Michigan State Spartans
2023 Michigan State Spartans baseball team
Founded1884 (1884)
UniversityMichigan State University
Head coachJake Boss (15th season)
ConferenceBig Ten
LocationEast Lansing, Michigan
Home stadiumDrayton McLane Baseball Stadium at John H. Kobs Field
(Capacity: 4,000)
NicknameSpartans
ColorsGreen and white[1]
   
College World Series appearances
1954
NCAA Tournament appearances
1954, 1971, 1978, 1979, 2012
Regular season conference champions
Big Ten: 1954, 1971, 1979, 2011
MIAA: 1888, 1889, 1893, 1894, 1902

The Michigan State Spartans baseball team is the varsity intercollegiate baseball team of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, United States. The team competes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I and are members of the Big Ten Conference.

Beginning play in 1884, the Spartans have made the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship 5 times, advancing to the College World Series once, in 1954, with a third-place finish. The team has won 4 Big Ten conference championships and 5 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles.[2] The team played in the MIAA until 1907 and played as an independent until the university joined the Big Ten in 1949 and the Spartan baseball team began Big Ten play in 1951.[3]

Spartan baseball Hall of Famer

Robin Roberts, MSC

Robin Roberts initially came to East Lansing as part of a United States Army Air Corps training program in 1944. After the war ended in 1945, he took his leave of the service and returned to MSC (the name was Michigan State College at the time) to play basketball. Roberts was twice named captain, earning three varsity letters in basketball.[4] After his second season playing basketball, Roberts tried out for the Michigan State baseball team, becoming a pitcher because it was the position that coach John Kobs needed most. After playing for Michigan State, going 9–6 over two seasons, with 6 shutouts in the 1946 season, he was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1948. Roberts would go on to win 286 games, with 7 Major League Baseball All-Star Game appearances in a 19-year Major League Baseball career. Roberts was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976.[5][6]

In 1992, Roberts was one of 30 members of the charter class of former Michigan State Spartans athletes, coaches, and administrators inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame.[7] His number 36 is retired, one of only five Spartan baseball players to receive the honor.

Other notable Spartans

Ed "Peanuts" Pinnance

Ed Pinnance made history for Michigan State baseball as the first Spartan (the school was called State Agricultural College at the time with the nickname Aggies) to advance to the major leagues, appearing in 1903 for the Philadelphia Athletics, and was also among the first full-blooded Native Americans to play in MLB.[8] Tom Yewcic was named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player of the 1954 College World Series despite his team not reaching the championship game and would have a brief professional career with the Detroit Tigers.[9] Yewcic was a two-sport star at Michigan State, leading the 1953 football team to a Rose Bowl win. Earl Morrall was a teammates of Yewcic on the 1954 College World Series team, led the 1955 football team to a Rose Bowl victory, and chose a career in the National Football League where he won 4 Super Bowls and an NFL MVP trophy in a 21-year career.[10] Dick Radatz earned first-time All Big Ten honors in 1959, going 10–1, 1.12 ERA, and was a two-time MLB All-Star with the Boston Red Sox in 7-year pro career.[11] A teammate of Radatz, Ron Perranoski would leave a stellar collegiate career in East Lansing for a MLB career, twice leading the league in saves, and twice helping his team win the World Series in his 13-year stint in the majors.[12]

The Major League Baseball draft began in 1965 and the Spartans would be represented in the first year when Dick Billings was drafted in the 25th round by the Washington Senators as the first Michigan State player ever drafted. Billings would go on to a 8-year MLB career.[13][14] Steve Garvey was a two-sport athlete at Michigan State, earning a letter as a defensive back for the football team, and would earn All Big Ten and All American honors in 1968 on his way to the majors where he would earn a World Series ring with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a 10-time MLB All-Star.[15] Rick Miller was a Sporting News First Team All-American in 1969 for Michigan State and then won a Gold Glove for the California Angels in 1978 in his 15-year MLB career as a defensive standout.[16]

