Wolverine Biography: Steve Howe

As I mentioned the other day, I’ve been doing some research on the Michigan baseball program and the players in it.  Steve Howe, a name many of you over the age of 30 probably remember a bit more clearly, played for the Wolverines in the late 1970s, and threw a one-hitter in the College World Series.  His pro career started great, but in the end, it was plagued by drug use.

I feel the story is too long to post here, so I’ve posted it over on my personal site. I’ll have an abridged version sometime in February as I build up to next season.

A Tragedy: Steve Howe

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Michigan Baseball Fight circa 1912

I’m in the middle of doing some research on the baseball team in preparation for next year’s baseball team and came across a story I felt need to be shared.  This account came from the biography of Branch Rickey (Branch Rickey: A Biography), Michigan’s head coach from 1910-1913.  You may also have heard of him as the man who invented the minor leagues, or broke the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson, or signing the first Hispanic (Roberto Clemente).   Regardless, I found this story too awesome to pass up.  So on to the story:

It was during that [1912] southern trek that he watched a University of Georgia baserunner try to score from second base on a single to center when a strong throw home seemed to beat the runner.  When the umpire yelled “safe,” Michigan catcher Goodloe Rogers spun about and hit the umpire while players swarmed onto the field.

“Rogers was always getting into fights,” said Rickey later, in barely concealed glee.  “I never could find out whether or not he started them, but he was always involved.  We were down playing Georgia.  I was on crutches as a result of a broken leg [a batted ball in practice had fractured a small bone in his foot].  Well, as usual, a fight started around home plate, and I hobbled off the bench and must have prodded several players with my crutches.”

Rogers, the team’s colorful, zany, and angry man – the sort of person Rickey always loved to have on his ball clubs – watched his coach in action.

“When the brawl was over, there lay B.R. flat on his back near home plate, his leg in a cast sticking straight up in the air.  On of his crutches was found in the Georgia dugout.  The other was in the stands.”

That’s too awesome.  The catch just turns and punches an umpire?  The coach hitting players with his crutches?  Baseball just isn’t what it used to be.  Michigan tied that game 2-2 in 11 innings.  Both teams had trains they had to catch, and the game was called without a winner. AJC article ($).

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Baseball Summer Updates: 4th of July Weekend Edition

Happy America Everybody.

SummerBall ranks top 25 Summer teams.  While this seems like a dubious task that amounts to nothing, it’s interesting none the less.  You can see their list HERE.  Michigan players show up on the following teams:  #10 Wareham Gateman (LaMarre), #12 Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox (Burgoon), #25 Lima Locos (Toth, Wood, Brosnahan).

From the Cape.  The Cape Cod League has been plagued by rain this season, postponing a total of 33 games so far.  Pitching is still dominating the league with the few games played so far.  Ryan LaMarre is batting .167, good for 6th best of the Wareham regular starters.  Their top batter is only batting .265 while the team average is around .191.   LaMarre has moved from the lead off hitter to around the 6 hole.

Burgoon on the other hand is still dominating.  He’s only pitched 9.1 innings this season, but he’s struck out 17.  He does have an 0-1 record, but hey, he still hasn’t given up an earned run.  His 5 saves still leads the league.

Lima Locos.  Toth has been half of the offense.  And that’s not necessarily a good thing.  The Locos are only batting around .215 as a team, near the bottom of the Great Lakes League.  Pitching has been fairly solid.  Wood and Brosnahan have both done well as relief pitchers the last 2 weeks, each having a couple of shut out appearances.

Alexandria Beetles.  Things haven’t been so good for Michigan in Alexandria. Vangheluwe continues to struggle. His ERA has come down from 9.31 to 7.71 over the last 2 weeks. I guess that’s good news. Matt Miller has struggle a bit too, but he has taken over the teams closer role with 3 saves. His .288 OBA and 4.50 ERA aren’t particularly flattering. Tyler Mills made his debut with the team since the last update.  So far he’s 2 for 9 with a pair of doubles and 4 RBI in limited action.

Valley League.  Brandon Sinnery is having some bad luck with the Winchester Royals.  In 3 starts, he’s 0-1 with a 2.00 ERA.  He’s struck out 18 in 18 innings of work, but just can’t get the run support.  Matt Gerbe has cut his ERA down from 36.00 to only 9.69 thanks to a move back to the bullpen full time.  His OBA is still .368 and 9.69 still isn’t good by any stretch of the imagination.

