George Tsamis is the winningest manager in Saints history and has had his number (22) retired by the team. Wayne Terwilliger, who played for the Saints and coached from 1995 to 2002, has had his number (5) retired.
In a ceremony on Saturday night at CHS Field prior to the Saints’ 6-5 victory over Columbus, Kevin Millar, who basically played one season for the Saints, had his No. 15 retired.
Team president and co-owner Mike Veeck sees nothing incongruent about the latest honor.
“The impact he has had on this organization, and all of independent ball,” Veeck said. “We were fighting just for respect. He — along with Darryl Strawberry— put independent ball on the map.
“Millar was really our poster boy. He gave us someone to cheer for, because he was going to move up.”
Undrafted out of college, Millar joined the Saints in 1993 after a three-day tryout with the goal of keeping his dream of playing in the major leagues alive. The Saints went on to win the Northern League championship that season, and Millar signed a deal with the Florida Marlins in September.
The 50-year-old Millar went on to play 11 seasons in the major leagues. He had a career batting average of .274, with 170 home runs and earned a World Series ring with the Boston Red Sox in 2004.
“Playing here was such a learning experience,” Millar said. “Picking the brain of Leon Durham, who had played in the major leagues, in the hotel rooms at night. We had so much fun, and won a championship.
“So many great guys on that team that you got to learn from. I was (a) young kid and they were great to me. You’re living in a one-bedroom apartment with three other guys making $600 a month. But those memories appreciate it when you do make it. The people in this organization, they’re family, and they’re family for life.”
Veeck has a favorite Millar story that he feels best captures the man.
“We worked together with the Marlins, and he would wear a Saints T-shirt under his uniform to remind himself of where he came from,” Veeck said. “That’s a special kind of guy. I’m from a town where you leave with them who brung ya; he’s never forgotten his roots. I think more than anything, baseball fans across the world appreciate players who understand the fans’ contribution to the game. He’s a fan’s player, a player’s player.”
Added Veeck: “I love a guy who gets dirty, even when he’s not in the lineup. So you instantly knew he was a good clubhouse guy.”
Known as someone who would never turn his back on a good time, Millar was a perfect fit for a team that brought a new meaning to fun at the old ballpark. He said he appreciated the way the Saints organization did all it could to make the game enjoyable for the fans.
“I’d like to think that he learned a little of that from us and we learned a little of that from him,” Veeck said.
After being released by the Chicago Cubs in 2010, Millar ended his professional career when he returned to the Saints, appearing in six games. Then, in 2017, at the age of 44, he put the Saints uniform on again for one last time, basically on a whim while in town for a promotion. He took the first pitch he saw and hit the next one for a two-run home run.
A Saints legacy was enhanced that night. It was sealed on Saturday.
Matt Wallner hit his third home run with the Saints Saturday, a two-run shot in the first that gave the Saints a 3-0 lead.