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
who? Says Baseball America. Says Collegiate Baseball.
Say all the knowledgeable sportswriters that base their choice
on pure collegiate merit.
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 Yearas a sophomore.
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 sophomoreonly 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 forhis tremendous strikeouts. In his rookie
season, he had 185 of them, four short of the all-time single
season record (held by Bobby Bonds).
hit between twenty and thirty home runs in each of his five seasons
with the Rangersand 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.
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.
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.
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.
1997, Inky floated from Baltimore to the Yankees, where he played
shortly with the AAA Columbus Clippershis 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.
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 impactand finished by playing
in the minors.
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.
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.
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
the story ends there for now. Any updates on Pete's career will
be logged here.
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.
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 themthis 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.
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.