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How hard is it to name the greatest baseball player of all time? Some folks say Babe Ruth... others live and die with Joe DiMaggio... others point at Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays. But no one really argues over who the greatest collegiate baseball player of all time is.

It's Pete Incaviglia.

Says who? Says Baseball America. Says Collegiate Baseball. Say all the knowledgeable sportswriters that base their choice on pure collegiate merit.

What makes Pete Incaviglia the greatest player the NCAA has ever seen? Pure home run hitting prowess. Oklahoma State knew this kid was for real when he won California High School Baseball Player of the Year—as a sophomore.

And junior.

And senior.

The OSU Cowboys knew what they had when this freshman kid from Pebble Beach broke the Big Eight home run record in his first year at the school. Inky belted 23 home runs and drove in 78 runs in 194 at bats. The kid even hit .371. He led his team to the College World Series. He was an All-American. And he did it all again as a sophomore—only better. This time, he upped his own records to 29 HR and 103 RBI while hitting a nifty .352. Once again, he went to College World Series and was named an All-American.

Nobody had any clue about what was going to happen in 1985, however. Inky was now a junior and was well-known througout the conference. People knew better than to give this guy anything to hit. Why would Wichita State intentionally walk him five times in one game? Because the man did all his damage from the plate, not first base.

In 1985, Pete Incaviglia hit 48 Home Runs. An NCAA record (yes, nationwide, EVER). 143 Runs Batted In. An NCAA record. 285 Total Bases. Another NCAA record. A Slugging Percentage of 1.140 (yes, that's over a thousand). Also, an NCAA record. That gave him a three year total of 100 Home Runs and a .915 Slugging Percentage. Both NCAA records. His 324 RBI and 635 Total Bases set Big Eight career marks.

All American (again). Baseball America College Player of the Year. And now the majors were knocking. Incaviglia was taken by the Montreal Expos that June as the eighth overall pick in the Major League Baseball Entry Draft. The Expos were going to mature this kid in the minors and turn him into one of the most fearsome power hitters the game had ever seen.

Minor leagues?

Inky-dinky-don't do the minors. Why would a player of his caliber waste time playing minor league baseball? The Expos were flabbergasted. The Texas Rangers were not. They traded for Incaviglia's rights and offered him a spot starting in the outfield. Of course, he would have to earn it with an excellent spring. And earn it, he would.

Did you hear about the kid that knocked a hole in the wall? Inky's first day of traning camp sparked all kinds of rumors and legends. But did Inky really rip apart the wall? Well, yes. On the first day of camp, Pete got ahold of a pitch and drilled it to the left-centerfield fence some 380 feet away. It didn't just bounce off the wall. It took a piece of the wall with it. That wasn't the only thing Pete did in the spring. He set a spring team record with seven home runs while hitting .303. The starting job in right field was his.

Inky made his major league debut on April 8, 1986 and collected his first hit. Two days later, he hit the first of what would be thirty home runs for the year. Not only were the thirty home runs an impressive number for a rookie, the total tied the Texas Rangers team record. Inky established himself as one of the most feared power hitters in the game, but he established another trait that he would be known for—his tremendous strikeouts. In his rookie season, he had 185 of them, four short of the all-time single season record (held by Bobby Bonds).

Incaviglia hit between twenty and thirty home runs in each of his five seasons with the Rangers—and he also struck out no fewer than 136 times. After the 1990 season, Inky and the Rangers parted ways. He left as number two on the team's all-time home run list with 124 dingers. He was also first on the team's all-time strikeout list. Inky spent 1991 with the Detroit Tigers and 1992 with the Houston Astros. Both seasons were disappointments. But Inky would get his redemption.

The second coming of Pete Incaviglia took place in 1993. Inky thrived in a left-field platoon on the scruffy Philadelphia Phillies. Along with an ensemble cast that featured Mitch Williams, Darren Daulton, Lenny Dykstra, and John Kruk, Inky helped the Phillies to the 1993 World Series, his first taste of post-season play. The team fell to the mighty Toronto Blue Jays, but the team's worst to first season left nothing to be ashamed of.

Inky set a career high in batting average (.274) and RBI (89) while leading the team in Slugging Percentage (.530) and tying Daulton for the team lead in home runs with 24. All of this was done in only 368 at bats, which put him at the top of the league in RBI per at bat.

During baseball's strike, Inky went overseas for a short stint in Japan. He didn't fare well and came back for another go with the Phillies in 1996. He was traded mid-season to the Baltimore Orioles, where he played in his second post-season. This time, the Orioles were eliminated in the ALCS to the eventual World Champion New York Yankees. Inky fared well with his power numbers, though. He had 18 homers and 50 RBI in only 302 at bats.

in 1997, Inky floated from Baltimore to the Yankees, where he played shortly with the AAA Columbus Clippers—his first stop in the minor leagues. He started 1998 with another stint in Detroit, but that was also a short stay. After only seven games, he signed on with Houston. He only lasted thirteen games there, however.

In 1999, Inky decided to try one more time. He was signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks, but played at AAA Tuscon and was then loaned to Monterrey of the Mexican League. He asked for his release to sign with the Houston Astros and played for AAA New Orleans. That December, he announced his retirement. Inky joked that he did everything he should have in his career, just backwards. He skipped the minors and made an immidiate impact—and finished by playing in the minors.

Pete wasn't finished, though. He spent 2000 and 2001 ripping up the independent Atlantic League with the Nashua Pride and Newark Bears. His 2001 numbers for Newark (including his .353 average) were impressive enough to warrant a minor league free agent contract from the San Diego Padres for the 2002 season. After hitting .341 for the Padres in spring training, Inky started the season with the AAA Portland Beavers. After just fifteen games, he was released.

On July 6th of 2002, Inky was hired as a player/hitting coach for the Atlantic City Surf of the Atlantic League. There he joined manager/part-time pitcher Mitch Williams, with whom Pete played in the 1993 World Series. Pete batted third as the DH for the Surf as they won the division title and headed to the playoffs. The Surf were elimniated by the Newark Bears in a three game sweep, although Inky did hit .364 in the series.

After taking most of 2003 off, Inky signed on as the Detroit Tigers AA Erie Seawolves hitting coach for the 2004 campaign. He lasted three seasons before he (and the entire Erie staff) were let go. He will begin 2008 managing the Grand Prarie AirHogs in the independent American Association.

So, the story ends there for now. Any updates on Pete's career will be logged here.

Now, do I believe that Incaviglia is a Hall of Famer? Well, yes and no. Clearly, to be a Hall of Famer in the true essence of the term, you need to dominate your league for a certain period of time. Incaviglia did not do that (well, except in college). He had the potential, but it all never really came together.

I do believe, however, that Incaviglia should be a Hall of Famer in the same type of way I think Roger Maris and Tommy John should be Hall of Famers. These are the characters that have a certain mystique about them—this is what makes baseball as great as it is. It is not all about the all-time greats. Sometimes it is the everyday players that have a profound effect. Look at Tommy John. The man has a surgical procedure named after him. He was the first player to extend his career by undergoing ligament replacement surgery. Not only that, but the man had 288 wins. And look at Roger Maris. A man with such a storied career deserves a spot somewhere in the Hall of Fame, although maybe not with his plaque hanging between Hank Aaron and Cy Young.

Some day, college baseball may attain the same notoriety that college baseketball and football enjoy. If so, you can rest assured they will piece together a display in Cooperstown paying homage to the greats of the amateur game. And when they do, Incaviglia will be in the Hall of Fame.