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Twins Birthdays--May 14

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Bob Thurman (1917)
Dave LaRoche (1948)
Hosken Powell (1955)
Pat Borders (1963)
Larry Sutton (1970)

Outfielder Robert Burns Thurman did not play for the Twins, but was briefly in their farm system at the end of his career. Born in Kellyville, Oklahoma, he played semipro ball until 1941, when he went in to the Army for World War II. Upon leaving the Army, he became a victim of baseball’s color barrier, playing in the Negro Leagues from 1946-1949 and playing winter ball in Puerto Rico, where he became a star. The Yankees purchased his contract in July of 1949, and he hit .317 the rest of the year in the International League. He played in AAA for the Cubs in 1950, then spent two seasons playing for San Francisco in the Pacific Coast League. He continued to play winter ball in Puerto Rico in those years. Then, in 1954, the Dominican Summer League attempted to compete with the major leagues. Thurman signed with the DSL, and was again on the wrong side of a major league blacklist. He spent two years there before the DSL became a part of organized baseball. He continued to play winter ball in Puerto Rico in those years, becoming the all-time leader in home runs and RBIs in the Puerto Rican Winter League. In 1955 he signed with Cincinnati, and on April 15, at the age of 38 (he had given his age as four years younger), Bob Thurman made his major league debut. He was with the Reds for four seasons as a pinch-hitter and reserve outfielder, getting 139-190 at-bats per season. His best year was 1956, when he hit .295/.340/.532. He started 1959 with the Reds, but was sent to the minors in April and never returned. He was in AAA with Cincinnati and St. Louis in 1959 and St. Louis and Washington in 1960. When the Washington franchise moved to Minnesota he was still in the organization, playing 21 games for Class A Charlotte and hitting .267/.276/.453. For his major league career, he hit .246/.314/.465 in 663 at-bats. He remained in the Twins’ organization as a scout for some time, and also scouted in the Kansas City and Cincinnati organizations. He is said to have been instrumental in signing several players who became part of the Big Red Machine, including Johnny Bench and Hal McRae. After leaving baseball, he became a partner in Marketing Associates of Wichita. Bob Thurman passed away of Alzheimer’s Disease in Wichita, Kansas on October 31, 1998 at the age of 81.


Left-hander David Eugene LaRoche pitched for the Twins in 1972. He was born in Colorado Springs, went to high school in Torrence, California, and attended UNLV. He was born David Garcia, but changed his name to LaRoche after his stepfather. He was drafted by California in the fifth round of the January secondary draft in 1967. He was a reliever all of his career, making only twelve minor-league starts. He pitched very well in the minors and was off to a tremendous start in AAA Hawaii in 1970, going 6-0, 1.24 with five saves and a WHIP of 0.86 in 58 innings, when he was called up to the Angels in mid-May. He had two strong years in the California bullpen, and came to Minnesota after the 1971 season in exchange for Leo Cardenas. He was the left-handed part of a closer platoon with Wayne Granger in 1972. LaRoche again pitched well, going 5-7, 2.83 with ten saves and a WHIP of 1.16. He appeared in 62 games, pitching 95.1 innings. After the season, a year to the day after which they had acquired LaRoche, the Twins traded him to the Cubs for Bob Maneely, Joe Decker, and Bill Hands. He had two poor years for the Cubs and was traded to Cleveland in February of 1975. He rebounded with the Indians, posting an ERA around 2.20 and recording 38 saves over the next two seasons. He got off to a bad start in 1977 and was traded back to California in mid-May. LaRoche pitched very well for the Angels through 1978, going 16-14 with 38 saves. He followed that up with a couple of down years, and was released on April 1, 1981. The Yankees signed him and he had a couple of good years for them. LaRoche was out of baseball at the start of 1983, but tried to come back with the Yankees, signing in late July. It did not go well, however, and after the season his playing career ended for good. Today, he is probably best remembered for “LaLob”, an eephus-like pitch he developed later in his career. LaRoche then became a pitching coach, working in both the majors and minors. Dave LaRoche was currently the pitching coach for the Las Vegas 51s in the Toronto organization from 2009-2010. He is currently retired and was living in the Joplin, Missouri area at last report. His son Adam is a first baseman for the Washington Nationals and his son Andy is an infielder in the Toronto organization.


