Beyond the Scoreboard: WNC has long history of players in the World Series

Beyond the Scoreboard: WNC has long history of players in the World Series (Photo credit: ZUMA Press)

When Cameron Maybin singled, stole a base and scored a run in Game 2 of the World Series last week, he did more than provide the opportunity for a free taco to millions of Americans.

The Asheville native and former Roberson High standout became the sixth Western North Carolina native to play in the Fall Classic.

Maybin joined the Astros in late August and was rewarded with his first postseason appearance in 11 major-league seasons.

A back-up outfielder for the American League champions, Maybin, 30, tied for the league lead in stolen bases with 33.

He has two hits in five at-bats in five postseason games for Houston.

When he stole second base against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 2, Maybin activated a Taco Bell promotion that gave away a free taco from 2-6 pm on Wednesday.

** Natives of WNC participating in the World Series date back more than 100 years, starting when Robert “Ham” Hyatt of went 0-for-4 in two games of the 1909 Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Hyatt, born in Buncombe County was a rookie when he went 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter in Game 6 and 0-for-3 with a walk, run scored and sacrifice fly in an 8-0 Game 7 victory at Bennett Park in Detroit.

Hyatt was originally scheduled to start at first base but was moved to centerfield after leadoff hitter Bobby Byrne was injured on the bases in the top of the first.

He died in 1963 and hit .267 in seven major-league seasons.

** Left-handed pitcher Cliff Melton was a pivotal figure in the 1937 Gotham City World Series between the New York Giants and NY Yankees.

A native of Brevard who grew up in Black Mountain, started and lost two games for the Giants, Game 2 and the deciding Game 5.

Melton, a southpaw who is in the WNC Sports Hall of Fame, won 20 games as a rookie in 1937 and went on to win 86 games in eight big-league seasons. He died in 1986.

** Smoky Burgess of Rutherford County was the starting catcher for the Pirates in five games of the 1960 Fall Classic.

He went 6-for-18 with a double against the New York Yankees. The Pirates won the Series in seven games on Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off homer in Game 7.

Burgess, also a member of the WNC Sports Hall of Fame, played 18 seasons in the majors and retired after the 1967 season with a .295 average.

When he retired, he held the all-time record of 145 pinch-hits, since surpassed. He still holds the record for most pinch-hit RBI (146).

He died in in Asheville in 1991.

** The “Throwin’ Swannanoan” played in two World Series for the Baltimore Orioles.

Sammy Stewart, who starred at Owen High, never allowed a run in 7 2/3 innings in four games. He worked one game vs. the Pirates in 1979 (Pittsburgh won the Series in seven games) and won a ring after pitching in three games vs. the Phillies in 1983 (Baltimore won in five games).

Stewart was 59-48 with 45 saves in a 10-year major-league career. Now 63, he still lives in WNC.

** Greg Holland, one of the top closers in the major leagues, appeared in three games with the Kansas City Royals vs. the San Francisco Giants in 2014, saving Game 3. He allowed no runs in three innings in the Series, won by the Giants in seven games.

The McDowell County native, who pitched at McDowell High and Western Carolina and has a home in Asheville, tied a postseason saves record with seven in 2014.

Holland earned a World Series ring with the Royals in 2015, though he was injured in September and didn’t appear in the Fall Classic.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing the 2016 season, he was named the National League’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2017 after saving 41 games and leading the Colorado Rockies into the playoffs.

At age 31, he has 186 career saves and is expected to test the free-agent market this offseason.

Baseball historian Jim Baker provided research for this article.