Jeff Banister

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Jeffery Todd Banister

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Biographical Information[edit]

Jeff Banister overcame numerous hurdles to play seven years in the minor leagues and get a cup of coffee in the majors. Later, he became a long-time minor league manager and coach and was finally named a major league manager at age 50.

Health problems[edit]

Banister had bone cancer in his ankle when he was in high school and almost had his leg amputated. He had osteomyelitis as well, a crippling affliction that once struck a young Mickey Mantle, and needed seven operations on his left leg and ankle as a teenager. Jeff played for Baytown Junior College, where he had his vertebrae crushed in a home-plate collision that left him temporarily paralyzed from the neck down.

Playing career[edit]

Jeff overcame all the adversity to be a 25th-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1986 amateur draft. Debuting with the Watertown Pirates, Jeff put up a very weak .145/~.221/.177 line in 41 games. In 1987, Banister batted .254/~.314/.378 as the primary catcher for the Macon Pirates. The next season, he was up to Double A with the Harrisburg Senators, hitting .259/~.296/.376, though his 17 errors tied Jerry Goff for the Eastern League lead among catchers. In 1989, Jeff returned to Harrisburg and produced at a .238/~.301/.384 clip. He was named the EL All-Star catcher that year. In his third year with the Senators, he split time between first base and catcher and hit .269/~.317/.386. He saw some action with the Buffalo Bisons that year, batting .320/~.393/.520 in his first 12 games at Triple A.

By 1991, Banister said "It's become an obsession for me to make [the majors], but I know to just take each day as it comes. You can't put a time table on your dreams. I know one day I'll play in the majors, even if it's only for one day." Bisons manager Terry Collins said "Determination-wise, he is one of the best individuals you will meet." Jeff hit .244/~.324/.308 in 79 games for Buffalo, splitting catching duties with Tom Prince. That summer, he got his one day to play in the majors. On July 23, he made a lone pinch hitting appearance for Doug Drabek resulting in a 7th inning single off Dan Petry of the Atlanta Braves. Jeff spent five days on the big league roster altogether.

Managerial career[edit]

Jeff was a player-coach for the 1993 Carolina Mudcats, going 5 for 15 with a double and a walk in 8 games to conclude his playing career. Banister got his managerial start in 1994 with the Welland Pirates, as they went 30-44 and finished 12th in the 14-team New York-Penn League. Jeff then guided the 1995 Augusta GreenJackets to a South Atlantic League pennant despite having no player hit more than six home runs. Augusta went 43-25 in the first half, 33-37 in the second half and 5-0 in the postseason. In the 1995-1996 Hawaii Winter League, Banister managed the Honolulu Sharks to the best record (29-23), though they fell in the finals. In 1996, Jeff guided the Lynchburg Hillcats to a 65-74 record. The next season, he started out with Lynchburg, then was promoted to the Double A Carolina Mudcats partway through the season. He spent all of 1998 with Carolina and they finished 59-80. In 2004, Banister was interim manager of Lynchburg for two weeks.

Coordinator, Coach and Manager[edit]

From 1999-2002, Banister worked as Pittsburgh's Major League Field Coordinator. He assumed the job of Minor League Field Coordinator in 2003. In 2008, Banister became interim pitching coach of Lynchburg when Bob Milacki stepped down; Mike Steele took the full-time job. Midway through the 2010 season, he replaced Gary Varsho as the Pirates' bench coach. When the Pirates finally broke their historic 20-year streak of losing seasons in 2013, he was one of those most deeply affected, as he had been a member of the organization for all 20 of those painful seasons, making the team's turnaround all that much sweeter for him.

After the 2014 season, Banister won the competition to become the new manager of the Texas Rangers starting in 2015. The other two finalists were Tim Bogar, who had done an excellent job after taking over on an interim basis for Ron Washington in September, and Kevin Cash, who was named manager of the Tampa Bay Rays a few weeks later. In Jeff's first season at the helm, he orchestrated a remarkable turnaround by the Rangers, taking them from a last-place finish the year before to a division title. The team then took a two games to none lead winning twice on the road in its ALDS against the Toronto Blue Jays, but the Rangers lost the final three games to bow out of the postseason. He was named the American League Manager of the Year in recognition of his outstanding work. The Rangers won another division title in 2016 but once again ran into the Blue Jays at the Division Series stage, and this time were swept in three games. The next two seasons were highly disappointing, as Texas was never in the race either year, and on September 21, 2018, Banister was fired with the team in last place. Bench coach Don Wakamatsu took over for the balance of the season. Jeff became a special assistant in baseball operations for the Pirates in 2019 but was laid off in mid-June 2020 as part of team restructuring.

In 2022, Jeff returned to the coaching ranks as bench coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Sources include "Banister shows grit in major-league bid" by Ken Mrazik in the 1991 Pittsburgh Press, 2006 Pirates Media Guide

Notable Achievements[edit]

Preceded by
Tim Bogar
Texas Rangers Manager
Succeeded by
Don Wakamatsu

Year-By-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1994 Welland Pirates New York-Penn League 30-44 12th Pittsburgh Pirates
1995 Augusta GreenJackets South Atlantic League 76-62 4th Pittsburgh Pirates League Champs
1996 Lynchburg Hillcats Carolina League 65-74 6th Pittsburgh Pirates
1997 Lynchburg Hillcats Carolina League 40-30 -- Pittsburgh Pirates replaced by Jeff Richardson on June 19
Carolina Mudcats Southern League 29-40 10th Pittsburgh Pirates replaced Marc Hill (26-42) on June 19
1998 Carolina Mudcats Southern League 59-80 9th Pittsburgh Pirates
2015 Texas Rangers American League 88-74 1st Texas Rangers Lost ALDS
2016 Texas Rangers American League 95-67 1st Texas Rangers Lost ALDS
2017 Texas Rangers American League 78-84 3rd (t) Texas Rangers
2018 Texas Rangers American League 64-88 -- Texas Rangers Replaced by Don Wakamatsu on September 21

Further Reading[edit]

  • Scott Boeck: "Rangers fire manager Jeff Banister after consecutive losing seasons", USA Today, September 21, 2018. [1]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "They had 1 career AB, 1 career hit. Nothing else.",, April 11, 2019. [2]
  • Richard Justice: "Banister's unmatched positivity a result of his perseverance",, December 25, 2014. [3]
  • Jorge L. Ortiz: "Rangers' Jeff Banister earns AL Manager of the Year", USA Today, November 17, 2015. [4]
  • John Perrotto: "One-hit wonder: Rangers manager Jeff Banister a survivor", USA Today Sports, February 12, 2015. [5]

Related Sites[edit]