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Willie Darkis

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Willie Darkis put up solid numbers in a ten-year minor league career, but never made it to the majors. He broke in with the 1979 Helena Phillies. He led the Pioneer League that season with 20 homers and 83 RBI even though the league boasted some players who hit in the majors, such as Rob Deer. The right-handed outfielder was promoted in 1980 to the Central Oregon Phillies. He captured another home run crown by smacking 25, 8 more than runner-up Juan Samuel in the Northwest League. Darkis's 73 RBI were also tops in the short-season class A league. He also batted .321, 53 points higher than he had hit in '79.

Darkis struggled in 1981 after the two straight home run titles. Playing for two class A teams, he failed to hit .250 for either one, combining for 13 homers and 55 RBI. In '82, Willie spent all season with the Peninsula Pilots of the high-A Carolina League, He clobbered 22 homers, tied for sixth in the circuit but batting average was again an issue as he hit .240.

Darkis was promoted to AA in 1983 with the Reading Phillies. Playing for a 96-44 club that was ranked 62nd best in the minors in the 20th century by Minor League Baseball, Darkis hit .277 with 102 RBI. It would be 20 years before another Reading player drove in 100. His 31 home runs that campaign gave him his third minor league home run crown in five seasons. Primarily playing DH, Darkis finished 3 RBI behind Jim Wilson for the league lead and outhomered teammate Darren Daulton by 12 as the top slugger for a great AA team.

In '84, Willie got his shot at AAA with the Portland Beavers but did not impress and slipped in his second try at AAA in '85. He spent most of that year back in AA. Playing in the Texas League Darkis knocked out 16 balls. Despite not playing the full season in the TL, he tied for 5th in the loop in home runs with Jesus Alfaro.

With his US career stalled, Willie went to Mexico in 1986. For the Saltillo Saraperos he launched 21 home runs in just 52 games, slugging .689, pretty impressive even in the high-octane '86 Mexican League. Darkis drove in 69 runs in those 52 contests.

In '87, Darkis played a full season in Mexico. Splitting time between the Nuevo Laredo Owls and the Mexico City Tigers Willie batted .328/~.435/.621 with 31 HR and 99 RBI. He was 7th in the Liga in home runs and tied for eighth in runs batted in.

Darkis's last season was 1988, which he spent with Tabasco in the Liga. Willie hit .273/~.367/.537 with another 31 home runs, tied for fourth, 5 behind league leader Leo Hernandez.

Overall, Willie Darkis hit 220 home runs in 11 seasons in the minor leagues, taking three home run titles and finishing in the top 10 on four other occasions. A high-strikeout player, Darkis hit .300 three times and drew walks on a somewhat regular basis. While he never had a chance to play in the majors, he was the top power hitter on one of the top Eastern League teams of the 20th century, a year when he topped a AA circuit in homers.

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