Michigan lost in one of the ugliest types of college games today by a score of 13-10. Both teams should be embarassed how ugly that was. Michigan should be more embarassed for losing. So instead of looking at that game, I bring you news of one of last year's alumni.
Kevin Cislo saw his senior year come to a sad ending, having to sit out with a shoulder injury that ended his playing days. He's moved on nicely, now coaching at Chelsea High School.
“I got involved with CHS through Coach Welton,” he said. “We worked at (University of Michigan baseball) coach Maloney's camps in the summer and winter and got to know each other pretty well. He knew I was going into education, so I asked him if it would be possible to do my student teaching at Chelsea. I did my student teaching with Marta Learman in the fall while helping coach the JV football team. Things worked out so I could stay in Chelsea during the spring, which let me help with the baseball team.”
It's good to hear he's still able to contribute to the game that he loves. And who knows, maybe one day we'll see him coaching again at the Fish.
I sat in on a teleconference with Barry Larkin hosted by MGoBlue today. Lots of interesting stuff discussed. Barry will be the 6th number retired in Michigan baseball history, with the ceremony happening at Saturday's Ohio State game at 5:45pm. Several former Michigan stars should be in attendance and coach Bud Middaugh.
MGoBlue has full audio for the Buckeyes who can't read.
On the honor of having his number 16 retired:
This is my first number retirement. This is certainly special. I got the call – Rich Maloney called me up, told me they were going to do it. Once again, just an honor. Just a little sad that some of the people that were very instrumental in me come to Michigan, mainly Bo Schembechler, is not around to see this happen. I had an opportunity when I was inducted into the Hall of Honor a couple years ago and I spoke to him before that. It was my last conversations I had with him. It was kind of a sad thing. We had this joke going on about how when I came to Michigan I came to play football.
He used to come out and heckle me during baseball workouts. He'd be at baseball work outs. I used to get on him about that. I told him alright, someday I'll tell this story. I told the story when I was inducted into the Hall of Honor, but he wasn't there to defend himself. But I'm very excited about it.
On being recruited as a football player:
Bo came down to recruit my brother who was a year before me..
Bo spent so much time, he forged a real nice relationship with my mom. And he told my mom he would come down was going to get the next Larkin kid that came out and that was me. He came down and did the whole recruiting thing. He told me about the University of Michigan and told me he would even allow me play baseball.
He told me that Michigan football – no one came to Michigan to play baseball. He told me also that a couple guys were going to leave out of school as juniors. they came back for their senior years. He told me he was going to redshirt me my freshman year.
At that particular time was the first time I was able to just concentrate on one particular game, one particular sport. My learning curve was vertical basically. I got a lot better a lot quicker. And after that year he let me play baseball, I had to tell him that I decided I was not going to play football…
If you didn't know Bo, you certainly didn't want to see that side of him when you tell him you aren't going to contribute to his program. It was nothing nice. It was like a bull in a china shop. If he was going to come across me he would absolutely kill me. I tell this story a lot. It was a fabulous relationship. It was really a big part of why I came to Michigan.
On his relationships with the University even through the Reds organization:
My rookie year in the big leagues, when I left Michigan and went to play in Cincinnati, I didn't really talk to any body. We were in Wrigley Field, not to far away from Michigan, and I want to say some guys from the baseball team came up to the game. But without me talking to anyone, the organ player, who normally plays this organ music – baseball music- he played Hail to the Victors when I came up when I was coming up getting ready to hit. I thought that was the most absolute coolest thing ever. I didn't ask him to do it, I didn't have to ask him to do it. It was as if people were just so in tune to it… It was just amazing. I'm so proud to just have attended the University.
On the #16:
The number 16 was just the number that they gave me. I actually wore number 11 growing up. Bill Freehan had that number and that number was retired. The other number that I wore was number 14. That was for Pete Rose. Number 16 was just the number they gave me my freshman year and there is no real story behind as far as I know.
On Bo's opinion that baseball was a mistake:
Bo, he is… No. [laughs] He did not acknowledge. I'm not even sure it was a mistake. He told me often when he would heckle me that he could strike me out anyway. He was a lefty and had a nice little curveball, supposedly. That's what he told me. He said he would intimidate me. He would throw me up and in, get me off the plate, throw a back door curve ball. Strike me out just about every single time.
On coming up north:
People ask me why I went up there to play baseball. I didn't. I went up there to play football. That was really my intent… I knew that I wanted to go to Michigan… One of the things that really attracted me to Michigan was the helmets. It was wanting to wear the winged helmets and be part of the program. I loved it. I went up there because of the condition of the football program and that they had a good baseball program as well. It really solidified things for me.
