Tag Archives: sports

Badger Baseball’s Last Decade Launched Many Major League Careers

This week, past players on University of Wisconsin varsity baseball teams are gathering for an alumni reunion. Some, including Rick Reichardt, Craig Zirbel, and Dean Rennicke, will appear at the July 23 Madison Mallards game for a book signing of A History of Badger Baseball: The Rise and Fall of America’s Pastime at the University of Wisconsin, along with author Steven D. Schmitt. Click here for details of the book signing event.  Or, read on below about some of the great stars of Badger baseball.

When you pick up your copy of A History of Badger Baseball: The Rise and Fall of America’s Pastime at the University of Wisconsin, be sure to read carefully the chapters on the final years of a storied 120-year sport—the University of Wisconsin’s first intercollegiate sport.

The Steve Land coaching tenure (1984–1991) consisted of overall winning records in the first five years, including a 1986 Big Ten tournament appearance that featured a victory over Purdue. The Badgers won thirty-five games that season and qualified for post-season play for the first time since 1952. Scott Cepicky’s home run power, Jim Rosplock’s bullpen work (eight saves, five in Big Ten play), and the speed of leadoff hitter Joe Armentrout made the Badgers a solid squad.

Lance Painter prepares a masterpiece pitch

But the pitching staff deserves equal attention. Lance Painter won eight games in his first season, came back from elbow surgery, and went on to a twelve-year major league career. He has remained in major league baseball, now serving as the pitching coach for the Seattle Mariners’ top farm club.

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Quantrill is locked in

Paul Quantrill joined UW in 1986, choosing Wisconsin over Michigan and a contract offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers. He proceeded to become the most durable pitcher in Badger history and set a single-season complete game mark of eleven in 1989. He signed with the Boston Red Sox organization and toiled in the minors but eventually logged fourteen major league seasons in both the American and National Leagues, leading the majors in games pitched for five consecutive years (2000–2004). Quantrill is a senior adviser for the Toronto Blue Jays, providing coaching and guidance to the team’s minor league prospects.

 

 

Tom Fischer angles for a strike

Tom Fischer was the first choice of the Red Sox in the 1988 free agent draft, after completing a stellar career at Wisconsin that included six victories in his first season , the career record in strikeouts, and a nineteen-strikeout performance in May 1988 during which the Iowa Hawkeyes hit one baseball out of the infield. The only hit Fischer allowed was on a change-up. The coaches told him to go back to his fastball.
These three pitchers made a great contribution to Badger baseball from 1985 to 1990 and may have been the best ever to pitch on one UW team. Hats off to these hurlers who made Wisconsin winners in the history of Badger baseball.

Hats off to these hurlers who made Wisconsin winners in the history of Badger baseball. Click To Tweet

Steven D. Schmitt is a former news and sports reporter for several Wisconsin newspapers and radio stations. He writes the blog Home Run Historical Research and is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, the Old-Time Ballplayers Association of Wisconsin, and the Milwaukee Braves Historical Association.

Two Tigers Who Were Badgers

Steven D. Schmitt, author of A History of Badger Baseball: The Rise and Fall of America’s Pastime at the University of Wisconsin, tells us why we should remember Harvey Keunn and Red Wilson as Wisconsin baseball heroes. His book is published today by University of Wisconsin Press. 

Harvey Kuenn as Brewers manager

Some people remember Harvey Kuenn because they are Milwaukee Brewers fans. Harvey took over as Brewers manager in 1982 and led an underachieving team to a pennant with the philosophy, “Play ball and have fun.” The televised image of Kuenn smiling, tobacco chew in cheek, brings back memories for baseball fans.

Robert (Red) Wilson is not as well known. He led the Wisconsin Badgers to their only College World Series berth in 1950 and then played professionally for the Chicago White Sox. In 1954, a trade brought Wilson to Detroit where Harvey Kuenn was playing shortstop.

Wilson and Kuenn were teammates with the Detroit Tigers club until Kuenn was sent to Cleveland in the infamous Rocky Colavito trade on April 17, 1960. Shortly thereafter, Wilson joined Kuenn in Cleveland where “the Redhead” finished a ten-year major league career. Both Wilson and Kuenn hailed from Milwaukee, the former graduating from Washington High School and the latter from Lutheran High School.

