Bob Zupcic

This article was written by Bill Nowlin

Bob Zupcic (TRADING CARD DB)Bob Zupcic hit .217 in Double A one year, then .213 the next – and found himself in the major leagues the year after that. The former first-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 1987 was a large right-handed outfielder (6-foot-4 and 220 pounds as a ballplayer) prized for his defensive talents. He played 11 years in professional baseball, including parts of four years for the Red Sox and then the White Sox.

Robert Zupcic (pronounced ZUP-sic) was born in Pittsburgh on August 18, 1966. His parents were Nicholas Robert Zupcic and Lois Ann (née Shiring) Zupcic, a homemaker who raised the children. “My dad – he was not an athlete at all. I don’t think I even had a catch with him. But a very smart man, a very hard worker. He started working with IBM, in the typewriter business.”1

Nicholas Zupcic was transferred to the Philadelphia area when Bob was in third grade. The family lived in Bala Cynwyd first, and then Levittown, which is where Bob grew up. He had a brother about four years older – Jeffrey Scott Zupcic – and a sister about 3 1/3 years younger – Nicole Louise Zupcic. He also had half-brothers Nick Johnson, Ron Zupcic, and Chris Gordon.

As Bob recounted, their father “ended up starting his own business where he sold typewriters, cleaned typewriters. Type Rite Service Corporation. I worked with him cleaning typewriters. Before I would play baseball at night, I would go to the schools and clean typewriters. But when computers hit, that wasn’t really his thing.”2

Though not an athlete, Bob’s father was very supportive of his son’s passion. When Bob began playing for the local American Legion team, Levittown Western, “my dad actually sponsored the team. He bought us like six different sets of uniforms. We were good! There was one school – Boyerstown, Pennsylvania – their high school team was their Legion team, and they had a beautiful field. We lost to them twice, but we ended up going to Chicago one year and Wisconsin one year, for the regionals – but we didn’t do too good.”3

Zupcic attended Bishop Egan High School (which later produced Joe McEwing) in Fairless Hills, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, about 26 miles northwest of Philadelphia and about 11 miles from Trenton, New Jersey. He did some pitching for the baseball team; in addition, he played quarterback on the football team.

For college, he went to Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “They didn’t recruit me. Believe it or not, my dad called the coach out of the blue and basically said, ‘You need my son.’ They ended up making some phone calls to scouts and I ended up getting a pretty much full scholarship without them ever having seen me play.”4

With the Oral Roberts Titans, Zupcic was a success from the start. He was a freshman All-American and, after playing in a summer collegiate league in Liberal, Kansas, he was – with Jeff King – named 1985 Summer College Player of the Year by Baseball America.5

That fall he was chosen to join a team to go to Venezuela for a two-week tournament. “We actually stayed in a palace in Venezuela. We had soldiers armed with machine guns outside when they were taking us around in a school bus. I ended up being MVP. I mean, I crushed. I just found out my grandfather died, and that day we played Cuba. I hit two homers, had five ribbies, and caught [what would have been a game-winning] homer to win the game. It was probably the best game I ever played because I dedicated it to him.”6

The following summer, in 1986, he was named to Team USA – the Collegiate National Team of USA Baseball – “but then I had a crappy summer. I didn’t…it just didn’t work out too well.”7 He hit .250 with two homers and seven RBIs.