Outfielder Hosken Powell played for the Twins from 1978-1981. Born in Selma, Alabama, he attended Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Florida and was chosen by Minnesota with the third pick of the June Secondary draft in 1975. Powell advanced rapidly through the Twins’ system. He had little power, but hit for a high average and drew quite a few walks in the minors. In 1977, he hit .326/.427/.429 at AAA Tacoma, and in 1978 he was the starting right fielder in Minnesota. He hit only .247 (although with an OBP of .323), however, and in 1979 fell into a platoon role, sharing time with Willie Norwood and Dave Edwards. He had his best season, hitting .293 with an OBP of .360, and in 1980 was back as the starting right fielder. He dropped back to .262 and went back to a part-time role in 1981. This time, however, he did not respond, and Powell was traded after the season to Toronto for a player to be named later (Greg Wells). Powell did okay as a reserve in 1982, but hit only .169 in the first half of 1983 and was released. Milwaukee signed him, and he played in AAA for the Brewers for a year and a half before his career came to an end after the 1984 campaign. He was the head baseball coach at Pensacola High School in Pensacola, Florida, although it appears that he no longer holds that position. Hosken Powell is still living in Pensacola and appears to be active in the Boys and Girls Clubs there.


Catcher Patrick Lance Borders was with the Twins for the last month of 2004. He was born in Columbus, Ohio, went to high school in Lake Wales, Florida, and was drafted by Toronto in the sixth round in 1982. It took him a long time to advance, as he did not reach AA until 1986 and then only for twelve games. He never hit much above AA, but still made the majors in 1988. He stayed with the Blue Jays through 1994 and was their regular catcher from 1990-1993. He was the MVP of the World Series in 1992, but the only really good season he had as a regular was in 1990, when he hit .286 with 15 homers and an OPS of .816. His OPS never topped .700 in any other season as a regular, and Borders was allowed to become a free agent after the 1994 season. He was a much-traveled reserve catcher for the next couple of years, playing for Kansas City and Houston in 1995 and for St. Louis, California, and the White Sox in 1996. He found a home in Cleveland for a couple of years, serving as their backup backstop in 1997-1998. He spent much of 1999 at AAA for the Indians and was released in August, signing with Toronto. He signed with Tampa Bay for 2000 and played in AAA for them, also playing for the gold-medal Olympic team that season. The Devil Rays sold Borders to Seattle in August of 2001. He went to spring training with Texas in 2002, but was released and went back to Seattle, where he stayed through August of 2004. Most of that time was spent in AAA, but he got a few at-bats with the Mariners each season. He was traded to Minnesota on August 31, 2004 for B. J. Garbe. Borders appeared in 19 games as a Twin, going 12-for-42 for a line of .286/.302/.381. He was a free agent after the season and started moving around again. He signed with Milwaukee for 2005, was sold to Seattle in May, and was released in July. He signed with the Dodgers for 2006, played in AAA, and retired in late May. He had a seventeen-year career and played 1,099 games. He apparently was a coach in the Braves organization for a while. At last report, Pat Borders was a high school baseball coach in Winter Haven, Florida. His son, Levi, was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2012 but opted to play baseball for the University of South Florida.


Outfielder/first baseman Larry James Sutton did not play for the Twins, but was in their farm system for a couple of months in 2001. He was born in West Covina, California, went to high school in Santa Ana, California, and attended the University of Illinois. He was drafted by Kansas City in the twenty-first round in 1992. He was almost exclusively a first baseman as he was coming up. He posted solid numbers in the low minors but progressed very slowly, spending a full year at low A and a full year at high A (hitting .306 with 26 homers) before finally getting to AA in 1995. He missed a lot of 1995 with injuries and repeated AA in 1996, hitting .296 with 22 homers there. He had another good year in AAA in 1997, posting an OPS of .921 before finally being called up in mid-August. By this time he had a lifetime minor league average of .293 and had hit 94 homers in basically four seasons. Unfortunately, he was also 27 years old. He did well in his late-season call-up in 1997. The Royals decided Jeff King was their answer at first base, though, and tried to convert him to outfield. The Royals already had Jeff Conine, Jermaine Dye, and Johnny Damon in the outfield, as well as Shane Mack on the bench and Carlos Beltran almost ready to come up, so the decision did not make a lot of sense. The combination of learning a new position in the majors and getting inconsistent playing time was more than Sutton could overcome, as he hit only .245 with five homers in 310 at-bats. He started 1999 in the majors, but when he did no better he was sent back to AAA, coming back for a September call-up. He signed with St. Louis as a free agent for 2000 but spent most of the season with AAA Memphis, again coming back for a September call-up. He did quite well in that call-up and started 2001 in St. Louis, but was sent back to AAA in late May and about a month and a half later was sent to the Twins for Hanley Frias. He finished the season in Edmonton, hitting .251/.352/.402 in 147 at-bats. A free agent after the season, he again spent most of the season in AAA and was released after the season. He signed with Boston for 2003 but was released late in spring training and did not play in 2003. He came back with Florida and again was mostly in the minors, getting only five at-bats with the big club. He then spent three seasons in Korea playing for clubs sponsored by auto makers (two for Hyundai, one for Kia) before ending his playing career. Maybe he wouldn’t have done much anyway, but one has to wonder what might have happened if the Royals had just put him at first base when he was younger and let him play. Since ending his playing career, he was been the batting coach for the Royals entry in the Dominican Summer League and managed the Pirates entry in that league in 2012.
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