On his experiences as a student:
It was great. I lived in West Quad my freshman year. Casey close was my roommate. it was great. a controlled environment. There were baseball people around us […] I had great people, great football people around me […]. It was a great campus and a great program to be a part of. I really enjoyed it.
On Bo heckling:
He didn't really sit around the batting cage. […] Bo's M.O. was this. Bo would come to practice on his way the indoor football field. […] He would take a circuitous route, he would walk out of the Academic offices, walk outside of the baseball stadium, inside the first base line, find the plate, down the third baseline, heckle me, and then walk out into the indoor football building.
He wouldn't sit around there while everybody was around. He would go and kind of stand in the stands. It was funny because we would be out there a lot of times, and it would be cold, it'd be windy, it'd be raining or whatever. Bo would wear a parka. He would look like Darth Vader with his parka pulled over his head. He would walk in and he would yell at me, "LARKIN!" and I'm going "oh my goodness, who in the world is that?"
Eventually, I convinced my teammates that it was Bo. So I had one time, I had one of the kids go up into the stands and go look up underneath the parka. He came back, he was like "this is unbelievable, that really is Bo Schembechler."
On if he would ever talk back to Bo:
I would just kind of laugh, or look at him and do whatever. But not really. It was Bo for crying out loud. It was Bo Schembechler.
On his relationship with Bud Middaugh:
I credit Bud a lot on giving me the foundations. He helped me out tremendously. He also was very caring and supportive. It was a little different being the head baseball coach because he was the boss. The relationship was a little more challenging than my relationship with Bo. Bo would joke a lot with me, but Bud, the success of his program was predicated on me going out and doing well. It was a little different relationship, but definitely one of caring.
He and his wife Dee, they opened up their home to us players. He took the time, he knew I was the only African American player on the team at the time. There were some issues that came up that he was very sensitive to. Once again, he was a person that opened up everything to me and just made me feel comfortable. I give him a lot of credit for – almost like tough love. Helping me out, helping me grow as a person, challenging me, and being sensitive to different issues that I was faced with.
On Ohio State as a Bigger Rival:
It was always a thing for Ohio State being the fact that I was from Cincinnati. People ask me all the time why I didn't go to Ohio State. I didn't get recruited by Ohio State. My college roommate Casey Close, who was player of the year in baseball one year, he didn't get recruited by Ohio State either, and he grew up in Worthington, a suburb of Columbus. There was always being from Ohio, there was always that Ohio State-Michigan thing.
But rivalry was the rivalry. The rivalry was always the best team of the time. Whoever we had to beat to win the game was who we had to beat to win the game. As a player, I didn't buy into getting up a little more for that particular series. […]
I thought you play the way you play regardless of who you play. You don't try to create any more. I thought that was a media driven thing, and now that I'm part of the media, I understand that it really is. It wasn't anything extra special other than the fact that a lot of people would bring it to my attention that I was from Ohio and playing against the [sarcasm] Ohio State University.
On future hopes:
I think one thing that I'd love to be able to do is say that I am a member of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. That's one thing that I can honestly say that I really want to happen. All of the other accolades are fine; those are great. But to be in the class of the best of the best, that's somewhere that I definitely want to be.
As far as an analyst, I really enjoy the opportunity to teach. That's what I really love to do with baseball – I love to instruct and teach. I do work as an analyst with the [MLB] Network. I also do some cultural exchange programs. I build a baseball academy. I instruct kids – travel the world instructing kids. My last tour was in Taiwan. I have an education company. We've combined education and sports to make it a fun, learning experience.
I just want to stay involved. I really enjoy the game of baseball. I enjoy teaching the game of baseball. I enjoy pointing out how difficult it is, and enlightening people on why things happen the way they do during a game. I don't think there are enough attention paid to the fundamentals of sport. I just see this as an opportunity to drive home the attention and due diligence to that dynamic of fundamentals.
MGoBlue went with their Barry Larkin post, quite a bit more Michigan centric, and you know, written by a writer. Much better than mine. You should read it.
A little taste:
It was a Friday in August at Wrigley Field, and Barry Larkin was about to step to the plate for his first-ever road game at-bat in the major leagues. The 22-year-old, just a few months removed from one of the most storied careers in Michigan baseball history, had been called up to play for the Cincinnati Reds a week before.
As the announcer introduced the rookie and the Wrigley Field organist started to play, Larkin suddenly heard the first few booming notes of "The Victors" resonate through the ballpark. He looked up, trying to find the source of the sound, and saw his teammates waving at him.
"I just kind of thought, 'All right! That is cool as heck,'" Larkin said. "I can't tell you how extensive the tradition of the block 'M' reaches. The extent of it, it's just amazing."
