Brett Gardner #11 Curtris Granderson #14 and Nick Swisher #33 of the New York Yankees stand for a moment of silence for former captain Thurman Munson who passed away 31 years ago prior to playing against the Toronto Blue Jays on August 2 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The MLB All-Star Game is next week. And the only former MAC player going to be on the field is Bowling Green pitcher Jim Joyce, but unfortunately he's an umpire, not a player. There are some MAC players in the majors right now, such as Josh Collmenter, Burke Badenhop, Emmanuel Burriss ... but they're not really All-Stars.
So I thought it'd be fun to put together a 25-man lineup of the best players in MLB history who played for MAC schools. I tried to take into consideration those that actually played college baseball, especially during their MAC years, but to stretch the talent pool a bit I didn't mind taking someone who played prior to the MAC days. (No turn-of-the-20th-century people, though, even though they may be listed as a MAC school. That's just kind of ridiculous.)
And just so we're clear, we're going by MLB accomplishments, not NCAA ones.
1. 2B — Bill Doran (Miami) (stats) - 30.6 career Wins Above Replacement
Doran was All-American in 1979 for the then-Redskins and had a nice 12-year career, mostly with the Houston Astros, and was arguably their best player in 1985. He was your essential gritty middle infielder who hit at the top of the lineup. His career average was .266 and in '86 he stole a career-best 42 bases.
2. LF — Charlie Maxwell (WMU) (stats) - 18.4 career Wins Above Replacement
Maxwell's college days predated the entire MAC, but just barely. Ol' Paw Paw signed with the Red Sox out of college and rose to prominence with the Detroit Tigers in the 1950s, making two All-Star games and having a really nice five-year stretch where he averaged .272 with 24 home runs per year. After a couple down years he was traded to the White Sox and finished his career in 1964.
3. C — Thurman Munson (Kent State) (stats) - 43.3 career Wins Above Replacement
Munson was an All-American catcher in 1968 and taken with the fourth overall pick by the New York Yankees that year. Before his awful death in a plane crash, Munson caught for 11 seasons in the Bronx, winning Rookie of the Year in 1970 and American League MVP in 1976 along followed by seven All-Stars and three Gold Gloves.
4. 3B — Mike Schmidt (OHIO) (stats) - 103.0 career Wins Above Replacement
Schmidt did lead the Bobcats to the College World Series championship game in 1970, and I'm sure that's what you know him for. Oh ... yeah I guess the 548 career home runs and three National League MVP awards with the Philadelphia Phillies is kind of impressive too. Schmidt played in 12 All-Star games and won 10 Gold Gloves in that 18-year career. He was the World Series MVP in 1980 and elected to the Hall of Fame on the fist ballot in 1995 with 96.5 percent of the vote.
5. CF — Tom Tresh (CMU) (stats) - 19.6 career Wins Above Replacement
A bit of a noticeable dropoff going from Schmidt to Tresh in the lineup, but he had some decent years with the Yankees. Tresh played for the Chippewas in 1957, before they joined the MAC, but who are we to discriminate? Tresh won Rookie of the Year in 1962 with the Yankees and averaged 23 home runs in his first five full seasons playing center field, left field and shortstop. They won the World Series in 1962 and their favorite lineup had Tresh batting third right ahead of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
6. DH — Chris Hoiles (EMU) (stats) - 22.1 career Wins Above Replacement
It wasn't the longest of careers but the man born in Bowling Green and played in Ypsilanti smacked a career high 29 home runs for the Baltimore Orioles in 1993 with a .310 average. For his career he hit .262 with a .467 slugging in 10 seasons.
7. SS — Scott Fletcher (Toledo) (stats) - 29.8 career Wins Above Replacement
Fletcher earned one letter in 1977 with the Rockets before transferring to Georgia Southern. He was more of a journeyman utility player, but he did play most of his games at shortstop and batted second routinely. Above-average defense and more of a slap hitter. His career average was .262 with one .300 season in 1986 with the Texas Rangers.
8. RF — Merv Rettenmund (Ball State) (stats) - 18.8 career Wins Above Replacement
Here's another one who played before his alma mater joined the MAC but played three years for the Cardinals. Rettenmund's best years came with the Baltimore Orioles in 1970 and 1971, averaging .320 and a .411 on base percentage. He also played for the Reds, Padres and Angels but after leaving Baltimore he was never the same type of hitter, although he did stick around for 13 seasons. And come to think of it ... other than maybe the Tigers, are the Orioles the most MAC team in pro baseball? They also featured Bob Nieman and Nolan Reimold — who in maybe a few years I could start here instead of Merv.
