FORT MYERS, FLA. – There were exhibition games on adjacent fields with the incomplete versions of the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings and the Class AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos on this afternoon. The Twins still were 10 players over the Opening Day limit, and more changes would be coming to the Wings and Wahoos rosters.
Bill Milos, a veteran Twins scout from the Chicago area, was watching the Class AA game and talking baseball with another gent. A reporter wandered over and Milos said: “You know this guy … Jim Essian.”
Answer: “I am so familiar with Jim Essian’s exploits that to me he always will be Double S.”
There was a pause in the conversation before my big reveal: “Jim Essian, Twins killer. To the point that after one of his several blasts against the Twins, [manager] Gene Mauch said, ‘Essian turns into Jimmy Foxx — Double X — against us. Essian is Double S.’ ”
Somewhere in the archives of my Twins beat-writing days at the St. Paul newspapers there are Mauch quotes on the torment brought by Double S, particularly with Chicago in the Twins-Sox slugfest summer of 1977.
Essian hit 33 home runs in a 12-year big-league career with five teams (including two stints apiece with the White Sox and A’s). He hit four of those for the Sox between June 24 and July 3, 1977, against Mauch’s Twins.
“I had a real respect for Mauch as a manager, the way he was into every moment of a game,” Essian said. “I had that run against the Twins, and it was great.
“Later, when Mauch was with the Angels, I had a collision with Rod Carew at first base and it got a little heated. Mauch came out of the dugout and said, ‘I like you as a player — you remind me of myself, do anything to win — but don’t try that again or we’ll get you back.’ ”
Essian, 68, lives in suburban Detroit and manages the Utica Unicorns in the United Shore pro league, a four-team independent league that plays all games at a ballpark in Utica. It’s a second-chance league for players 18 to 25, either undrafted or early releasees from the minors.
More notes on Double S:
• Essian was 59-63 as Cubs interim manager after Don Zimmer was fired in 1991. Jim Lefebvre was hired for the 1992 season.
• Essian had a two-run home run and three RBI in Twins’ infamous 19-12 victory over White Sox on June 26, 1977, at Met Stadium. Carew went over .400; crowd was 46,463.
• Twins have two minor leaguers signed from Essian’s team in Utica, Mich.: RHP Randy Dobnak and catcher Taylor (Gelly) Grzelakowski.