He couldn't have guessed on that day in 1986 that four years later, the tradition of the block 'M' would extend to his 1990 World Series championship team, on which Larkin played with former Michigan teammates Chris Sabo (1981-83) and Hal Morris (1984-86). Sabo, in full uniform and holding a coffee mug, would sit in the Reds clubhouse a few hours before Sunday games and blast "The Victors" through the clubhouse loudspeakers.
This weekend's critical series against Big Ten co-leaders Ohio State has a side story that deserves just as much attention as a battle for the Big Ten title. Michigan's greatest shortstop, Barry Larkin, will have his number 16 jersey retired on Saturday afternoon.
Barry was born in Cincinnati in 1964, a city that he would forever be tied to. He grew up and attended Moeller High School, a great school in Ohio sport history. It produeced not just Larkin, but Ken Griffey, Jr., and someone many Michigan fans hold dear: Gerry Faust. At Moeller, Larkin set the school record for batting average for a career at .482, hitting 12 triples and 11 homers, stealing 26 bases.
He would win the team MVP as a senior in 1982 and was drafted in the 2nd round by the hometown Cincinnati Reds. Larkin chose not to sign with the Reds however, and instead enrolled at the University of Michigan to play football. Yes, football. Following the 1982 season, he informed then coach Bo Schembechler that he would also be trying out for the baseball team. That was the last time Larkin would be part of the football team, as he became a regular immediately on the baseball squad.
On the diamond, Larkin made an immediate impact. The 1983 season would see Larkin named the Big Ten Tournament player of the year and make Baseball America's Freshman First Team. That season was also a College World Series for the Wolverines. In game one against Maine, Larkin had two doubles in a 6-5 win. Michigan would ultimately be eliminated by Texas in the semi-final. Michigan's final record was 50-9, the highest winning percentage by any Wolverine team ever.
That wasn't Larkin's last trip to Omaha. [Ed: continued after the jump.]
Jim Burton played for Michigan from 1968-1971. He was a left handed pitcher who was known to bat right handed, somewhat of an oddity in today's game. He was drafted by the Tigers in the 1967 draft, but he decided against signing the professional contract and came to Ann Arbor. While his college he had 288 strikeouts in 228 innings. The highlight of his career in Ann Arbor had to be his no hitter, thrown against Wisconsin (back when they had a team) in 1971. It was the first no-no thrown by a UM pitcher in 88 years (so long that they don't even have reliable records for games before that). It's one of only 2 complete game no hitters in Michigan history. That's impressive. While I haven't found his win total for his 3 years on the varsity squad, he did have a ridiculous 19 wins his senior season (there wasn't a cap on games played in a season until the late 80s/early 90s).
Burton was selected in the 1st round (5th overall) by the Red Sox in 1971. After several years of pitching woes (rampant wildness) and back problems, he finally broke into the big leagues in 1975, a big year for the Red Sox, it was the year of the epic Red Sox vs Reds World Series.
Burton had a successful season with the Red Sox. In 29 appearances (4 starts), he went 1-2 with a 2.89 and a save. His bad luck began in the World Series. In game 3 at Riverfront stadium in Cinncy, Burton lasted only 1/3 of an inning with a walk. Game 7 was worse. Jim would be tagged with the loss in the ninth after walking Griffey, getting 2 outs, then giving up the winning run on a Joe Morgan single. A walk later and he was yanked. Many Boston fans blamed him (or manager Daryll Johnson for putting him in) for the loss of the series.
Burton was interviewed many years later for the book "Boys of October" by Doug Hornigs:
"Yeah. You know, over the years Morgan has always given me credit for making a good pitch in that situation [...] Which doesn't change the outcome, unfortunately. But I threw that pitch because the one before it, which was an inside fastball he fouled off. I was surprised at how fast he came around on an inside pitch like that, and I decided I better not try it again. Fisk came out. We discussed it and decided on the slider." "That's what it was. I wound up and threw it exactly where I wanted it, as hard as I could throw one. My slider wasn't a tight one; it was more like a 'slurve' that started in close to a left-hander and broke a lot, away from him. That's what that pitch did. It fooled Morgan, and you can see him start to bail out at first." You can, but but it's not by much. And his recovery is amazingly fast. "Then he kind of threw the bat at the ball." Just trying to foul it off? "Maybe. But he got the end of the bat on it and blooped the fly to center. I turned, and the first thing I saw was Freddie Lynn going back a step or two. And I thought, 'Oh, no.' I knew Morgan hadn't hit it solid. I could see Freddie had no play."
Burton spent the next year at AAA Pawtucket trying to regain his confidence. He eventually made it back into the MLB for one game in 1978. He threw 2.2 innings giving up a hit, a walk, and striking out three. He would spend the next season in the Mets minor league before heading back to his native Michigan to begin life after baseball. After trying a few different jobs in Michigan, he opened his own printing shop. The job eventually took him to Charlotte, NC, where he still lives today.
