In celebration of Black History Month, throughout February, teams across Minor League Baseball are taking a look back at some of the best Black players to suit up for their club.
While some of these standout performers went on to have long, illustrious Major League careers, others simply had great Minor League careers. In some cases, just one incredible season that went down as “a year for the ages.”
Over the month, we will highlight some of the best Black baseball players to ever come through Iowa in franchise history.
Corey Patterson (2001, 05)
Drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the first round (third overall) of the 1998 draft out of Harrison High School, Corey Patterson instantly became a top prospect in the Cubs’ system, and in the game of baseball.
After hitting .320 in Single-A in 1999 and .261 in Double-A in 2000, Patterson ranked as the No. 2 prospect in baseball entering his age 21 season with Iowa. That year, he played in 89 games with Iowa and 59 with Chicago, hitting .253 (93-for-367) with 22 doubles, three triples, seven home runs and 32 RBI with the I-Cubs.
He went on to play the next three seasons in Chicago before returning to Iowa in 2005 for 24 games. Over that span, the outfielder hit .297 with four doubles and five home runs, spending the majority of the season (126 games) with Chicago.
In 2006, Patterson was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles and would go on to play for five more major league teams over the course of his 15-year career. He was a career .252 hitter at the major league level, tallying 197 doubles and 118 home runs over parts of 12 seasons in the MLB.
Roosevelt Brown (1998-01)
A 20th round selection by the Atlanta Braves in the 1993 draft out of Vicksburg High School, Roosevelt Brown played 228 total major league games, all with Chicago. Brown may not be known for his major league career, but simply put, he was a one-man wrecking crew in his time as an Iowa Cub.
Brown was promoted to Iowa for the final day of the 1998 season, and doubled and drove in a pair of runs, showing what was soon to be in Des Moines. All told, in 263 career games for Iowa, he hit an eye-popping .336 (335-for-998) with 92 doubles, 56 home runs and 213 RBI. For those scoring at home, that’s 1.3 hits per game, a home run every five games, a double every 2.5 games and just under one RBI per game.
Brown spent parts of those 1999 through 2002 campaigns in Chicago, where he hit .251 with 32 doubles, 11 homers and 69 RBI. Following the 2002 season, Brown signed a two-year contract with the Orix BlueWave in Japan, where he went on to bat .291 with 51 doubles, 43 homers and 163 RBI in 221 games.
He finished his career in the White Sox organization with Triple-A Charlotte in 2005, batting .301 with 29 doubles, 12 homers and 52 RBI. For his minor league career, Brown was a .299 hitter with 223 doubles, 19 triples, 120 homers and 512 RBI in 858 games.
Tuffy Rhodes (1993)
Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes was drafted in the third round of the 1986 draft by the Houston Astros out of Western Hills High School at age 17. He played in the Astros minor league system for four full seasons before appearing in 38 games with Houston in 1990.
He went up-and-down between Triple-A Tucson and Houston for the next two seasons and was released by the Astros entering the 1993 season. He signed with Kansas City and was later traded to Chicago that season, appearing in 35 games with Iowa and 15 games for the Cubs.
Although the outfielder only played with the I-Cubs for 35 games, he made a lasting impression over that span. He hit .320 (40-for-125) with 12 doubles, seven home runs and 25 RBI. He also took 20 walks compared to just 22 strikeouts.
Rhodes will forever be remembered by his walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to beat Nashville 3-2, winning the American Association Championship for Iowa. The following season, he hit three home runs on Opening Day for the Chicago Cubs.
Chico Walker (1985-87, 90)
Chico Walker was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 22nd round of the 1976 draft out of Tilden Tech High School in Chicago. Walker played nine seasons in the Red Sox system, including 32 total games at the Major League level before signing with Chicago on November 9, 1984.
The utility player spent the majority of the 1985-87 seasons in Des Moines, playing in 96 total games for Chicago over those three seasons. He was traded to the California Angels in 1987 but re-signed with Chicago in 1990 and 1991.
All told, Walker hit .287 (370-for-1,290) with 67 doubles, 35 home runs and 161 RBI in 349 games with the I-Cubs. He was claimed off waivers by the New York Mets on May 7, 1992, and played the last two seasons of his career there.
