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11 Ivy League-Educated Major League Baseball Players

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Baseball has often been described as the thinking man's game. Yogi Berra once said that America's national pastime was 90 percent mental, and the other half physical. If any player could make sense of such a statement, it's one of these guys.

C "“ Moe Berg

Moe Berg, who graduated magna cum laude from Princeton and earned a law degree from Columbia, was a light-hitting international man of mystery. Someone once observed that Berg "“ a lifetime .243 hitter "“ could speak 10 languages, but couldn't hit in any of them. The journeyman catcher, who hit six home runs in his 15-year career, inspired the phrase "good field, no hit" and a book by Nicholas Dawidoff. In The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg, Dawidoff chronicled Berg's life as a ballplayer, lawyer, and spy. Berg accepted a position with the Office of Inter-American Affairs after retiring from baseball and screened footage he had taken of the Tokyo skyline during a 1934 visit to Japan with a group of All-Stars for U.S. intelligence officers. After joining the Office of Strategic Services in 1943, Berg was sent to Germany to attend a lecture by physicist Werner Heisenberg. Berg was given instructions to assassinate Heisenberg if he provided any indication that the Germans were close to developing an atomic bomb, but they apparently weren't. Berg, who died in 1972, was offered an advance to write an autobiography but turned it down because his editor mistook him for Moe Howard from the Three Stooges.

1B "“ Lou Gehrig

gehrig.jpgOn the same day that Yankee Stadium opened in 1923, Columbia pitcher Lou Gehrig struck out a school-record 17 Williams batters in front of a crowd at South Field that included New York Yankees scout Paul Krichell. While Gehrig was a dominating pitcher "“ he held the Columbia career strikeout record until 1978 "“ Krichell coveted the lefthander's power at the plate even more and signed him to a pro contract a few months later. Gehrig never pitched for the Yankees, but he enjoyed a remarkable career as the Bronx Bombers' first baseman. In 1939, Gehrig's 2,130 consecutive games played streak was cut short when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal disease now more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Two years later, ALS took Gehrig's life. The "Iron Horse" was a two-time MVP, won the Triple Crown in 1934, and finished his career with a .340 lifetime average.

2B "“ Eddie Collins

collins.jpgCollins, who played quarterback at Columbia in addition to starring on the baseball field, was one of the greatest second basemen to ever play the game. Following his junior year at Columbia, the 5-foot-9 New York native joined a semi-pro summer league. In hopes of maintaining his final year of college eligibility, Collins played under the pseudonym "Eddie Sullivan." The Philadelphia Athletics signed him to a contract, however, and after Collins appeared in six pro games, he was declared ineligible for his senior season. Rather than leaving Columbia, Collins remained at the school to finish his degree while serving as an undergraduate coach. The wait was worth it. Collins eventually helped the Athletics to World Series championships in 1910, 1911 and 1913 before being traded to the White Sox in 1915. After his playing days were over, he was general manager of the Boston Red Sox from 1933-1947 and elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939. Collins remains the only major leaguer to play at least 12 seasons for two different teams. Author Jack Cavanaugh once said of Collins, "They called Collins "˜Cocky,' not because he was arrogant, but because he was filled with confidence based on sheer ability."

SS "“ Bill Almon

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Almon became the first Ivy League athlete to be selected first overall in a professional draft when the San Diego Padres selected him with the No. 1 pick in 1974. Almon was coming off a record-breaking career at Brown and had been named the Player of the Year by The Sporting News after hitting .350 with 10 home runs, 31 RBI, and 20 stolen bases. While he never quite lived up to the hype in the majors, Almon was a serviceable utility player who played for seven different teams over his 15-year career. His best year came in the strike-shortened 1981 season, when he hit .301 for the White Sox.

3B "“ Red Rolfe

rolfe.jpgRolfe graduated from Dartmouth in 1931 before joining Gehrig in the New York Yankees' well-educated and hard-hitting infield. While Rolfe wasn't known for his power, he possessed good speed and finished his 10-year career with a .289 average. Rolfe retired in 1942 and coached baseball and basketball at Yale for four years before becoming the Detroit Tigers' farm system director. In 1949, Rolfe was named Tigers manager. Detroit won 95 games and finished three games behind the Yankees in Rolfe's second season at the helm, but that was the pinnacle of his managerial career. Rolfe was fired in the middle of the 1952 season and returned to Dartmouth as the school's athletic director from 1954-1967. The Big Green's baseball field is named in honor of Rolfe, who died in 1969.

OF "“ Doug Glanville

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Glanville hit .414 with six home runs and 15 stolen bases in his final year at Penn before the Chicago Cubs made him the 12th overall pick in the 1991 draft. Glanville played for three teams in his major league career before retiring in 2005, finishing with 1100 hits and 168 stolen bases. A quality defensive outfielder, Glanville's most productive season at the plate came in 1999, when he hit .325 and finished second in the National League with 204 hits for the Philadelphia Phillies. Glanville writes a semi-regular guest column for the New York Times about his life in the majors and general baseball issues, and is president of GK Alliance, which provides intellectual capital for startup companies.

