Selected by Florida in the 1993 expansion draft, Conine was one of only two original Marlins on their World Championship team of 1997. But by the time the team reached the World Series their two-time All-Star had become a platoon player. Just weeks after Florida's dream season came to an end, Conine was traded back to the Royals, the team from which the Marlins had originally plucked him.
Nicknamed "Conine the Barbarian" in the minors, the right-handed slugger was named the Southern League MVP in 1990. The Royals' first baseman of the future made a brief appearance with the big-league club, but suffered a broken left wrist. Recuperating from off-season surgery, Conine was unable to replace the ailing George Brett at first in 1991 and when the team signed free-agent first baseman Wally Joyner in December, Conine became expendable. A year later the once-vaunted prospect was left unprotected in the expansion draft.
Conine was Florida's eleventh pick in that draft and immediately became a key component in the Marlins lineup. He hit .319 in his first season to establish himself as a consistent performer and in 1994, he was the Marlins' lone representative on the All-Star team. But he truly earned his All-Star status with a breakout season in 1995, when he batted .302 with a team-leading 25 homers and 105 RBI -- the first Marlin to top the century mark in ribbies. That season, he was named All-Star MVP after hitting the game-winning home run off Steve Ontiveros to lead off the eighth inning. When his season was temporarily interrupted by a severe hamstring pull, it broke his consecutive games-played streak at 307. He had played in every single Marlins game to that point.
Conine collected 174 hits to set a club record in 1996, and had career-highs in homers (26), runs scored (84) and doubles (32). But he got off to a slow start in 1997, perhaps the result of eye problems he'd experienced in mid-1996, and slumped for much of the season. An outfielder for most of his Marlins career, Conine became a platoon player at first base when the Marlins acquired Darren Daulton for their late-season pennant drive and finished the season with just a .242 average. He saw limited action in the post-season but remained a fan favorite because of his Original Marlin status.
Conine didn't escape the massive salary dump of the defending champs. On November 20, he was dealt to Kansas City for pitcher Blaine Mull, leaving the Marlins as their career leader in numerous offensive categories. Injuries limited him to just 93 games in his second stint with the Royals and the following April he was sent to Baltimore for right-hander Chris Fussell.
A fine athlete who moonlighted as a championship-caliber racquetball player, Conine proved to be a solid performer for the Orioles, driving in 75 runs in 1999 in a variety of roles. His most interesting experience in Baltimore came in the spring of 2000 when manager Mike Hargrove tried to tutor him as Cal Ripken's understudy at third base.
Conine had only played the position a few times since a failed experiment with the Marlins in the spring of 1995 led to the acquisition of Terry Pendleton. His next chance came in the late innings of a tied game at Seattle in August 1999, when Conine fielded his only chance with his outfielder's glove and promptly fired the ball past the first baseman. But Conine improved enough at the hot corner to make just three errors in his 22 appearances there (including seventeen starts) over the first half of the 2000 season. (SW/JGR)
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FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»June 2, 1987: The Mariners select Cincinnati high schooler Ken Griffey Jr., the son of Braves OF Ken Griffey, with the first pick overall in the free-agent draft. Picking 2nd, the Pirates take Mark Merchant, while the Twins take another high schooler Willie Banks with the 3rd pick. The Cubs pick Mike Harkey and the White Sox pick Jack McDowell with the 6th selection. McDowell will be the first of this class to reach the majors, Picking 9th, the Royals take Kevin Appier and on the 58th round, take UCLA's Jeff Conine. With the 22nd pick, the Astros take Seton Hall's Craig Biggio, who will be the first non-pitcher from the draft to make the majors. Picking 6th in the first round, the Braves select Derek Lilliquist, and on the 13th round take Mike Stanton. Because of his expected high price tag, Mike Mussina is selected in the 13th round. Albert Belle, suspended by LSU's coach after chasing a fan, goes to the Indians in round 2. Robb Nen goes in the 32nd round.
»June 28, 1994:
The Phils injury plagued C Darren Daulton suffers another season-ending injury when he uses his left collarbone to catcher a foul tip off the bat of Jeff Conine. Daulton will be out the rest of the season. Florida beats the Phils, 21, as Jeff Mutis wins his 1st and only game in the NL.
»April 7, 1996: Mark Carreon drives home six runs on two homers, one a grand slam, to lead the Giants to a 147 gaffing of the Marlins. Jeff Conine and Andre Dawson, with his 30th 4-hit game, each have four hits for the Fish. The win goes to Steve Bourgeois, who wins his first in the majors with two 1/3 scoreless innings.
»July 14, 1996:
In Atlanta, Ryan Klesko belts two homers and drives in six runs to lead the Braves to a 15-10 drubbing of the Marlins. Jeff Conine has a pair of home runs for the Fish.
»November 21, 1997: The Royals acquire 1B Jeff Conine from the Marlins in exchange for P Blaine Mull.
»May 13, 2001:
The Yanks finally lose to a below .500 team as the Orioles double them, 105. Paul O'Neill hits a 2-out, 2-run homer in the 9th to tie, but the O's score five runs off Mariano Rivera in the 11th to win. The big blow is Jeff Conine's home run.
»August 19, 2001:
The Orioles bounce back from a 61 deficit to defeat the Red Sox, 137. Jeff Conine has five hits for Baltimore. The Birds steal five bases on slow Nomo.
»September 23, 2002:
The Red Sox edge the visiting Orioles, 54 in 15 innings. Johnny Damon walks, goes to 3B on a wild throw to 1B by Willis Roberts, then scores on a wild pitch. Both teams score in the 14th, as Jeff Conine homers to make up for an error in the inning. Gibbons has two solo home runs for Baltimore, and Shea Hillenbrand one for Boston. The O's have lost 26 of 30.