A special thanks to the The Baseball Biography Project for so much great information.
Bill Freehan is arguably the greatest catcher Michigan has ever had. Freehan came to Michigan in 1959, choosing the Maize and Blue over then baseball power Western Michigan because UM also offered him a football scholarship. Freehan had actually wanted to go to Notre Dame, but they too wouldn't allow him to be a two sport athlete.
It worked out well for Freehan and Michigan. His sophomore season saw Michigan win the College World Series over Santa Barbara University. In his junior campaign ('61), Freehan hit for a .585 average, which is still the BigTen record for a season. It's such a ridiculous record that the closest anyone has ever gotten was Randy Wolfe (UM '85) at .514. Three other players have finished with .500 averages (including Scott Weaver, UM '95 and Scott Erdmann, UM '85).
I think its safe to assume Freehan's record will probably stay intact for a long, long time. Bill lead the league that year with 18 RBIs as well, winning him All-BigTen honors. That season is the origin of the University of Michigan Bill Freehan Award, given to the team's top hitter each season. One of his mother's favorite facts about Bill was he once caught a triple header against rivals Michigan State. He caught the morning, afternoon, and evening game, but still had the energy to go dancing that night.
That season brought all the teams calling to Bill's father's front door. This being the pre-draft era, teams lined up at the front door and offered signing bonuses of unreal magnitude in the 60s. Bill claimed offers up to $150,000 dollars just to sign with a team. To put that in prospective, minor leaguers only made about $6,000 a year salary. Bill ended up signing with the Tigers, but he did managed to earn his degree from UM by taking classes in the fall. Bill's father made sure the education was the first thing on his son's mind (from a Baseball Digest Interview):
"The deal with my father was I would never see a dime of my bonus money until I got my college degree. That forced me to live in the YMCA with the rest of the guys and live off the meal money they paid all of us. That was motivational."
Now if that was only the case for today's athletes? Freehan went on to play with the Tigers, getting called up almost immediately. He spent the pennant stretch of September that year getting a chance to pinch run or hit here or there. The Tigers were in a battle with the Yankees (this was the season of 61 homers for Maris and 54 for Mantle) for the AL East championship and the management was in no rush to throw a kid out into the fire too soon. Freehan was sent back down to start the '62 season, but was named the Tigers starter in '63. Did he ever start the season hot. During one stretch of fifteen plate appearances, he went 9/9 with 3 homers,a triple, 3 doubles, 2 singles, and a 3 set of walks. While that pace certainly didn't last, but he did solidify his place in Detroit's lineup.
Bill would spend the next 13 seasons as the Tigers' backstop. He made 11 all start teams and won the World Series of 1968. The pitching staff in his early career were all young guys, but all raved about how Freehan gave the them confidence. He called a great game. He was the team leader and the team - the city - knew it. Freehan would go on to play with the Tigers through the 1976 season, posting a career .261 batting average and 200 home runs.
While still playing, Bill would release a book, Behind the mask: An inside baseball diary, offering an in depth look at baseball players lives. Fans didn't like to think about the players in the way he wrote about them and booed Freehan for a few months, but Bill silenced them by having a great 1971.
He would then start working at his own manufacturer's representative agency, acting as a salesman. He took on a new job in 1990, the head coach of the University of Michigan baseball team. He returned to Ann Arbor just as the program was entering probation for NCAA violations under coach Bud Middaugh. The school had banned all scholarships for 2 years, post season play for 3 years, and off campus recruiting for the next school year. The program was crippled.
When I took this job, I was advised to expect the worst, andc this is the worst. I was looking to get in heaven or hell, and I am in hell. At least I'm not in limbo." -Bill Freehan, via Spokane Chronicle February 20, 1990.
Bo chose Freehan for his phenomenal character and hard work to replace Middaugh, and Freehan did fairly well in his first few years given the restrictions. He stayed on at Michigan through the '95 season when the team fell far short of expectations. Despite being picked to finish as high as 2nd in the BigTen, the team finished dead last. Freehan retired with a record of 166-167-1, the first ever Michigan coach to leave with a losing record. Along with this last place finish came the suspicion of more NCAA infractions. Freehan was accused of giving players free pizza as a reward and offering use of his sports car for exceptional performances. Freehan denied the rumor about the sports car (that it was just a joke), but did admit there might have been minor infractions here or there - nothing serious - and that pizza was occasionally provided for the team.
Since then, Bill has also worked with the Tigers organization as a catching instructor from 2002-2005. He now is retired and living in the southern suburbs of Detroit.
Bill Freehan at The Baseball Biography Project