Baldwin, James

Position: Starting pitcher
Birthplace: Pinehurst

First Name: James Jr.
Date of Birth:  July 15, 1971
Current Residence: Pinehurst

High School: Pinecrest High School, Southern Pines, NC
College: Did not attend

Bats: R                         Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-3, 210
Debut Year: 1995       Final Year: 2005          Years Played: 11

Teams and Years: Chicago White Sox, 1995-2001; Los Angeles Dodgers, 2001; Seattle Mariners, 2002; Minnesota Twins, 2003; New York Mets, 2004, Baltimore Orioles, 2005; Texas Rangers, 2005

Awards: All-Star, 2000

 Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
266   79       74       2          5.01     1322.2 844      9.3

James Baldwin was a much-heralded prospect as he pitched his way through the Chicago White Sox’s minor leagues. If not for a kid named Derek Jeter, he would have been recognized as the best rookie in the American League in 1996. He would spend 10 more years in the majors and be an All-Star in one of them, but most of those other seasons were marred by puzzling inconsistency. He was never able to string together winning seasons, or even successful halves. Baldwin ended up as a journeyman and finished his career with just a few more wins than losses.

Born in Pinehurst in 1971, Baldwin played baseball, basketball and football at Pinecrest High School in Southern Pines, North Carolina. He was an all-conference pitcher during his senior year in 1990 when the White Sox picked him in the fourth round of the amateur draft.

The joy that came with signing his first pro contract was overwhelmed a few days later by the death of his father, James Sr. “Coming out of high school, coming into the world on your own for the first time… it was tough for me,” Baldwin said of those first days at rookie camp in Sarasota, Florida. “I didn’t know how to deal with the outside world at the time.”[I]

He got the hang of it, though, and steadily pitched his way up the White Sox minor-league system. At Birmingham, Alabama, in 1993, he led the Class AA Southern League in earned-run average (2.25), or ERA, before being promoted to Class AAA Nashville, Tennessee, where he won 12 games and cemented his standing as one of the top pitching prospects in the organization.

Baldwin was favored to open the 1994 season as Chicago’s fifth starter. He trained with the club in Sarasota that spring and was the first professional to pitch to His Airness, Michael Jordan, during an intrasquad game.[1] Baldwin’s general wildness, however, persuaded team coaches that he needed more time in Nashville, where he won 10 games that season while striking out about a batter an inning.

He earned a spot In the White Sox rotation to start the new season and debuted on April 30. It didn’t go well. He got tagged for four runs by the Boston Red Sox, though his team managed to win 17-11. Baldwin lasted for only two outs in his second start after giving up five runs and was pounded by the Detroit Tigers for four home runs in his next turn. The White Sox shipped him back to Nashville the next day. He wasn’t much better there, however, losing his last six games along with his confidence. “There was one night in Indianapolis,” Baldwin remembered. “I was on the mound, getting knocked around again, and I looked into the dugout. I almost walked off for good right there and then. So frustrated. So lost.”[II]

He returned to Pinehurst after the season. “I got down on myself, but my mother, Lucille, and my little boy (James III was four at the time) got me through it,” he said “I knew I still had my family. No one could take that away from me.”[iii]

The road back to the majors started in Venezuela where Baldwin played that winter. “I went there to sort things out,” he remembered. “I had a lot of support in America, from a lot of friends I made with the Sox, but I didn’t need any more advice, as much as I appreciated it. I needed to get up on my own two feet, relax and start over. I needed to be a man about things.”[IV]

Though he began the 1996 season in Nashville, Baldwin was summoned to Chicago in late April to replace an injured starter. He won eight games before the All-Star break but faltered afterwards. His 11-6 record, however, was good enough for second place behind the New York Yankees’ Jeter in the balloting for Rookie of the Year.

Baldwin became a reliable, but erratic, starter for the White Sox over the next five seasons, acquiring a reputation as a second-half pitcher. He had, for instance, a combined 7-12 before the All-Star break in 1998 and ’99 with an ERA approaching 7.00 and was 18-7 after the break with a 3.61 ERA. “I wish we could figure him out,” moaned Ron Schueler, the team’s general manager.[V]

The 2000 season was the exception. He was 11-4 at the midway point and was chosen to the American League All-Star team He pitched almost as well in the second half, but injuries sidelined him for almost two months. He finished 14-6. He had surgery after the season to remove a bone spur in his right shoulder and to repair his rotator cuff.

He was never the same pitcher. The White Sox traded him the Los Angeles Dodger midway through the 2001 season. Baldwin signed with eight different clubs over the next five years, appearing in games for five of them, mostly out of the bullpen. He retired after being released by the Toronto Blue Jays in April 2006.

Baldwin returned to Pinehurst to become the pitching coach at his high school where he helped his son, James, develop into a centerfielder who was drafted by the Dodgers in 2010. The youngster played six years in the minors.

Baldwin was also a coach for the Cincinnati Reds.

He and his wife, Sharon, live in Pinehurst.

Footnote
[1] Michael Jordan, who grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, retired from basketball in 1993. He surprised the sports world early the following year by signing a minor-league contract with the Chicago White Sox. He spent two years in the club’s minor leagues, advancing as far as Class AA Birmingham, Alabama, where he hit .202 and struck out 114 times. He quit in March 1995 because he feared Chicago would promote him to the majors as a replacement player during the player’ strike that season.