Meanwhile, at Fort Royal, the impostor posing as Jeff DeCarlo continues to pitch beautifully.  His ERA is just 2.00 in 6 relief appearances stretching 13.1 innings.  I can’t remember DeCarlo ever having a stretch in Ann Arbor where his ERA was less than 6.00.  Also with Forth Royal is Kevin Krantz.  Krantz is splitting time at third but may be winning more time.  He’s batting .292, good for 5th on the team.  His defense has also been

Leesburg Lightning.  Good things continue with the Leesburg crew on the mound.  Alan Oaks is 1-0 in 4 starts with a 3.98 ERA.  His 11 walks to 15 strikeouts ratio is something to work on.  Dufek has 4 saves in 7 appearances stretching 6.1 innings.  In that time he’s struck out 11 and not given up a run.  Eric Katzman finished up his summer classes and got a late start to the Florida Collegiate League season.  So far he’s made 1 start and 1 relief appearance.  The start went pretty poorly, but it might have been part of brushing the rust from his arm.  He’s gave up 2 runs on 5 walks in 3.2 innings pitched in the start.  Sounds like a normal “Evil Katzman” start.  Once he gets back into the groove, he should do better.  Chris Berset hasn’t seen much playing time so far.  He’s made it into 4 games but has yet to get a hit.

Travis Smith in Texas.  Travis leads the Brazos Bombers in starts this season, but they haven’t been overpowering.  He’s 0-3 in 6 appearances (6 starts) including today’s game.  Via bvbombers.com:

The Bombers were able to keep McKinney off the board the rest of the game with great pitching and defense, but were unable to muster any run support for Smith, who dropped to 0-3 with the loss.

Smith gave up one run in the top of the first. The Bombers lost 0-1. Tough luck there.

Prospect League.  Garrett Stephens is currently hitting .244 for the Richmond RiverRats, good for third on the team.  His 14 RBIs are 6th in the League.  John Lorenz doesn’t qualify for stats in the league, but he has been getting more starts at third lately.  His average is up to .250.  This week he went 3/12 with 3 Rs and an RBI.

Coley Crank in Alaska.  Coley continues to do most of the catching for the Anchorage Bucs and is batting .203 so far on the season.  He does have 13 RBIs on the season, good for 3rd on the team.

Matt Broder’s team site is horrible.  I know he’s got 1 W and a 3.00 ERA as of today’s leader board.  Take it as you may.

Players still MIA:  Bryce Aspinwall, Mike Kittle, Nick Urban, Jake McLouth, Vinnie Sarafa, Vinny Losorelli (we have 2 Vinnie/Vinnys on the team? Are we in New Jersey?), and Adam Arbour.  I can’t find anything on them yet.

Posted under Baseball

Baseball Links: July 4th Weekend Edition

I’ll get to the current players in a post out either today or tomorrow.  A few things to catch up on with the alumni first. -FA

Hall of Fame.  As mentioned a few weeks ago, former UM shortstop Barry Larkin is being inducted into the College Hall of Fame tonight in Lubbock, Texas. From the initial release in May:

Michigan’s Barry Larkin was a two-time first-team All-American shortstop. He was the first two-time Big Ten Player of the Year and in 1983 he was the Big Ten Postseason Tournament MVP. He twice led the Wolverines to the College World Series and finished his career with a .361 batting average.

Former Michigan coach Branch Rickey is also being inducted in the “vintage class.” His accomplishments aren’t really for his college resume as they are for baseball as a whole. Rickey was a key part of getting Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier. Breaking the color barrier at the highest level opened the door for desegregation at every level of baseball including college. For what its worth, he was 69-31-4 as Michigan’s head coach from 1910-1913, and coached players like George Sisler.

Chris Fetter threw his first two professional starts.  In his first start at Class A Short Season Eugene Emeralds (GO EMs!), he lasted just 2 innings giving up 1 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, and 3 K.  His second start went 5 innings with 1 ER, 3 H, and 6 K.  He gets his 3rd start of the season tonight.  It’ll be against the same team he faced last time as the two teams close out a 6 game series in Eugene.

