Saint Leo University has a long history of athletic achievement in all sports.
Specifically, the baseball team has produced a few players who have made a career in the major leagues.
Sam Zygner, author of The Forgotten Marlins, came to us himself to give us in the inside scoop about his book, The Forgotten Marlins, and the history behind big baseball players that came from our very own team. Zygner came to Saint Leo on Friday November 14, 2014 for the Alumni Association reunion where he was able to speak freely about his successes of his book and answer any questions.
His presentation was amid mainly towards the background of the Forgotten Marlins but he stressed most of his information from the book he wrote. His book covers all the major players that were on the team along with their history and exciting success. The alumni that gathered for the presentation seemed very appreciate once he began explaining the connection between major players and Saint Leo University.
“At first I just wanted to write a book but I didn’t know what to write it about. I needed something to really grab my attention. When I found out about the Miami Marlins I knew that this was the story for me. I wanted to pay a tribute for the Florida Marlins, or the ‘forgotten marlins,’” said Zygner.
For those who may not know the background story about the Miami Marlins baseball team, they originally were called the Florida Marlins from 1956-1960. Playing in the AAA International League, they never did win a championship and were an unsuccessful franchise.
Over time due to financial and marketing issues the owners of the Florida Marlins thought it would be smart to change their name to something more local and well known, the Miami Marlins. There were several big time names associated with the Marlins during their short existence. Jimmie Fox, Whitey Herzog, Sid Gordon, Bill Veek, whose greatest triumph for the Marlins was landing the most notable player to play for the Marlins, Satchel Paige, and many more.
Satchel Paige was 49 when he started pitching for the Marlins in 1956 and 52 when he left the team.
“Paige surprised everyone by arriving via helicopter right in the center of the field for the franchise debut,” said Zygner.
Paige also pitched in the team’s lone game in the Orange Bowl as thousands of fans watched him only give up two runs. Miami met its demise as a result of unfavorable stadium lease, not having rights to concession sales, and a significant drop in attendance from 300,000 fans in 1956 to just a little over 120,000 by 1960.
Zynger’s love for baseball and enthusiasm to write inspired him to take on the story, share his findings with others, and make the story of the forgotten marlins memorable.
“When I heard about the name change I knew there was a story there for me to write,” said Zynger.
“Walking into the book presentation I thought he was only going to talk about the book. It was about five minutes into the presentation that I knew he wasn’t going to touch much on the book, but more on the history behind it. He spoke more about the players on the team especially, Red Barrett,” said Cooper Chapman, Freshman, business major.
Francis Red Barrett, a Saint Leo alumni, made the Saint Leo Athletic Hall of Fame inductee in 1997. Barrett was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1935. In his baseball career, Barrett played for several teams making his name big in baseball history. When he finished playing professionally he came back to Saint Leo and coached our men’s baseball team for a few years. Barrett died March 6, 1998 in Leesburg, Florida where he lived with his wife and daughter. His daughter currently works locally at the Dade City court house and likes to visit Saint Leo from time to time in remembrance of her father.
“I never knew Red but I really wish I could have. I know all this information about his from my readings but he really is a player I found fascinating,” said Zygner.
Zygner has been a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) since the year 1997. He has been serving as a chairperson of the South Florida Chapter of SABR since 2007. Zynger wants to continue being a chairperson for as long as he can. His love for baseball will never go away.
“I didn’t actually get to read the book. I’m not much of a baseball fan but I’m really glad I came. I should have brought my boyfriend.”Says Amanda Elon, senior, sports business major. “I didn’t even know that these players had anything to do with Saint Leo, so I learned a lot during his presentation. I came for extra credit for my senior seminar class but despite the extra credit I enjoyed my time here,” said Zygner.
Once the presentation was over Zygner was open to staying after and answering any personal questions the audience had along with signing copies of his book. It was interesting to see the number of alumni that went up to him afterward to share stories about baseball, the book, and what they all did with their lives. The presentation was a huge success, those who attended left with nothing but positive things to say about Sam Zynger.