The Nine - Norfolk's Top 5 Black Players All Time
In celebration of Black History Month, throughout February, teams across Minor League Baseball are taking a look back at five of the best Black players to suit up for their club. While some of these standout performers went on to long and illustrious Major League careers, others simply had great
In celebration of Black History Month, throughout February, teams across Minor League Baseball are taking a look back at five of the best Black players to suit up for their club. While some of these standout performers went on to long and illustrious Major League careers, others simply had great Minor League careers or, in some cases, just one incredible season that went down as “a year for the ages.” Here is a look at five of the best Black baseball players ever to suit up for the Norfolk Tides:
Outfielder D.J. Dozier was born in Norfolk, Virginia on September 21, 1965. He attended Kempsville High School in Virginia Beach and excelled as a baseball and football player. He was drafted out of high school by the Detroit Tigers in the 18th round of the 1983 MLB Draft but elected to not sign and went to play football at Penn State University. Dozier led the Nittany Lions in rushing yards all four years he played and scored the game-winning touchdown in the 1986 Fiesta Bowl to help Penn State win the National Championship. He was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings with the 14th overall pick of the 1987 NFL Draft, but left the NFL after the 1989 season to pursue a baseball career. He signed with the New York Mets in 1990 and played two seasons with the Tidewater Tides in 1991 and 1992, where he totaled 107 games and batted .250 with eight home runs and 47 RBI. He played 25 games with the Mets in 1992, making him one of 67 people to have played a game in both MLB and the NFL. Dozier was inducted into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
Seven players have won league MVP for the Tides, and third baseman Butch Huskey was one of them. After the MLB Strike Year in 1994, Huskey returned for his second season with Norfolk and hit .284 with 28 home runs and 87 RBI in 109 games to earn the International League MVP Award and a Postseason All-Star selection. The 28 homers are tied for the third most by a Tide in a single season. In his career with Norfolk, Huskey played 238 games between three seasons (1994-95, 1998), hitting .253 with 38 home runs and 147 RBI. He ranks among Tides franchise career leaders in home runs (T-11th) and RBI (17th). Huskey went on to play in seven different seasons in MLB (1993, 1995-2000), totaling a .267 average, 86 home runs and 336 RBI in 642 games. Huskey was one of the last Mets to wear number 42 before MLB retired Jackie Robinson’s number throughout the league.
Like Dozier, Huskey was also a football player. He played both sports at Eisenhower High School in his hometown Lawton, Oklahoma, where he was an All-State tight end and was offered a scholarship to play at the University of Oklahoma. Instead, he signed with the New York Mets after being drafted in the seventh round of the 1989 MLB Draft.
In 2015, outfielder Cedric Mullins was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 13th round in the MLB Draft out of Campbell University. Mullins started his baseball career as a switch hitter but decided to only bat left-handed before the 2021 season. That decision paid off, as he went on to earn his first MLB All-Star selection and won an AL Silver Slugger Award as an outfielder. In 159 games, he hit .291 with 91 runs, 37 doubles, 30 home runs, 59 RBI and 30 stolen bases. He was the second player in franchise history to record at least 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases, joining Ken Williams (St. Louis Browns, 1922). The outstanding season placed him ninth in AL MVP voting. He was the first Oriole to start in an All-Star game since Manny Machado did so at the shortstop position in 2018.
Mullins played 126 games with the Tides between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, hitting .235 with 81 runs, 25 doubles, 11 home runs, 43 RBI and 25 stolen bases. He hit leadoff in 111 of those games.
70% of the earth is covered by water.— Norfolk Tides (@NorfolkTides) July 26, 2018
The rest is covered by Cedric Mullins. #SCtop10 #Birdland pic.twitter.com/6j04DJ3nyK
One of the most decorated players in Tides’ history is Darryl Strawberry, who was the number one overall pick in the 1980 MLB Draft by the New York Mets. After playing the 1982 season with Double-A Jackson, he was called up to Tidewater to help the Tides compete in the International League playoffs. He went 5-for-20 in five playoff games, including a home run and two RBI, which helped Tidewater go 6-0 in the playoffs for their second Governors’ Cup title.
Strawberry started the 1983 season with the Tides and played 16 games before being called up to the Mets. He went on to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award that season. Strawberry’s success continued from there, earning eight-straight All-Star selections from 1984 to 1991. He also won NL Silver Slugger Awards as an outfielder in 1988 and 1990, where he also placed in the top-three in MVP voting those seasons.
Strawberry is one of seven former number one overall picks to play for the Tides. Among former Tides, he ranks among MLB career leaders in home runs (335, 2nd), stolen bases (221, 8th) and RBI (1,000, 8th).
In game six of the 1986 World Series, Mookie Wilson made his mark in baseball history. With the Mets down to their final out against the Boston Red Sox, Wilson hit a routine groundball to first baseman Bill Buckner which should have won Boston their first World Series since 1918. However, the ball rolled through Buckner’s legs and Mets went on to win game six and seven to win the World Series.
Prior to winning a World Series with the Mets, Wilson played in three seasons with the Tides. He played two full seasons in 1979 and 1980, while playing nine games in 1986 on an injury rehab assignment. In 282 games, he hit .280 with 180 runs, 34 doubles, 24 triples, nine home runs, 84 RBI and 103 stolen bases. He’s the franchise leader in triples, while ranking third in stolen bases and tied for tenth in runs scored with Clint Hurdle. He’s one of eight Tides to play at least 140 games in a season and owns the single-season triples record with 14 in 1980.