White Sox

Remember That Guy: Herbert Perry – a LegenDairy Third Baseman

milkman_white_sox.jpg
AP

Remember That Guy: Herbert Perry – a LegenDairy Third Baseman

Over the last 20 years, the White Sox employed both a “Melkman” and a “Milkman.” Melky Cabrera received his nickname due to his first name. But then there was the “Milkman” Herbert Perry, who actually ran a dairy farm.

Herbert Edward Perry Jr. was born on September 15, 1969, in Live Oak, Florida. His father, Herbert Sr. (who went by Ed) ran a family dairy farm in Mayo, Florida located up where the panhandle meets the peninsula. You can’t make this up: the town briefly renamed itself Miracle Whip in 2018 as part of a marketing deal with Kraft, in exchange for funds to beautify the town.

In any event, Perry was an excellent athlete; he threw multiple no-hitters in high school and played quarterback for the football team at Lafayette High School, eventually earning a football scholarship at the University of Florida. Perry backed up Gators QB Kerwin Bell, who amazingly was also from Mayo (a town of only about 1,200) and was a teammate of future Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith. In addition to backup QB duties, Perry punted the pigskin as well.

But it was on the diamond where Perry was most successful, and he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the second round in 1991.

Herbert worked his way through the minors playing first & third base with some pop and patience at the plate leading to a Major League debut for the Tribe on May 3, 1994, at New Comiskey Park.

Perry entered the game in the bottom of the 8th inning as a defensive replacement for future Hall of Famer Jim Thome at third base and drew a walk in the top of the 9th. He earned his first Major League hit a few weeks later off Al Leiter and after a brief four-game trial was sent back to the Indians Triple-A affiliate in Charlotte, where he hit .327/.397/.505 with 13 home runs in 102 games.

Perry returned to the Indians in mid-June 1995 when Dave Winfield went to the DL and performed well in limited duty, spending most of his time at first base and hitting .315/.376/.463 in 52 games. He even saw some postseason action going 0 for 14 with a walk as the Indians eventually lost the World Series to the Braves.

When Julio Franco won the first base job for 1996 (Jim Thome was entrenched at third), Perry was shuffled back to the minors where he eventually suffered a knee injury which kept him sidelined all the way through the 1997 season. He never played another game for the Indians.

While Perry didn’t play a game in 1997, it was an eventful year. He and his brother Chan (who played 18 games over two MLB seasons with the Indians & Royals) purchased cows of their own to continue the family dairy business. Also in November, Herbert got married and later that month, he was the 34th of 35 picks by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the expansion draft.

Other notables selected by the Rays in that draft: Bobby Abreu (immediately traded to the Phillies), Dmitri Young (immediately traded back to the Reds), Esteban Yan (who allowed Konerko’s inside-the-park home run at Tropicana Field AND a home run to Jon Garland in Cincinnati) & White Sox legend Jose Paniagua.

After a year in the minors where he missed a chunk of time due to a broken hand, Perry got the call back to the Majors in May 1999. After not appearing in a Major League game since June 19, 1996, Perry had a wonderful return by collecting 8 hits and 6 RBI in his first three games back. Perry went on to play 66 games for the Devil Rays in 1999. The retiring Wade Boggs opened up the third base spot for Tampa for 2000 but the Devil (since exorcised) Rays instead acquired Vinny Castilla in a trade from the Rockies. However, Perry DID end up the Rays 2000 opening day starter at third base, but only because Castilla was nursing a rib-cage muscle injury. The Rays won that game 7-0 (Perry went 2-4 with a double), and after 7 games with the Rays he ended up on waivers at the end of April. Then the White Sox came calling.

On April 21, the White Sox skimmed the waiver wire and selected Perry from the Rays. On April 22, the White Sox & Tigers got into an infamous brawl, the aftermath of which left 16 players suspended for a total of 82 games. The following day, McKay Christensen was sent down to Charlotte (which was by now the White Sox triple-A affiliate) to make room for Perry.

At age 30, the ”Milkman” finally played in 100 games in a season (7 for the Rays, 109 for the White Sox). Initially backing up Greg Norton, he played himself into a starting role while with the Southsiders, hitting .308/.356/.483 with 12 home runs & 61 RBI. In his first start with the Sox, third baseman Perry homered in an 11-6 win over the Orioles. His .308 batting average was the best by a White Sox third baseman (minimum 50% of games at third) with at least 400 plate appearances in a season since George Kell hit .312 in 1955. Only Yoán Moncada (.315 in 2019) has done it since. From July 25-27, Perry homered in 3 straight games, which is roughly 2% of a 162-game schedule. The White Sox learned that Milkman does a lineup well.

Perry got a chance to play in the ALDS in 2000, and he milked it for all it was worth with a strong 4-for-9 (with 2 walks) performance against the Mariners even though the White Sox were swept in the series. At the team level, it was a big disappointment; the White Sox led the Majors with 978 runs scored and led the AL with a 95-67 record. For Perry, 2001 was a disappointment. He battled a strained Achilles tendon and struggled to remain on the field.

Rather than crying over spilled milk(man), in November the White Sox dealt Perry to Texas for a player to be named later (pitcher Corey Lee). Besides, Joe Crede was waiting in the wings to take over at third base, which he eventually did for good in 2003.

Perry flourished in the Lone Star State in 2002, as he hit .276/.333/.480 with career highs in games (132), home runs (22 – finishing 3rd on the Rangers behind Alex Rodriguez’s 57 and Rafael Palmeiro’s 43) and RBI (77). Unfortunately, the Milkman was at the wrong place at the wrong time. By 2003, Hank Blalock took over at the hot corner and Perry’s playing time was condensed (partially due to another injury). He saw his last MLB action in 2004.

The family dairy farm was sold shortly after Herbert’s father died in December 2004. Perry moved on to running a company in Mayo where he molds and delivers septic tanks throughout Lafayette County.

Herbert Perry was a solid player who could really hit when he was healthy. It’s a shame we never got a chance to see him deliver for an extended period of time. But we remember the Milkman fondly!

Sources:

Holy Cow: A Season Worth Milking

Written by Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune, October 1, 2000

 

SABR BioProject: Herbert Perry

Written by Jay Hurd

 

No Longer The ‘Milkman,’ Perry Tries a Pre-Cast Side to Life

Written by George Castle, chicagobaseballmuseum.org August 29, 2016

 

Baseball-Reference.com

 

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Believe in 'Magic': For White Sox, a matter of when, not if, Nick Madrigal starts raking in the majors

Believe in 'Magic': For White Sox, a matter of when, not if, Nick Madrigal starts raking in the majors

When will Nick Madrigal reach the majors?

That, now that Luis Robert's path to an Opening Day roster spot has been cleared by a big-money contract extension, is the most pressing of the prospect-related queries facing the 2020 White Sox, a team that, it should be noted, will be turning its focus away from the minors and toward playing big league baseball in October for the first time in more than a decade.

Not unlike Robert, Madrigal shredded minor league pitching in 2019, playing at three levels and showing just how successful his elite bat-to-ball skills can make him as an offensive producer. He stepped to the plate 532 times and struck out only 16 times.

There's a reason even Rick Renteria is already calling the 22-year-old "Magic."

The general feeling seems to be that Madrigal will start the season at Triple-A Charlotte, though with the waiting game apparently over on the South Side and the intent to win as many games as possible, perhaps a strong showing at spring training will see Madrigal starting at second base in the March 26 opener.

That's a question better answered after the White Sox have been in Glendale for a few weeks.

But Madrigal's goal is clear.

"I definitely want to be in Chicago as soon as I can," Madrigal said earlier this week at the team's hitters' camp out in the desert. "I know they have a plan for me one way or another, but I think that’s the ultimate goal: being in Chicago and winning with that team.

