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Steve Fireovid

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Stephen John Fireovid

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[edit] Biographical Information

Steve Fireovid was a journeyman pitcher with five teams over 11 years. He was a star athlete in high school in his hometown of Bryan, OH, playing both baseball and basketball. In 1975, he led his high school to the Ohio state championship; the school team had been only 3-10 during the season as he was playing third base. His coach started pitching him in the playoffs and he was dominating, pitching every inning and winning every game on their way to the state title. He then received a scholarship to nearby Miami University and as a junior was drafted in the 7th round of the 1978 amateur draft by the San Diego Padres.

Fireovid was very successful in the minor leagues, going 9-2 with a 2.46 ERA, for the Walla Walla Padres in 1978 and earned an invitation to the big league spring training. He had another good year in 1979, going 13-9, 4.07 for the Reno Silver Sox, then in 1980 was 12-6, 4.72 for the Amarillo Gold Sox. He moved to AAA in 1981, going 11-7 with a 3.17 ERA for the Hawaii Islanders. That year, he married his wife Patty - who was from his hometown - in Honolulu, HI and was called up to the major leagues for the first time.

He made his major league debut on September 6, 1981 as a member of the Padres. His first game was in relief, but then he started four games going 0-1 with an impressive 2.73 ERA. He was expected to make the team in 1982 but apparently rubbed manager Dick Williams the wrong way and beaten out of a job by Floyd Chiffer. He returned to Hawaii, where he was 10-8, 5.37. The high ERA meant no call-up that year, and in 1983 he was pitching for the Las Vegas Stars, the Padres' new AAA affiliate. He was 14-10, 4.78 and got to pitch again for the Padres. He appeared in relief in three games in September, giving up only one earned run in five innings pitched.

After the 1983 season, Fireovid was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies as the player to be named later in an earlier deal for Sixto Lezcano. He again failed to make the team in spring training of 1984, and was sent to the Portland Beavers, where, by his own admission, he sulked for a while before getting a hold of himself. He went 5-9, 4.35 for Portland, and in Philadelphia, he did not get a decision, but only gave up one earned run in 5 2/3 innings. At this point of his career, his career major league ERA was only 2.43, although in very limited duty.

He signed on as a free agent with the Chicago White Sox for the 1985 season and appeared in four games in relief for them; he did not get a decision and gave up 17 hits and 4 earned runs in 7 innings pitched. Once again, he spent the bulk of the year in AAA, this time for the Buffalo Bisons where he was 8-7, 3.01. A free agent once again, he signed with the Seattle Mariners in 1986 and appeared to have finally caught a break. He started the year on the major league roster, and although he did not get into a game, was soon called back after a stay with the Calgary Cannons. He would make a second stop in Calgary later in the year, putting up a line of 6-3, 4.70, but spent most of the year with the Mariners. There, he pitched in 10 games, 9 as a reliever and 1 start, going 2-0 with a 4.29 ERA. His manager was again Williams, and he hardly used him all year. Still, he was featured on a major league baseball card for the only time in his career as the Mariners retained his services for 1987, then released him as spring training was about to start. The Toronto Blue Jays hired him to fill out the back of the pitching staff with the Syracuse Chiefs, but he pitched poorly, going 0-0 with a 6.50 ERA in 10 games and was released. He spent the rest of that summer hanging around his hometown and playing softball for the team fielded by his father-in-law's restaurant.

Steve's career appeared to be over by that point, but late in the year, he was offered a contract by John Boles, who was working in player development for the Kansas City Royals. His year on the sidelines had helped him mature, and no longer expecting that stardom was right around the corner, he was a better pitcher, content to ply his trade as well as he could, without placing too much hope on being called up by a big league team. He went 11-6, 4.37 for the Omaha Royals in 1988 and 13-8, 3.45 for the same team in 1989. By then he was the winningest active pitcher in AAA, and regularly placed among league leaders in various pitching categories. In 1991, Boles, who had moved to the Montreal Expos organization, offered him a contract with his new team.

He decided to document his 1990 season, which he expected to be his last in professional baseball, by keeping a diary; he had made contacts with a publisher who promised to have it come out as a book after the season. He spent the year with the Indianapolis Indians, who finished in last place in the American Association. However, he had a very good year, going 10-12, but with a 2.63 ERA, the second best in the 1990 American Association behind Chris Hammond. He lost All-Star RHP honors, though, to Dorn Taylor. His success on the mound convinced him to keep pitching for a while yet, especially as he did not yet have a career to turn to to support his family, which now numbered three young boys - Joey, Samuel and Thomas. The book came out in 1991, entitled: The 26th Man: One Minor League Pitcher's Pursuit of a Dream with co-author Mark Winegardner. It was well-received and has stayed in print since (as of 2011). It is an honest look at the life of a professional ballplayer who has no longer any hopes of being a star, but who knows he is good at one thing - pitching - and goes about it with all his skill and intellect. He talks with understanding about the arbitrariness of decisions made by major league organizations and the cost paid by the families of ballplayers as they pursue their career. The Expos offered him a coaching job within the organization, but he decided that he wanted to pitch some more, and then break with baseball to be with his family. He thus accepted an offer to play in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in 1991.

He continued to be among the better AAA pitchers in 1991, when he was 9-8 with a 2.90 ERA for the Buffalo Bisons, but he was not called up by the Pirates. He moved on to the Texas Rangers in 1992 and at the age of 35, managed to make the team out of spring training, 6 years after last pitching in the majors. He appeared in three games early in the season, going 1-0 with a 4.05 ERA, giving up 10 hits and three earned runs in 6 2/3 innings, then was sent down to the Oklahoma City 89ers, where he was 7-2 with a 3.10 ERA. He returned to Oklahoma City in 1993, but went 1-1, 7.59 in 7 games when he suffered a pinched nerve in his neck. The injury took a while to heal and eventually ended his career. He went back home and took a course to become a stockbroker. However, he was not completely done with baseball. During the 1995 strike, as teams were assembling groups of replacement players in case the labor conflict was not settled by Opening Day, he received many calls begging him to come out of retirement. He was finally convinced by his old friend John Boles, now working for the Florida Marlins, to come to spring training when Boles told him to look at it as a paid vacation. A teammate there was Joel McKeon, who had been with him on the White Sox in 1985, and had found success playing in Belgium. He convinced Fireovid to pitch there for a few weeks in 1996, on another baseball vacation. He retired all six batters he faced for the Brasschaat Braves, three by strikeout, and saved one game. The team did just fine when other hurlers were used, going 31-1 to easily win the First Division.

He had one career hit in seven major league at bats, a single against Rick Mahler of the Atlanta Braves. As a pitcher, he started out as a fireballer, but developed a variety of pitches, and by the time he wrote his diary, he was relying on finesse to get batters out, striking out few batters, but walking almost none. He was used almost exclusively as a starter throughout his minor league career, although circumstances dictated that only 5 of his 31 major league appearances were in that role. Still, his 3.39 career ERA in the majors is very good and there is no doubt that he could have had a decent major league career had he caught the right breaks.

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