MLB Hoosiers.

Because we are in the early days of the Major League Baseball season and at the beginning of the five month drought between the end of the Final Four and the kickoff of the college football season, I thought I might check up on the status of current Hoosiers on MLB rosters. A minor problem that I encountered is that currently, there aren't any. I suppose it's not surprising for a team that hasn't won the Big Ten regular season title since the 1940s, but IU's MLB history isn't terribly impressive. IU has produced only 22 MLB players in its history. Of those 22, only 9 have played in 5 or more seasons. Only one Hoosier, Ted Kluszewski, has ever been named to the All-Star team more than once, and other than Big Klu, who played in four All-Star games, only Mickey Morandini, who was invited to the 1995 game, and Pinky May, who made it in 1940, have even qualified. Here's how they stack up:

  • 14 position players, eight pitchers;
  • Players with ten or more seasons in MLB: 4. Kluszewski (15), John Wehner (11). Morandini (11), and Sammy Esposito (10).
  • Players with postseason appearances: Morandini (2) (1993 NLCS and World Series with Phillies; 1998 NLDS with Cubs); Sammy Esposito (1) (1959 World Series with White Sox); Kluszewski (1959 World Series with White Sox); John Wehner (1992 NLCS with the Pirates). That does mean that every Hoosier who has lasted a decade or longer has played in the postseason, including three in the World Series, which isn't bad.
  • Most home runs: Kluszewski (279).
  • Highest batting average: Kluszewski (.298).
  • Most stolen bases: Morandini (123).
  • Most wins: Barry Jones (33).
  • Lowest ERA: Ralph Brickner (2.18 in only 33 career innings).



via www.davesdougout.com


Big Klu (above) was the only true star that IU has produced. According to his Wikipedia entry, Kluszewski, a football star at IU and a member of IU's only undefeated football team (the 1945 Big Ten champs, 9-0-1), was discovered by the Reds when, because of wartime travel restrictions, the team conducted spring training at IU instead of in Florida. Kluszewski, who certainly looked like a football player, started cutting off the sleeves of his jersey to make room for his biceps and is credited with popularizing vest-style jerseys.

Another of IU's MLBers, Sammy Esposito, also made his mark at IU in another sport. Esposito was a star point guard for IU in 1951-52, but per the linked Bob Hammel article, he left IU in 1952 to sign with the White Sox. According to his Baseball Reference page, Esposito made his MLB debut in September 1952, only months after leaving IU. It was a sound professional decision: Esposito played in the majors for 11 years, and along with fellow Hoosier Kluszewski, played in the 1959 World Series. But he did miss out on being a part of IU's 1953 NCAA Champion basketball team.

The baseball Hoosiers that I remember best are two infielders who played for my favorite team, the Cubs, in recent years. Mickey Morandini, best known for his time in Philadelphia, was Ryne Sanderg's successor as the everyday second baseman in 1998 and 1999. Also, in 1997, the Cubs handed the starting third base job to Kevin Orie. Orie had a reasonably good rookie year, and actually finished eleventh in Rookie of the Year voting, but the bottom fell out in 1998. With a .181 batting average, Orie was sent to the Marlins for Felix Heredia in a trade deadline deal. Still, for the first couple months of the 1998 season, IU players comprised the left side of the Cubs' starting infield. (Incidentially, Orie, who disappeared from the majors after 1999, resurfaced and played for 13 games for the Cubs in 2002. That was a horiffic Cub season, and he played in September, so I must have tuned out by then. I have no recollection of Orie's second go-around in Chicago).

IU baseball, despite the rough start to this season, seems to be on the rise, with a good coach, better talent, and a new stadium on the drawing board. Hopefully the current MLB drought will end soon. According to this blog, both catcher Josh Phegley and pitcher Matt Bashore are among the top 50 prospects for the 2009 draft. According to baseball reference, 58 IU players have been drafted by MLB teams. If either Phegley or Bashore sneaks into the first round, he will be the first Hoosier drafted in the first round of the "regular" June draft since 1966, when shortstop Jim DeNeff, who never reached the majors, was selected in by the Angels with the eighth pick. Phegley, Bashore, and hopefully some other current Hoosiers will have a chance to make a mark.

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