Next Tuesday’s “mid-summer classic,” Major League Baseball’s all-star game in Miami, features the best players from both leagues. There’s always a few noses out of joint about the selections, but for the most part, the fans got it right this year with their voting.
Sheridan could field an “all-star team” as well, given the rich history of baseball here and the number of former players who have a local connection. (Criteria is college or professional baseball.) To wit:
• It all starts with a pitcher. The left-handed starter would be Paul DelRossi. He is Harvard’s all-time leader in win-loss percentage (30 wins, three losses), earned run average (ERA) and strikeouts. He played two seasons (1964-65) for the New York Yankees organization, winning 13 games in 45 appearances.
• Another starting pitcher, a right hander, would be Ben Phillips. He appeared in 78 games for the New York Yankees organization (1996-1998) winning 18 games and posting a 3.91 ERA.
• His brother, Blaine Phillips, could start at second base, or catch or play the outfield. He played two years with the Yankees organization (1996-1997).
• In the outfield would be Paul (PJ) Marshall, drafted in the 13th round by the Cincinnati Reds. He played the 1974 season in Billings before coaching at Tongue River. He was a member of Sheridan’s state champion teams in 1971-1973.
• At second base, there would be Mike McCafferty, the CEO of Sheridan Memorial Hospital since 1998. McCafferty and his Creighton University teammates were inducted into the Blue Jays’ Hall of Fame because its 1991 team reached the College World Series. McCafferty was the team’s captain and was voted to the CWS All-Star team. (LSU won the championship that year.) The Blue Jays he captained that year were 51-22 and led all Division I schools in five offensive categories. One of his sons, Connor McCafferty, is playing for Lubbock Christian College.
• At first base would be Dave Engels who starred at the University of Colorado. During a March 21, 1970, high school game where he played for Denver’s Thomas Jefferson High School, Engels, a left-handed pitcher, outdueled another kid from Colorado Springs, Rich Gossage, who later became better known as “Goose” and is a Hall of Famer. Engels was the winning pitcher that day who retired the first nine hitters he faced and later picked off a runner from first. TJ won the game, 9-4. Engels played four years for the Buffaloes, two as a left-handed pitcher, two as a first baseman. In Engels’ senior year, he hit .300 and was named to the All-Big Eight team.
• Another left-handed pitcher would be Engels’ son, Jackson Engels. After starring at Sheridan High School, he played college ball at Regis University in Denver where he was named to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference all-star team. While playing for the Sheridan Troopers, he hit a grand slam home run in 1997 lifting the Troop to their last state American Legion title. He was the MVP for that championship team. A lefthander, he pitched in the Texas Rangers organization (2001-2003) winning six games and posting a 3.52 ERA.
• A right-handed pitcher in the lineup is Steve Jones, who was also an outfielder. He appeared in 15 games for the New York Mets organization in 1966-67, winning two. And he played 29 games as an outfielder.
• Pencil in Rich Hall as the catcher. He’s the vice president for academic affairs at Sheridan College. By coincidence, Hall and McCafferty played in the same game of the Junior College World Series at Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colorado, in 1989. Hall was catching for Cochise College from Douglas/Sierra Vista, Arizona, and McCafferty was in uniform for Iowa Western. Hall feasted on the IW pitching that day, going three-for-four with a home run. McCafferty and Hall met one night at a local social and discovered they were on the same field that day. After winding up his college baseball career with Oklahoma City University, Hall coached six years at OCU and Cochise.
• There are many others. Cody Koch played at Mount Mercy University in Iowa. He now coaches the Sheridan Jets. The late Michael Steel starred on Sheridan’s Legion teams before playing baseball and football at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Dr. Tom Mayer was a left-handed pitcher at Purdue. Isaac Carroll was an infielder/outfielder at Middle Tennessee University. Aaron Ligocki was an infielder at Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska. Mike Jorgenson was the MVP for the 1992 state championship team and played at Montana State.
• And more. Steve Powell of Buffalo played at Sheridan’s Legion program and suited up for Notre Dame. Pat Green was a University of Wyoming basketball player and a Cowboys pitcher in the early 1970s. Kenny Madia also suited up for Wyoming and played professionally one year for the independent team in Billings. Frank Schaffer, the MVP of the 1972 Legion team, pitched at Wyoming. Charley Davis was a shortstop for the Cowboys. Rich Wilson was a left-handed pitcher for UW in the late 1970s. Jerry Pilch played both football and baseball for the Cowboys, also in the late 1970s.
(Tip of the cap! Larry Martoglio, former Legion coach and board member who’s been involved with Sheridan baseball since 1972; Mike McCafferty and PJ Marshall for their help with this column.)