15 years ago today: Ernie Young hits three homers for A’s

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It was May 10, 1996.

Ernie Young, a 26-year-old center fielder getting his first real shot in the majors, blasted three homers as the A’s beat the Twins 15-5. He had entered the game with three homers in 164 career at-bats, the lowest previous homer total for anyone who has ever had a three-homer game.

(The last of those homers came off LaTroy Hawkins, one of two players from the game still active today. The other, Jason Giambi, started at third base for Oakland. Steve Wojciechowski and Frankie Rodriguez were the starters.)

Young went on to hit 19 homers that season, but he finished with a mediocre .242/.326/.424 line.  The A’s kept him around in 1997, but as he continued to struggle, they went to Damon Mashore in center field instead.

Aside from a year in Japan in 2002, Young spent most of the rest of his career tearing up Triple-A pitching.  At 31, he was the oldest player on the 2000 U.S. Olympic baseball team that took home gold in Sydney.  He made his final major league appearance with the Tigers in 2004, but he played until he was 37 and hit 319 minor league homers in all.  In parts of 13 seasons in Triple-A, he hit .282/.371/.502 with 245 homers.  He hit .225/.310/.378 with 27 homers in 908 at-bats as a major leaguer.

Today, Young is managing in the Tigers system with the West Michican Whitecaps of the Midwest League.

Justin Verlander named ALCS MVP

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Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.

“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”

Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.

The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.