Let's take a look at Minnesota baseball's all-time starting nine in this edition of the NCAA.com series of the best possible starting lineups for some of college baseball’s most successful programs.
Here is how we picked the team: We dug deep in the record books, only considering the players' college career and accolades. Their achievements in professional baseball did not come into play. There was also consideration given to their positional fits and how well they fit into a batting order we made based on historical stats that could provide a combination of high batting averages, speed, and power.
What a starting nine the Minnesota Gophers can throw together. This team is full of both College and MLB Hall of Famers, as well as names that fill the College World Series history books. There were plenty of recognizable names to choose from, which made it a daunting, but fun, task.
Jerry Kindall, shortstop (1975-77)
Paul Molitor got serious consideration here, as the two-time All-American’s speed would have been a big attribute atop the lineup. He finished his Gophers career with the fourth-most triples (4) and eighth-most stolen bases (52) in Minnesota history.
But let’s be real. Kindall is a college baseball institution all by himself. He was also an All-American shortstop and his 18 home runs in 1956 are still tied for third in Gophers history. But it's the two unique honors to Kindall's name that stand out: winning a CWS title as a player and a coach and being the last player to hit for the cycle in the 1956 College World Series.
Mark Merila, second base (1991-94)
Second base is a deep position for Minnesota. Luke Appert was no slouch, winning back-to-back Big Ten player of the year honors. But Merila began his career with a bang, earning 1991 Big Ten freshman of the year honors, and ended his career taking home the 1994 Big Ten player of the year award. In between he was a three-time All-American and dominated the Minnesota record books, finishing No. 1 in batting average (.393), walks (187), and on-base percentage (.517), while finding his name amongst the top 10 in many other categories.
Terry Steinbach, third base (1981-83)
Steinbach went on to earn MLB fame behind the plate but is listed at the hot corner for both of his First Team All-Big Ten campaigns, so that’s where he will slide in here. He was the Gopher's first Big Ten player of the year, earning the honors in 1982, the same year he won MVP honors at the Big Ten Tournament. Steinbach was a hitter, and his .375 batting average still ranks tied for fourth all-time in Gophers’ history.
Robb Quinlan, first base (1996-99)
Quinlan slugged his way to the top of the Gophers' record books. He’s tops all-time in hits (.345), home runs (55), runs scored (249), and RBI (230). His 1999 season was one of the best in Minnesota history. Quinlan hit .413 with 107 hits (the most in a Gophers single-season), 24 home runs (also the most) and 84 RBI. It earned him the 1999 Big Ten player of the year honors and secured his spot in the heart of the order.
Bill Horning, outfield (1954-56)
It doesn’t matter what Horning did in his career at Minnesota. He’s here for one game. Let’s take a look at the 1956 CWS championship game, shall we? Horning went yard twice, his two home runs still tied for the most in championship game history. He totaled 10 bases, a CWS record that stood until 2008 and is still second-most today. He drove in five runs, a CWS championship game record that stood for over 40 years and is still third-most ever. Horning shined when it mattered most and help drive home the Gophers first title.
Tom Steinbach, outfield (1980-83)
This is a first in our all-time nine series, as both the brothers Steinbach make the lineup. Tom and Terry were both on the 1982 and 1983 All-Big Ten First-Team, but Tom is here for the added pop to the lineup. He is still second all-time in Minnesota history with 45 home runs and his .667 slugging percentage and 175 RBI are still top 10 marks.
Greg Olson, catcher (1980-82)
Olson was an on-base machine in his three years with Minnesota. His .375 batting average is tied for fourth all-time in program history, while his .464 on-base percentage is tied for fifth. Olson earned First-Team All-America honors in 1982, one of just four catchers in Gophers’ history to do so.
Mike Mee, outfield (2004-07)
There are others deserving of the final outfield spot, like Ron Causton who was the program's first outfield All-American in 1959. But we needed a little modern history in this lineup and Mee was steady throughout his time in Minnesota. Nobody has played in more Gophers games than Mee (240) and he's in the program top 10 all-time in hits (288), doubles (49), total bases (417), runs scored (185), and RBI (181). He earned First Team All-Big Ten honors to close out his career in 2007.
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Dave Winfield, starting pitcher (1971-73)
There was plenty to choose from when it came to pitching. Jerry Thomas would undoubtedly be the Saturday night starter, giving the Gophers two aces in their weekend rotation. He was an All-American, and the stud pitcher for the first CWS champion team and his 0.50 ERA is still tied for the best in Omaha. Names like Larry Bertelsen, Walter Knapp, and even more recently Glen Perkins can battle to fill out the rotation. And let’s be honest. If Patrick Fredrickson’s career continues just like his 2018 award-winning freshman performance, he’ll be in the conversation in no time.
Dave Winfield was drafted by 4 sport leagues in 1973: MLB (San Diego Padres), NBA (Atlanta Hawks), ABA (Utah Stars), NFL (Minnesota Vikings) pic.twitter.com/s9KcRC87j9— Goldpanners Alumni (@Goldpanners) March 17, 2017
But Winfield gets the nod as the Friday night starter. Simply put, Winfield is one of the greatest athletes in all of college sports history. A star on the basketball court as well as the mound, Winfield's legend grew when he was drafted by four major sports leagues. He won the 1973 College World Series Most Outstanding Player award and Minnesota didn’t even reach the championship series. He struck out 29 batters in his two starts, a mark that is still third-best in CWS history. Imagine 6-6 Dave Winfield staring you down at the plate as he prepares to unleash his heat? We don’t want to either, and that’s exactly why he gets the start.
Dick Siebert, head coach (1948-78)
Gophers head coach Dick Siebert and Dave Winfield in the 1970s. pic.twitter.com/iiUsixhRj1— MNTwinsZealot (@MNTwinsZealot) May 2, 2014
Well, no kidding. Current skipper John Anderson has done well, with 19 trips to the NCAA tournament, but Siebert is the GOAT when it comes to Minnesota lore. He was the head coach for all three national championships and reached the College World Series two other times. While Anderson has more career wins, Siebert did just fine, winning 68 percent of the time and piling up 754 wins.