Dedication of Guy Lowman Field

In A History of Badger Baseball: The Rise and Fall of America’s Pastime at the University of Wisconsin, readers learn how Kuenn came to UW on a basketball scholarship but rewrote the baseball record book in numerous batting categories, striking out just once in the entire 1952 season. Kuenn and Co. dedicated brand-new Guy Lowman Field with an 11-0 victory over arch-rival Michigan and made the NCAA District playoffs, only to lose to the Western Michigan Broncos. Kuenn became the first Badger to receive a large bonus to sign with a big-league club—$55,000—and won the 1953 American League Rookie of the Year award as a preamble to a 15-year career.

Red Wilson did not make that kind of money, but he played in the majors for a decade. In 1958, he caught Detroit pitcher Jim Bunning’s no-hitter and stole 10 bases without being caught once. He helped the Badgers in preseason practice during his major league days and never forgot his Badger roots. He was a marvelous football player as well: a three-time UW Most Valuable Player and the Big Ten’s MVP in 1949, moving from center to end and winning the prestigious honor in his senior season.

Kuenn passed away from cancer at age 57 in 1988 while working with the Brewers in Arizona. After a long and successful banking career, Wilson remained in Madison and passed away on August 8, 2014, at age 85.  His son, Jim, played baseball for Wisconsin from 1986 to 1989.

To some, Kuenn and Wilson may be just faces on old baseball cards or names in a baseball encyclopedia. But among Badger fans, they should forever be remembered as champions.

Steven D. Schmitt is a former news and sports reporter for several Wisconsin newspapers and radio stations. He writes the blog Home Run Historical Research and is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, the Old-Time Ballplayers Association of Wisconsin, and the Milwaukee Braves Historical Association.

New publications, April 2017

We are pleased to announce four new books to be published in April.

April 11, 2017
A HISTORY OF BADGER BASEBALL
The Rise and Fall of America’s Pastime at the University of Wisconsin
Steven D. Schmitt

“A remarkable and outstanding achievement. Here is Badger baseball season by season, the highlights, the heroes, and the drama from more than one hundred years of baseball. ”
—Bud Selig, former Commissioner of Baseball, from the foreword

“A celebration of the history, tradition, and legacy of the now extinct Wisconsin Badgers baseball program that will ensure its spirit lives on for decades to come.”
—William Povletich, author of Milwaukee Braves: Heroes and Heartbreak

April 18, 2017
MONEY, MURDER, AND DOMINICK DUNNE
A Life in Several Acts
Robert Hofler

“Sweeping in scope and intimate in tone, this biography of Dominick Dunne is truly a life and times story, filled to bursting with notorious crimes and glam parties, high-society doyens and spats, Hollywood celebrities minor and major, and, beneath it all, the tragedies and mysteries that made this singular man tick.”
—Patrick McGilligan, author of Young Orson

“The life of Dominick Dunne as recounted by Robert Hofler is as entertaining as it is tragic. Hofler digs in to reveal each telling detail and scandalous anecdote, which no one would appreciate more than Dunne himself. It’s a knowing read about fame, the upper class, sexuality, and the struggle for immortality.”
—Sharon Waxman, author of Rebels on the Backlot

April 18, 2017
FORCE OF NATURE
George Fell, Founder of the Natural Areas Movement
Arthur Melville Pearson

“The inspiring story of the innovative conservation institutions and legislation instigated by George Fell and his wife, Barbara, highlighted by the Nature Conservancy, arguably the largest environmental organization in the world.”
—Stephen Laubach, author of Living a Land Ethic

“George Fell sparred with fellow naturalists and politicians to bring into being organizations that are models for today’s worldwide conservation efforts. Pearson documents this extraordinary life with a wide range of sources, including interviews over two decades with both Fell’s partners and his doubters.”
—James Ballowe, author of A Man of Salt and Tree

April 25, 2017
THE BLACK PENGUIN
Andrew Evans

“The exterior and interior landscapes are meticulously described, moving and often totally unexpected. Compulsive reading.”
—Tim Cahill,author of A Wolverine Is Eating My Leg,

“A traveler of boundless curiosity and compassion, Evans spins a globe-trotting tale of daring and discovery. His expedition proves that our inner and outward journeys can take us everywhere we need to go, from happiness at home to elation at the ends of the Earth.”
—George W. Stone, editor in chief, National Geographic Traveler

Living Out: Gay and Lesbian Autobiographies
David Bergman, Joan Larkin, and Raphael Kadushin, Series Editors