Steve Garvey, Michigan State, 1968

In 1974, Spartan coach Danny Litwhiler pioneered the use of radar to measure pitching velocity. Litwiler said, “One day in 1974 while I was the coach at Michigan State, I read an article in the student paper that said ‘Don’t Speed on Campus’ and there was a photo of an MSU policeman who had just received a new radar gun. That got me thinking—could we use it to check the velocity of the baseball? So I found out that the cops’ radar guns were powered by the cigarette lighters in their police cars. So, we got an MSU police car to drive out on the field to time the pitches and the readouts were accurate within one mph each time. Within one week, I had the prototype of the JUGS gun in my hands and today that same prototype is in the Hall of Fame." Litwhiler also invented 'Diamond Grit' to help dry out fields after rain.[17]

Following the two-sport tradition, Kirk Gibson would lead the 1978 Michigan State Spartans football team to a co-Big Ten championship. It was at the suggestion of Spartan football coach Darryl Rogers that Gibson play collegiate baseball.[18] Gibson played only one year of college baseball, but managed to hit .390 with 16 homers and 52 RBIs in 48 games.[19] He was drafted by both his hometown Detroit Tigers baseball team (first round)[20] and the St. Louis Cardinals football team (seventh round). He chose baseball and won two World Series titles in an illustrious 17-year career.

Mark Mulder would earn All Big Ten honors twice for the Spartans (1997, 1998) on his way to a professional career with two MLB All-Star appearances and a 21–8 2001 season for the Oakland Athletics which was captured in the book and film Moneyball. Bob Malek (2002) and Jeff Holm (2011) both were named the Big Ten Conference Baseball Player of the Year, the only two Spartans honored since the award was created in 1982. Malek finished his career as one of the most decorated Spartans ever with several national awards and is only the second Spartan in history to be a two-time member (2001-2002) of the .400 club (.400 or better batting average), joining Don Fleser, who did so in 1925-1926. Kurt Wunderlich was the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year in 2011, the only Spartan hurler to be so recognized since the award was created in 1994.[3] Second baseman Ryan Jones was named to the All-Big Ten team three consecutive seasons (2010–2012) and had a 33-game hitting streak, a Spartan record.[21]

Retired numbers on the outfield fence in 2018

Recognizing the combination of athletic and academic performance, a number of Spartan baseball players have won the prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor, including Ty Willingham (1977), who would go on to a successful college football coaching career at Notre Dame and Stanford. Other winners from Spartan baseball are Mike Davidson (1988), Stuart Hirschman (1992), Brandon Eckerle (2011) and Bryce Kelley (2021).

Five Spartan players (Roberts, Garvey, Yewcic, Gibson, Mulder) and two coaches (John Kobs and Danny Litwhiler), have their numbers retired in East Lansing. In addition, the stadium is named after Drayton McLane, a Michigan State alumnus and former owner of the Houston Astros. McLane and his wife Elizabeth donated funds to begin renovations of the stadium, located at the historic Old College Field, and the updated facility quickly made history when, on April 4, 2009, the first official game in the new stadium was played, and Spartan pitcher Nolan Moody threw a no-hitter against Northwestern. McLane donated funds for the building of the football facility at Baylor University, also named McLane Stadium. The baseball field was named for Spartan coach John Kobs in 1969.[2]

Postseason results

Michigan State in the NCAA tournament

Year Opponents Record Results
1954 Missouri, Ohio, UMass, Arizona, Rollins 3–2 Lost College World Series Preliminary Final
1971 Ohio, Cincinnati 0–2 Lost Lower round one Quarterfinals
1978 Oklahoma State, Southern Illinois 0–2 Lost Quarterfinals
1979 San Diego State, Pepperdine, Miami University 1–2 Lost Regional semi-finals
2012 Fresno State, Pepperdine 0–2 Lost Regional

Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament

Year Opponents Results Record Finish
1983 Minnesota
Iowa
0–2 L 1–14
L 2–6
Lower Round 1
1984 Minnesota
Northwestern
0–2 L 7–8
L 4–9
Lower Round 1
1988 Minnesota
Michigan
Minnesota
2–2 W 10–5
W 4–1
L 4–17Game 1
L 3–5Game 2
Runner–up
1992 Minnesota
Ohio State
Illinois
Minnesota
2–2 L 0–5
W 10–5
W 4–2
L 5–11
Runner–up
1994 Ohio State
Michigan
2–2 L 5–12
L 1–5
Lower Round 1
2002 Northwestern
Iowa
Indiana
Minnesota
2–2 L 2–4
W 13–9
W 14–1
L 0–6
Lower Round 3
2004 Purdue
Penn State
Ohio State
1–2 L 5–6
W 8–7
L 3–8
Lower Round 2
2009 Illinois
Purdue
0–2 L 5–16
L 9–12
Lower Round 1
2011 Purdue
Illinois
Minnesota
Illinois
2–2 W 7–1
L 1–4
W 6–3
L 1–9
Runner–up
2012 Nebraska
Indiana
Ohio State
Indiana
2–2 W 10–9
L 4–6
W 6–2
L 3–4(11)
Lower Final
2014 Illinois
Nebraska
Illinois
Indiana
2–2 W 2–1
L 2–3
W 11–2
L 4–7
Semifinals
2015 Nebraska
Illinois
Maryland
1–2 W 9–7
L 0–2
L 1–2
First Round
2016 Nebraska
Maryland
Ohio State
2–2 W 5–1
W 4–3
L 2–3Game 1
L 3–7 Game 2
Semifinals
2018 Indiana
Minnesota
0–2 L 5–6(10)
L 2–3
First Round
2023 Maryland
Rutgers
Nebraska
1–2 L 2–3
W 6–4
L 0–4
Lower Final

Big Ten Conference Championships

Year Conference Record Coach All Big Ten First-Team Players
1954 Big Ten 25–10–1 John Kobs Chuck Mathews, Jack Risch, Tom Yewcic
1971 Big Ten 36–10 Danny Litwhiler Rob Clancy, Rob Ellis, Ron Pruitt
1979 Big Ten 28–27 Danny Litwhiler Chris Dorr
2011 Big Ten 36–21 Jake Boss Brandon Eckerle, Jeff Holm, Ryan Jones, Torsten Boss, Kurt Wunderlich, Tony Bucciferro

College Baseball All-Americans

Player Position Year(s) Team, Selector(s)
Jack Kinney Outfielder 1949 Second Team ABCA
George Rutenbar Outfielder 1949 Third Team ABCA
Albert Cummins Second Base 1950 Second Team ABCA
Darrell Lindley Outfielder 1951 Third Team ABCA
Jack Risch Outfielder 1954 Second Team ABCA
Tom Yewcic Catcher 1954 First Team ABCA
Bob Powell Outfielder 1955 Second Team ABCA
George Smith Second Base 1955 Third Team ABCA
Jim Sack Outfielder 1956 Second Team ABCA
Dick Radatz Pitcher 1959 Second Team ABCA
Tom Riley Outfielder 1961 Second Team ABCA
Jerry Sutton First Base 1963 Third Team,ABCA
John Biedenbach Third Base 1965 Second Team ABCA
Steve Garvey Third Base 1968 Second Team ABCA; First Team SN
Harry Kendrick Catcher 1969 First Team SN
Rick Miller Outfielder 1969 Third Team,ABCA; First Team SN
Rob Ellis Outfielder 1971 First Team ABCA
Ron Pruitt Catcher 1972 First Team ABCA
Dale Frietch Designated Hitter 1974 Third Team ABCA
Joe Palamara Second Base 1975 Second Team ABCA
Al Weston Outfielder 1976-77 Third Team 1976 ABCA; First Team 1977 ABCA
Kirk Gibson Outfielder 1978 First Team ABCA
Mike Eddington Designated Hitter 1984 Third Team ABCA
Mike Davidson Outfielder 1988 Third Team ABCA
Scott Ayotte Outfielder 1995 Third Team ABCA
Mark Mulder Pitcher 1998 Third Team ABCA; Third Team CB
Bob Malek Outfielder 2001-2002 Third Team 2001 ABCA; First Team 2002 ABCA; First Team 2002 CB; Third Team 2002 NCBWA
Jeff Holm First Base 2011 Third Team ABCA; Third Team CB
Blaise Salter Outfielder 2014 Third Team NCBWA
Dakota Mekkes Pitcher 2015 Third Team NCBWA
Mason Erla Pitcher 2020 Second Team CB
Brock Vradenberg Outfielder 2023 Third Team CB, Third Team NCBWA
Source:[2]