Oral Roberts was a Christian university and that’s also where he met his future wife, Rebecca Phelps. “Bible, Becky, and baseball. We’ve been married 33 beautiful years. Her name is Beautiful – no, it’s Rebecca Faithe Zupcic. She was a student. I was playing right field. We had a chain link fence, and she was running around the outfield. I thought, ‘This girl, she’s nice!’ That day I went 0-for-5. I thought, ‘I’ve got nothing to lose.’ I call her up and go, ‘Hi there, this is Bob, the baseball player.’ Small school. She told me, ‘No.’ So I was 0-for-6. Then she called me back. We ended up going out and here we are 33 years later. I’m way out of my league. She’s awesome.”8

In 1987, The Sporting News named Zupcic as one of the three outfielders on its All-America Squad.9 By the time the article appeared, he had completed his junior year at college and been selected by the Boston Red Sox in the first round of the 1987 draft, a supplemental choice and the 32nd pick overall. He had expected to be drafted by Pittsburgh. “I knew I was going to get drafted pretty high. The Pirates flew me in the day before the draft. I got to work out at Three Rivers Stadium before Chuck Tanner. I was thinking maybe second round.” But the Red Sox claimed him, to his surprise: “I never even talked with the Red Sox. Never talked to them!”10

Red Sox scout Danny Doyle called him on the phone. Zupcic signed for a $75,000 bonus.11 He went to Elmira, New York to start his professional career with the Pioneers in the short-season New York/Penn League. He hit .303 in 66 games with seven homers and 37 RBIs. Zupcic was seen as a possible heir to Red Sox right fielder Dwight Evans.12

Each of the next three years, as he progressed up the ladder, his batting average declined at least slightly. In 1988, it dropped six points to .297 with the Single-A Lynchburg Red Sox (Carolina League) in 135 games, though he hit 13 homers and drove in 97 runs. In 1989, he started the season 1-for-19 in the Double-A Eastern League with the New Britain Red Sox. He was with the BritSox for most of the year. Called up to Triple A in late June, because of injuries on the Pawtucket Red Sox, he threw out two baserunners in his very first game (June 22) and hit a bases-clearing double.13 He showed better in 27 games with the PawSox than he had with New Britain, hitting .255 and driving in 11 before being returned to Double A in the last week of July. He promptly went into another prolonged slump, going 1-for-21.14 The team finished in last place. Zupcic played in 94 games; he finished with a .217 average and only 28 RBIs.

Zupcic spent the full 1990 season at New Britain. In 132 games, his batting average dipped marginally from the year before – .217 to .213. (The fourth-place team’s batting average was .241.) In 516 plate appearances, he hit two homers and drove in 41 runs. As he put it himself, it may well have only been the considerable bonus that the Red Sox had paid that kept them from cutting ties. “Because I was a first-round draft pick, I got promoted to Triple A [in 1991, despite hitting under .220 two years in succession at Double A.] That wouldn’t normally happen, but when they have some money invested into you, you get the benefit of the doubt for a long time.”15

Times have changed dramatically in the 30 years after 1990, when he spoke about the resources available to him in the minor leagues. There was, for instance, no video availability until he got to the majors. “The Red Sox back then, there was no player development. It was just throw everybody out there. ‘You get out there and you play your 140 games a year and let’s see how the cream rises to the top.’ There wasn’t anybody who said, ‘Alright, this is what we’re going to work on…’ Basically, we were on our own.”16

It’s not as though there wasn’t any instruction at all. Sportswriter Peter Gammons noted, “Terry Crowley’s work with stagnated Bob Zupcic may be starting to pay dividends. Zupcic is such an outstanding outfielder they won’t give up on him.”17 In 300 chances in 1990, he only committed four errors (.987).

He was studious about hitting, and about life. “I studied harder than anybody. When everybody else was out drinking and carousing, I was studying, hitting books. I was in every library in every minor-league city trying to figure things out.”18

He was indeed promoted once more to Triple-A Pawtucket in 1991. It was sink-or-swim time. And he got off to a very slow start. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote, “Zupcic’s career has been a series of peaks and valleys, but in flashes, he is the best athlete on the team.”19 He was “considered one of the best defensive outfielders in the International League.”20

