Over the next two weeks, we are highlighting the five best Major League players to ever play baseball at each of the Big Ten universities. Today, we take a look at the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Earlier stories can be found here.
Number of Major Leaguers: 33
First: Ralph Capron (debuted April 25, 1912 – played just three games)
Most recent: Cole De Vries (debuted May 24, 2012)
Paul Molitor is a Hall of Famer who played 21 seasons with the Brewers, Blue Jays and Twins – winning a World Series in 1993 with Toronto (and losing one in 1982 with Milwaukee). Molitor is an eight-time All-Star who finished second in the 1978 Rookie of the Year voting to Sweet Lou Whitaker. Molitor finished his career 3,319 hits, 1,782 runs and 1,307 RBI to go with a .306/.369/.887 batting line. He led the American League in hits and runs three times.
Dave Winfield is Minnesota’s second Hall of Famer, built on a 22-year career with the Yankees, Padres, Angels, Twins and Blue Jays. The 12-time All-Star finished hit 465 home runs to go with 3,110 hits and one World Series title (with the Blue Jays when he was 40, by the way). Winfield was the fourth pick in the 1973 draft, taken after David Clyde, John Stearns and Robin Yount.
Denny Neagle put together a 124-92 record over 13 seasons with the Twins, Pirates, Rockies, Braves, Reds and Yankees. In 1997, as part of the crazy-good Braves rotation, he finished third in Cy Young voting (behind Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux) after a 20-5 year with a 2.97 ERA. That was by far the best season for Neagle, a two-time All-Star who won a World Series with the Yankees in 2000.
Terry Steinbach is a three-time All-Star catcher who played 11 years with the A’s and the final three of his career with his home state Twins. Steinbach had 1,453 hits, 162 home runs and 745 RBI in his career.
Dan Wilson is the second catcher on this list, a one-time All-Star (1996) who played on the very good Seattle Mariner teams of late ’90s and early 2000s. From 1992-2005 with the Reds and Mariners, Wilson had 1,097 hits and put together a .262/.309/.382 batting line.
Honorable mention: Kerry Ligtenberg.