The Michigan Daily-Tuesday, March 29, 1983-Page 9
toward successful Wolverine season
MICHIGAN A LONGTIME BASEBALL POWER
!83 nine have tradition to maintain
By JEFF BERGIDA
The record: 27 Big Ten titles, five
trips to the College World Series and
The names: Branch Rickey, George
Tisler, Ray L. Fisher, Bill Freehan,
Don Lund, Steve Boros, Lary Sorensen,
Ted Sizemore, Geoff Zahn, Steve Howe,
Elliott Maddox, Rick Leach.
COLLEGE BASEBALL has always
been the sport that falls between
basketball and football in the cold-
weather midwestern and eastern
regions. Florida and California are the
states one thinks of when considering
sources of talent on the diamond.
But despite the constant handicap of
bbreviated schedules due to long win-
ters, Michigan baseball has become a
name associated with success on the
national level and a source of
professional talent unequalled in this
part of the country.
Undoubtedly, the man who deserves
most of the credit for the position of the
baseball program at Michigan is the
late Ray L. Fisher, coach from 1921-
1958. Fisher's reign started off with his
Wolverines winning 18 Western con-
ference titles and was highlighted by
the 1953 season in which Michigan took
the national championship in its first
trip to the College World Series. The
batsmen defeated heavily-favored
Texas, 7-5, to clinch the title.
FISHER DIED last spring but his in-
fluence on the baseball program is ap-
parent when one walks past the
stadium and looking at its name or
talking to the men who played under
The other national championship won
by Michigan was taken in 1962 as Don
Lund, now the Assistant Athletic Direc-
tor, guided the Wolverines to a 40-16
record despite the loss of Bill Freehan,
who hit .446 with 10 home runs and 44
RBI's in '61. The Tigers nabbed the
catcher off of the Wolverine roster after
that season, however, and Lund was,
faced with a season without the team
His team responded with its best
record in history and an amazing per-
formance by pitcher John Kerr, who
threw two complete game victories in
one day, in the NCAA Regional Tour-
nament to put the club in Omaha. From
there, the Wolverines took on the best
that the nation had to offer and won the
... from Michigan to majors
title by defeating Santa Clara, 5-4, in
the final game.
LUND LEFT the coaching ranks
following the ultimate success in '62
and was succeeded by Milbry E.
(Moby) Benedict who piloted the
Wolverines until 1979. Despite a .592
winning percentage over 17 seasons,
Benedict's teams made but one ap-
pearance in the World Series, finishing
fifth in 1978, despite the presence of
Sorensen, Sizemore, Maddox, Leach,
Howe and other major leaguers.
Bud Middaugh became the head man
at Michigan in 1980 and has had some
success in his three seasons. The
Wolverines under Middaugh have gone
36-18, 41-20, and 44-10, including two
trips to Omaha and two Big Ten titles.
1982 found Michigan in a position
where it was expected to be among the
five best teams in the nation. The club
responded with its best regular season
ever but it failed to qualify for post-
season play due to a one-day collapse,
losing to Ohio State and Minnesota in
the semi-finals of the Big Ten tour-
nament. Middaugh does not expect the
sudden elimination to have over the '83
"I think coaches are more affected by
that sort of thing than players," noted
Middaugh. "Besides, this is a com-
pletely different club. Any new players
will change the complexion of a team."
The experts think the latest Michigan
offering is capable of living up to the
baseball tradition in Ann Arbor. It will
take a lot of doing for it to overshadow
Today's doubleheader between the
Michigan baseball team and Grand
Valley State has been cancelled due
to inclimate weather and poor field
conditions. No make-up date has
o lee baseball.
popular but still
By RANDY BERGER
Here's the big trivia question for the week. Name the two
terms that played in the finals of last year's college baseball
The fact that not many people know that Miami (Fla.) beat
ichita State for the championship shows that college
baseball is not very popular amongst the masses. This may
seern kind of odd since people regard baseball as the
tWELL, IT SEEMS there are many obstacles which put
college baseball well behind college football and basketball
in terms of fan appeal.