As late as July, however, he said he was hitting .167. His son had just been born. The bonus money on which the Zupcics had been living had just about dried up. He figured his career was over. On the road in Columbus, Ohio, the head of baseball chapel gave him a book by Wes Neal on how to apply Scripture to sports. He read the book and learned to stop putting as much pressure on himself, to work hard on the outside, but to relax more on the inside. It paid off. He bumped his average up to .240 over the remaining weeks of the season. His grand slam on August 29 clinched the Eastern Division title for Pawtucket. He was riding a 16-game hitting streak.21

Thus, Zupcic got a call to Boston in early September. When he arrived, he was “admittedly overwhelmed” by the pressure of being labeled “the next Dwight Evans.” He said, “I stunk so bad that I reached the point that I didn’t know what to do. I remember telling my wife that I was just going to let go and let the Lord take hold of my life and that I was going to try the best I could to be the best player I could and hopefully that was good enough. I didn’t want to play if it wasn’t fun, and baseball has always been fun.”22

Zupcic’s major-league debut came on September 7. He arrived at Fenway Park after the Saturday afternoon game had started. The PawSox were on the road, and he had to take a redeye back to Rhode Island. His wife Becky picked him up. They drove right by Fenway without realizing it at first, nestled as the park is in an urban setting. They arrived in the second inning. He was quickly given a uniform, but the shirt didn’t quite fit. The Mariners were the visiting team. It was a high-scoring game and the Red Sox had just taken an 11-10 lead over Seattle in the bottom of the fifth, the 11th run coming on a two-out bases-loaded walk by Mo Vaughn, pinch-hitting for center fielder Mike Brumley. Manager Joe Morgan had Zupcic pinch-run for Vaughn. The next batter lined out to center.

Zupcic took over in center. Neither team scored another run the rest of the game, and no balls were hit to his position. Zupcic got his first at-bat in the bottom of the seventh, facing Scott Bankhead. He was the third batter up and popped up to deep second base, though his ball was the only one that got out of the infield.

He got his first big-league base hit the following afternoon. After four innings, Boston had a 9-2 lead. Zupcic replaced Mike Greenwell in the lineup, playing right field (Phil Plantier moved from right to left.) The Sox had run the score up to 14-3 by the time Zupcic came to bat in the sixth. With one out and runners on second and third, he grounded the ball to the first baseman, but deep enough that he was able to each first base safely. He got his first RBI on the play, scoring later in the inning with Boston’s 17th run.

He drove in two more runs – the first was the second run in a 5-4 win over the Yankees in New York on September 13, his first start. The second was also against the Yankees, in Boston, on September 21. In the bottom of the eighth, with the Red Sox leading 10-1, Plantier led off with a home run off reliever Dave Eiland. Zupcic followed with a home run of his own. In both instances, the batter swung at Eiland’s first pitch – the first two pitches he had thrown in the game.23

Zupcic appeared in 18 games that September, with 27 plate appearances. He had the three RBIs, and a .160 batting average with a .192 on-base percentage.

The next year, which became officially his rookie year, Zupcic was called up to Boston in late April. He played in 124 games under incoming manager Butch Hobson, hitting .276 and driving in 43 runs. Hobson respected him. “Zup’s the kind of player that’ll do anything you ask him. That’s the way he’s always been and he’ll never change.”24 In the June 6 game, he was credited with “four dazzling catches, two only inches from the wall.”25 On September 13, he snagged a ball hit by Mickey Tettleton before it fell into the Red Sox bullpen in center field. Hobson called it “one of the best plays I’ve ever seen at this ballpark.”26 Years later, veteran Globe columnist Bob Ryan called it “as good a CF grab as I’ve seen in 41 years of Fenway watching.”27

Zupcic hit 19 doubles, one triple, and three home runs – two of which were grand slams. Both were in Boston, the first against the Detroit Tigers on June 30, a walk-off in the bottom of the ninth. His .317 average was leading the team at that point. The second slam was just 10 days later, on July 10 against the White Sox. It came in the bottom of the eighth off Bobby Thigpen and converted a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 lead. The Sox lost the lead, but with two outs in the ninth Mo Vaughn tripled and Billy Hatcher singled to win the game, 6-5.

