By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
With this being the 35th Anniversary year of MSBL, we have been fortunate in having been able to speak with many players recently who have been around the block, so to speak. Joe Milcoun is one of those individuals.
“My biggest claim to fame may be that I was college teammates with Bob Welch and Bob Owchinko,” chuckled Milcoun.
Joe is 68 years old and resides within the Houston Hardball League, where he has played since 2001. His son Jeff also plays in the league and plays alongside dad during the week on the Hurricanes in the 40+ division, while dad plays again on Sundays for the Tigers in the 55+ division.
“Jeff just turned 40 so we can now play together,” said Dad. “He is a center fielder who runs like a deer while I stay behind the plate and watch it all. He was a terrific basketball player and didn’t really find baseball until he was 26 or so. I have caught since college and love being involved in the game from behind the plate.”
Their 20-year Father/Son partnership also expands to include playing in that division at the MSBL World Series.
“We have played at the World Series together five or six times, mostly with the Arkansas Diamonds. We went once as the Skeeters from Texas. It was a blast and they were experiences I will always treasure.”
Joe has also had quite a solo career at the MSBL World Series. He has two rings from the 2008 Houston Tigers in the 45-over division and once again in 2019 with the 60s.
“I have been to many championship games but have won only two rings. I’ll be going back this year with the 60+ Tigers. I have also played in a few Fall Classics in Florida, beginning back in 2001, and it was beautiful but we came up a little empty.
One thing that we are proud of, especially back in 2008, is that we are comprised mostly of our league team with only a few pickups to round out the needed expanded roster. I remember the team we beat in the big game in Arizona started getting all over each other and weren’t very cohesive. I think the difference was that we were all friends and knew our strengths and weaknesses and quietly took care of business.”
Joe’s World Series resume is pretty substantial just the way it is but there is one special event that sticks out and a dream come true. In 2015 MSBL showcased a pitching duel at Tempe Diablo Stadium between Roger Clemens and the Houston Old Stars and Oil Can Boyd, pitching for the tournament veteran Boston Wolfpack. Joe was on that Houston team and was fortunate enough to catch the Rocket.
“He could still bring it in the low to mid 80’s,” said Joe. “The thing that sticks out is Roger’s control. Plus, everything moves. There is a tail on everything that he throws. Even though he wasn’t throwing in top Major League fashion, it was easy to tell how hard it would be to hit top notch pitching. It was an honor to be there, especially with a few hundred people in the stands watching. Roger still possesses that burning desire to win.”
I asked Joe what it was like to hit against Oil Can.
“He wasn’t as quick as Roger but still came in hitting the high 70s maybe 80. But he could pinpoint every pitch. Those guys are amazing. The one moment that really sticks out to me is when Roger was playing first base, I had a ball get away from me with a guy on second and I got to it and threw him out at third from one knee. Roger came up to me in the dugout, high-fived me, and said how good of a throw that was. He called it a major league play. That was pretty cool.”
Joe suffered a heart attack in 2014 but made it back on the diamond in record speed.
“I was back playing in two weeks. I look at every pitch and every game that this may be the last one, for many reasons. I want to make sure I don’t miss anything.”
Is there a memory of the World Series that sticks out?
“The championships were special, of course. But one year our Yankees picked up a pitcher in the pool who proclaimed to the manager that he was a real stud. It came time to warm him up for relief and I was catching him in the bullpen and he was throwing 50 miles per hour and I thought that he just wasn’t loose. There was no pop in my glove at all. So, he goes into the game and throws the same stuff. One guy hit a foul ball that cleared the fence by 20 feet! Needless to say, that was his only appearance.”