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Voices of the Game, Day 10: Jim Deshaies to LaTroy Hawkins

A Cubs broadcaster and a former Cubs pitcher highlight today’s entry.

Houston Astros
Jim Deshaies
Photo by: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Finishing up week two of my countdown of the MLB broadcasters. I figured I’d be done by now, but I got carried away.

I could have used a picture of Jim Deshaies as a broadcaster, but I think you know what he looks like currently.

If you want to catch up on earlier entries, you can check out the StoryStream. And if you want the rules of the road, check out the first entry.

30. Jim Deshaies. Chicago Cubs. WAR: 13.6

Jim Deshaies made his major league debut with the Yankees in 1984, but he only made two appearances with New York before they dealt him to the Astros in September of 1985 for veteran knuckleballer Joe Niekro.

In his rookie season in 1986, Deshaies was the fourth starter for a loaded Astros pitching staff, behind Mike Scott, Nolan Ryan and Bob Knepper. Deshaies went 12-5 with a 3.25 ERA in 1986 and finished seventh in Rookie of the Year balloting. Unsurprisingly with that rotation, the Astros won the NL West, but manager Hal Lanier went with a three-man rotation in the NL Championship Series and Deshaies didn’t get to pitch. It was the last playoff team Deshaies would pitch for.

As mentioned occasionally on Cub telecasts, Deshaies set a major league record on September 23, 1986, by striking out the first eight batters in a game against the Dodgers. The record has been tied twice since then.

Deshaies was a solid mid-rotation stater for the Astros from 1986 to 1991. He was never the Astros’ ace, but that’s not really a fair test on a team that had Scott and Ryan. The left-hander had four pitches, but relied mostly on high fastball and a change.

As with most players from the 1980s, Deshaies had a “Chris Berman nickname,” and his was one of Berman’s most infamous puns: Jim “Two Silhouettes On” Deshaies.

In 1988, the Astros had lost 11 straight games at San Diego’s Jack Murphy (now SDCCU) Stadium. Deshaies decided that something needed to be done, so he found a book on the occult and performed a ritual to remove a hex by burning the branches of many trees in a clubhouse garbage can. The Astros won 4-1 and first baseman Glen Davis, who said he didn’t believe in this nonsense, pulled his hamstring in the game.

Deshaies had a poor season at age 31 for the last-place Astros in 1991 and the team let him leave as a free agent after that season.

Deshaies signed with the Athletics, but was cut in Spring Training. The Padres signed him in late-April to pitch for their Triple-A affiliate. He was called up to the majors in June and had the last decent half-season of his career with the Padres in 1992.

He signed with the Twins for the 1993 season and was poor, posting a 4.41 ERA over 27 starts. The Twins traded him to the Giants in late August of that year and he made four starts for San Francisco but that was the year that despite winning 103 games, the Giants missed the postseason because the Braves won 104.

Deshaies signed back with the Twins in 1994, but at age 34, he was easily the worst pitcher in the majors. He led the league in starts with 25, but he also lead the league in runs allowed (107) and home runs allowed (30). When the strike ended the season, Deshaies had a record of 6-12 with an ERA of 7.39. The strike must have seen like a relief.

When play resumed in 1995, Deshaies pitched for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate. He made two starts for Philadelphia in the majors in June, the last one coming at Wrigley Field where the Cubs jumped on him for six runs in 1⅓ innings. Todd Zeile and Jose Hernandez hit home runs off of him. The Phillies released him after that game and Deshaies retired. His career stats were 84-95 and a 4.14 ERA over 12 seasons. He made 253 starts and four relief appearances.

Deshaies had always been a good quote as a player, so it came as no surprise when the Astros hired him as their color broadcaster in 1997. He was in the Astros booth until joining Len Kasper in the Cubs booth for the 2013 season. He has been a popular broadcaster in both Houston and Chicago.

29. Jerry Remy. Boston Red Sox. WAR: 14.6

Jerry Remy may seem like a Massachusetts lifer, but he actually started his professional career with the California Angels, who drafted him in the eighth-round out of junior college in Rhode Island in 1971. He made his major league debut with California in 1975.

Remy was a short (5’9”) left-handed hitting second baseman with a reputation as a very good glove, a reputation that is backed up by the stats of today. He never won a Gold Glove, but he played in the same league at the same position as Bobby Grich and Frank White, so not winning one isn’t a slight.

