James was the Brewers' Rookie of the Year in 1984, when he won the centerfield job and batted .295. The following spring he twice dislocated his right shoulder diving for fly balls. After spending 1986 in the minors, James (Milwaukee's first-round pick in 1980) was traded to Atlanta for Brad Komminsk (the Braves' top pick in 1979).
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With the Braves, the slap-hitter switched from a straight-up stance to an open crouch, giving him new power; he hit .312 with 37 doubles and 10 homers in 1987. (On April 13 against the Mets at Shea Stadium, his routine fly ball hit a dove and fell uncaught.) But James was a major disappointment in Atlanta's dismal 1988 season and was criticized for erratic fielding. He was traded to the Indians in mid-1989 for Oddibe McDowell, the Rangers' number-one pick in 1984.
James lasted less than two seasons with the Indians, but found a part-time job with the Yankees in 1992, hitting .332 as the club's everyday left fielder in 1993. James left for Japan after the season; when he returned to the club in '95, he found little playing time in the Yankees outfield (by that time well-stocked with burgeoning talent) but did see post-season action for the first time in his career. (JCA/JGR)
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FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»April 12, 1987: Atlanta's Dion James gets a double the hard way when he knocks a fly ball to Mets CF Kevin McReynolds. On its way down the ball hits and kills a pigeon. Atlanta wins the game as well.
»May 2, 1987:
Graig Nettles and Dion James each hit grand slams to lead the Braves to a 12–4 rout of the Astros. It is the first time since July 3, 1966 (when pitcher Tony Cloninger did it by himself), that the Braves have hit two grand slams in one game.
»September 18, 1993: The Yankees defeat the Red Sox, 4-3, because of a fan who runs out on the field. With NY trailing, 3-1, with two outs and a man on 1st in the 9th inning, Mike Stanley hits a fly ball to left that apparently ends the game. Umpire Tim Welke, however, had called time when the fan bolted onto the field, giving Stanley a second chance. He singled on the next pitch. That was followed by a hit by Wade Boggs, a walk to Dion James, and a single by Don Mattingly which drove home the tying and winning runs.