Professional baseball player
Chicago White Sox outfielder Jermaine Dye has been a crowd-pleaser in more ways than one. He reached the peak of his career with the White Sox club in 2005, winning the World Series Most Valuable Player award en route to the White Sox four-game sweep of the Houston Astros. He was a classic baseball stylist, a big, powerful player who was equally exciting to watch as a hitter or as a fielder; he was a constant threat in terms of throwing base runners out from the outfield. And punctuating the periods of triumph in Dye's career have been low points: it took Dye a long time to hit his stride, and his path to stardom was impeded by injuries. His maturity as a player showed through in the long periods of recovery he had to endure.
Jermaine Dye was born January 28, 1974; the official White Sox Web site lists his birthplace as Vacaville, California, but other birthplaces including Oakland, California, and Overland, Kansas, have been reported. He spent the first part of his childhood in San Pablo, California, across the bay from San Francisco, where his father, Bill, was a bus driver for the city's Muni transportation agency. Often Dye and his younger sister Angie would accompany Bill Dye (a former professional basketball hopeful) into San Francisco on summer mornings so that the city's Candlestick Park could serve as a sort of gigantic day-care center: they would be left off in bleacher seats during batting practice, and then Bill Dye would join them after he finished circulating around his bus route.
Dye's father also served as his coach in various youth leagues around San Pablo and then in Vacaville, north of the San Francisco Bay area, where the Images family moved. Bill Dye never pushed his son, but neither did he let him get away with relaxing. Once, when Jermaine took it easy during a pre-practice endurance run, his father told him to do the run over, correctly, or he's be taken out of the lineup. "When he was done coaching me, I knew what it took to become a good player," Dye told Michelle Smith of the San Francisco Chronicle. "Even when I've played for different coaches, I remember the things he taught me." The elder Dye continued to advise his son by phone even after he became a major-leaguer.
Zippy Passes Caused Pain
Attending Will C. Wood High School in Vacaville, Dye showed the athletic instincts he had acquired when he excelled on the field in three sports. As quarterback on the football team, he would throw passes so hard in practice that receivers would yelp because of the impact. Coaches spoke not only of his athletic ability but also of his maturity and poise. After graduating in 1992 he received athletic scholarship offers from the powerhouse basketball program at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and from Brigham Young University's aerial-juggernaut football team. The Texas Rangers selected him in the baseball draft, but Dye opted to attend Cosumnes River College in Sacramento. His father pointed out that he had been playing baseball longer than the other sports, and he focused his efforts in that direction. At Cosumnes he was a starting pitcher, with a fastball that topped out at over 80 miles per hour.
"He could definitely have been a professional pitcher," former Cosumnes catcher Chris Terry told Tim Casey of the Sacramento Bee. "He had the tools." Dye agreed, telling Jeff Pearlman of Sports Illustrated that "That's where I thought I had a future. I had a fastball, a slider, and a changeup. I bet I can still get guys out." But the school's coaching staff got a good look at the six-foot, four-inch Dye's powerful swing during batting practice and switched him to the outfield. Dye's talent was still raw, but scouts from the Atlanta Braves noticed how far the ball traveled when he connected. They selected him in the 17th round of the 1993 amateur draft.
Dye worked his way up through the Braves' farm system, playing on its Gulf Coast (Kissimmee, Florida), Danville (Virginia), Macon (Georgia), and Greenville (South Carolina) squads before starting the 1996 season with the Richmond, Virginia, Braves of the AAA-level International League. With six home runs in the first 36 games of the season, the 22-year-old Dye was elevated to the Braves in May as a replacement for the injured David Justice. He hit a home run in his first trip to the plate and won a spot as a starting outfielder. At the end of the season, however, Dye got his first taste of disappointment. During the Braves' postseason playoff run, he batted just .179, and the Braves lost in the World Series to the New York Yankees.
Plagued by Series of Injuries
Traded to the Kansas City Royals the following March, Dye injured his left foot in spring training. It was the beginning of what Sports Illustrated called a "Job-like streak" of injuries. He spent part of the season at the club's farm team in Omaha, Nebraska, after being placed on the disabled list, and then strained his right quadriceps muscle. The Royals anticipated great things from Dye when he showed up healthy in the spring of 1998, but then he injured his other quadriceps. After five more weeks in Omaha he was back in Kansas City, where he twisted his knee while climbing into his car outside a Wal-Mart department store. "A guy has a tendency to hit lefties," Royals manager Tony Muser told Pearlman. "A guy has a tendency to steal. Jermaine had a tendency to get hurt."
Even in the midst of these problems, however, Dye was working hard on his game. His powerful arm hadn't done him much good in the Braves' outfield, where he threw out just two base runners in his entire first season. Royals staff joked that it took him 30 minutes to wind up and deliver a throw to from the outfield. But he cut his windup time considerably as he worked with Royals coaches, and his hitting also became more consistent. Muser gave the young player a confidence boost before the 1999 season by telling him, according to Joe Posnanski of Baseball Digest, "You are my right fielder, no matter what."
