From Altoona to World Series champions

Pearce
World Series MVP Steve Pearce was the Altoona Curve MVP in 2007

By Trey Wilson
AltoonaCurve.com

For a decade after posting one of the best seasons in Altoona Curve history, Steve Pearce was a baseball journeyman, bouncing around eight different organizations. After finding clutch hit after clutch hit on Saturday and Sunday, he was the World Series Most Valuable Player with the Boston Red Sox.

Pearce helped lift Boston to the crown with some timely hits in the final two games, collecting seven RBIs with three homers over his last six at-bats.

In Game 4 on Saturday, he hit a game-tying homer in the eighth and a three-run double in the ninth as the Red Sox topped the Los Angeles Dodgers, 9-6.

Boston clinched the title on Sunday night, with Pearce hitting a two-run homer in the first off Clayton Kershaw to open the scoring. He added a solo home run in the eighth to remove any doubts.

He became the first Altoona alum ever to be named World Series MVP. For the series, he hit .333 (4-for-14) with three homers and eight RBIs after playing in just 50 games for Boston during the regular season.

 

Pearce Walker
Steve Pearce (22) congratulates teammate Neil Walker (24) after a home run in 2007

Pearce, who went by “Steven” in his Altoona days, broke out in 2007, going from High-A to the big leagues en route to winning the Topps Minor League Player of the Year Award.

On a team that featured the Pirates’ top two prospects, Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker, it was Pearce who led the Altoona offense. With the Curve that year, he hit .334 over 81 games with 14 homers and 72 RBIs, winning the team’s MVP award and earning an Eastern League All-Star selection.

That .334 batting average is tied for the highest by an Altoona hitter in franchise history (min. 300 plate appearances).

Holt
Brock Holt has won two World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox

Another Curve great, two-time Eastern League All-Star Brock Holt, picked up his second World Series ring as a member of the Red Sox, making him one of four former Altoona players all-time to win multiple Fall Classics.

In the franchise’s 20-year history, 13 former Curve players have gone on to win a World Series championship. Only nine of those players are listed on the Curve’s MLB Alumni list, which includes players who had no previous major league experience before arriving in Altoona.

 

Of those 13, only six players were active members of their team’s World Series roster when they won the title: Brendan Donnelly, Bronson Arroyo, Jean Machi, Hunter Strickland, Holt and Pearce.

Donnelly was the first Curve alum to win a World Series title, dominating out of the bullpen as the setup man for the Anaheim Angels in 2002. In the World Series that year, he combined for 7 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed just one hit over his five appearances. He picked up a win on the mound in Game 6 as the Angels kept the series alive, and he returned to pitch two scoreless innings in Game 7.

He was also with the Red Sox when they won the World Series in 2007, but had Tommy John surgery in July and missed the remainder of the season.

Curve fans would have to dig really deep to find memories of Donnelly playing in Altoona. After being released by Tampa Bay, he pitched in just two games in late-August for the Curve during the franchise’s inaugural season in 1999, allowing two runs over 2 1/3 innings of work in his eighth minor league season.

Bronson Arroyo | 1999
Bronson Arroyo holds the record for the most wins in a season by an Altoona pitcher (15)

Arroyo was the first significant member of the Curve to win a World Series, pitching for the Red Sox during their memorable title run in 2004. A member of the 1999 Curve, he still holds the franchise’s single-season record with 15 wins.

The 2004 Red Sox had more Altoona ties than any other World Series champion. Dale Sveum, who managed Altoona from 2001-03, was Boston’s third base coach.

Adam Hyzdu, who had the most decorated Altoona career in franchise history, played for the Red Sox during the regular season but was not on the postseason roster. Jimmy Anderson, who rehabbed with Altoona in 2000, and Anastacio Martinez, a member of the 2003 Curve, also played for Boston in 2004, but did not see the field in the postseason.

Jonathan Albaladejo, a reliever on the 2006 Curve, made three appearances for the Yankees in 2009, but was not on the postseason roster when they picked up their 27th World Series championship that fall.

When the San Francisco Giants were in their “Even Years” run, they featured a handful of former Altoona pitchers. Reliever Jean Machi of the 2009 Curve pitched in relief for the Giants in the 2012 World Series. He and Hunter Strickland, part of the 2012 Curve, both worked out of the San Francisco bullpen in the 2014 World Series.

