Greater Los Angeles Area Colleges: Major League Mass-Production
This article was published in the 2011 The National Pastime.
In 1910, pitcher William “Dutch” Hinrichs from Occidental College joined the Washington Senators for three games. With his “cup of coffee,” Hinrichs became the first major leaguer to have played baseball at a current Los Angeles area college.
However, Hinrichs wasn’t the first local collegian to reach the major leagues. Fred Snodgrass, best remembered for his dropped fly ball in the 1912 World Series, attended the defunct St. Vincent’s College in Los Angeles. Snodgrass broke in with the New York Giants in 1908—two years ahead of Hinrichs. St. Vincent’s eventually grew and evolved into what is now Loyola Marymount University.
Hinrichs and Snodgrass are unknown to most fans, but many Los Angeles area collegians who followed them are not. Local schools have produced such greats as Jackie Robinson, Tom Seaver, Randy Johnson, and Mark McGwire, as well as a host of other all-star caliber players.
Within the Los Angeles area, there are 32 colleges and universities that play baseball in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I, II, or III or in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Of those, 25 have produced at least one major leaguer, and that group of schools has combined to send over 400 players to the big leagues. And that doesn’t take into account the area’s two-year colleges, which have produced players such as the Braves’ Tommy Hanson from Riverside Community College.
It isn’t surprising that Los Angeles area colleges and universities have been prolific producers of major league talent. The region is ideal for baseball because its balmy winter weather allows year-round play. Of course, the area’s colleges can also draw from a population base of well over 18 million people.
As a result, many of the Los Angeles area colleges and universities have established themselves as collegiate baseball powerhouses. Here’s a quick look at some of the major programs.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (USC) TROJANS
The Trojans have appeared in 21 NCAA College World Series and have won twelve NCAA titles—twice the number of any other school nationwide. Eleven of those NCAA titles were won by head coach Rod Dedeaux, who had an amazing span of 37 consecutive years at USC without a losing season. Dedeaux, himself a former major leaguer from Southern California, was named “Coach of the Century” in 1999 by Collegiate Baseball magazine.
Southern Cal has produced 103 major leaguers, which is more than any other college in the country. (The University of Texas is second with 100.)
Interestingly, major league pitchers from Southern Cal have collected nine Cy Young awards—Johnson (5), Seaver (3), and Barry Zito (1).
The Bruins have appeared three times in the College World Series, most recently as the championship game runner-up in 2010.
The Bruins have sent 67 players to the majors— only nine colleges nationwide have produced more. Other Bruins major league hopefuls are on the way, with ten UCLA players having been selected in the 2010 major league draft.
CAL STATE FULLERTON TITANS
Cal State Fullerton has won four College World Series titles, ranking them behind only Southern Cal (12), Texas (6), LSU (6), and Arizona State (5). The Titans have appeared in 16 College World Series—six of those have been since 2001.
It wasn’t until 1980 that a former Titan, catcher Dan Whitmer, reached the big time with the California Angels. Since that time, however, 48 Cal State Fullerton alums have reached the major leagues, an average of over three major leaguers every two years.
In 1992, the Waves became the third Southern California school to win a College World Series. The championship came after one previous CWS and 19 NCAA tournament attempts, dating back to 1955.
CAL STATE LONG BEACH 49ERS
Officially nicknamed the 49ers, Cal State Long Beach’s baseball team is affectionately known to students and alums as the Dirtbags. CSULB has participated in four College World Series, the last being in 1998. Through 2008, the school had appeared in 17 NCAA tournaments over a 20-year period.
Amazingly, 12 former Dirtbags—over 36 percentof the school’s 33 major leaguers—were big leaguers in 2010.
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT LIONS
The current Loyola Marymount University is the end- result of an evolution involving several predecessor schools. One of those, St. Vincent’s College, produced outfielder Fred Snodgrass who debuted with the New York Giants in 1908. In 1938, first baseman Les
Powers also debuted with the New York Giants after attending Loyola College, another predecessor.
In 1986, Loyola Marymount participated in its only College World Series.
UC SANTA BARBARA GAUCHOS
UC Santa Barbara has produced 19 major leaguers since third baseman Joe Martin’s debut with the New York Giants in 1936. At that time, the institution was known as Santa Barbara State College.
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE MATADORS
Before upgrading to Division I, Cal State Northridge appeared in four NCAA Division II title games, winning two (1970 and 1984). When the school won its first title, it was still known as San Fernando Valley State College.
CAL STATE LOS ANGELES GOLDEN EAGLES
Before moving its program to Division II, Cal State Los Angeles—then known as the Diablos—played in the 1977 College World Series.
UC IRVINE ANTEATERS
Before upgrading to Division I, UC Irvine won two NCAA Division II titles, in 1973 and 1974. More recently, the school also competed in the 2007 College World Series.
UC RIVERSIDE HIGHLANDERS
A perennial NCAA Division II power, the Highlanders moved to Division I in 2002.
The NCAA’s first Division II championship game was played in 1968, when Chapman University defeated Delta State, 11–0.
LA VERNE LEOPARDS
In 1995, La Verne defeated Methodist (NC) to win its only NCAA Division III title.
CALIFORNIA STATE POLYTECHNIC (POMONA) BRONCOS
Cal Poly Pomona has won three NCAA Division II titles (1976, 1980, and 1983) and has made four other NCAA tournament appearances.
Whittier produced its first major leaguer in 1937, when infielder Tony Malinosky broke in with the Brooklyn Dodgers. While attending Whittier, Malinosky was a friend and classmate of Richard Milhous Nixon. At this writing, Malinosky was the oldest living ex-major league player, at 101, when he died earlier this year.
The school name “Biola” was originally the acronym for “Bible Institute of Los Angeles.” Biola has produced two major leaguers—brothers Todd and Tim Worrell.
DAVID KIRK ANDERSON SR. joined SABR in 1980 and was an original member of the Allan Roth Chapter. His article ”All Time College All-Star Teams” appeared in SABR’s 1983 "Baseball Research Journal".
DAVID KIRK ANDERSON JR. has been an active SABR and chapter member since age eleven. Now a collegian, he researched much of the data for this article.