Defensively, Zupcic played center field about half the time, with the other half split almost equally between left and right. He had 11 outfield assists, at least one from each of the three outfield positions.

After the season, he was given a Ford Probe GT automobile as winner of Boston Channel 38’s “10th Player Award” for the Red Sox player who performed “above and beyond the capacity one would normally expect.” Since he was still driving a car he’d had since sophomore year in college, with 115,000 miles on it, he doubly appreciated the honor.28 The Boston Baseball Writers voted him the Harry Agganis Rookie of the Year.29

In 1993 spring training, Hobson said, “He’s my kind of player. He hustles and works all the time.”30 That year, Zupcic played a good amount at all three outfield positions, though more in right field. In May, Peter Gammons noted something about his work ethic: “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone other than Bob Zupcic take fly balls live off the bat at all three outfield positions during batting practice every day. No wonder he gets such a good jump on balls.”31 He basically served as a backup in 1993, with Greenwell playing more in left, Hatcher more in center, and Carlos Quintana more in right. Even so, Zupcic got into 141 games and had 286 at-bats (a shade over two a game). He hit .241 (.308 OBP), with two homers and 26 RBIs. He hit much better at home than on the road – for his career, he was .270 at home and .232 away.

Over the course of his four seasons in the majors, he also hit better in the first half of a season (.278) than in the second half (.230). He played the second half of the 1993 season with a labrum torn diving for a ball in the outfield. He couldn’t golf the next day, an off day. X-rays showed nothing. He soldiered on, but he couldn’t turn on the ball effectively. He confesses that he didn’t dare tell the team he was hurt. “I was that fourth or fifth outfielder. I always got my chance because someone else was hurt and I could play anywhere in the outfield.”32 In 1993, he hit 24 doubles, but he wasn’t producing what the Red Sox had hoped for. Right after the season, he had surgery on his left shoulder to repair both cartilage and ligament damage.

In early May 1994, having appeared in only four games, without a hit in four at-bats, Zupcic was placed on waivers. He was claimed on May 5 by the Chicago White Sox and sent to their Triple-A team in Nashville. He was called up to Chicago in mid-May. As he later said, “Being 6-foot-4 and 220, you’re not supposed to hit seven home runs in 700 at-bats. Everyone I worked with at the Red Sox, especially at Fenway, they wanted me to pull the ball in the air. Hit home runs. I had my successes. I had 24 doubles one year, but I hit so many balls off the Monster that could have been home runs anywhere else.”33

Under Gene Lamont, manager of the White Sox, Zupcic filled in when asked, playing not only right field and left field but also two games at third base and one at first base. He drove in a run in his first game for Chicago, with a pinch-hit single in the top of the ninth against the Texas Rangers, during a 5-2 loss. He accumulated 97 plate appearances in 32 games, batting .205. He hit one homer and drove in eight runs.

The White Sox finished first in the A.L. Central Division, but this was the year the players went on strike, playing the final games on August 11. Any opportunity for postseason play was spoiled because there were no games played from that date until late April 1995. It was a disappointing end to the season, for baseball fans in general but also for Zupcic. “My only regret is that I never got a chance to play in the playoffs. I wouldn’t have cared if I struck out 30 times. I just wanted the opportunity to be on that stage. The White Sox – we would have won it all. I was platooning with Tim Raines. I was just starting to hit the ball. I wound up hitting .190 that year but I was just starting to feel comfortable and then the strike happened. I got taken off the 40-man roster.”34

As it came to pass, his major-league days were done. He was optioned to Nashville in April 1995 and appeared in 13 games. He felt he was hitting well, but a coach came to the door of the house he had rented and told him he was being released.35

In mid-May Zupcic signed with and played nine games in independent baseball for the Duluth-Superior Dukes in the Northern League. “That was some of the finest time I had. I got to disciple a lot of young kids. That was a blessing. Some of the kids got saved and wrote me letters years later, how I was an impact on their lives.”36 In mid-June he found a position in Triple A for a Florida Marlins affiliate, the Charlotte Knights (International League). He hit .295/11/47 in 72 games for Charlotte and commuted from his North Carolina home.