9. 1B — Mike Squires (WMU) (stats) - -0.2 career Wins Above Replacement
It's kind of funny that there aren't many great first basemen that made it in the majors. Squires is the only one I can find who had any regular starting job in the last 50 years at first. And in college he was an All-American outfielder. So figure that one out. He hit .260 in his career with the Chicago White Sox from 1975-1985 and won a Gold Glove in 1981, and hit just six home runs lifetime. Hoiles had a handful of games at first. So did Bob Brenly. So did Thurman, even. So you could go either way on that one, but I'll put Squires here for now.
PH — John Vander Wal (WMU) (stats) - 5.3 career Wins Above Replacement
I could've started him somewhere, such as first. But he was known for being such a prolific pinch hitter. He's second all time in the majors in pinch hits, and holds the record for most pinch hits in a season (28).
LF Bob Nieman (Kent State) (stats) - 16.5 career Wins Above Replacement
2B/SS/3B Tim Naehring (Miami) (stats) - 11.6 career Wins Above Replacement
C/1B/3B Bob Brenly (OHIO) (stats) - 11.4 career Wins Above Replacement
CF/RF Frank Baumholtz (OHIO) (stats) - 6.1 career Wins Above Replacement
1. RHP Orel Hershiser (BGSU) (stats) - 52.7 career Wins Above Replacement
I wish I could make a salient Hall of Fame case for him, but I guess I'll just have to settle for his 1988 Cy Young Award, his World Series MVP, his consecutive scoreless innings streak (59), one Gold Glove, one Silver Slugger somehow (he hit .356 one year), a career 3.48 ERA (121 ERA+) three All-Star games and THESE GLASSES. And he threw a no-hitter in college.
2. RHP Bob Welch (EMU) (stats) - 40.4 career Wins Above Replacement
Welch was part of that dynamic tandem with Bob Owchinko on the 1976 Hurons baseball team. You can never have too many Bobs. Welch teamed up with Hershiser for many years with the Dodgers before being part of a rather memorable three-team trade that featured the Mets, A's and multiple All-Stars (including Kevin Tapani). The A's probably won that trade, with Welch winning the 1990 Cy Young thanks to a 27-6 record and 2.95 ERA. His career ERA was 3.47 (106 ERA+) and his 211 wins is most by a MAC pitcher in the bigs, seven more than Hershiser. These two oughta be 1 and 1A.
3. LHP Charlie Leibrandt (Miami) (stats) - 30.9 career Wins Above Replacement
Three-starter is about right for Leibrandt. His best year came in 1985 with the Kansas City Royals, going 17-9 with a 2.69 ERA and helping Kansas City to the World Series. He was a career 3.71 pitcher for four teams, and yet all I remember of him was giving up that home run to Kirby Puckett in Game 6 of the '91 World Series. I saw them tomorrow night.
4. RHP Kevin Tapani (CMU) (stats) - 26.7 career Wins Above Replacement
A Yooper! In our All-MAC All-Star revue? It's more possible than you think. This former 80s Chippewa hurler played four years in CMU, picking up one All-MAC second team nod. Still he was a second round pick by the Oakland in 1986. Tapani was but a wee minor leaguer when he was involved in the big Bob Welch trade, sending him from the A's to the Mets. Then he was packaged along with some others in the Frank Viola trade, making him a Minnesota Twin. He was part of the 1991 Twins team that won the World Series. After that he was a rather average starter, finishing his career with a 4.35 ERA (101 ERA+) over 13 seasons, finishing it up with the Cubs, which nobody wants to do.
5. LHP Fritz Peterson (NIU) (stats) - 18.4 career Wins Above Replacement
Fritz still peppers the Huskies record books in some pitching categories. He won 20 games for the Yankees in 1970 and was an All-Star. For his career he had a 3.30 ERA (101 ERA+) and walked a stupidly low 1.7 batters per nine in his career. But he's also the dude that — and somehow I didn't know about this until now — swapped wives with teammate Mike Kekich in 1973. They just, uh, all decided to change families. So that's fun.
RHP Steve Stone (Kent State) (stats) - 15.3 career Wins Above Replacement
RHP Roger McDowell (BGSU) (stats) - 9.2 career Wins Above Replacement
RHP Jim Bouton (WMU) (stats) - 6.0 career Wins Above Replacement
LHP Grant Jackson (BGSU) (stats) - 13.1 career Wins Above Replacement
RHP Matt Guerrier (Kent State) (stats) - 6.9 career Wins Above Replacement
RHP Dustin Hermanson (Kent State) (stats) - 9.8 career Wins Above Replacement
Not a true closer in the bunch, but Hermanson had a couple good closing years. Guerrier was (still is) a good setup man and Jackson was the best all-around reliever with 79 career saves. Closer by committee. Yippee!
Manager: Walter Alston (Miami)
General Manager: Dave Dombrowski (WMU)