Long Before Wiz, There Was Sammy Khalifa

Sam Khalifa was the seventh overall pick in the 1982 Major League Baseball draft.   He is now retired and drives a cab after spending three seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, getting bumped from his position by current hitting coach Jay Bell.

Khalifa played just 164 games over his three seasons in the bigs.  The Bucco infielder didn’t hit real well and struggled to get on base, but gained importance by being the first person of Egyptian descent to play in the big leagues.  According to his wiki, he also is currently the only Muslim of Arab descent to have played in the Major Leagues.

Rashad Khalifa, Sam’s father was murdered on January 31, 1990. Originially no one was ever convicted of the murder, but it was thought that Islamic extremists opposed to his fathers’ teachings were connected to it.

Years later, this is  Sammy Khalifa’s extremely interesting story from the New York Times.


This is one of our favorite segments:

The organization was well beyond the feel-good “We Are Family” 1979 World Series team of Willie Stargell and Omar Moreno and not yet the divisional dynasty with the dream outfield of Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Andy Van Slyke. Pittsburgh lost 104 games in Khalifa’s rookie year. The team was up for sale, and current and former players were being called to testify before a grand jury looking into a cocaine ring in the clubhouse.

Khalifa “played adequately but the team was struggling big time, so it was hard for any rookie to show everything he could do,” said Steve Demeter, a first-base coach for the Pirates in 1985.

After the season, Tanner was fired, and Jim Leyland was given his first big-league managerial job. Leyland, now the manager of the American League champion Detroit Tigers, recalled that he had Khalifa platooning at shortstop in 1986 with Rafael Belliard.

“Sammy was the more overall talented guy; they thought he was going to hit,” Leyland said in a recent interview. Like others who readily recall Khalifa, Leyland called him “a good kid” before suggesting his problems were more mental than physical.

“I wasn’t really sure that he was into it as much as you need to be to maybe max out your ability,” Leyland said.

Bonds joined the team (Khalifa recalls he was skinnier back then)…..

Be sure to check it out.




Tags: Pittsburgh Pirates

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