Zupcic kept at it. In early December, he signed a minor-league contract for 1996 with the Kansas City Royals. After just four games with their affiliate in Omaha, he joined the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, another Triple-A club, in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. There he was reunited with Butch Hobson. He played in 44 games for the Red Barons, batting .235.

In 1997, he played baseball in the Mexican League – for one day. He played for the Broncos de Reynosa. It was a doubleheader, and I went 0-for-6. I’m staying in Texas, so I cross the border and I said, ‘I’m done.’”37

It was back to indie ball as player/coach with the Bangor (Maine) Blue Ox of the Northeast League. He hit .195 in 25 games. “I was no good. I just never found the swing. It was time to go.” After an injury in mid-July, the team announced his retirement. “I stepped in a hole in Elmira and I’m, ‘I’m done. Let’s go home.’ My first professional game was in Elmira, New York. My last professional game was Elmira, New York. But – guess what? – I got it out of my system.”38

Settling back in North Carolina, he took up the work he has stuck with ever since – selling used cars with his brother-in-law Brian Bernard at the Bernard Motor Car Company. “He’s the owner. He buys the cars. I’m the retail guy. I sell them.”

He and his wife have four children – Robert Tyler Zupcic, the COO of Baseball Rebellion; Nichola Drake Zupcic, an academic advisor at Appalachian State University; Olivia Rose Zupcic, a special education teacher; and Christian Charles Zupcic, their youngest, who was completing his final year of school at the time of the November 2021 interview.

Zupcic coached his sons but acknowledged that was sometimes difficult “because there was blood involved.” In 2021, he started teaching hitting and found he really enjoyed teaching high school and college kids. “Mostly, you’re trying to teach them how to be a professional, how to handle failure, how to hustle, how to be prepared. it was some of the most fun I’ve had, this summer coaching with Eric [Tyler].” Looking ahead, he plans to keep teaching on the side and turn the hitting lessons into a business, Crossing Home Baseball Development LLC.39

In an average week, he still gets 15 or 20 baseball cards in the mail with a request to sign them. It was his time with the Red Sox that got him on the radar of so many fans. “I couldn’t be more thankful to the Lord that I got a chance to play with the Boston Red Sox. I’ve been very blessed. I’ve got the best wife in the world, and my children are awesome. God’s been good to me.”40

Last revised: January 20, 2022



This biography was reviewed by Darren Gibson and Rory Costello and fact-checked by Ray Danner.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted,,, and the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball.



1 Author interview with Bob Zupcic on November 23, 2021.

2 Author interview.

3 Author interview. He added, “But it was funny that when I was in the minor leagues, Levittown Western actually won the American Legion World Series, and they were still wearing the uniforms my dad bought them. Joe McEwing was on the team. He’s third-base coach of the White Sox now.”

4 Interview by Eric Tyler for Baseball Rebellion on September 3, 2020. Interview available at . Zupcic added, “I had the opportunity to play football out of high school. I had offers from a lot of schools – Pitt, Penn State – but I knew in my heart that I wanted to play baseball.”


6 Author interview.

7 Author interview.

8 Author interview.

9 Tracy Ringolsby, “Marquess Makes Mark at Stanford,” The Sporting News, July 6, 1987: 34. Zupcic had hit .364 at Oral Roberts and stolen 26 bases in 30 attempts. He had set career records at ORU with 224 base hits and 53 doubles.

