Another Bisbee player who started his career behind the plate – but soon found himself on the pitcher’s mound – was Earl Wilson. In 1953 Wilson was encouraged to switch positions by his manager and former Bee Syd Cohen, who recognized the strength and accuracy of Wilson’s right arm.
In 1962, Wilson hurled a no- hitter for the Red Sox in a game against the Los Angeles Angels (he also hit the game-winning home run.) But after Wilson publicly complained about the racial discrimination he experienced in Florida during spring training, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers.
Wilson’s career kicked into high gear after he was traded to Detroit. In 1967 he compiled a 22-11 record, the best in the American League. In 1968, he was part of the pitching rotation that won the American League pennant and the World Series.
Catcher Turned Pitcher
In 1948, Bisbee’s team was renamed the Bisbee-Douglas Javelinas. In mid-season the Miners were renamed the Bisbee-Douglas Miners. Before the season ended, they were rechristened the Copper Kings. One player who took the field for all three teams that season was Russ Kusmertz, a right-handed pitcher.
The Catcher From Louisiana
One of Frank Lucchesi’s teammates (and one of the best players on the 1947 Bisbee Yanks team) was Louisiana-born catcher Clint Courtney.
Nicknamed “Scrap Iron” for his toughness and willingness to take on opposing players with his fists, Courtney developed a mutual dislike for Billy Martin, who played for the Phoenix Senators. The two tangled several times on the field, in the minor leagues and the majors. Courtney, a fine defensive player, was also the first catcher to wear glasses behind the plate.
During his 11 years in the major leagues, Courtney played for the Yankees, Browns, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Senators, Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Athletics. He died in 1975, while managing the AAA Richmond Braves.
The Youngest Minor League Manager
Frank Lucchesi, an infielder for the 1947 Yanks, followed Metro’s example, becoming a highly successful minor league manager. In 1951, at age 23, he became the youngest manager in the minor leagues. In 1970, after 19 years in the minors, he was selected to manage the Philadelphia Phillies
Lucchesi spent three years – from 1970 through 1972 at the helm of the Phillies. After Texas Rangers manager Billy Martin was fired midway through the 1975 season, Lucchesi, then a coach for Texas, was selected to take his place.
After three years with Texas, Lucchesi returned to managing minor league teams. In 1987, he was chosen to manage the Chicago Cubs. During his 22 years as a minor league manager, Lucchesi won 7 pennants and was named Manager of the Year five times.
1947 Bisbee Yanks
Minor league baseball in Bisbee was suspended during the war years, and didn’t start back up until 1947, when the Bisbee Yanks, an affiliate of the N.Y. Yankees, came to town. They were managed by Charlie Metro, born Charles Moreskonich. He adopted his Ukranian-born father’s first name (Metro) as his last name.
A weak hitter in the major leagues, Metro was more successful as a coach and manager. He managed several successful minor league teams, the Chicago Cubs in the early 60s and in 1968, was named manager of the Kansas City Royals. Charlie Metro is also known for inventing the batting tee.