Chris Getz steals home.  Former Michigan player Chris Getz stole home for the White Sox during a game against the Cubs (which makes it even better for me) on June 28th.

With Wise at the plate, Getz broke for home as Zambrano began his delivery of a pitch that sailed outside and past catcher Geovany Soto. The stolen base made it 4-0, and on the very next pitch, Zambrano hit Wise.

He becomes the 4th player this season with a straight steal of home, 8th player to steal home overall.

Jake Fox gets first career homer in Detroit.  While I may not like the Cubs, I guess I can root for Jake Fox.  The former Wolverine knocked his first career home run against the Tigers on June 26.  Fox is making his second stint with the major league club this year after hitting .409 with the AAA Iowa Cubs.  You’d have to think the Chicago front office will be looking to relieve some of that salary by the end of the season and make room for Fox as a full time starter in the outfield (I don’t see him overtaking Ramirez at third anytime soon).  Then again, how long can he hold up a .903 OPS?

Mike Cervenak & Bobby Korecky named AAA All Stars.  Former Wolverine Mike Cervanak, UM ’99 was named to the AAA All Star Team out of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (International League).  This is the 2nd consecutive time he’s been named to the AAA All Star team, but last year he was unavailable as he was called up with the Phillies just before the game.  Bobby Korecky, UM ’01 also made the roster (although for the Pacific Coast Leauge).  He’s 2-1 with 12 saves for the Rochester Red Wings (as well as 5 appearances at the major league level this year).  You can catch them on ESPN2 on July 15th during the Pacific Coast vs International League All Star Game.  The game is slated for a 10:05 EDT start, as its being played in Oregon.

Putz, Richards, and Hill do their thing on the mound.  None have been particularly noteworthy, nor very good of late.  It happens.

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Prospects Drafted Update

UPDATE: PerfectGame has since redacted their declaration that Dennis has signed with the Rays.  I’ll work this into another post later in the summer so it’ll show up on top.

Consider this the first update on the status of our incoming freshmen.  Starting with the highest draft picks:

Daniel Fields (6th Tigers):  He is still unsigned by all indications, but he does have until August to make up his mind.  Much of the rumor mongering I’ve heard is the Tigers are expected to throw a 6 figure signing bonus at him, which doesn’t particularly bode well for Michigan.

Derek Dennis (10th Rays):  We’ve got conflicting stories here.  MLive reported on the 18th that Dennis was offered a trip to Tampa to take batting practice with All Star caliber third baseman Evan Longoria.  Dennis was quoted then saying he was leaning toward college and unlikely to be swayed by the trip.  The article claims:

Dennis said he is considering taking the trip, but added the strategy is not likely to work…

A career .438 hitter at Forest Hills Central, Dennis technically has until mid-August to make his decision. But after mulling over his options with his family, he said he wants to attend Michigan to pursue a degree in sports science or meteorology.

Then comes rumors this week from PerfectGame that he has in fact signed with the Rays (HT: commenter Ballfan).  They don’t have details on the signing like they do for many of the other players, but it is unlike PerfectGame to jump the shark on these sort of things.  Perhaps the trip to Tampa swayed him?

Patrick Biondi (35th Tigers): Sounds like he’s in with Michigan no matter what.  He was recently interviewed by the Press & Guide with quotes like this:

“I wasn’t too concerned about the draft because I had let them know that I was planning on going to U-M,” said Biondi, “but obviously it’s a great honor to be drafted and it’s exciting to be drafted by your hometown team.”

The 2009 Draft was never the main prize.

Biondi will be eligible again after his junior season in Ann Arbor and that’s when things could get interesting.

So yeah, sounds like a Michigan lock.  I’ll update as I hear things.  Getting accurate information on draft signees doesn’t come with many solid sources, at least not easily found ones.

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Baseball Recruiting

MGoBlue confirms the report on John DiLaura as well as introduces us to new commit Zach Johnson today.  This brings the recruiting class to 9 freshman.  For DiLaura, see our previous post.  As for Johnson, he’s listed as an infielder/right handed pitcher.  Google searching tells me he played  catcher in high school, so maybe we’re looking at third or first base in Ann Arbor.  To quote MGoBlue:

Johnson comes to the Wolverines after six varsity letters with one in football, two in baseball and three in basketball at Grandville. As a senior, he was named a first team all-conference and first team all-district baseball selection after leading the OK-Red League with a 2.21 earned run average and .550 batting average.

