Editor’s note: This summer, Star columnist Greg Hansen is counting down the top 10 of just about everything related to Tucson sports.
Today’s list: the top 10 seasons by minor-league baseball players in Tucson.
Tucson’s three incarnations of minor-league baseball teams — from the Class C Tucson Cowboys in the 1930s to the Triple-A Tucson Padres in 2013 — put more than 2,000 players on display at Hi Corbett Field and Tucson Electric Park.
The best 10? It’s a logjam at the top.
The biggest names among the Cowboys, Toros, Padres and Sidewinders — Curt Schilling, Max Scherzer, Craig Biggio and on and on — weren’t necessarily the top Tucson minor-leaguers because their advancement to the big leagues abbreviated their time here.
But few, perhaps none, had the impact and sizzle of 1953 pitcher LeRoy “Corky” Reddell, the son of a rancher from Scottsdale who went an almost incomprehensible 29-5 for the Tucson Cowboys.
The newspapers referred to him as the “Scourge of Scottsdale” and in 1953 Reddell was named the state’s athlete of the year.
Reddell’s 29-win season got the attention of the Cleveland Indians, who signed the right-hander and brought him to their spring training camp in Tucson in March of 1954. After two starts against that year’s American League champion Indians, Cleveland sent Reddell to their minor-league camp in Daytona Beach, Florida, and then reassigned him to the Cowboys for the ’54 season.
The magic was gone. Reddell hurt his pitching arm, went 11-9 and was never the same pitcher. Like scores of minor-league pitchers every year, Reddell’s career was detoured through such stops as Waterloo, Iowa, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. He retired from baseball after the ’55 season and returned to his family ranch in Scottsdale.
Tragically, Reddell died in 1968. He was only 37. The legacy he left is a big one: Over seven decades of minor-league baseball in Tucson, Reddell had the best individual season of any Cowboy, Toro, Padre or Sidewinder.
Here’s our list: