion plans of their own. Had the CL survived, it would be celebrating its 40th anniversary now.

To refresh your memory, the 8 Continental League franchises were:

Atlanta
Buffalo
Dallas
Denver
Houston
Minneapolis
New York
Toronto

It is interesting that one of these cities, Buffalo, still doesn't have major league baseball, and it is never mentioned as a possible destination for the desperate-to-relocate Montreal Expos. This although the Bisons annually lead the minor leagues in attendance.

Buffalo's first, last, and only major league team was the National League franchise that existed there for 7 seasons (1879-1885). They were pretty good, too. Their best hitter was slugging first baseman Dan Brouthers, and their pitching ace was Jim Galvin. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

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RUMINATIONS

* How come they didn’t have farewell tours a la Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken for retiring veterans Eric Davis, Tony Fernandez, Stan Javier, Wally Joyner, John Jaha, and Harold Baines? They were all fine players in their day. Baines says he can still play, but I can’t imagine that anyone will be foolish enough to sign him after he posted a 27 OQ as White Sox DH. Just about any American League pitcher, if allowed to bat, could equal that. Heck, you or I could.

* Last year’s stars who weren’t for real: Darin Erstad, AL; Edgardo Alfonzo and Richard Hidalgo, NL (tie).

* My vote for Disaster of the Year goes to utility infielder Donnie Sadler. In the offseason Boston GM Dan Duquette was shrewd enough to unload Sadler to Cincinnati for the very serviceable Chris Stynes. The Reds found themselves stuck with a player who gave them a 68 OQ and 3 RBI in 84 at bats, and who drove Manager Bob Boone crazy with his fielding and baserunning gaffes in the late innings of close games. There was a limit to even the Reds’ masochism, so they got rid of Sadler in midseason. But he managed to hook up with Kansas City, another organization not known for sound personnel decisions. Sadler hit .129 for the Royals, with 2 RBI in 101 at bats and an OQ of 40. If you can’t hit, can’t field, and can’t run the bases, what good are you?

* Know your Torrealbas: Steven Torrealba catches for Atlanta. Yorvit Torrealba catches for San Francisco. The latter, by the way, is the only Yorvit ever to play in the major leagues.

* When in Jena, stay at the Black Bear Hotel.

October 2001

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