Mark Edward Weems
- Bats Right , Throws Right
- Height 6' 0" , Weight 180 lb.
- High School La Puente High School
- Born May 12, 1951 in Pasadena, CA USA
- Died January 1, 1974 in Patanemo Bay, Carabobo, Venezuela
Pitcher Mark Weems (occasionally known as "Dutch") was a reliever with some promise whose life was cut short at age 22 before he ever got to pitch in the majors.
The Baltimore Orioles drafted Weems in the 5th round of the 1969 Amateur Draft (113th overall). In March 1973, the Baltimore Sun wrote, "Within less than four years, Mark Weems has gone from a 5-foot-10. 155-pound high school graduate with no confidence to a powerful 6-foot-1, 195-pound right-hander who is certain he can pitch in the Major Leagues." Weems could throw hard -- he struck out 8.9 batters per 9 innings pitched during his career. He was also rather wild, though, with a BB/9 ratio of 5.0.
Weems started his professional career in 1969 with the Northern League Aberdeen Pheasants, where he went 0-3 with a 8.49 earned run average in 35 innings pitched. In 1970, he pitched in relief for the Stockton Ports in the California League, where his ERA improved to 1.87 in 82 innings pitched. He struck out 113 batters that year.
Weems spent most of 1971 and 1972 at Double-A, though he also got to Triple-A Rochester for parts of both years. He led the Southern League with 22 saves for Asheville in 1972. He was 4-2 with a 2.96 ERA, striking out 74 men in 70 innings, though he also walked 43.
Weems remained with Rochester for all of 1973, compiling a 9-7 record in 39 games. He had four saves and a 3.91 earned run average, striking out 57 - and walking 57 too - in 91 innings pitched. His main role was long relief, though he also started five games. On August 14th, in the nightcap of a doubleheader at Toledo, he pitched a one-hitter. The only safety he allowed was a single by Jerry Manuel leading off the third inning.
Following the 1973 season, he was added to the Baltimore roster. That September, the Sun had written, "Sometime in the near future, the Orioles are going to have to put Rochester farmhands Mark Weems and Dave Johnson in the parent club's bullpen and tell them: "Okay, let's see what you can do."
With a fair shot at winning a job in the O's 1974 pen, Weems was assigned to the Venezuelan Winter League. With Magallanes, he was leading the league with 11 saves in 26 appearances (2-1, 3.29 ERA). He had struck out 34 men in 38 1/3 innings, though his control remained a concern, with 33 walks.
On New Year's Day 1974, there was a break in the schedule. Several of the Navigators who were friends from the Baltimore system - Don Hood, Wayne Garland, and Bob Bailor as well as Weems - went to the beach at Patanemo Bay near Puerto Cabello, about 94 miles west of Caracas. Weems, an experienced swimmer and surfer, fell victim to a strong undertow while body surfing and drowned. Indeed, the whole team had been warned about the dangers of this particular cove. For three days, the friends of Weems - also including Ray Miller, then a player-coach for Rochester - searched for the body so the young man's family could take it back home for burial.
The death of Weems prompted Miller to quit playing and start teaching, as he told author Thomas Boswell. "It made me realize how fragile life really is," Bailor told Canadian journalist Earl McRae.
- Al Cartwright: "Unheeded Warning Led to Weems Tragedy," The Sporting News, March 30, 1974, p. 54.