The Joplin Miners were the best team in the minor league Western Association during the 1952 season and the best player on that team was catcher-outfielder Johnny Blanchard.
Blanchard, only 19 at the time, led the league champs and the league itself that year with 30 home runs and 112 RBI.
It wasn't long before Blanchard graduated from the Joplin Miners to the parent New York Yankees to join the most famous player to ever play for the Miners, Mickey Mantle. With the Yankees, Blanchard has the misfortune of being a catcher on a team that already had future Hall-of-Famer Yogi Berra and Elston Howard, but that did not prevent him from making an impact.
Blanchard, who died of a heart attack Wednesday at age 76, played enough to hit 21 home runs for the 1961 world championship team, a team some say was the greatest of all time. Blanchard hit two home runs in the World Series that year as the Yankees defeated the Reds in five games:
"Baseball was in his blood," his son Tim said. "He loved the card shows. He'd shake people's hand, ask their name and talk with people. He was the king of storytelling; that was his strength."
Blanchard enjoyed golf and was looking forward to seeing the new Yankee Stadium and participating in an old-timers' game this year.
"He lived a life people would dream of living," Tim said.