Shawon Dunston (1984-85, 87)
Shawon Dunston was the first overall pick in the 1982 draft by the Chicago Cubs out of Thomas Jefferson High School. He hit over .300 in each of his first two professional seasons, making it to Iowa in 1984.
At age 21, Dunston batted .233 with seven homers and 27 RBI in 61 games for the I-Cubs that season and was named the Chicago Cubs’ Opening Day shortstop to begin the 1985 season. Offensive struggles in Chicago sent him back to Des Moines, where he hit .268 with two homers and 28 RBI in 73 games before returning to Chicago’s North side for good on August 13.
The utility player returned to Iowa just once for a five-game stint in 1987 in which he hit .421 with a double and two RBI. Dunston spent 18 years in the big leagues, batting .269 with 150 home runs over his major league career.
He spent time with the Cubs, Giants, Pirates, Indians, Cardinals and Mets and was a two-time National League All-Star.
Joe Carter (1983-84)
Joe Carter was selected by the Chicago Cubs second overall in the 1981 draft out of Wichita State, starting his professional career with the Midland Cubs. He spent two seasons at the Double-A level before making his Iowa debut at the start of the 1983 season.
The 23-year-old appeared in 124 games and batted .307 with 27 doubles, 22 homers and 83 RBI that year with the I-Cubs. He returned in 1984 and batted .310 with 12 doubles, seven triples, 14 homers and 67 RBI in just 61 games before being traded to the Cleveland Indians on June 13, in the deal that netted ace right-hander Rick Sutcliffe for the Cubs.
Carter went on to play 16 years in the big leagues, hitting 396 home runs and driving in 1,445 runs. He led the American League in RBI with 121 for Cleveland in 1986.
The five-time All-Star won two Silver Slugger Awards and received Most Valuable Player Award votes in eight different seasons. The biggest moment of his career came on October 23, 1993, when he hit a three-run homer off Philadelphia’s Mitch Williams in Game 6 of the World Series in Toronto to claim the Blue Jays’ second straight World Championship. Carter joined Bill Mazeroski (1960) as the only two players to end a World Series with a walk-off home run.
Carter was a standout in his two seasons with Iowa (1983-84) and like Vida Blue, never spent another day in the minor leagues after leaving Des Moines in 1984.
Harold Baines (1979)
After being selected with the first overall pick in the 1977 draft by the Chicago White Sox, Harold Baines put up solid numbers in Class-A and Double-A ball in his first two pro seasons. In his third year, as a 20-year-old with Iowa, Baines exploded at the plate on his way to a Hall of Fame career.
Baines batted .298 with 25 doubles, eight triples, 22 home runs and 87 RBI in 125 games for Iowa. The outfielder took the growth from those first three seasons in the minor leagues and turned it into a 22-year career in the big leagues.
Over those 22 seasons, Baines played a total of 2,830 games for the White Sox, Rangers, Athletics, Orioles and Indians. He batted .289 with 488 doubles, 384 home runs, 1,628 RBI and 2,866 hits over his major league career.
Baines received MVP votes four times, was a six-time All-Star and won a Silver Slugger Award in 1989. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019.
Vida Blue (1970)
Vida Blue was one of the top left-handers in baseball in the 1970’s with Oakland as he helped the Athletics to three straight World Championships from 1972-74. He went straight from Double-A Birmingham to Oakland in 1969, where he went 1-1 with a 6.64 ERA in 12 games (four starts). His 1970 season that began in Des Moines was the season that put him on the path to stardom.
At just 20 years old, Blue started 17 games for Iowa in 1970, going 12-3 with a 2.17 ERA. He struck out 165 batters and allowed just 88 hits in 133.0 innings before a promotion to Oakland, where he went 2-0 with a 2.09 ERA in six starts. On September 21, 1970, in Oakland, Blue threw a no-hitter against the Minnesota Twins.
The following season, at the age of 21, Blue was named the 1971 American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner after going 24-8 with a 1.82 ERA in 39 starts. He pitched 312 innings and threw eight shutouts in 1971.
Blue went on to be a six-time All-Star and received MVP votes four times and Cy Young Award votes five times. Despite playing until 1986 when he was 36 years old, Blue never stepped foot on another Minor League field after leaving Des Moines during that 1970 season.