Sounds solid.  The article also mentions both players had fathers who played collegiate ball, DiLaura’s at Toledo, Johnson’s at State.

Still no word on the commitment status of Fields (6th round to Tigers), Dennis (10th to Rays), or Biondi (35th to Tigers).  I’m sure we’ll find out by September.

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Baseball Link Dump/Summer Updates

Fighting the Good Fight.  It appears over 100 requests came in to override the rule change adding a week to the front of the season.  Coach Maloney is undoubtedly one of these requests as he is one of the biggest baseball personalities in the north, and the addition of the game to the front of the schedule is a hinderance to northern schools.  Here’s hoping they can get the week added to the end of the season.  At this point, we won’t know until August.  One draw back of waiting so long is the aforementioned BigEast/BigTen Challenge date being locked in already.  I’m not sure what a pushed back start date would do to the challenge, whether it be canceled or pushed back.

Chris Fetter interviewed.  This comes from MadFriars.com ($), the Padres Scout page.  I don’t want to pay money for a subscription, but maybe you do?

Zach Putnam to Double A.  Baseball America does the Cleveland Indians report card ($) propping Putnam.  There’s also an article on ohio.com (HT: m.go.licious).  Zach’s struggled a bit since moving up, going 1-2 with an ERA over 6.00.

Burgoon Blows 1st Save of the Season. Perhaps a little over worked with a league leading 3 saves in the first week of play, Burgoon let one go last night.  His defense didn’t help as the tying run was let on by an error.  He ended up taking the loss later in the inning from a pair of walks and a fielder’s choice.  To quote quag77 from the comments of the Interview post,

Yeah, that was a tough one. 4 runs scored, all unearned on 3 errors, 2 past balls and 2 walks in the 9th.

Matt Gerbe struggles in 1st summer startThis was just ugly for Matt. He walked the first four batters to start the game and was immediately pulled. His ERA is currently 36.00.  Meanwhile, his teammate Sinnery is 0-1, giving up 3 runs in 7 IP.  Tough loss.  I’d take that hear in Ann Arbor any time.

Lima Locos keep winning.  Anthony Toth is the lead off man and every thing I’ve seen has him hitting really well.  I wish I had the stats to back it up, but their site is “under construction.”  As far as pitching goes, Kolby Wood struggled a little bit in relief during an exhibition, but freshman Broshanon has done pretty good in limited appearances (including last night’s, which I have no stats for).

Matt Broder gets a win.  Freshman Broder got the win, pitching 5 innings (only a 7 inning game) for the Michigan Rams allowing just one unearned run.

Ryan LaMarre struggling.  So far he’s batting just .154 in 26 at bats (3 singles and a triple).  He may not stay in the lead off role much longer with that average.

Dufek and Oaks excelling.  Mike Dufek leads the Leesburg Lightning in batting average (.351) and has thrown 3 shut out innings in relief.  Alan Oaks isn’t a regular, but he is batting .333 (5/15).  He is a regular starting pitcher.  He’s 1-0 in his 2 starts with a 3.60 ERA.  He hasn’t been going deep into games with only 10 IP on the season, but it should be interesting to see if he starts going deeper.  Oaks may be making a push for a starting rotation job next spring.

Alexandria Beetles Pitchers. Matt Miller has given up one run in 3.2 innings with 2 walks and 5 Ks.  Kevin Vangheluwe has an ERA of 9.31 in 9.2 innings of work.  Why he has 6 appearances (0 starts) and Miller only has 3, I’m not entirely sure.  Could be that Vangheluwe only makes it in during blow outs.  Alexandria’s record isn’t so great.  Tyler Mills is still listed on the roster, but he’s yet to see an inning of work.  Injury?  Still at school?  I don’t know.

Travis Smith has bad luck.  He’s 0-1 in 4 appearances (3 starts) for 14 innings pitched.  His 3.86 ERA looks nice, too.

Who is this Jeff DeCarlo and what did you do with ours? Jeff DeCarlo has a 1.69 ERA.  I’m shocked.  In 5.1 IP he’s given up 1 hit, struck out 5, and only walked 2.  He does have a hit batter, so maybe he is the same guy?   Also, his teammate, freshman Kevin Krantz has seen limited time on the infield.  He’s currently 2/9 at the plate and an error in 10 chances on the field.