ABCA: American Baseball Coaches Association CB: Collegiate Baseball NCBWA: National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association SN: Sporting News

Head coaches

Year(s) Coach Seasons W–L–T Pct
1884–1886 No coach 3 10–6 .625
1887–1888 R. Carpenter 2 16–8 .667
1889–1895 No coach 7 24–25–1 .490
1896–1898 Robert T. Gale 3 13–20–1 .397
1899 Charles Ferguson 1 5–4 .556
1900–1901 Charles Bemies 2 4–11 .267
1902–1903 George Denman 2 9–15–1 .380
1904–1910, 1918–1920 Chester Brewer 10 78–62–1 .557
1911–1915 John Macklin 5 53–27 .663
1916–1917, 1922 John Morrissey 3 25–18 .581
1921 George Clark 1 6–8 .429
1923–1924 Mysterious Walker 2 20–11 .645
1925–1963 John Kobs 39 576–377–16 .603
1964–1982 Danny Litwhiler 19 489–362–8 .574
1983–1995 Tom Smith 13 377–332–2 .532
1996–2005 Ted Mahan 10 256–294 .465
2006–2008 David Grewe 3 75–85 .469
2009–present Jake Boss 14 383–332 .536

References

  1. ^ "Brand Reference Guide" (PDF). April 1, 2023. Retrieved September 17, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c "2022 Baseball Record Book (PDF)" (PDF). Michigan State University Athletics.
  3. ^ a b "2022 Baseball Records Book (PDF) - Big Ten Conference" (PDF). bigten.org.
  4. ^ "Spartan Records" (PDF). Michigan State Men's Basketball. 2009–2010.
  5. ^ "A Man for All Seasons". www.educ.msu.edu.
  6. ^ "Spartan Legend Robin Roberts Passes Away". Michigan State University Athletics. May 6, 2010.
  7. ^ "MSU Athletics Hall of Fame". Michigan State Official Athletics Site. Archived from the original on February 12, 2010. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  8. ^ "Ed Pinnance – Society for American Baseball Research".
  9. ^ "Former Michigan State football, baseball All-American Tom Yewcic dies at 88". Detroit Free Press.
  10. ^ SID, Benjamin Phlegar MSU (December 16, 2011). "Michigan State Baseball First Pitch Dinner to Honor Earl Morrall With Kirk Gibson in Attendance". Sports Illustrated Michigan State Spartans News, Analysis and More.
  11. ^ "Spartan Baseball To Honor 1971 Team, Dick Radatz". Michigan State University Athletics. May 11, 2006.
  12. ^ Goldstein, Richard (October 5, 2020). "Ron Perranoski, Ace Reliever in Dodgers' Storied '60s, Dies at 84" – via NYTimes.com.
  13. ^ "Dick Billings Stats, Height, Weight, Position, Rookie Status & More". Baseball-Reference.com.
  14. ^ "25th Round of the 1965 MLB June Amateur Draft". Baseball-Reference.com.
  15. ^ "MSU Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2010: Steve Garvey". Michigan State University Athletics. September 29, 2010.
  16. ^ "Rick Miller Stats, Height, Weight, Position, Rookie Status & More". Baseball-Reference.com.
  17. ^ "They Were There: The TGG Interview with Dan Litwhiler".
  18. ^ Wood Bats Drive Him Bats Sports Illustrated Vault
  19. ^ "This Day In Baseball - Recapping events that took place in the baseball world on this day".
  20. ^ "MLB Draft - First Overall Picks - Major League Baseball - ESPN". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2022-06-20.
  21. ^ "Michigan State baseball: We picked a starting lineup of all-time Spartan greats | NCAA.com". www.ncaa.com.