June 5, 2002: From the Editor

Photo: 1942’s Class Baby, Woody Rutter, arrived in a helicopter with his father, Joseph Rutter ’42, to throw out the first ball at the 1947 Reunions game against Yale. Catching was Chan Brewer ’45. (PAW archive photo)

As the poet said: In the spring a young lady’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of baseball. (Especially with the Red Sox currently atop the AL East. I can dream, can’t I? — as the boy from the Jimmy Fund used to say.)

Princeton baseball, of course, has a storied past. Princeton played its first intercollegiate game against Williams in 1864 (the Tigers won, 27—16). According to the Princeton Companion, it was a Princetonian, William Gummere 1870, who first stole second base by sliding feet-first; a Princetonian, Joseph Mann 1876, who first learned how to throw a curve ball in the college game, and as a result threw the first no-hitter in the history of baseball, professional or amateur (against Yale); and a Princetonian, William Schenck 1880, who first used a chest protector while playing catcher (stacked copies of The Daily Princetonian).

The first half of the next century belonged to Bill Clarke. Clarke, a catcher for professional baseball’s Baltimore Orioles, was Princeton’s first paid baseball coach. From 1900 to 1944 he coached 36 seasons, compiling a cumulative record of 564—322—10, a .642 winning percentage. Highlights of Clarke’s tenure included the 1923 team with shortstop Moe Berg ’23, who led the team to 18 straight wins before embarking on a career as a major league catcher, accomplished linguist, and American spy; Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League champion teams in 1941 and 1942; and America’s first televised baseball game, Princeton at Columbia, May 17, 1939. (Tigers 2, Lions 1.)

Coach Eddie Donovan moved in for the next 25 years; he won two EIBL titles and coached future major-leaguer David Sisler ’53. Though Princeton had its share of highlights after Donovan retired in 1975, the last quarter-century of Princeton baseball was notable for two people’s absence: no-show coach Jeff Torborg, the major-league catcher and manager who agreed to lead the Tigers starting in 1982 but changed his mind and continued his career in the majors; and star pitcher Chris Young ’02, whose 2000 signing by the Pittsburgh Pirates left this year’s fans wondering what might have been.

Though the Tigers’ results have been uneven in recent years, of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball, two are run by alumni: the Cleveland Indians, whose general manager, Mark Shapiro ’89, we profile on page 16, and the aforementioned Boston Red Sox, who named Larry Lucchino ’67 president and CEO at the start of the season. While I wish both Tigers luck, I hope Mark will forgive me for wishing Larry more — say, an ALCS and World Series’ worth. Play ball!


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