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Midwest League Profile

The Old Guy at Second

Quoting from the June 16, 2000 edition of Total Baseball Daily:

[6-16-1989:] Rick Wolff, 37, writing an article on minor-league baseball for Sports Illustrated, finishes a three-day stint playing second base for the South Bend White Sox (Midwest League). He replaces Cesar Bernhardt and goes 4-for-7 against the Burlington Braves. Wolff will finish the year with the highest average of any Chicago White Sox farmhand.

That's true, but it deserves some context.


Harvard second sacker Richard Wolff was the 33rd (and last) player selected by the Detroit Tigers in the regular phase of the 1972 player draft. Wolff signed, but didn't report until the following season, when he took a leave of absence from school to attend spring training at Tigertown in Lakeland. He spent the season at Anderson in the Western Carolinas League. In 86 games for the Anderson Tigers, Wolff hit .246 with 1 home run and 26 runs batted in. He drew a lot of walks.


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After his Anderson season, Wolff returned to Harvard and completed his degree during the off season. Then he returned to Tigertown.

Promoted to Clinton in 1974, Wolff's season was similar: .229, 1 homer, 25 runs batted in. That's his playing career, until his South Bend stint.


Wolff kept a journal, which was published as What's a Nice Harvard Boy Like You Doing in the Bushes? about the time the 1975 season started. Although it's long out of print, it's worth tracking down. Wolffie wasn't your typical minor leaguer, but lots of careers have looked pretty much like his. A neat book.


A few years later, Rick was on the coaching staff of the Cleveland Indians, where his responsibilities centered on baseball psychology.

Wolff's fairly famous now as an authority on kids' sports. He published Good Sports: A Concerned Parent's Guide to Little League and Other Competitive Youth Sports in 1993, and speaks at conferences which discuss youth sports issues.

Wolff's also the author of Game Day Baseball, which is available from Baseball America.

He had a very good series in South Bend, by the way. Here's the full stat line:

   avg  g ab  r  h 2b 3b hr bi bb so sb
  .571  3  7  0  4  1  0  0  3  1  0  0

Since he was displacing the MWL's best second baseman on a team which was going to win the League Championship, he probably needed to look good. I'd say he delivered. Bet it was fun.


Notes

Total Baseball Daily expired a few days after publishing the note which inspired this Tidbit. It was a valuable effort, but had largely lost its way by the 2000 season.

I discovered Wolff's journal several months after writing the original Tidbit. It clarified a couple points, which I've incorporated in the essay.

This profile originated as the January 21, 2001, Midwest League Tidbit on the Midwest League Mailing List.

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