Remy had very little power, but he put the ball in play a lot as he walked almost as often as he struck out over the course of his career. Remy had good speed and stole a lot of bases, but he was caught stealing a lot which negated the value of that.

Free agency came to baseball and the Angels signed second baseman Bobby Grich before the 1978 season, which made Remy expendable. The Massachusetts native was traded to the Red Sox for reliever Don Aase.

Remy had his best year with the bat in 1978, hitting .278/.321/.350 with 30 steals. Remy was named to his only All-Star team that year.

After that, Remy’s career was mostly one injury after another. Remy played in only 80 games in 1979, 63 in 1980 and 88 in the strike-shortened 1981 season. He returned to play a full season of games in 1982 and 1983, but a knee injury in 1984 limited him to only 30 games. He was never able to return from that and the Red Sox released him at the end of 1985.

Remy retired with a line of .275/.327/.328 in 1154 games over ten seasons. He stole 329 bases (and was caught 208 times).

With his deep Massachusetts roots (and accent) and his years with the Red Sox, Remy was a natural for the Red Sox broadcast booth. He joined the telecasts in 1988 and has been there ever since, albeit with some extended absences. He’s twice had to take a leave of absence \ after receiving a cancer diagnosis. He’s beaten cancer both times. Remy has also missed time with other ailments. Remy is a popular local icon and says he refuses to retire, although he realistically has cut back on the number of games he calls these days.

I know some people think it’s unfair to mention this, but I feel that I must. Remy also missed significant time in 2013 after his son Jared murdered his fiancée. Remy’s other son Jordan was also arrested for indecent assault and battery and his daughter was arrested on a series of charges after breaking into the home of an ex-boyfriend.

Remy also got into trouble in 2017 for criticizing the use of translators in baseball, saying that foreign players need to learn to “speak baseball language.”

28. LaTroy Hawkins. Minnesota Twins. WAR: 17.9

Hawkins was a tall, hard-throwing right-handed relief pitcher who pitched in 1045 games for 11 teams over 21 seasons. That’s puts Hawkins in tenth place in the record books for the most games pitched.

Hawkins was a seventh-round pick of the Minnesota Twins in 1991 out of high school in Gary, Indiana. He was a staring pitcher back then throughout the minor leagues. He made his major league debut as a starting pitcher in 1995 and bounced back and forth between the majors and the minors until sticking in the majors for good in 1998.

As a rookie in 1996, future Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett took Hawkins out for some new suits so that he would look like a major leaguer off the field. Hawkins paid Puckett back by paying it forward. Every year until the end of his career in 2015, Hawkins took the rookies of his team out for new suits.

Hawkins was a bad starting pitcher, but the Twins were a bad team back then and they didn’t have anyone better. But after a 1999 season when Hawkins posted a 6.66 ERA with a league-leading 129 earned runs allowed, the Twins moved him to the bullpen for the 2000 season.

It was a terrific idea. In the bullpen, Hawkins could just rely on his mid-90s fastball and hard slider. He also developed a cut fastball around this time as well. With the exception of a poor 2001 season, Hawkins was a terrific reliever for the Twins from 2000 to 2003.

That earned him a free agent contract with the Cubs in 2004. Hawkins had a very good season for the Cubs in 2004, posting a record of 5-4 with a 2.63 ERA and 25 saves. It was a great season except . . .

You probably remember what happened. The Cubs were fighting for a Wild Card berth that year and a chance to go to the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1906-08. Hawkins’ great season started to go south in late August and in the final six weeks of the season, he blew five saves, including some very big ones. The Cubs finished three games behind the Astros for the Wild Card.

There were many reasons the Cubs blew the 2004 season, but Hawkins became one of the main scapegoats. Many Cubs fans turned on him (unfairly, in my opinion) and the Cubs ended up trading him to the Giants on May 28, 2005.

That was the beginning of Hawkins’ career of bouncing around the league. Hawkins played for eight more teams over the next ten years. They were, in order: Orioles, Rockies, Yankees, Astros, Brewers, Angels, Mets, Rockies (again) and Blue Jays until retiring at the age of 42 after the 2015 season. In most of those places, he was a good set-up man. He had a few poor seasons and even had one good season as a closer for the Rockies in 2014.

Hawkins finished with a record of 75-94 with 127 saves and an ERA of 4.31.

Hawkins was the oldest player in the game when he quit. He joined the Twins front office in 2016 and became a part-time broadcaster for the team the next year. He has a generally positive outlook on the game, except when he’s talking about Tommy Kahnle.