photo: Stubby Clapp (Memphis Redbirds)
Every March, the St. Louis Cardinals make a series of special announcements and award presentations at the organization’s minor league spring training orientation meeting as camp opens in Jupiter, Florida.
One piece of very important recognition that remained secret until Friday afternoon is the winner of the George Kissell Award for excellence in player development across the Cardinals organization.
That well-deserving selection for the 2017 season is Memphis Redbirds manager Stubby Clapp, succeeding the 2016 winner, Gulf Coast League Cardinals manager Steve Turco.
About the winner and his club’s season
The Triple-A Redbirds forged a highly-successful 2017 regular season, and finished their business in September, with the club’s first Pacific Coast League championship since 2009. They dominated their opponents and their results dominated every other team in the Cardinals system.
Memphis’ regular season record of 91-50, for a winning percentage of .645, is highest winning percentage for any Cardinals’ Triple-A entry in at least the last 50 years. (My records only go back that far.) Next closest was the 1968 Tulsa club, which came in at .642.
Memphis’ results not only dwarfed the other affiliates in 2017, it is the highest winning percentage by any Cardinals team playing full-season ball in the last quarter century. One has to go all the way back to the 1993 (now defunct) Savannah Cardinals of the Class-A Sally League to find a better mark (.662).
In his first year at the helm of the club, Clapp piloted the Redbirds to their best season in franchise history and first division championship since 2014, which was clinched with 21 games to play in the regular season. During the course of the season, 57 different players joined the roster and 16 were on the big league in September, including eight making their Major League debuts.
The 2017 Redbirds set the franchise record for wins in a season with 91, and became come the first PCL team to win its division by 20 or more games since 1981. Clapp and the Redbirds amassed a franchise-record 11 straight victories from April 28 through May 8 and went 22-6 in July, for the best month in franchise history. Memphis was 11-0 in extra-inning games during the season and lost just one of its final 34 series, since April 21.
The 2017 Redbirds secured their best ERA in franchise history (3.77), best fielding percentage (.984), and third-best batting average (.278) ever.
After being down two games to one, the Redbirds won three straight to take the conference championship over the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Brewers). In the league finals, Memphis defeated the El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres) in the deciding Game 5. In the one-game Triple-A Championship Game, the Redbirds fell to the Durham Bulls (TB).
This was accomplished despite a revolving door of players that was reflected in one way by a post-season starting rotation that was entirely different from the season-opening one. St. Louis had 11 players make their Major League debuts in 2017, almost all of whom passed through Memphis – several of them multiple times.
At the conclusion of the season, Clapp was named the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year, the first Redbirds skipper to earn the honor in the franchise’s 20th season in the PCL. He was also The Cardinal Nation’s choice as its system-wide Manager of the Year for 2017.
A Memphis legend, the Canadian native had been named the Redbirds’ seventh manager on November 30, 2016. His history in the city dates back to the early days of the Redbirds, as he played 425 games with the team from 1999-2002 and still holds the franchise’s career records for triples (19) and walks (222). The former second baseman ranks second in runs scored (258) and third in games played, doubles (87), extra-base hits (128), and total hits (418).
The 45-year old was a member of the Redbirds’ first PCL championship team in 2000, and recorded the first hit in AutoZone Park history earlier that season. His number 10 is the only one retired by the team.
Congratulations to Stubby Clapp, The George Kissell Award winner for 2017.
The George Kissell Award
The Kissell Award is the top recognition any member of the player development organization could receive and remains an annual reminder of the importance of George Kissell to generations of Cardinals.
Through his teaching, Kissell essentially wrote the book that was later labeled “The Cardinal Way” as a player, manager and teaching leader of the organization from 1940 until he passed away in the fall of 2008 due to injuries suffered in an automobile accident.
The Cardinals recognized Kissell’s importance long before his untimely passing, first establishing the Award in 1995 to recognize a member of the organizational staff for excellence in player development. In the most appropriate nod, Kissell himself received the first Award.
The winner is chosen through voting by the Cardinals minor league field staff, with the peer recognition making it all the more meaningful.
Congratulations to the George Kissell Award winner for 2017, Stubby Clapp.
More about George
The inscription on the plaque says it all.
“Every player in the Cardinal organization since 1940 has had contact with George Kissell and they all have been better for it. One of the most respected people in the game of baseball at any level, George has worked in all areas of the Cardinals’ baseball operations. He was a scout, minor league manager, major league coach, and, as senior field coordinator for player development, he has coordinated the team’s minor league affiliates.
“Well known for his emphasis on fundamentals, George taught several generations of Redbirds how to play baseball. In recognition of his teaching excellence and personal example, the George Kissell Award is presented annually to the Cardinals outstanding player development staff person.
“George Kissell is one of the true foundations of the Cardinals tradition.”
Though Kissell was not eligible in the fan voting for Modern Era players to the Cardinals Hall of Fame, he was chosen as an “owner’s selection” and entered the Hall in 2015. For 2018, you can vote for several hitters who were once among Kissell’s students at cardinals.com/hof.
George Kissell Award winners
Two-time honorees include Turco, Chris Maloney and Mark DeJohn. Maloney was formerly St. Louis’ third-base coach and DeJohn is the organization’s minor league field coordinator.
In a reflection of organizational continuity, eight of the last 10 Kissell Award winners remain in the organization.
|2017||Stubby Clapp||Memphis (AAA) manager|
|2016||Steve Turco||Gulf Coast League (SS-R) manager|
|2015||Randy Niemann||Palm Beach (A-Adv) pitching coach|
|2014||Derrick May||Minor league hitting coordinator|
|2013||Oliver Marmol||State College (SS-A) manager|
|2012||Bryan Eversgerd||Springfield (AA) pitching coach|
|2011||Steve Turco||Gulf Coast League (SS-R) manager|
|2010||Mike Shildt||Johnson City (SS-R) manager|
|2009||Chris Maloney||Memphis (AAA) manager|
|2008||Mark DeJohn||Batavia (SS-A) manager|
|2007||Dan Radison||Minor league hitting instructor|
|2006||Chris Maloney||Springfield (AA) manager|
|2005||Ron “Pop” Warner||Palm Beach (A-Adv) manager|
|2004||Blaise Ilsley||Tennessee (AA) pitching coach|
|2003||Mark DeJohn||Tennessee (AA) manager|
|2002||Danny Sheaffer||Peoria (A) manager|
|2001||Dyar Miller||Memphis (AAA) pitching coach|
|2000||Gaylen Pitts||Memphis (AAA) manager|
|1999||Mark Riggins||Minor league pitching coordinator|
|1998||Joe Pettini||Minor league field coordinator|
|1997||Mark O’Neal||Memphis (AAA) athletic trainer|
|1996||Bo Milliken||Minor league pitching instructor|
|1995||George Kissell||Senior field coordinator|
Bold=currently in the organization
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