"The weather is a big factor," said Don Camham in regard
to why more people don't fill the stands at Michigan baseball
games. "In March the weather can be anything. And anytime
u get a good player, the pros take them. You have to build a
ar system to attract people."
Although football coaches are just beginning to experience
pro leagues signing their undergraduates, baseball coaches
have for years seen their star players swept away by pro
teams. Under the present system pro teams can sign a
college player when he turns 21 or when he completes his
junior year, whichever comes first.
ANOTHER PROBLEM, according to Michigan coach Bud
Middaugh, with generating more fan appeal has to do with
the scheduling of games.
''Our support is greater than any other team in the area,"
id Middaugh. "We draw a lot of people on the weekends but
run into problems during the week for day games because
people are working then."
The ironic twist to the matter is that despite all the
problems college baseball has in drawing people, it is at its
height in popularity. Experts all over agree that the caliber
of play has improved from, say ten years ago, which has
brought more fans into the stands.
"THE CALIBER of college baseball is improving such that
many college players can go to high farm teams or to the
majors," said Jerry Miles, chairman of the NCAA Baseball
The improvement in caliber is reflected by the increase in
attendance across the country at baseball stadiums. Accor-
ding to Miles the total attendance for college baseball last
year was 11,285,270, an increase of 2.8 million from the
previous year and six million from 1979 when the poll started.
The six-day College World Series alone drew over 100,000
However, the greatest reason why college baseball is at its
peak in popularity, however, is because it is gaining more TV
exposure. The more exposure baseball gets on television, the
Lias minor status
more fans it will attract. Last year ESPN covered the entire
College World Series and it hopes to make it a part of their
regular programming schedule.
"WE PLAN TO cover every game again this year," said
Mike Soltys, director for programming at ESPN. "Right now
it is the premier event in June."
In fact, two years ago NBC covered one game of the
College World Series and it was picked up by 90 percent of the
affiliates which shows the popularity college baseball is
gaining throughout the country.
But there are many problems involved with televising
college baseball which explains why the major networks
have not regularly included it in their schedules.
"IF IT RAINS you have difficulties because unlike in pro
baseball they don't have a backup game," stated Miles.
"Also you don't know when our championship game will be.
The tourney could last 14 or 15 games. The networks want to
have a lock on its programming."
Therefore, college baseball has to rely on other measures
besides TV exposure to increase its popularity. One way
would be to increase the use of promotions and giveaways.
Arizona State, which has been a dominant power in college
baseball, packs their stands by using such tactics as giving
away spaghetti dinners and having fans try to grab as much
as 10,000 dollars from the field in 30 seconds. Here at
Michigan the athletic department has set up old timer's day, alum-
ni games and 25t hot dogs to try to attract more fans.
If if ever want to increase its popularity substantially
however, college baseball would have to resort to more drac-
tic changes. For instance. if the regular games were
scheduled during the summer, the problems caused by bad
weather would be eliminated.
BUT, PERHAPS the biggest step towardi increasing fan
appeal would be to adopt the four-year rule, which is being
debated in the U.S. Senate. Under this rule, professional
teams would be ineligible from drafting players while they
finished college. According to Middaugh this rule would not
only help college baseball increase its popularity, but would
have positive effects on the pro and high school levels as well.
"There would be better college teams and you would have
prospects all around the diamond. We would be able to
generate more money which would help high school
programs because we could offer more scholarships. It
would also eliminate mistakes by pro scouts who sign kids
before they're ready. Having the rule would enable the
players to be more fully developed."
Although it will probably never again be as popular as
college football or basketball, some day more people will
know who the college baseball World Champion is.
Catcher Rich Bair shows off his very own Hank Aaron homerun swing
imitation in a game played last season. Bair, who could provide a pivotal
role in Michigan's drive towards a Big Ten Championship, batted .343 on the
The Michigan Baseball supplement has been compiled by the Michigan
Daily baseball staff: Randy Berger, Jeff Bergida, Mike Bradley, and Paul
Helgren. All photos were taken by Daily photographer Jeff Schrier.
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