This annotated week in baseball history: Aug. 21-Aug. 27, 1970

On Aug. 25, 1970, Doug Glanville—perhaps the most prominent of recent professional baseball players and Ivy League attendees—was born. In his honor, Richard constructs the All-Ivy team.

Although I have occasionally referenced the Ivy League institutions in my time writing this column—including a visit to Columbia for my Lou Gehrig piece—it is not a topic that comes up a lot. This isn’t really much of a surprise; Ivy League schools combined have sent 208 players to the Major Leagues, most of them of little distinction. By contrast, the University of Southern California alone, never mind the rest of the Pac 12, has sent 103.

Nonetheless, with Doug Glanville now on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight and Ron Darling doing national broadcasts for TBS, it is seemingly the golden age of the Ivy League ballplayer, at least on television. In that spirit, this week we construct the All-Ivy team.

Catcher: Moe Berg (Princeton)

There aren’t a lot of players whose entire career—and possibly his life—can be summed up in a one-liner but Moe Berg is one of them. Upon being told that Berg could speak seven languages (Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Sanskrit), a teammate, sometimes credited as Dave Harris, is supposed to have said that Berg “can’t hit in any of them.”

That was Berg in a nutshell, possessor of incredible intelligence (he was a spy during World War II) but owner of a lifetime .577 OPS.

(Incidentally, my favorite Berg story is that he finally agreed, after considerable reluctance, to write a memoir but pulled out of the project when his co-writer confused him with Moe Howard of Three Stooges fame. That is a great loss for posterity, but a really, really terrific story.)

First base: Lou Gehrig (Columbia)

Second base: Eddie Collins (Columbia)

I don’t have much to add about Gehrig that I didn’t already say in the above-linked biography column, or about Collins that I didn’t in this 2010 piece. But as should be obvious reading over this list, they are the two greatest players to emerge from the Ivy League—by an enormous measure—and given the current nature of Ivy League athletics, will hold that title for years to come.

Third base: Red Rolfe (Dartmouth)

Our first member of Big Green, Rolfe was a four-time All Star despite only playing nine full seasons. In 1939, playing for probably the finest pre-integration team, Rolfe had his best season, leading the league in hits, doubles and runs and posting a nearly seven-WAR season. After his career, Rolfe was the Athletic Director at his alma mater from 1954 to 1967, and the baseball stadium there now bears his name.

Shortstop: Steve Yerkes (University of Pennsylvania)

Yerkes was actually more of a second baseman by trade, but he did play more than 150 games at shortstop, so we can slide him in here.

A lifetime .268 hitter, Yerkes’ career highlight came in Game Eight of the 1912 World Series—a winner-take-all necessity after a tie in Game Two—when he drew a walk off Christy Mathewson in the bottom of the eleventh inning with the Red Sox losing by one and down to their final two outs. He would eventually come around to score the World Series-winning run on a Larry Gardner sacrifice fly.

This completed a strong series for Yerkes, who had helped Boston win Game One with a two-run single that provided the ultimate margin of victory. Yerkes would later coach at another Ivy League school, Yale.

Left field: Mark DeRosa (Penn)

A perfect photo: An Ivy League player and, in the background, ivy! (Icon/SMI)

This is probably borderline crazy, but DeRosa doesn’t seem like an Ivy League player to me.

He has always been a gritty, utility man type—he’s played at least 25 games at six different positions—which seems incongruous with the stereotype of the high-achieving Ivy Leaguer.

This is silly, of course, as by any real measure DeRosa is hugely successful, but I still have trouble reconciling that with his “dirt dog” image.

Center field: Roy Thomas (Penn)

I will admit, I had thought this spot would be Glanville’s, which is a big reason I picked him as the birthday boy and jumping off point. But Roy Thomas just runs circles around him.

A big part of the gap is that while Glanville never took more than 48 walks in a season—a shame since he was an excellent, high-percentage base stealer—Thomas never played 100 or more games without drawing at least 51 walks.

And often it was more than that; he led the NL in walks every year from 1900-1904, and then again 1906-07. That easily gives Thomas the CF job on this team.

Right field: Gene Larkin (Columbia)

Like Yerkes, Larkin is slightly “out of position” here, since he was a really more a first baseman.

Actually, Larkin was really more a hitter; although he had just a lifetime 98 OPS+, his best position was batter’s box, which is why he was a DH for more than 200 games of his career.

And also like teammate Yerkes, Larkin’s greatest moment came in the World Series when he lined a walk-off single to win the 1991 title for the Twins.

Starting pitcher: Ron Darling (Yale)

Being a fairly recent player—and, as noted above, prominent media personality—Darling’s career is fairly well-known. So I will instead take this opportunity to recommend Darling’s excellent book The Complete Game.

The book uses a memoir form to highlight various games from Darling’s career as both pitcher and broadcaster to put the reader into the mind of a pitcher at various moments. It is a well-written, compelling book—just what you would expect from a graduate of the Ivy League.

Relief pitcher: Mike Remlinger (Darmouth)

Remlinger was never really a closer—he had just 20 saves across a 14-year career—but he was an effective reliever for many years. He posted a 3.37 ERA out of the bullpen (in contrast to his 4.78 figure as a starter) and even earned a trip to the All-Star Game for his work with the Braves in 2002.

While the Ivy Leauge team might not compete with the squad from a “power conference,” it is hardly a poor collection of talent. And if their physical gifts prove insufficient, perhaps their mental wiles can be used to lead them to victory.

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  1. Richard Barbieri said...

    WAR seems to really hate Bill Almon’s defense (-5.5 for his career) and that combined with his somewhat inferior offensive play—albeit over a longer career—dropped him below Yerkes. I could be convinced otherwise, though.

  2. Drew said...

    What’s Glanville’s alma mater?

    I always knew Glanville grew up in my neighborhood, but somehow never knew where he went to school.

    Also, does he still write for the New York Times?

  3. db said...

    For what it’s worth, DeRosa was the QB for the Penn football team too.  I think those teams did pretty well for division I-AA.

  4. George Tummolo said...

    Great atricle, but wouldn’t Hughie Jennings be a better choice at short? He may not have graduated, but he did go to Law School at Cornell.

  5. Richard Barbieri said...

    I have to admit that I didn’t consider post-grad education. If you’re willing to extend the privledge, Jennings definitely belongs at short. But I’m not sure he ever actually played for their baseball team so I think Yerkes would keep the spot.

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