"I know this offseason there’s been a lot of moves, and I’m excited to be a part of that, hopefully, in the near future. The ultimate goal is winning. There’s nothing else at this point."

Madrigal might not have blown the doors off the minors like Robert, who finished with a 30-30 season, but he wasn't fazed by climbing through the system. Madrigal put up good-not-great numbers in nearly 50 games at Class A Winston-Salem but exploded for a .341 batting average and a .400 on-base percentage in 42 games at Double-A Birmingham before batting .331 and reaching base at a .398 clip in 29 games at Charlotte.

That he didn't even reach 30 games in a Knights uniform could signal that the White Sox might prefer a little more seasoning, but he didn't see any problems facing the pitching at Triple-A.

“Honestly, it wasn’t too different at all. There was nothing I hadn’t seen before," he said. "There were some older guys in the league, more consistent arms. I thought it wasn’t anything too different.”

Madrigal's earning high praise all over the place, rated among the best prospects in the game. He's earned rave reviews for his ability on both sides of the ball, picked by team executives (in an MLB Pipeline poll) as having one of the best hit tools and gloves of any player in the minor leagues.

There still might be some skepticism, or perhaps mere curiosity, as to how Madrigal's skill set will translate to the major leagues. Players like him, who focus on making contact and putting the ball in play, are becoming rarer in today's game, which sees a focus on power and launch angle and an acceptance of strikeouts. His manager, one of "Magic's" biggest fans, isn't too concerned about Madrigal finding success once he finally makes the jump to the bigs.

"Watching him swing the bat yesterday, I'm amazed at his bat-to-ball skills. It's incredible," Renteria said Wednesday from Arizona. "He's actually filling out a little bit more. All these guys, we've seen them for the last four years, they're growing up. And even though Magic just joined us last year, you can see a difference in him, physically speaking.

"I think his skill set, in terms of his bat-to-ball skills, as he continues to develop, you may see a ball leave the ballpark here and there. But the fact he can put the bat on the ball and manage the barrel as well as he does, he'll be able to find holes. Continuing to improve upon and cleaning his swing path, staying through the ball a little bit more and still being able to use all parts of the field, his skill set will play. He'll find a way to get on base at a high rate through probably contact and eye recognition, pitch recognition."

Rick Hahn has said that he expects Madrigal to be the White Sox second baseman for the bulk of the 2020 campaign, so even if he doesn't make the 26-man roster out of spring training, keep your eyes peeled for a Madrigal sighting not too deep into the baseball calendar.

This is a matter of when, not if. So the walk-up music folks at Guaranteed Rate Field better start getting ready. Will it be "Magic Man" by Heart? Or "Strange Magic" by Electric Light Orchestra? "Do You Believe in Magic" by The Lovin' Spoonful is, of course, also acceptable.

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Focus shifting to major league White Sox, but they still have some of baseball's best prospects

Focus shifting to major league White Sox, but they still have some of baseball's best prospects

White Sox fans suddenly have reason to stop focusing on the minor leagues.

Rick Hahn's front office has done an incredible amount of work this winter adding impact veterans to the team's young core, and because of it, there are realistic playoff expectations on the South Side. The summer figures to be spent focusing on what Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease are doing at the major league level rather than what the potential stars of the future are doing in the minors.

In other words, the future is here.

But it's worth noting that the White Sox still have some of the best prospects in the game. It's true that a few of the biggest names among that group won't be prospects for much longer. Luis Robert just got a high-priced contract extension that clears the way for him to be in the lineup on Opening Day. While Michael Kopech will be limited in some fashion as the White Sox manage his workload in his return from Tommy John surgery, it's hardly out of the question that he could be a part of the 26-man group that leaves Glendale at the end of March. And Nick Madrigal, Hahn has said, figures to be the White Sox second baseman for the bulk of the 2020 campaign after he reached the doorstep of the majors last year.