OF "“ Fernando Perez

perez.jpgPerez, who studied creative writing and American studies at Columbia, was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the seventh round of the 2004 draft. One of the fastest players in baseball, Perez made his major league debut on August 31, 2008, and singled in his first at bat. Less than two weeks later, he hit his first major league home run in front of friends and family at Yankee Stadium. Perez showcased his speed in the postseason; he scored the winning run as a pinch runner in Game 2 of the ALCS against Boston after tagging up on a shallow fly ball. Perez kept a journal for MiLB.com during the 2007 season and continues to write short prose and personal essays in his spare time.

OF "“ Gene Larkin

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Larkin majored in economics and broke most of Gehrig's records at Columbia before being selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 20th round of the 1984 draft. He made the Twins' big league roster in 1987 and was a member of Minnesota's first World Series championship team that year. In 1991, Larkin hit the game-winning single in Game 7 of the World Series to beat the Braves, 1-0. He was one of seven Twins to play on both title-winning teams. Paul Fernandes, Larkin's former coach at Columbia, watched the game on television. "When he hit the thing, it was so emotional"¦like watching your own child do something great," he told a reporter.

UTL "“ Mark DeRosa

derosa.jpgDeRosa has a degree from the Wharton School of Business, so he knows a thing or two about making decisions. In 1996, DeRosa's decision was between signing a contract with the Braves, who selected him in the seventh round of the draft, or returning to Penn, where he was a two-sport star and an All-Ivy League quarterback for the Quakers' football team. The New Jersey native opted to sign and is coming off the best season of his career after hitting 21 homers and driving in 87 runs for the defending NL Central champion Chicago Cubs. Former teammate Reed Johnson told the New York Times last season that DeRosa is a little self-conscious about his Ivy League degree, but fits in just fine in the clubhouse. "I figured he'd be a straight-edge guy, not as funny or hard-working," Johnson said. "He said to me, "˜What, did you think I was a geeky, sweater-tied-around-my-neck Ivy League guy?'" DeRosa was traded to Cleveland in the offseason.

SP "“ Ron Darling

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Darling majored in French and Southeast Asian history at Yale, where his stellar baseball career included a 1-0 loss to St. John's in which he didn't allow a hit for 11 innings. Darling was selected in the first round of the 1981 draft by the Texas Rangers and was traded to the New York Mets in 1982. The Hawaii native was a key member of the Mets' rotation when they won the World Series in 1986, winning 15 games and finishing fifth in the Cy Young voting. In a Sports Illustrated article that season, Darling said he could "envision [himself] as a professor." Since retiring with 136 career wins in 1995, Darling has become a fixture in the broadcast booth.

RP "“ Mike Remlinger

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As a sophomore at Dartmouth, Remlinger led the NCAA with a 1.59 ERA in 1986, yet finished with a 7-7 record. Talk about a lack of run support. The San Francisco Giants selected the lefthander with the 16th pick in the 1987 draft. Remlinger appeared in 639 games during his 14-year major league career, all but 59 of them coming as a reliever. He was one of the few left-handed pitchers who fared better against righties than lefties. Remlinger retired in 2006, one year after missing part of the season with a fracture suffered when his pinky was pinched between two recliners in the Cubs' clubhouse.

Future Major Leaguer? "“ Shawn Haviland

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Haven't heard of Haviland? You're not alone. The former Harvard star was drafted in the 33rd round of the 2008 draft by the Oakland Athletics and struck out 61 batters in 54 innings for the Vancouver Canadians, Oakland's Class A affiliate, last season. As he looks to follow in the footsteps of former Harvard-educated major leaguers, such as Jeff Musselman, Mike Stenhouse, and Peter Varney, you can keep tabs on Haviland's progress via his blog.

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Pop Culture
Fumbled: The Story of the United States Football League
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There were supposed to be 44 players marching to the field when the visiting Los Angeles Express played their final regular season game against the Orlando Renegades in June 1985.

Thirty-six of them showed up. The team couldn’t afford more.

“We didn’t even have money for tape,” Express quarterback Steve Young said in 1986. “Or ice.” The squad was so poor that Young played fullback during the game. They only had one, and he was injured.

Other teams had ridden school buses to practice, driven three hours for “home games,” or shared dressing room space with the local rodeo. In August 1986, the cash-strapped United States Football League called off the coming season. The league itself would soon vaporize entirely after gambling its future on an antitrust lawsuit against the National Football League. The USFL argued the NFL was monopolizing television time; the NFL countered that the USFL—once seen as a promising upstart—was being victimized by its own reckless expansion and the wild spending of team owners like Donald Trump.

