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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
The Time a Wrestling Fan Tried to Shoot Bobby Heenan in the Ring
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retro-wrestling, eBay

For a man who didn't wrestle much, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan wound up becoming more famous than a lot of the men flexing in the squared circle. The onscreen manager of several notable grapplers, including André the Giant and “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Heenan died on Sunday at the age of 73. His passing has led to several tributes recalling his memorable moments, from dressing up in a weasel suit to hosting a short-lived talk show on TNT.

While Heenan’s “heel” persona was considered great entertainment, there was a night back in 1975 when he did his job a little too well. As a result, an irate fan tried to assassinate him in the ring.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Heenan was appearing at the International Amphitheater in Chicago as part of the now-defunct AWA wrestling promotion when his performance began to grate on the nerves of an unnamed attendee seated on the floor. Eyewitnesses described the man as friendly up until wrestlers Verne Gagne and Nick Bockwinkel started their bout with Heenan at ringside in Bockwinkel’s corner.

“Get Heenan out of there,” the fan screamed, possibly concerned his character would interfere in a fair contest. Heenan, known as “Pretty Boy” at the time, began to distract the referee, awarding an advantage to his wrestler. When the official began waving his arms to signal Heenan to stop interrupting, the fan apparently took it as the match being over and awarded in Bockwinkel’s favor. He drew a gun and began firing.

The man got off two shots, hitting three bystanders with one bullet and two more with the other before running out of the arena. (No fatalities were reported.) Security swarmed the scene, getting medical attention for the injured and escorting both Heenan and the wrestlers to the back.

According to Heenan, the shooter was never identified by anyone, and he was brazen enough to continue attending wrestling cards at the arena. ("Chicago really took that 'no snitching' thing to heart back then," according to Uproxx.)

Heenan went on to spend another 30 years in the business getting yelled at and hit with chairs, but was never again forced to dodge a bullet.

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History
Hans Schmidt, the "Nazi" Wrestler Who Incited Riots
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Courtesy of Dave Drason Byrzynski

Waiting inside the locker room of the Pioneer Memorial Stadium, The Des Moines Register reporter Walter Shotwell thought he had found a clever way to discredit a visiting professional wrestler named Hans Schmidt. Just a few days prior, on August 1, 1953, Schmidt had been seen on national television barking into a microphone using a thick German accent. He dismissed the concept of sportsmanship and vowed to “win ze title and take it back to Germany vere it belongs.”

In the years following World War II, a German nationalist was not likely to be cheered on anywhere in the United States, but the vitriol Schmidt encouraged was unlike anything pro wrestling had ever seen. Schmidt had fans practically frothing at the mouth, stabbing him with hairpins, waving cigarette lighters in his face, and vandalizing his car. Fearing for his safety, police would often have to escort him through angry mobs. It didn’t really seem to matter whether Schmidt was truly anti-American or just playing a role. Either one seemed egregious.

Shotwell suspected the latter. During his interview with Schmidt, he handed him a newspaper clipping and asked him to read it out loud in German. Schmidt refused, saying that Shotwell wouldn’t understand him. Looking at it closely, Schmidt could see it quoted residents of Munich, where he claimed to hail from, who said they had never heard of any Hans Schmidt.

Shotwell pushed it a little further, until Schmidt made it clear he wasn’t going to continue to play along. Had he admitted the truth—that he was not an actual Nazi, but a French-Canadian named Guy Larose—then he likely would have missed out on a career that would eventually make him one of the highest-paid and most reviled athletes in the world.

Courtesy of Dave Drason Burzynski

If pretending to be an enemy of the state was his destiny, then Larose was born at the right time. He was 24 in 1949, the year he decided to become a pro wrestler; his dream of joining the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had ended while he was still in training after the police and several RCMP students tried to enforce an alcohol ban on a nearby Native community and had their vehicles pummeled with baseball bats.

