By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
Calling it “a special day” for the franchise, San Antonio Missions president Burl Yarbrough on Tuesday afternoon hailed third baseman Adrian Beltre’s first-ballot election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Beltre spent part of one season in San Antonio in 1998 and then went on to play 21 in the big leagues, rapping out 3,166 hits. With his election, he becomes the 10th former Missions player to reach Cooperstown.
“It’s great,” Yarbrough said. “Obviously we’ve followed his career since he played here in San Antonio. He went right from here to the big leagues. I think we knew when he arrived … that he was a special prospect.
“We’ve seen a lot of those come and go over the years. But he was one that really played well as a teenager in the Texas League.”
In his third season as a professional, Beltre, from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, moved up to the Double-A Texas League and reported for duty at age 19.
With the Missions, who were a Dodgers affiliate at the time, he hit for a .321 average and launched 13 home runs in 64 games. Additionally, his run production was solid as he had 56 RBIs.
Beltre also clubbed 21 doubles.
“Back when he played here,” Yarbrough said, “there weren’t a bunch of kids in Double-A. There were some grown men, and he came in as a teenager and held his own. You could just see the talent there.”
Yarbrough said it was his understanding that Beltre knew “very little” English when he arrived in San Antonio.
“I know (former Missions broadcaster) Brian Anderson probably spent quite a bit of time with him and got to know him,” Yarbrough said. “What was great about the Dodgers was that we always had several players from the Caribbean, from the Dominican. (Also) having Spanish-speaking folks in San Antonio, (it) probably (all) made it a little easier (for him).”
Beltre’s tenure in San Antonio didn’t last long, about two months.
By June 24, he played his first game in the major leagues with the Dodgers. Yarbrough said there was a feeling at the time that the Dodgers might send him back down to the minors, but they never did.
In all, he hit for a .286 average in 21 major league seasons with the Dodgers, the Seattle Mariners, the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers. He also slammed 477 home runs and totaled 1,707 RBIs.
“You know, this is a special day for our franchise, and one that we’ve been waiting for, for the last five years, knowing that he’d be eligible this year,” Yarbrough said.
In the majors, Beltre spent seven seasons with the Dodgers, breaking out for 48 home runs and 121 RBIs in 2004, his last year in the National League.
He played the next five seasons with the Seattle Mariners, and then one with the Boston Red Sox, before becoming a member of the Texas Rangers. With the Rangers, he played eight years through the end of his career in 2018.
Beltre’s most memorable year in Arlington may have been his first, in 2011, when the Rangers won the American League pennant and then lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, four games to three, in the World Series.
He also played on Rangers playoff teams in 2012, 2015 and 2016.
Here is a list of former San Antonio Missions players in the Baseball Hall of Fame, according to a Missions news release:
Outfielder Ross Youngs
Infielder Brooks Robinson
Outfielder Billy Williams
Infielder Joe Morgan
Pitcher Dennis Eckersley
Outfielder Willard Brown
Infielder Ron Santo
Pitcher Pedro Martinez
Catcher Mike Piazza
Third baseman Adrian Beltre
One last thing. In researching the topic, I found three members of the Hall of Fame who once played professionally in San Antonio, whose entire careers played out before integration of the major leagues in the late 1940s. Can’t overlook the contributions of these men, all native Texans, who were among the greatest players of all time — here they are:
Infielder Willie Wells
Catcher Raleigh ‘Biz’ Mackey
Pitcher ‘Smokey’ Joe Williams