The point is, however, that the White Sox core is not done growing. Moncada, Giolito, Anderson and Jimenez all broke out in big ways in 2019, and the veterans added to that group could push the team into contention mode as soon as this season. But Robert, Kopech, Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn are set to join that core, too, expanding it to one the White Sox hope will power championship contenders for years to come.

The Athletic's Jim Bowden ranked Robert as his No. 1 prospect in baseball, picking the 22-year-old center fielder to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award. And that's no stretch after the way Robert lit the minor leagues on fire in 2019. Playing at three different levels, he slashed .328/.376/.624 with 32 home runs, 92 RBIs, 31 doubles, 108 runs scored and 36 stolen bases. He's a true five-tool threat who receives rave reviews that peg him as potentially the best of all the White Sox young talent. MLB Pipeline is in the middle of rolling out their rankings ahead of the 2020 season, and we'll learn where Robert ranks on the site's updated list next weekend during SoxFest. But most recently, Robert was the site's No. 3 prospect in the game.

Kopech still has prospect status despite the fact that he made his big league debut in August 2018. That Tommy John surgery limited his major league experience to this point to just four games, wiping out his 2019 season. Whether he'll be the same elite pitcher that was promised prior to his surgery is one of several important questions facing the 2020 White Sox, but it doesn't seem to be deterring the rankers. Bowden has Kopech as the No. 11 prospect in baseball, and MLB Pipeline ranked him as the No. 4 right-handed pitching prospect in the game. Kopech is said to still be capable of unleashing the blazing fastball that made him such a tantalizing prospect in the first place. The big question now is how often he'll be able to use it, with the White Sox planning to limit him in some capacity. We'll have to wait until spring to find out exactly what those limitations look like.

Madrigal might not spend a long time at Triple-A Charlotte, expected to be manning second base for the big league White Sox for the majority of the 2020 season. But like they did with Moncada, Jimenez and Robert before him, the White Sox have no plans to rush Madrigal to the majors. Bowden has him ranked as the No. 14 prospect in the game, and we'll find out soon where MLB Pipeline has him among second basemen. We already know they think the world of his glove — which was touted as Gold Glove caliber by the White Sox the night they drafted him in 2018 — naming him the second baseman on their all-defense team (he won a minor league Gold Glove for his work last season, too). MLB Pipeline also polled general managers, scouting directors and executives across all 30 teams, and Madrigal's name popped up often, voted to possess the third best hit tool, the third best glove and the highest baseball IQ among all of the game's prospects. The guy struck out just 16 times in 532 trips to the plate last season, so he's obviously doing something right.

Vaughn is receiving similarly rave reviews this winter. Bowden ranked him as the game's No. 35 prospect, and MLB Pipeline might end up putting the White Sox most recent first-round pick even higher, naming him the top first-base prospect in baseball. A slugger whose bat earned high praise when he came out of Cal last summer, Vaughn might not reach the South Side in 2020 like the rest of the guys discussed here. But he does figure to have a similar impact when he finally does. He played just 52 games between Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem after joining the organization, hitting a combined five homers at those stops. He's still swinging the bat that launched 50 homers and drove in 163 runs over three seasons in college. That aforementioned MLB Pipeline executive poll? In it, Vaughn was picked as having the second best hit tool in the game. The White Sox just gave Abreu a three-year contract extension that will keep him on the South Side through at least the 2022 campaign, but the 37-year-old Encarnacion could be here as briefly as one year (his contract has an option for 2021), potentially opening up a spot for Vaughn should everything go right in the minors.

And this is without even mentioning guys like Dane Dunning, Jimmy Lambert and Jonathan Stiever, who could all wind up playing important roles on the pitching staff.

So while there is plenty of reason for your minor league interest to wane — because meaningful baseball is expected to be happening at the major league level in 2020 — know that the White Sox farm system (at least the tippy top of it) is still worth salivating over. These guys should be on the South Side soon, only adding fuel to the fire Hahn has built this winter.

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