Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Oakland A's/Seibu Lions Series: Jim Tyrone

Japan has a habit of giving guys who never made it in MLB, a real shot at making a name for yourself.


Tenures: 1978 with the Oakland A's, 1979-1980 with the Seibu Lions

Statistics with the A's: 96 games, 328 PAs, .245/.300/.340 5 HRs, 26 RBIs, 0.3 bWAR

Statistics with the Lions

1979: 58 games, 236 PAs, .291/.332/.441 8 HRs, 24 RBIs
1980: 128 games, 529 PAs, .276/.314/.505 35 HRs, 68 RBIs

Not much is written about Jim Tyrone, and that's probably because he was part of some bad teams where he didn't have any real extended stays.

Tyrone grew up deep in the heart of Texas. Alice, Texas to be exact. Alice is 45 miles away from Corpus Christi and that's the closest metropolitan area to that small town. Jim Tyrone played high school baseball at Wm Adams-Alice HS, he'd then go onto play at University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg, Texas which is a stone's throw away from Alice. He played there with his brother, Wayne and both brothers would be drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 1972 Amateur Draft in the 7th and 20th rounds respectively.

Jim Tyrone would make his debut for the Cubs later that year, playing in 13 games in limited action. He would see stints in 1974 and 1975 in Chicago before being traded to the A's in a nothing for nothing trade with Gaylen Pitts in 1977.

In Oakland, Tyrone got a real opportunity to stick around, or so it seemed at first. He started the season in AAA San Jose (back when San Jose was A's territory) and was soon called up to Oakland in early May.

For two months, Tyrone received every day duty for the A's and he put up some decent numbers, getting over .300 at some points of his run. Once it was mid-July, Charlie Finley mysteriously benched Tyrone for no reason given. Looking at his game logs, there's nothing that really gives a reason for why this took place, and for a whole month, Tyrone was put into pinch hit duty where he struggled.

He then got back his starting position in August, but then he finished the year in a large slump. Tyrone also was second in the American League in errors among right fielders with 9 and with all that happened, he was sent back to the minors in 1978.

Tyrone never played a game in the majors after the 1977 season and he'd play in AAA Vancouver the very next year, where his numbers weren't good enough to warrant a call up to Oakland. He was given his release by the A's after the 1978 season. His journey to Tokorozawa began immediately point.

Tyrone needed a fresh start and it was the newly formed Inter-American League that was willing to give him one. It was a new league that was given AAA classification by the Commissioner's office, but not given any MLB affiliations (much like the Mexican League today). The league's vision was to try and strengthen ties between the United States and Latin America, which at that time were at an all-time low. The league also wanted to give players a second chance.

It was a six-team league where each team was spread out all throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. There were teams in Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Panama, Miami, and Puerto Rico. Jim and his brother Wayne would reunite with the Miami Amigos for the first time since high school, since they were never teammates in the Cubs organization.

The Miami Amigos were the one team in the league that was given enough time to put together a front office, not to mention, Miami was the only team based in the United States and therefore the team that most former Major Leagues preferred to play for.

Davey Johnson would get first opportunity to manage with the Miami Amigos, as a 36 year old player-manager. The Miami Amigos had all the advantages one could imagine (including sweet jerseys) and they proceeded to dominate the competition in the hastily put together league. The league as a whole would be short-lived as it all folded before the end of their first season. They would only play 72 games, thanks to tropical storms, disorganization, and poor flight schedules.

The Miami Amigos would be the ones who would dominate the league going 51-21 behind Johnson as the skipper. They were running away with a league title and Jim Tyrone took home the league's only batting title, as he hit .364.

With the IAL folding, Tyrone was left without a job in the middle of the year. And it was the new Seibu Lions who would pick him up in the middle of the first season for the team in Tokorozawa. The Lions were purchased by Seibu Group, which moved them from Fukuoka to Tokorozawa in 1979. They inherited a team that underwent multiple ownership changes and struggles after a Black Mist scandal.

In the 1980 season, Tyrone would dominate the league hitting 35 home runs for a mediocre Lions team that saw the team finish 62-64-4. No reason is given as to why Tyrone did not return to the Lions in 1981, but he'd take his talents to the Nankai Hawks in Osaka where OPS-wise, Tyrone had a better season with a slash line of .311/.353/.467. He'd return to the team in 1982, where his numbers fell back down to league average numbers. That would be the last time that Tyrone would suit up.

There isn't much more written about Tyrone and his career but he spent some time living in Pasadena before moving back to Texas where now resides in Arlington, Texas where he runs hitting clinics.

Thanks to baseball-reference, SABR, and Hardball Times for the information.


Others in the series: 

Roger Repoz

Esteban German

Bert Campaneris  

Hiram Bocachica


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1 comment:

  1. The first MLB game I ever saw was a Cub game in 1974. Jimmy Tyrone was in left field and got a line drive hit. I thought he had a beautiful swing, and was sure that he'd be a start someday. I went home and practiced my Jimmy Tyrone swing in front of the mirror. I was very happy to hear that he had success in Japan. God bless you Jimmy, you were a part of my childhood.