Eager to exploit his six-foot-four, 240-pound frame, Larose turned to wrestling. In Michigan and across Canada, he was able to book contests but found that neither his persona nor his real name was drawing a crowd.

Arriving in Boston in 1951, Larose met wrestling promoter Paul Bowser, who took one look at the stern-faced wrestler and declared that he should adopt a Nazi persona. Larose wouldn’t be the first—Kurt Von Poppenheim had already devised a similar gimmick—but he’d have an opportunity to do it on television.

At the time, ring sports like boxing and wrestling were ideal for the burgeoning medium. Cheap to produce, they could easily fill programming schedules on networks like the DuMont Television Network, a onetime rival to CBS, NBC, and a burgeoning ABC that aired grappling contests from Chicago. Although Larose—now Schmidt—had been stirring up attention prior, it was his August 1953 appearance and interview with Chicago Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse that drew more disdain than usual.

After declaring “Germany has been good to me” and claiming that he believed there was no place for sportsmanship in wrestling, Schmidt was cut off by Brickhouse. With the emotional wounds of World War II still fresh, his appearance had struck a nerve. DuMont, Brickhouse would later recall, received more than 5000 angry letters from viewers who were disgusted by Schmidt. At least one viewer recommended he be deported.

Larose, however, exercised some restraint. The word “Nazi” was rarely tossed around, and he never goosestepped or carried a swastika with him. The implication of his allegiance seemed to be more than enough to stir the crowd into a frenzy, especially when he would remain seated during the National Anthem or turn his back at the sight of the American flag. He had been a motorcycle dispatcher during the war, he told journalists, and was once shot down while in a plane.

Although those details weren’t true, on many nights Larose may have felt as though he was in a war zone. Walking to the ring, he’d often be jabbed by women using their hairpins, or by men trying to singe him with their cigarettes. During matches, his “cheating”—using chairs to brain opponents, or kicking them in the groin—would draw crowds toward the ring in an effort to start a riot. At one engagement in Milwaukee, the ensuing chaos led to a brief ban on pro wrestling in the arena.

When the journalist Shotwell asked him what kind of car he drove, he hesitated. “A Lincoln,” he said. “I don’t want to describe it any more than that. I don’t want it wrecked.” He often came out of arenas to find ice picks in his tires.

Whatever argument existed about the good taste of Larose’s performance, there was no question it was lucrative. People who wished to see him get beaten in programs against the likes of Verne Gagne or Lou Thesz filled arenas. Once, special guest referee Joe Louis decked him in a staged climax. There was some kind of catharsis in watching Larose get pummeled.

Photo (C) by Brian Bukantis, www.wrestleprints.com

According to pro wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer, who inducted the Schmidt character into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame in 2012, Larose made roughly $1 million in his 20-year career, which wound to a close in the mid-1970s. Other “foreign menaces” like Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik were coming in, diversifying wrestling’s villain culture.

The kind of loathing he had drawn from the crowd remained rare in wrestling, which hates its heels but usually doesn’t attempt to stab them or burn them with fire. It wasn’t until Sergeant Slaughter turned away from his patriotism and became an Iraqi sympathizer in the early '90s that emotions got a bit too heated for entertainment’s sake. The WWE (then WWF) was forced to assign security to Slaughter’s family until the act was dropped.

By that point, Larose had long been out of the spotlight, having returned home to Quebec. He died in 2012 at the age of 87, his status as one of the most infamous performers of the 20th century having been largely forgotten. Never once did he admit during his prime that he was from Canada.

“Of course I’m from Germany,” he told Shotwell. “Do you think I’d go on television and say things that weren’t true?”

Additional Sources: Mad Dogs, Midgets, and Screw Jobs: The Untold Story of How Montreal Shaped Wrestling; The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels.

Unless otherwise credited, all photos (C) Dave Drason Burzynski from the book This Saturday Night: Return to the Cobo, available at Wrestleprints.com. Used with permission.

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