Hall of Famers, world champions, doctors, engineers, computer experts.
Yep, it’s quite the eclectic and exclusive club, the 68 guys who left the College World Series with the Most Outstanding Player award in their hands. The membership goes up one each June, and it soon will again.
Thirty-three were pitchers, while only one — LSU’s Brandon Larson in 1997 — was a shortstop. Sixteen did not play for the national champions, but that idea has gone out of style. It’s happened just four times in the past 43 years and the most recent — Stanford pitcher John Hudgins — was 2003.
Some went on to very bright lights in the major leagues.
Minnesota’s Dave Winfield (1973) was destined for the Hall of Fame. Arizona State’s Sal Bando (’65) to win three World Series with the Oakland A’s. Miami’s Pat Burrell (‘96) to help end World Series dry spells in Philadelphia and San Francisco. Texas’ Calvin Schiraldi (’83) to lose both Games 6 and 7 for Boston in the famous 1986 World Series against the New York Mets.
Some had individual moments to cherish forever.
Florida State’s Marshall McDougall was not only MOP back in 1999, but put on a regular-season performance for the ages that May against Maryland. He went 7-for-7 with six home runs and 16 RBI. The NCAA record book trembled.
Miami’s Charlton Jimerson (2001) would end up with only nine at-bats in the big leagues. But on the first, he homered. And the eighth.
Three would eventually be taken No. 1 in the baseball draft — Arizona State’s Bob Horner (1977), Cal State Fullerton’s Phil Nevin (’92) and Burrell.
One died 15 months after winning the award.
In 1968, first baseman Bill Seinsoth was MOP for USC. In 1969, he was killed in an auto accident on the way to watch the NFL debut of a good friend: O.J. Simpson.
Some were multi-sport stars.
Winfield was drafted by the NBA, NFL and MLB. Michigan State’s Tom Yewcic quarterbacked a Rose Bowl champion the same year he was College World Series MOP as a catcher, in 1954. The award’s first winner, Texas first baseman Tom Hamilton in 1949, was also all-SWC in basketball, and the first Longhorn to score 1,000 points.
Some had unusual connections.
Pitcher Joe Ferris was MOP for Maine in 1964. His catcher was Stump Merrill, who ended up managing the Yankees.
The grandfather of Ohio State’s Steve Arlin (1966) was Harold Arlin, who in 1921 was the announcer for the first major league radio broadcast in history; a Pirates game on KDKA in Pittsburgh.
There was Holy Cross pitcher James O’Neill in 1952, who threw three complete games in six days. But then, the Crusaders used only 11 players the entire tournament.
There was Cal State Fullerton’s John Fishel, who got the nod in 1984 over another outfielder on the all-tournament team whose name might ring a bell — Arizona State’s Barry Bonds.
Many had their moments in the sun, and eventually moved on to other things.
Miami (Fla.) designated hitter Greg Ellena went from the CWS in 1985 to a career in electrical engineering.
Santa Clara’s Bob Garibaldi — who still holds the single CWS records for his 38 strikeouts and six wild pitches in 1962 — ended up a college basketball referee.
Oklahoma State pitcher Littleton Fowler (1961) left baseball to become an optometrist.
Georgia’s Mike Rebhan (1990) focused on computer science and worked in data storage.
USC catcher Bud Hollowell (1963) became an author and had portions of one of his books recited by the Dalai Lama.
And who among the brotherhood of MOPs would one day have a close-up look at two of the most famous postseasons in major-league history?
You can find him in the dugout of the Cleveland Indians.
In 1980, Arizona left fielder Terry Francona hit .458 with six RBIs and three stolen bases for the national-champion Wildcats. Included was going 5-for-5 in an 11-10 semifinal win over California. He would later play for five major-league teams, but he found his true fame as a manager.
Francona was in charge in 2004 when Boston made the unprecedented comeback from down 3-0 in the ALCS to beat the New York Yankees in seven games then went on to sweep St. Louis to end the Red Sox’ 86-year wait for a World Series title. He added another championship in 2007.
And he was there last fall, when the Indians and Chicago Cubs went seven games in an epic Series between two franchises desperate to end droughts. It turned out to be the Cubs’ turn.
So Francona has been in on a lot of victory celebrations as a professional. But there will always be the day he was 21, and the Arizona Wildcats hopped on one another as champions, and he was judged to be the best player in Omaha. So few can say that.