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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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July 2, 2008 5:47 PM

John "Mule" Miles: M's draft pick

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The photo above is of onetime power hitter John "Mule" Miles, a Negro League player from 1946 to 1949, chatting here pre-game with Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. Miles was drafted by the Mariners last month during an honorary draft of former Negro League players. Obviously, the meeting with Gaston was significant. Miles was the first black player to play in the Gulf Coast League, back in 1951 with the Laredo Apaches. Gaston is the first black manager to win a World Series. Both hail from San Antonio, Texas and Miles has actually met some of Gaston's family before.

When Miles was breaking some of the sport's color barrier with Laredo, there was no such thing as a black manager. Fans in the stands would call him the "N'' word from 10 feet away. He talked to us about walking into a restaurant with his team. The manager refused to serve them, so the white teammates, to their credit, got up and left. The restaurant's owner came running outside and told them it was OK, that Miles could eat with them. Which he did. In the restaurant's kitchen.

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Back in 1947, Miles once hit a home run in 11 conseuctive games while playing for the Chicago American Giants of the Negro League. I asked him what the media pressure was like and he laughed. Just the local papers covered it.

Could he do the same thing today with ESPN cameras and a swarm of media covering his every move?

He laughed again. Shook his head. A different world.

"I played for the love of the game,'' he said. "Baseball was my ambition and I'd do it all over again just for the love of the game.''

His salary? $300 per month. But that was OK, because a soda only cost him a nickel.

He's now 83. He'll throw out tonight's first pitch.

If he's any good, the M's...nah, they're going with Ryan Rowland Smith on the mound again next Sunday.

"I appreciate that the Seattle Mariners drafted me last month and now, I'm a major league ballplayer,'' Miles said. "It's 60 years too late, but I'm here.''

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Speaking of Rowland Smith, he will, as I mentioned, get another start on Sunday (I originally wrote Saturday, but forgot what day it was today). The bullpen will once again back him up.

One thing to keep in mind, if the M's do trade Jarrod Washburn or Erik Bedard -- or both -- at the coming deadline, they will likely want another lefty in the rotation. This could become a mini-audition of sorts.

Jose Lopez takes a seat tonight so that Miguel Cairo can get some playing time. And no, Richie Sexson, pictured above ripping a batting practice homer earlier today (you can pick up the ball against the backdrop of the roof), has not changed back to his old batting stance. I spoke to Lee Elia about it today and he assures me that Sexson is still going with an open stance. Plans to stick with it.

The lineups:

BLUE JAYS (41-44)

11 David Eckstein SS
19 Marco Scutaro 2B
15 Alex Rios RF
10 Vernon Wells CF
24 Matt Stairs DH
33 Scott Rolen 3B
20 Rod Barajas C
17 Lyle Overbay 1B
26 Adam Lind LF

29 Dustin McGowan RHP


MARINERS (32-51)

51 Ichiro RF
13 Miguel Cairo 2B
28 Raul Ibanez LF
29 Adrian Beltre 3B
8 Jeremy Reed CF
44 Richie Sexson 1B
9 Jeff Clement DH
2 Kenji Johjima C
5 Yuniesky Betancourt SS

56 Jarrod Washburn LHP

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