And 1999 was the season in which Dye began to fulfill his tremendous potential. By the end of April, he had six home runs and 20 runs batted in (RBIs). He was moved to the fourth or "cleanup" spot in the batting order, and by the end of the season those totals ballooned to 27 home runs and 119 RBIs, with a .294 batting average and a team record 17 runners thrown out from right field. His salary ballooned as well, from $260,000 in 1999 to $2,300,000 in 2000. And he repaid the Royals' investment with a stellar performance in 2000: he had 33 home runs, 118 RBIs, a .321 batting average, a spot on the American League All-Star team, and a Golden Glove fielding award.
At a Glance …
Born on January 28, 1974, in Vacaville, CA (some sources indicate Oakland, CA, or Overland, KS); married Tricia; children: Jalen, Devin, and Tiarra. Education: Attended Cosumnes River College, Sacramento, CA.
Career: Atlanta (GA) Braves farm system, professional baseball player, various locations, 1993–96; Atlanta Braves, professional baseball player, 1996; Kansas City Royals, professional baseball player, 1997; Oakland Athletics, professional baseball player, 2001; Chicago White Sox, professional baseball player, 2005–.
Selected awards: American League All-Star team member, 2000, 2006; World Series' Most Valuable Player, 2005.
Addresses: Office—Chicago White Sox, 333 W. 35th St., Chicago, IL 60616.
Beyond these statistics was an intangible star quality: tall, graceful, focused, and powerful, Dye was a fasci-nating player to watch. "Finally, Kansas City has its superstar," noted Posnanski. In 2001, however, with the Royals' fortunes on the decline, he was dealt to the Oakland Athletics in a complex trade in which he was given a three-year contract with a total salary of $33 million. Dye continued to turn in strong performances for Oakland, finishing the 2001 season with 26 home runs and a combined batting average of .282. But on October 14, during the fourth game of a divisional playoff against the New York Yankees, Dye hit a foul ball that went straight into his left leg and broke his tibia.
Granted Free Agency
Then the cycle of injury and recovery began again. Dye played in 131 games in 2002, but that dropped to 65 in 2003 as he repeatedly spent time on the disabled list. His batting average dropped to a dismal .172 in 2003 as he favored his injured leg and suffered two further injuries, a ripped right-knee cartilage and a separated shoulder. The player remained philosophical in the face of these challenges, telling Kevin Yamamura of the Sacramento Bee that "Injuries are injuries. You deal with it, you move on, and you start to get back to the way you know you can be." Indeed, in 2004, playing in 137 games, he recovered to a .265 batting average with 23 home runs. At the end of that season, with his contract up, he became a free agent.
Some of Dye's time off as he recovered from his injuries was spent with his wife, Tricia, and his three children, Jalen, Devin, and Tiarra. With a growing family, Dye could easily have played one team off against another in free-agent negotiations in order to get the best deal possible. Instead he showed the integrity that made him one of the game's consistently popular players, honoring a commitment he had made to the Chicago White Sox in spite of a later offer from the Arizona Diamondbacks that would have added an extra $1 million to his $10.15 million salary over two years.
Dye delivered for the White Sox, turning in 31 home runs and a .274 batting average despite his most bizarre injury yet—he was hospitalized in July after developing an infection from a spider bite. The best was yet to come as the White Sox stormed through divisional- and league-championship series on the way to the World Series against the Houston Astros. Over the four games of the series, Dye had seven hits in 16 at-bats, and his RBI provided the winning 1-0 margin in the series finale. Dye was named the World Series' Most Valuable Player.
In 2006 he didn't rest on his laurels in the least. By the middle of July, Dye had amassed 25 home runs and 68 RBIs, a blistering pace that would lead to new career bests if maintained. He played for the American League's All-Star team and almost single-handedly kept the White Sox within striking range of the red-hot Detroit Tigers. Becoming involved in a host of charitable activities in Chicago, as he had in all the cities where his major-league career had taken him previously, Dye had established himself as a true star of the game of baseball.
Baseball Digest, August 2000, p. 32; July 2001, p. 58.
Chicago Sun-Times, February 27, 2005, p. 112.
Chicago Tribune, July 22, 2005.
Sacramento Bee, April 9, 2004, p. C8; October 28, 2005, p. C1.
San Francisco Chronicle, June 20, 2004, p. C1.
Sports Illustrated, June 7, 1999, p. 126; July 17, 2006, p. 35.
"Jermaine Dye," Baseball Library, www.BaseballLibrary.com (July 26, 2006).
"Jermaine Dye," Baseball Reference, www.baseballreference.com (July 26, 2006).
"Jermaine Dye," Chicago White Sox, http://whitesox.mlb.com (July 26, 2006).
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