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Book Review
by Editor, Rick Cabral

Hometown Heroes by Clay Sigg 

Baseball fans feast on trivia. Home run records, most consecutive hit streaks. Or consecutive games played. 

Here’s one: name the last player with nine or more major league seasons that played for just one team? That should be fairly simple. He retired two years ago after playing twenty seasons for the New York Yankees—Derek Jeter. 

And you can probably guess the one right before him: teammate Mariano Rivera, who played 19 years for the Yankees. 

But the trend of “Hometown Heroes” or “single-franchise players” such as Jeter and Rivera is falling precipitously so that in the future we may only see a few retire with the same team with which they began their careers. 

This is the subject of a new book by Granite Bay author, Clay Sigg: HOMETOWN HEROES: The Single Franchise Baseball Stars of the 20th Century. 

Sigg_Clay_Author_CABRAL
Author Clay Sigg
holding his "labor of love."

Of the 18,000 MLB players Sigg has documented every one from 1901 through 2000 to start and finish with the same professional team. And he’s packaged it in a splendid coffee table presentation that is nearly worth its weight in gold. 

“Hometown fans have strong emotional ties to players who maintained longstanding connection with their towns and their teams,” Sigg writes in his Introduction. “The hometown fans have enjoyed an unbroken relationship with these men who possess the qualities that make a one-team professional career possible.”  

He goes on to write “Performing for a single team for an entire career is a badge synonymous with high personal and professional standards.”  

In an exclusive interview with BaseballSacramento.com Sigg says the idea for this book began in the 1990s when guys like George Brett were on the verge of retiring with the same team with which they began their careers. In the early 2000s he started writing the player profiles, a process he calls “an odyssey of 12 years”  

~ ~ ~ 

The team with the greatest number of “hometown heroes”? Why, the Yankees of course with 27—ironically, the same number of World Series titles claimed by the organization. 

Anyone from the greater Sacramento area make the list you might ask. The lone member was Stan Hack (Sacramento High), who played from 1932 to 1947 for the Chicago Cubs and was voted the No. 1 Professional Baseball Player from the Greater Sacramento Area. 

Looking toward the Bay, only three players qualified among the San Francisco Giants (Jim Davenport, Scott Garrelts and Robby Thompson) and just two from the Oakland Athletics (Dick Green, who began his career when the team was in Kansas City, and Mike Norris). 

~ ~ ~

There is one major downside to this book, and it’s inherently not the author’s fault. Simply by definition a “hometown hero,” or “single-franchise player” excludes some of the game’s greats, including the two greatest ballplayers we had the pleasure of watching in person with the San Francisco Giants: Willie Mays and Barry Bonds. Mays ended his career with the New York Mets and Bonds began his with Pittsburgh. 

Also missing are Giants Hall of Famer Willie McCovey (Giants-Padres), Hank Aaron (Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves-Milwaukee Brewers), Pete Rose (Cincinnati-Philadelphia et.al.), Steve Carlton (St. Louis-Philadelphia et.al.).  

And let us not forget the greatest slugger of all time, the King of Swat, Babe Ruth (Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees-Boston Braves). “Ruth was such a character there was no way he was ever going to be a single-franchise guy because he was so controversial,” Sigg says. “The first ‘living-large’ guy.” Yet, the author maintains “the Babe” was the greatest baseball player of all time. 

 

BOOK SIGNING  

The Limelight Bar & CafĂ©  

1014 Alhambra Boulevard
Sacramento, California  

Saturday, June 4th 
2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
 


“There’s a bit of luck involved,” Sigg notes. “There are a number of guys who fit the profile but don’t qualify through a quirk, they got traded in their first year or whatever.” 

Conversely, just 50 of the 177 players presented in this book are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But that’s the nature of this beast. 

And a beautiful beast it is.  

First off, this book wouldn’t hold up past The Deadball Era if Sigg weren’t such a fine writer. One would think he’d spent his career at the sports desk of a major daily instead of in residential real estate.  The first-time author pored “thousands of hours” researching and writing the profiles, finding and securing the rights to the photos, and securing a publisher that believed in this project. 

“Though it’s trite to say it, this has been a labor of love.” 

It’s clear from the Preface that baseball has been and continues to be the author’s lifetime passion. It features an homage to his grandfather Will Sigg, who played semi-pro ball in New York City, and explains how Sigg’s father passed his love of the game to his son. Clay Sigg went on to star on the prep sandlots of Southern California and played collegiately at University of California, Davis, where he was later inducted in the school’s Hall of Fame.  

Sigg also claims the rare distinction of having visiting every major league baseball park—all 30 of them — plus 11 others that have been decommissioned over the years. 

Plus, he has packaged each player in a two-page spread with a 1,000 word narrative and graphic template that’s pleasing in its regularity. The spread includes a “portrait” or “head and shoulders” shot of the ballplayer on the first page, along with a smaller photo below of the player’s Hall of Fame plaque, World Series trophy or simply the American or National league logo representing the player’s league. The right hand page features a full-length photo of the player (action photos for the later years) plus the team logo superimposed over home plate. Sigg credits Laurel Mathe, graphic designer for Mystic Design of Colfax, for the professional quality appearance one would expect in a book of this caliber. “She really got what I was trying to do.” 

Sigg says the biggest challenge in realizing this project was in securing the artist William Purdom to paint a fantasy team portrait of the 50 Baseball Hall of Fame members who also happened to be “hometown heroes.” The detailed illustration spans the book’s jacket from back to front. Purdom, he notes, is a baseball historian whose artwork is featured in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and other MLB-sanctioned projects over the years. Consequently, Sigg shelled out top-dollar for a top-shelf illustration.

As an aside, Purdom said he would accept the task only if Rivera and Jeter appeared among the Hall of Famers, despite the fact they have yet to be chosen.  Sigg agreed, thinking if there have ever been a slam dunk first-ballot selection these two are it (Rivera is eligible in 2019 and Jeter in 2020). 

Dusty Baker of Del Campo High and the Washington Nationals new manager provides the book’s Foreword, writing about several of the “one-franchise” players he competed with and against over his long major league career.  

The book was published by NEWTYPE Publishing and is available on Amazon (the retail base price of $39.95 varies--it's currently at $42.37). Pick up an author-autographed copy for $59.95 which includes tax and shipping at Sigg’s web site www.HometownBaseballHeroes.com

Clay Sigg is a member of Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA).

Uploaded 5/30/16
All Content © Rick Cabral
(except where others hold the copyright)

 

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