Everyone Else.  His .286 batting average isn’t great, but his on base is a bit higher around .320.  He hasn’t had much luck with base stealers as the league is 17/19 against him.  John Lorenz is only batting .148 in split time with Quincy.  Garret Stephens leading his team in hitting at .318 and tied for on base percentage of .400.  He’s got 2 home runs and a .500 slugging percentage.  Very nice.

These posts may be few and far between.  We’ll see as the summer season goes along.

Posted under Baseball

Burgoon Interview

Tyler Burgoon has been on fire in the Cape Cod League.  In 4.1 innings (3 appearances), he’s struck out 8, walked one, given up ZERO hits, and earned 3 saves.  How’s that for lighting them up?  It’s good to see he’s finally healthy from the shoulder injury he incurred covering a bunt early in the season.  Tyler was interviewed this week by CapeCodOnline.com.  He does discuss the injury, which was pretty interesting and backs up some info we heard during the season:

Not only was it a tough, physical process to come back from, but getting on the mound for the first time and throwing, knowing that my shoulder wasn’t really there. It’s kind of hard to get back there and throw strikes.

How did the injury happen?
It was a game against Oakland. There was a play in the outfield, and the throw got past the catcher. I was back there backing it up and I kind of overextended my (pitching) arm and fell. It didn’t feel too good. … Both my (shoulders) are really loose, so I think that was how I was able to come back from it really quick.

How long were you out?
I think it was two weeks.

And slightly less interesting, Burgoon also won’t pitch without Burt’s Bees lip balm in his back pocket.  I only point this out as I’ve recently become addicted, too.

Posted under Baseball

BigEast/BigTen Baseball Challenge 2010 Field Announced

Small news, but the teams for next year’s challenge have already been posted.  This time the BigEast will send the same number of teams as the BigTen rather than letting a few off the hook for previously scheduled competition.  The big addition to the field is Louisville, who made it to the super regionals this year (as well as several NCAA appearances the last few seasons).  The final schedule hasn’t been announced, but I’m hoping those in charge try to format the teams to face the best of each league.  Getting the RPI boost of Louisville/USF and random third place BigEast teams could help the third place team in the BigTen when it comes to tournament time.

The weekend is February 26-28, so schedule your spring break plans now.

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Baseball Summer Leagues

The summer leagues have started up and a few Michigan players are currently making a difference on their respected teams.  Some guys are MIA.  If you happen to know where one of the other players are, feel free to drop a line in the comments.

Anthony Toth Lima Locos SS
Kolby Wood Lima Locos RHP
Bobby Brosnahan Lima Locos LHP
Coley Crank Anchorage Bucs C
(Previously the Central Illinois League)
John Lorenz Quincy Gems 3B
Garrett Stephens Richmond Rivercats 1B
Matt Miller Alexandria Beetles RHP
Tyler Mills Alexandria Beetles RHP
Kevin Vangeluwe Alexandria Beetles RHP
Travis Smith Brazos Valley Bombers RHP
Jeff DeCarlo Front Royal Cardinals LHP
Kevin Krantz Front Royal Cardinals 3B/SS
Brandon Sinnery Winchester Royals RHP
Matt Gerbe Winchester Royals RHP
Tyler Burgoon Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox RHP
Ryan LaMarre Wareham Gatemen OF
Mike Dufek Leesburg Lightning 1B
Alan Oaks Leesburg Lightning P/OF
Other Leagues
Matt Broder Michigan Rams LHP

Eric Katzman and Chris Berset were both listed with Leesburg, Katzman so much that he was mentioned in the season preview.

Vangeluwe and Broder show up on Grand Lake’s roster as stated by the Great Lakes League (both as #0), but aren’t on the Grand Lake Mariners team’s site.  I assume that just means they’ve gone to other teams.

Jake McLouth was originally signed with the Winchester Royals with Sinnery and Gerbe, but that’s no longer the case.  He was released on June 4th.

I’ll check up with these guys in a little while to look at how they did.  Most games started this last week so not much to report on now.

Ex-Player / Now Coaches

Jason Wuefel (’03 ) is also coaching the Butler BlueSox of the Prospect League.  Good for him.

Posted under Baseball