Scorekeeping Keeps Him In The Game“Spring. Rejuvenation. Rebirth. Everything’s blooming. All that (stuff).”
Those immortal words from Seinfeld‘s George Costanza (made a little bit more family friendly) echo in my head as winter annually reaches its conclusion, although I usually add one more descriptive term: Baseball.
Yes, major league teams are currently reconvening for spring training, and KIF baseball returns March 10 (Kaua’i vs. Waimea at Hanapepe Stadium, 10 a.m.).
One local resident who has an intimate knowledge of both is Glenn Mickens. A self-described “nitpicker” when it comes to Kaua’i County public issues, Mickens spent a good portion of his life as a professional baseball player, sharing a dugout with such legends as Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax and all the Boys of Summer with the Dodgers. He also played alongside Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, who was an unknown prospect at the time, in 1954.
Mickens toed the rubber as a pitcher in the then Brooklyn Dodgers organization and, in 1953, he spent a portion of the season in the majors. He appeared in four games two starts and two relief appearances for a team that eventually won 105 games.
Because of his responsibilities and circumstances, 1953 was a busy year for Mickens. He had been in the Army for two years during the Korean War, which kept him away from the pros for that time period.
“I got to play a lot of baseball for the Army, fortunately,” Mickens says. “I saved up all my leave time, so I went to spring training (in 1953) with the Dodgers. I pitched 15 innings against the Yankees, Red Sox, all these teams down there I couldn’t do anything wrong … They had to keep me with the club, but I had 30 days more that I had to stay in the Army before I could get out.”
By the time Mickens was officially discharged from the Army, the Dodgers had their rotation and bullpen mostly set, so he put up some dominant numbers (8-5, 1.79 ERA) for their Double-A Fort Worth Cats, before being called up to Brooklyn.
His stay with the big league club lasted about six weeks, during which Mickens learned that if he wanted to play in the winter leagues, he couldn’t be in the majors for more than 45 days. Feeling the experience of winter ball was important after two years spent in the Army, he asked to be sent back down to the minors.
That meant he was unable to participate when the Dodgers reached the World Series, ultimately losing to the Yankees in six games.
He finished out the season in Triple-A with the Montreal Royals, who won the International League title, before heading south to Cuba for winter ball in what was a very busy calendar year with plenty of innings.
Mickens pitched for Montreal the next three seasons, sharing a rotation with Tommy Lasorda and Don Drysdale, and continued in the minors through 1958, compiling a 27-16 record and 3.41 ERA in six seasons of mostly relief appearances at the Triple-A level.
Then a new opportunity came to his attention that brought him to yet another new country.
“I played with a kid from Hawaii, his name was Bill Nishita,” Mickens says. “He had played in Japan, and he had played with me in 1956 in Montreal. I said to him, ‘Bill, you think you can get me a shot in Japan?'”
The answer was yes, and Mickens spent five successful seasons in Japan with a career ERA of 2.55. He was named to the all-time Japanese baseball All-Foreign Born Team by BaseballGuru.com.
“They treated me good in Japan,” Mickens says. With a maximum of two foreign-born players permitted on a team, he was a rarity, especially having been a former major league player. He made three All-Star teams between 1959 and 1963.
After 25 years of coaching at UCLA, Mickens came to Kaua’i in 1989 and began as the official KIF scorekeeper a few years later.
He retains that position and still sits in the press box, keeping the book and sometimes breaking out his trusty radar gun to clock the league’s live arms.
With another spring upon us, we’ll see what those arms have in store for us this season.