Major Leaguer ‘Bun’ Seats Of Farmington

Published 11:17 am Thursday, July 7, 2016

How hard is it for someone to break into the lineup of a Major League Baseball team?

Extremely difficult. More than rare. It’s only slightly more common than winning the lottery.

Every night before bedtime, I have developed the habit of checking the box score of the Kansas City Royals game to see how Whit Merrifield of Oak Valley did that day. The 27 year old, after laboring five long years in the minor leagues, is off to an amazing start in the Majors, batting above .300, stealing bases, hitting doubles, a triple and even a pair of home runs.

After Sunday’s game, he had 26 runs, 52 hits, 2 homers, 15 RBIs and a batting average of .308.

When Merrifield was called up to “The Show” on May 18 by Kansas City, he became the first Davie County resident to play in the Majors since … well, we’ve been working on that.

Sports writer Brian Pitts has been tracking down statistics and names of old timers. Lightning hurler John Parker of Cooleemee almost made it with the Phillies in the mid-1960s. There are some other leads Pitts is chasing. If readers know someone, call us.

The last firm Major Leaguer from Davie we’ve documented so far is the late Thomas Edward “Bun” Seats who pitched for the Detroit Tigers (1940) and the Brooklyn Dodgers (1945). The 5-foot-11, 190-pound left-hander was a native of Farmington, and is still the Pride of Spillman Road, where I was raised. I have heard about him all my life. He is related to half of “Old Farmington” and his name is still spoken with some reverence.

According to the Detroit Tigers website, “Seats was 2–2 for the Tigers in 1940, and then was 10–7 for the Dodgers five years later during World War II. He made his Major League debut in relief on May 4, 1940 against the Philadelphia Athletics at Shibe Park. His first major league win came two days later, also in relief, in a 6-4 victory over the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He pitched his first Major League shutout on May 11, 1945 vs. the St. Louis Cardinals at Ebbets Field. The score was 7–0.

“Career totals for 57 games include a 12–9 record, 20 games started, 6 complete games, 2 shutouts, 14 games finished, and 1 save. He allowed 88 earned runs in 177.1 innings pitched for an ERA of 4.47.”

Seats died at the age of 81 in San Ramon, Calif.

There was one trivia note attached to his statistics:

“Even though he pitched just 121.2 innings in 1945, Seats tied for ninth among National League hurlers with 5 hit batsmen. By contrast, it took the other five pitchers who were tied with him for ninth an average of 179.2 innings to hit the same number of batters.”

In other words, he was a little wild and didn’t mind pitching inside.

Whit Merrifield’s determination and skills are amazing. His accomplishment is a fine source of local pride. He has made it to the baseball’s pinnacle of success. We’re pulling for him.

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Chances are that fellow you saw wearing a big smile this week was a corn farmer with lots of acreage. With recent rains, the corn fields are looking to produce a bumper harvest. Often at this time of year, the skies fail the farmer. Rain doesn’t fall and the corn wilts in the field. This is the critical time for the ears to develop on the corn stalks.

So far, so good. But there’s a critical month left to go.

• • • • •

Also looking to produce a bumper crop is the local deer population. I saw a deer and fawn standing in the middle of the road in Farmington this week. A half dozen deer lounged at Tanglewood Park on Monday. Car body shops will also figure to have a record year if deer continue to multiply at such a pace and scramble onto the highways in the paths of cars.

– Dwight Sparks