They were both right.

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Spring football. That was David Dixon’s pitch. The New Orleans businessman and football advocate—he helped get the Saints in his state—was a fan of college ball and noticed that spring scrimmages at Tulane University led to a little more excitement in the air. With a fiscally responsible salary cap in place and a 12-team roster, he figured his idea could be profitable. Market research agreed: a hired broadcast research firm asserted 76 percent of fans would watch what Dixon had planned.

He had no intention of grappling with the NFL for viewers. That league’s season aired from September through January, leaving a football drought March through July. And in 1982, a players’ strike led to a shortened NFL season, making the idea of an alternative even more appealing to networks. Along with investors for each team region, Dixon got ABC and the recently-formed ESPN signed to broadcast deals worth a combined $35 million over two years.

When the Chicago Blitz faced the Washington Federals on the USFL’s opening day March 6, 1983, over 39,000 fans braved rain at RFK Stadium in Washington to see it. The Federals lost 28-7, foreshadowing their overall performance as one of the league’s worst. Owner Berl Bernhard would later complain the team played like “untrained gerbils.”

Anything more coordinated might have been too expensive. The USFL had instituted a strict $1.8 million salary cap that first year to avoid franchise overspending, but there were allowances made so each team could grab one or two standout rookies. In 1983, the big acquisition was Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, who opted out of his senior year at Georgia to turn pro. Walker signed with the New Jersey Generals in a three-year, $5 million deal.

Jim Kelly and Steve Young followed. Stan White left the Detroit Lions. Marcus Dupree left college. The rosters were built up from scratch using NFL cast-offs or prospects from nearby colleges, where teams had rights to “territorial” drafts.

To draw a line in the sand, the USFL had advertising play up the differences between the NFL’s product and their own. Their slogan, “When Football Was Fun,” was a swipe at the NFL’s increasingly draconian rules regarding players having any personality. They also advised teams to run a series of marketable halftime attractions. The Denver Gold once offered a money-back guarantee for attendees who weren’t satisfied. During one Houston Gamblers game, boxer George Foreman officiated a wedding. Cars were given away at Tampa Bay Bandits games. The NFL, the upstart argued, stood for the No Fun League.

For a while, it appeared to be working. The Panthers, which had invaded the city occupied by the Detroit Lions, averaged 60,000 fans per game, higher than their NFL counterparts. ABC was pleased with steady ratings. The league was still conservative in their spending.

That would change—many would argue for the worse—with the arrival of Donald Trump.

Despite Walker’s abilities on the field, his New Jersey Generals ended the inaugural 1983 season at 6-12, one of the worst records in the league. The excitement having worn off, owner J. Walter Duncan decided to sell the team to real estate investor Trump for a reported $5-9 million.

A fixture of New York media who was putting the finishing touches on Trump Tower, Trump introduced two extremes to the USFL. His presence gave the league far more press attention than it had ever received, but his bombastic approach to business guaranteed he wouldn’t be satisfied with an informal salary cap. Trump spent and spent some more, recruiting players to improve the Generals. Another Heisman winner, quarterback Doug Flutie, was signed to a five-year, $7 million contract, the largest in pro football at the time. Trump even pursued Lawrence Taylor, then a player for the New York Giants, who signed a contract saying that, after his Giants contract expired, he’d join Trump’s team. The Giants wound up buying out the Taylor/Trump contract for $750,000 and quadrupled Taylor’s salary, and Trump wound up with pages of publicity.

Trump’s approach was effective: the Generals improved to 14-4 in their sophomore season. But it also had a domino effect. In order to compete with the elevated bar of talent, other team owners began spending more, too. In a race to defray costs, the USFL approved six expansion teams that paid a buy-in of $6 million each to the league.

It did little to patch the seams. Teams were so cash-strapped that simple amenities became luxuries. The Michigan Panthers dined on burnt spaghetti and took yellow school buses to training camp; players would race to cash checks knowing the last in line stood a chance of having one bounce. When losses became too great, teams began to merge with one another: The Washington Federals became the Orlando Renegades. By the 1985 season, the USFL was down to 14 teams. And because the ABC contract required the league to have teams in certain top TV markets, ABC started withholding checks.

Trump was unmoved. Since taking over the Generals, he had been petitioning behind the scenes for the other owners to pursue a shift to a fall season, where they would compete with the NFL head on. A few owners countered that fans had already voiced their preference for a spring schedule. Some thought it would be tantamount to league suicide.

Trump continued to push. By the end of the 1984 season, he had swayed opinion enough for the USFL to plan on one final spring block in 1985 before making the move to fall in 1986.

In order to make that transition, they would have to win a massive lawsuit against the NFL.