References
[I] Sullivan, Paul. “2nd Time up, Baldwin a Cut Above.” Chicago Tribune, July 16, 1996.
[II] Verdi, Bob. “Baldwin’s Gains Far Outweigh Friday’s Pain.” Chicago Tribune, September 14, 1996.
[III] Sullivan
[IV] Verdi
[V] Sullivan, Paul. “Baldwin Again Tries to Put It All Together.” Chicago Tribune, February 17, 2000.

 

Davis, Butch

Position: Left field, right field
Birthplace: Williamston

Full Name: Wallace McArthur            Nickname: Butch
Date of Birth:  June 19, 1958
Current Residence: Garner, N.C.

High School: Williamston High School
College: East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.

Bats: R             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-0, 190
Debut Year: 1983       Final Year: 1994          Years Played: 8
Teams and Years: Kansas City Royals, 1983-84; Pittsburgh Pirates, 1987; Baltimore Orioles, 1988-89; Los Angeles Dodgers, 1991; Texas Rangers, 1993-94

Career Summary
G         AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
166      453      110      56        50        7          .243     .274     .380     0.2

Butch Davis played about a season’s worth of games stretched over an eight-year career in the major leagues and has been a coach, mostly in the minors, going on three decades now. Many players have similar resumes. Davis has something on his, however, that no other Tarheel who made it to the major leagues can claim: He is the only one who appeared in the iconic baseball movie Bull Durham.

Davis was 29 in 1987 and had just finished his third season in the majors having played in eight games for the Pittsburgh Pirates that year. The Williamston native had moved to Garner by then and saw an ad for extras for a baseball movie that was going to be filmed in nearby Durham. A manager he had played for in the minors who was one of the film’s advisers urged Davis to try out because the filmmakers wanted some real ballplayers. Davis was cast as one of the Bulls’ players. Though he has no lines, he appears in some of the movie’s most-famous scenes. Davis is a bystander in the conversation on the pitching mound when Kevin Costner and other players discuss bridal gifts and voodoo hexes. He’s also briefly naked in the shower with his back turned toward the camera when the Bulls’ manager tosses an armful of bats into the shower room and accuses the players of lollygagging. Wearing number 15, Davis strikes out in another scene and the PA announcer says, “Too bad, Butch.”

“It’s a lot of standing around and just waiting,” is how he described move making to a newspaper reporter 30 years later. “You do a shoot, and you have to retake and retake and retake until they get it right. That’s what I did. I didn’t go every day, but I was out there enough.”[I]

 Waiting around could also sum up Davis’ major-league career.

He told an interviewer in 2014 that he always remembered being outside while growing up in Williamston in Martin County and playing baseball. “I guess it sort of found me. It really did,” he said.[II]

As a freshman at Williamston High School, Davis didn’t make the baseball team. He made it the following year and also played high-school basketball and on Williamston’s American Legion baseball teams.

He lettered in baseball for three years at East Carolina University in Greenville. During his last year at the school in 1980, Davis led the team in batting average (.362), home runs (12) and RBI (27). He graduated as the school’s all-time leader in home runs with 26 and total bases with 250.  Davis was inducted into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008.

Despite those numbers, Davis was surprised when the Kansas City Royals drafted him in the 12th round of the 1980 amateur draft. He was surprised again three years later while playing for the Royals’ Triple A team in Omaha. His manager called him at home to tell he had to be in Kansas City that night. “I really didn’t have time to even think about it,” Davis said in 2014, “because it happened so quickly. You’re in the minor leagues one minute and the next minute you’re in the major leagues.”[III]

When he entered the big-league clubhouse, Davis knew it was all true. This wasn’t Omaha. “You always hear all those stories about how great the major leagues are,” he said, “First class this, and it’s true. You name it, it’s there for you, and you just walk in and say ‘Man, OK, this is what it’s like.’”[IV]

Unfortunately, Davis never had much time to savor it. He appeared in 74 games for the Royals over the next two seasons and then in just 26 big-league games during the next eight years, as he shuttled around the minors for four different teams.

Davis always kept it in perspective. “The simple fact is, there’s so many kids that play this game, have that dream and never make it,” he said. “I was one of the ones that had the dream and was very fortunate to make it.”[V]

It’s a message Davis has preached during his coaching career, which started after he retired as a player in 1994. He’s been a long-time hitting coach in the Baltimore Orioles’ minor leagues and also managed Orioles’ farm teams. Davis was also the first-base coach for the Minnesota Twins for six seasons. “I can tell the kids what it takes to get there,” Davis said. “I tell them ‘You’ve got to be determined. You’ve got to be willing to go the extra mile. Don’t think that it’s going to be handed to you.'”[VI]

Davis and his wife, Cassandra, also from Williamston, married in 1984 and have two children. They made their home in Garner.

References

[I] Hall, David. “30 years later, Tides Hitting Coach Butch Davis Recalls ZHis Role in ‘Bull Durham.’” Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), June 13, 2018.
[II] “Interview Part 1: Butch Davis, Home Crowd.” The Greatest 21 Days, September 8, 2014. http://www.greatest21days.com/2014/09/interview-part-1-butch-davis-home-crowd.html.
[III] Ibid.
[IV] Ibid.
[V] “Interview Part 2: Butch Davis, Simple Fact.” The Greatest 21 Days, September 9, 2014. http://www.greatest21days.com/2014/09/interview-part-2-butch-davis-simple-fact.html.
[VI] “Interview Part 4: Butch Davis, Two Things.” The Greatest 21 Days, September 11, 2014. http://www.greatest21days.com/2014/09/interview-part-4-butch-davis-two-things.html.