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Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Sad Story of Doug Million

Part of why I love building older sets of Topps cards is seeing some of the players who have come and gone as years have gone by.  Some of the players are household names who achieved greatness while others may have only gotten a cup of coffee in the big leagues only to fade into obscurity.  There are also other players whose talent shone brightly for a brief time, but were lost to us far too soon.  One of those players is Doug Million.

Doug Million was born in 1975 in Kentucky, but rose to fame as a high school left handed pitcher in Sarasota, Florida.  He won the Gatorade High School Baseball Player of the year award in 1994.  According to the above 1995 Topps baseball card, he was 33-4 with a 1.23 ERA in his high school career (WOW!).

He was drafted out of high school by the Colorado Rockies with the seventh overall pick in the 1994 amateur draft.  Million went on to play in 4 minor league seasons with a record of 26-32, 395 strikeouts and an ERA of 4.12.

Million was ranked the #19 prospect in the pre-1995 Baseball America rankings and #69 prospect in the pre 1996 Baseball America rankings.  He struggled to a 5-14 record in 1997 over two teams in high A and AA ball.  The Rockies sent him to instructional league in Mesa, Arizona following the completion of the 1997 minor league season in order to work on some things and try to bounce back.

Million had battled asthma his entire life, but had always managed it.  While in Mesa, on September 23, 1997, he and a roommate had gone to a restaurant to play an electronic trivia game.  Million suffered an asthma attack in the restaurant and passed away at the age of 21 shortly thereafter in the early hours of September 24, 1997.  His death shook the Rockies organization from top to bottom.  Former Rockies manager Don Baylor was quoted in Million's obituary which was printed in September 1997 in the Hastings Star Gazette as saying "I was in shock when I heard it, and I'm still in shock.  Here is a man who will never get the chance to fulfill his boyhood dreams."

I tell this story because sometimes as we thumb through cards in the boxes and albums we have in our closets and attics, we tend to not notice some of those players who we might have never heard of.  Sometimes they just didn't pan out and sometimes, as sad as it is, they don't get the opportunity because their life was taken far too early.  Million passed away to an asthma attack.  Other players have been lost in plane crashes, car accidents and sometimes, yes, even murder.  Hopefully, their memories can live on through others who seemingly stumble upon their baseball cards and take the time to find out who they were.
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