#Shortstops: Pilot Portrait

Written by: Matthew Carter

At the beginning of the 1969 season, Don Mincher found himself on a new team.

The veteran first baseman was a member of the Seattle Pilots, one of the four new expansion teams in Major League Baseball that season. His previous team, the California Angels, left him unprotected from the Expansion Draft, because they considered him “damaged goods” from being beaned by Sam McDowell of the Cleveland Indians on April 11, 1968.

The beaning caused Mincher to initially miss nine games, but the lingering side effects of headaches and dizziness throughout the season led him to be sent to the Mayo Clinic in September. After being examined by three doctors, he was given a “clean bill of health”, but the Angels were still not convinced that he would fully recover for the upcoming season.

In the Expansion Draft on Oct. 15, the Pilots selected Mincher as their first pick. When he learned that the Pilots drafted him, Mincher was shocked but “excited” about going to Seattle.

The 1969 season was a great rebound year for Mincher. In 140 games, he hit .246 with a team-leading 25 home runs and career-highs in RBI (78), stolen bases (10), walks (78) and hit by pitches (5). He was also the first Pilot player to hit a home run at home – on April 11 – and represented the Pilots at the 1969 All-Star Game as a replacement for injured teammate Mike Hegan.

During the season, the Pilots had photomechanical prints of eight of their players made to be given away as promotions during the season.

The prints were 8.5 x 11 inches and featured a portrait of the players done by John Wheeldon, who was known for his portraits of celebrities and Academy Award winners.

When the team realized that they ordered more than they could give away, they started selling them at the concession stands at Sick’s Stadium for 25 cents.

The eight Pilot players featured were Mincher, Hegan, Diego Segui, Wayne Comer, Tommy Harper, Jerry McNertney, Ray Oyler and Marty Pattin.

Don Mincher’s photomechanical print is preserved in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Dean O. Cochran, Jr. Photograph Archives. The front of the print has Mincher’s portrait, which features a head shot of him smiling while wearing a Pilots hat as well as an action shot of him stretching for a ground ball at first base. A large version of Mincher’s signature is at the bottom of the portrait and his name is printed on the bottom of the print’s border.

The back of the print features fast facts about Mincher, a short biography, his MLB and MiLB statistics, and a biography of the artist. Like most players before the advent of free agency, Mincher held a job during the off season. His bio states that he worked “in safety and health work for aircraft manufacturer” in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala.

The 1969 Seattle Pilots ended the season in sixth place of the American League West with a 64-98-1 record. Low attendance caused the club to lose money and declare bankruptcy.

The team was sold to Bud Selig in the offseason, who moved them to Milwaukee, Wisc., and changed their name to the Milwaukee Brewers for the 1970 season.

Mincher did not follow the team to Milwaukee, as he was traded to the Oakland Athletics during the offseason. He finished his Major League career with the A’s in 1972, earning a World Series ring that season.

Matthew Carter was a curatorial intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

To the top
To the top