In the mid-1980s, three major networks meant that three major broadcast contracts would be up for grabs—and the NFL owned all three. To Trump and the USFL, this constituted a monopoly. They filed suit in October 1984. By the time it went to trial in May 1986, the league had shrunk from 18 teams to 14, hadn’t hosted a game since July 1985, kept only threadbare rosters, and was losing what existing television deals it had by migrating to smaller markets (a major part of the NFL’s case was that the real reason for the lawsuit, and the moves to smaller markets, was to make the league an attractive takeover prospect for the NFL). The ruling—which could have forced the NFL to drop one of the three network deals—would effectively become the deciding factor of whether the USFL would continue operations.

They came close. A New York jury deliberated for 31 hours over five days. After the verdict, jurors told press that half believed the NFL was guilty of being a monopoly and were prepared to offer the USFL up to $300 million in damages; the other half thought the USFL had been crippled by its own irresponsible expansion efforts. Neither side would budge.

To avoid a hung jury, it was decided they would find in favor of the USFL but only award damages in the amount of $1. One juror told the Los Angeles Times that she thought it would be an indication for the judge to calculate proper damages.

He didn’t. The USFL was awarded treble damages for $3 in total, an amount that grew slightly with interest after time for appeal. The NFL sent them a payment of $3.76. (Less famously, the NFL was also ordered to pay $5.5 million in legal fees.)

Rudy Shiffer, vice-president of the Memphis Showboats, summed up the USFL's fate shortly after the ruling was handed down. “We’re dead,” he said.

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Big Questions
Who Was Chuck Taylor?
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From Betty Crocker to Tommy Bahama, plenty of popular labels are "named" after fake people. But one product with a bona fide backstory to its moniker is Converse's Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers. The durable gym shoes are beloved by everyone from jocks to hipsters. But who's the man behind the cursive signature on the trademark circular ankle patch?

As journalist Abraham Aamidor recounted in his 2006 book Chuck Taylor, All Star: The True Story of the Man behind the Most Famous Athletic Shoe in History, Chuck Taylor was a former pro basketball player-turned-Converse salesman whose personal brand and tireless salesmanship were instrumental to the shoes' success.

Charles Hollis Taylor was born on July 24, 1901, and raised in southern Indiana. Basketball—the brand-new sport invented by James Naismith in 1891—was beginning to take the Hoosier State by storm. Taylor joined his high school team, the Columbus High School Bull Dogs, and was named captain.

After graduation, instead of heading off to college, Taylor launched his semi-pro career playing basketball with the Columbus Commercials. He’d go on to play for a handful of other teams across the Midwest, including the the Akron Firestone Non-Skids in Ohio, before finally moving to Chicago in 1922 to work as a sales representative for the Converse Rubber Shoe Co. (The company's name was eventually shortened to Converse, Inc.)

Founded in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1908 as a rubber shoe manufacturer, Converse first began producing canvas shoes in 1915, since there wasn't a year-round market for galoshes. They introduced their All-Star canvas sports shoes two years later, in 1917. It’s unclear whether Chuck was initially recruited to also play ball for Converse (by 1926, the brand was sponsoring a traveling team) or if he was simply employed to work in sales. However, we do know that he quickly proved himself to be indispensable to the company.

Taylor listened carefully to customer feedback, and passed on suggestions for shoe improvements—including more padding under the ball of the foot, a different rubber compound in the sole to avoid scuffs, and a patch to protect the ankle—to his regional office. He also relied on his basketball skills to impress prospective clients, hosting free Chuck Taylor basketball clinics around the country to teach high school and college players his signature moves on the court.

In addition to his myriad other job duties, Taylor played for and managed the All-Stars, a traveling team sponsored by Converse to promote their new All Star shoes, and launched and helped publish the Converse Basketball Yearbook, which covered the game of basketball on an annual basis.

After leaving the All-Stars, Taylor continued to publicize his shoe—and own personal brand—by hobnobbing with customers at small-town sporting goods stores and making “special appearances” at local basketball games. There, he’d be included in the starting lineup of a local team during a pivotal game.

Taylor’s star grew so bright that in 1932, Converse added his signature to the ankle patch of the All Star shoes. From that point on, they were known as Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Still, Taylor—who reportedly took shameless advantage of his expense account and earned a good salary—is believed to have never received royalties for the use of his name.

In 1969, Taylor was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The same year, he died from a heart attack on June 23, at the age of 67. Around this time, athletic shoes manufactured by companies like Adidas and Nike began replacing Converse on the court, and soon both Taylor and his namesake kicks were beloved by a different sort of customer.

Still, even though Taylor's star has faded over the decades, fans of his shoe continue to carry on his legacy: Today, Converse sells more than 270,000 pairs of Chuck Taylors a day, 365 days a year, to retro-loving customers who can't get enough of the athlete's looping cursive signature.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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