 

Vogelsong Rob Frank Cut
Two-time World Series champion Ryan Vogelsong pitched for the Curve on a rehab assignment in 2016, fourteen years after his first stint with Altoona

Ryan Vogelsong was part of the Giants’ rotation in the 2012 and 2014 World Series. He is not technically on the Altoona MLB alumni list, having pitched a handful of major league games before being assigned to the Curve in 2002 and making eight starts. He returned to Altoona for two rehab starts in 2016.

Until this year, just the foursome of Donnelly, Arroyo, Machi and Strickland made up the list of true Curve alumni who had played in and won the World Series. Holt was a member of the Red Sox in 2013, but did not see playoff action.

The 2017 Houston Astros included a pair of pitchers who had made rehab appearances with the Curve. Francisco Liriano rehabbed on the road with the Curve in 2013 and pitched twice for the Astros in relief during the 2017 World Series.

 

Charlie Morton was on the mound for the final out as Houston clinched the title in 2017. He pitched six games with the Curve on rehab assignments in 2013, ’14 and ’15.

Joe Musgrove pitched out of the bullpen four times for the Astros during the World Series in 2017. After being traded to the Pirates the following offseason, he made a rehab start with Altoona on May 7, 2018.

Musgrove is one of eight players who came to Altoona having already won rings at previous stops in their careers.

Two of them won their World Series titles long before the Altoona franchise even started. Brad Clontz, prior to making four rehab appearances for the Curve in 2000, pitched out of the bullpen for the Atlanta Braves in the 1995 World Series. Jason Schmidt, who rehabbed with Altoona in 2001, played in the regular season for the 1995 Braves.

Other players and rehabbers with previous World Series titles prior to joining the Curve include Blaine Neal (2006 Curve rehab) with the 2003 Florida Marlins, Jose Contreras (2013 Curve rehab) and Pedro Lopez (2009 Curve) with the 2005 Chicago White Sox and Francisco Cervelli (2018 Curve rehab) and Anthony Claggett (2010-11 Curve) with the 2009 Yankees.

Cora
Joey Cora was a member of the White Sox coaching staff when they won the World Series in 2005

Of those players, only Contreras saw action in the World Series. The rest were awarded their rings as members of the regular-season squads.

In 2016, the Curve were managed by Joey Cora, who was on the coaching staff of the 2005 White Sox when they won the World Series. Sveum, along with winning it all with Boston in 2004, was the hitting coach for the Kansas City Royals for the 2015 World Series.

 

Overall, just 21 players who have won a World Series ring have also worn a Curve uniform at some point in their careers. However, a World Series run by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the next few years could easily double the list.

Here is a full breakdown of Altoona’s World Series champions:

1995 Atlanta Braves
Brad Clontz (2000)^
Jason Schmidt (2001)^*

2002 Anaheim Angels
Brendan Donnelly (1999)

2003 Florida Marlins
Blaine Neal (2006)^*

2004 Boston Red Sox
Bronson Arroyo (1999)
Adam Hyzdu (1999-2000)*
Jimmy Anderson (2000)^*
Anastacio Martinez (2003)*
Dale Sveum (2001-03 Manager) (Third-Base Coach)

2005 Chicago White Sox 
Jose Contreras (2013)^
Pedro Lopez (2009)^*
Joey Cora (2016 Manager) (Third-Base Coach)

2007 Boston Red Sox 
Brendan Donnelly (1999)

2009 New York Yankees
Jonathan Albaladejo (2006)*
Francisco Cervelli (2018)^*
Anthony Claggett (2010-11)*

2012 San Francisco Giants
Jean Machi (2009)
Ryan Vogelsong (2002, 2016)^

2013 Boston Red Sox 
Brock Holt (2011-12)*

2014 San Francisco Giants
Jean Machi (2009)
Hunter Strickland (2012)
Ryan Vogelsong (2002, 2016)^

2017 Houston Astros
Charlie Morton (2013-15)^
Francisco Liriano (2013)^
Joe Musgrove (2018)^

2018 Boston Red Sox
Brock Holt (2011-12)
Steve Pearce (2007)

^ – MLB experience prior to playing for Altoona
* – Not on World Series roster/Did not see playing time in World Series


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