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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

miles0702 040.jpg

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.

miles0702 037.jpg

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.''

miles0702 044.jpg
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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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Posted by Bob Loblaw

6:21 PM, Jul 02, 2008

I say bring him to spring training next year. Wouldn't hurt!

Posted by daveblev

6:22 PM, Jul 02, 2008

Oh sweet, another lineup without Jose and Pepe Vidro. I don't like the Cairo batting 2nd one bit though

Can John Miles play first base? How bout the M's dump Cairo and sign Miles for good. Sounds like a Bill Veeck plan to me. :-)

Posted by oregongal

6:27 PM, Jul 02, 2008

Thanks for the story on Miles. The forebearance men like him had to show was truly heroic. The tribute to the Negro Leagues is about the only thing I'm looking forward to at this year's All Star game.

Posted by Oklahoma Bob

6:31 PM, Jul 02, 2008

Bye bye Sonics!!

Posted by Bork

6:53 PM, Jul 02, 2008

I think that's an awesome show of class by the Mariners. Hearing him speak before the game, coupled with this, made me really proud to be a Mariners fan.

Posted by Swung On And Belted

7:00 PM, Jul 02, 2008

Richie Sexson can barely handle being desevedly booed after striking out, and makes excuses about it effecting his game. And Mac and some other coaches fell right in line, essentially saying that he was failing BECAUSE of it.

On the other hand, John Miles endured far, far, far worse treatment undeservedly, and yet somehow managed to succeed in SPITE of it.

I hope Richie and other players take note of it.

Posted by Dave from the coast

7:08 PM, Jul 02, 2008

Tuesday nite's game, yeah, well there were errors and it was sloppy. But, and this is important: The Mariners were COMPETING, not rolling over and dying. I personally have always liked what Bloomquist brings to the game, sort-of a David Eckstine-type presence...maybe not an ultra-all star, but plenty of heart. I've long thot M's management is STUPID for never playing Bloomquist full-time. Bloomquist has always tried to do what's expected of him, and sometimes that can't be easy, since he never knows how long it's gonna be between games in which he'll participate. Anyway, 'twas a good win. I'm glad for Sexson hitting that home run, too. Say what you want about him, but it's gotta be tough for him to even face Being In Seattle right now. So, let's keep on winning...or at least, COMPETING. That's all I ask.

Posted by Lap Dog

7:16 PM, Jul 02, 2008

Geoff, did you mean RRS starts Sunday or Saturday? I thought Dickey would start Saturday but maybe I miscounted.

Posted by TomSunWa

7:28 PM, Jul 02, 2008

Best pick the Mariners have made and not traded to Boston in a long time.

Posted by Bums

2:52 AM, Jul 03, 2008

Can probably hit the ball farther at 83 than Sexson, Vidro, Bloomquist, Joh, Betancourt, Cairo, Ichiro, and Burke. Did I miss anyone? But, I guarantee he does not hit as many line drives as Beltre.

Posted by K-Man

9:42 AM, Jul 03, 2008

Thanks for the article on Mule Miles. Buck represents just the tip of the iceberg among the Negro leaguers.

In our beautiful memory
We were all handsome.
We all could sing.
We all had the heart
Of the prettiest girl in town.
And we all hit .300.
- Buck O'Neil, Soul of Baseball


Posted by Donna Jones

11:49 AM, Jul 04, 2008

When are the M's going to get rid of Sexson? Or at least put him on the bench. He is responsible for losing yesterday's game. He has to be paid whether he plays or not because nobody is going to pick up a has-been at that ridiculous salary. Since he's gone next year, why not start trying out new first basemen now. He suckers for the low pitch time after time. He's a loser.

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