10 Eric Tyler interview.

11 The story was amusing. “I ended packing up everything after my junior year. I asked my father-in-law now if I could marry his daughter. We’re on our way home. Stopped at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. I bought a dollar ring and asked her to marry me. I was thinking, I’m going to get drafted. I’m going to have some money here in a couple of weeks. We ended up getting back home to Pennsylvania, with my family, celebrating the engagement and everything like that. Well, it’s three days after the draft and I still haven’t heard anything. I’m like, ‘What the heck is going on?’ I just packed everything up I left school. I just got engaged. And no one wants me.

“I come home from church one night. On the answering machine: ‘This is Danny Doyle of the Boston Red Sox. We picked you.’ I didn’t know what round I got drafted in. I hung up the phone, ran upstairs, woke up my dad. I didn’t even have an agent.” Eric Tyler interview.

12 Steve Fainaru, “Horn, Kutcher have it made,” Boston Globe, March 31, 1989: 67.

13 Steve Fainaru, “Injuries cause domino effect in system,” Boston Globe, June 25, 1989: 54.

14 Jon Tapper, “Roberto Zambrano gets vote of confidence – from his brother,” Hartford Courant, August 13, 1989: D7.

15 Eric Tyler interview.

16 Eric Tyler interview.

17 Peter Gammons, “Sox not best, but they weren’t that bad,” Boston Globe, October 14, 1990: 56.

18 Author interview. Zupcic had told Eric Tyler, “Baseball has always been my first love. You have to love it. And when you love it, it wasn’t work to me. It was something that I wanted to do, to get better. We would run. We would get up and lift. There was times when I would call my roommate or another baseball player and we would go hit at 11 o’clock and night until our hands bled.”

19 Nick Cafardo, “Good things cropping up on the farm,” Boston Globe, June 9, 1991: 69.

20 Nick Cafardo, “Brunansky needs time,” Boston Globe, August 29, 1991: 90.

21 Associated Press, “Pawtucket clinches Eastern Division,” Hartford Courant, August 30, 1991: E13.

22 Nick Cafardo, “Zupcic defends his position,” Boston Globe, February 24, 1993: 39, 43. “I thank Butch because he stuck with me all the way,” he added.

23 Jack Curry, “Yanks Play Dead for Red Sox,” New York Times, September 22, 1991: S1, S7.

24 Michael Vega, “Zupcic wasn’t left out,” Boston Globe, May 16, 1992: 31.

25 Larry Whiteside, “From Viola’s standpoint, same old story,” Boston Globe, June7, 1992: 63.

26 Nick Cafardo, “Another loss for sputtering Red Sox – with a catch,” Boston Globe, September 14, 1992: 30.

27 Bob Ryan, “These pages are keepsakes,” Boston Globe, June 8, 2005: F1, F6.

28 Marvin Pave, “Moving memories,” Boston Globe, October 3, 1992: 68.

29 Nick Cafardo, “Sox do some free thinking,” Boston Globe, November 26, 1992: 101.

30 Michelle Gardner, “Zupcic last in baseball name only,” Naples Daily News (Naples, Florida) March 17, 1993: 1C, 2C.

31 Peter Gammons, “Bonds much more than a money player,” Boston Globe, May 9, 1993: 50.

32 Author interview.

33 Eric Tyler interview.

34 Author interview.

35 “My wife answered the door. The coach said, ‘Bob, we have to release you.’ I asked, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Well, you didn’t cross. They wanted you to cross.’ We had to pack up and leave. I ended up getting a settlement out of that; I got like 40 grand. Whatever I would have made that year in the minors.” Author interview.

36 Author interview.

37 Author interview.

38 Author interview.

39 The name derives from a game his son Jeffrey played for All Stat. He was on first base and a wild throw went all the way out to the bullpen in right field. Jeffrey ran around the bases and slid into home plate, but tore his PCL, MCL, and broke his fibula on the slide – and then played six more innings through the pain, even getting the winning hit. It took him well over a year to recover.

40 Author interview.

Full Name

Robert Zupcic


August 18, 1966 at Pittsburgh, PA (USA)

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