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Best Independent Baseball Team Ever?



By Mike Silva ~ May 20th, 2011. Filed under: Independent Baseball.

Every Friday during the season I am going to discuss something regarding independent baseball. When you think of the various leagues across the country what usually comes to mind are ballplayers that just aren’t good enough for affiliated baseball. Yes, many are a notch below, but the 2001 Newark Bears were a team that went in a different direction.

How many independent teams featured a former MVP, World Series hero, someone who led the National League in hits, and a former top Yankees prospect? The Bears that season featured seven prominent former big leaguers:

Jose Canseco

Lance Johnson

Pete Incaviglia

Jim Leyritz

Hensley Meulens

Jack Armstrong

Jaime Navarro

Check out their numbers from that season below.

Rk Age G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OPS
5 Jose Canseco 36 41 134 30 38 9 0 7 27 10 40 39 .284 .966
6 Ozzie Canseco 36 38 135 23 28 5 0 6 18 5 26 39 .207 .715
10 Pete Incaviglia 37 50 187 30 66 11 0 9 43 2 19 32 .353 .966
11 Lance Johnson* 37 23 85 17 26 5 4 0 12 8 9 6 .306 .831
15 Jim Leyritz 37 19 71 15 21 3 0 4 15 1 9 14 .296 .890
17 Hensley Meulens 34 40 139 26 34 10 1 10 30 3 16 34 .245 .872
24 Players 29.9 126 4208 642 1129 192 28 115 591 148 506 850 .268 .762
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/19/2011.
Rk Age W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP BB/9 SO/9
2 Jack Armstrong 36 13 6 3.47 23 23 3 0 160.2 154 62 21 32 110 1.158 1.8 6.2
13 Jaime Navarro 34 11 9 4.09 25 25 5 1 176.0 194 80 18 39 133 1.324 2.0 6.8
21 Players 31.1 75 51 3.88 126 126 15 9 1106.1 1109 477 117 292 856 1.266 2.4 7.0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/19/2011.

I would be remiss if I forgot to mention that Jose’s brother Ozzie was a member of the team as well, as well as former Dodgers outfielder Bill Ashley.

Ironically, the Bears wouldn’t win the Atlantic League that season. It was not until the following season they accomplished that feat with only Armstrong left on the roster.

If you are wondering who managed this group of former big league luminaries it was none other than Tom O’Malley. After a nine year big league career that ended with a stint on the Mets bench in 1990, O’ Malley went to Japan and became a star playing for the Hanshin Tigers and Yakult Swallows. Over in the Far East he would become an All Star, win a Gold Glove, and in 1995 became the fifth American to win the league MVP. He would also win the Japan Series MVP that year for the Swallows.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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2 Responses to Best Independent Baseball Team Ever?

  1. Will in Central NJ

    Mike, as a quasi-season ticket at the ‘Den’ in Newark, it was nice to see that parade of former major leaguers come through town just a 15 minute walk from my office. Ex-NYY/NYM Rick Cerone, the original owner of the Bears, tried to use these ‘names’ to draw crowds, but for whatever reason, they didn’t come. Not even Rickey Henderson (2003-04) got the turnstiles spinning much more than before. Now that the Bears are in the less competitive Can-Am League, I hope for their survival, but it’s pretty certain the former MLB players won’t be coming in droves anymore.

  2. Will in Central NJ

    Make that ‘season ticket HOLDER’.

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