Crimson Tide Top 5: Baseball

Throughout the month of June, Bama Central writers will pick the best five players in each Alabama sport, and for each position group in football
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The first one was easy. 

But we still went to an expert. 

During a recent appearance on the Jay Barker Radio Show, I had the chance to tell former Alabama baseball coach Barry Shollenberger (1980-94, 487-334-1 record) about this series on BamaCentral and asked him who should be among the top five in his sport. 

"The first one on there is a no-brainer," he said. "Dave Magadan, of course. 

"That guy hit .525. And it wasn't like he had 22 at-bats. He had over 200 at-bats that year, .525, and he raised his average at the end of the year in the tournament when you're facing the best teams, with the best pitching. 

"Nobody before that, or since, has come close to that. It's not even in the same ballpark."

However, even he had trouble after that. 

Anyone would. A lot of Crimson Tide baseball statistics were lost over time, and they really weren't comparable anyway because the season used to be a lot shorter, between 20-30 total games. 

It was pretty rare to see someone with more than 20 RBIs, or more than 35 hits. The players didn't get that many opportunities. 

For example, in the media guide the first player listed with double-digit home runs during a season was Butch Hobson with 13 in 1973.

With that in mind, some players who need to be mentioned here include Bobby Sprowl, Robin Cary, Ken Chapman (who hit .469 in 1959, while also leading the Crimson Tide in runs and RBIs), Jack Kubiszyn, Kent Matthes, Riggs Stephenson, Roberto Vaz and Joe Vitiello. 

Here's our top five, though: 

5. Doug Duke 

From 1984-86, he was a hitting machine for the Crimson Tide. 

His .758 career slugging percentage is still an Alabama record. Duke's 27 home runs in 1986 (including three grand slams) was a record as well until 2009, and his 50 career home runs are second on the all-time list. 

Duke's .388 batting average in 1985 is still the best by a catcher in Alabama history.

"Was a great receiver," Shollenberger said. "Off-the-charts power." 

4. Frank Lary

This spot could have been easily filled by one of his brothers, especially Al or Gene, who had prolific Crimson Tide baseball careers as well. In 1950, Frank Lary led Alabama with 10 wins, while posting a 2.06 ERA. 

The reason why he's getting the nod here is that until David Robertson in 2011, Lary was the only Crimson Tide pitcher to ever throw in a Major League All-Star Game, playing for the American League in 1960 and 1961.

His claim to fame at the pro level was being the first pitcher in 50 years to beat the New York Yankees seven straight games during a run of 21 wins and 7 losses against that team. In 1956, he led the American League in most innings pitched (294) and most victories (21), and won the Gold Glove Award in 1961.

3. Andy Phillips

A consensus All-America selection as a senior, Phillips finished runner up to Baylor’s Jason Jennings for the 1999 Dick Howser Trophy, presented by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association to the best player in college baseball. He played in 64 games, batted .398 (103-for-259) with 22 home runs, 66 RBIs, 71 runs, 22 doubles and 16 stolen bases. 

When Phillips wrapped up his four-year career with the Crimson Tide he held eight school records including most games played (244), games started (224), at-bats (905), runs scored (222), total hits (322), home runs (61), RBIs (224) and total bases (590). He also ranked second in career doubles (63) and triples (11), was third in assists (537) and 10th in walks (86).

 2. Joe Sewell 

He's the only player in Crimson Tide history to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.  

After leading the Crimson Tide to the 1919 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship, Sewell’s MLB career spanned 14 seasons with the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees. 

He retired in 1932 with a .312 batting average, 2,226 hits, 49 home runs and 1,055 RBIs. Sewell has one of the lowest strikeout rates in Major League history, striking out on average only once every 62.5 at-bats

At age 66, Sewell took over the Crimson Tide’s baseball program as head coach. Over seven seasons, Alabama compiled a 114-99 (.535) record, which included winning the 1968 SEC Championship.

1. Dave Magadan 

He's Alabama's lone winner of the Golden Spikes Award, baseball's equivalent to the Heisman Trophy as the player of the year. Magadan concluded the 1983 season with numerous school career records (at-bats, runs, hits, RBIs, doubles, total bases and batting average), and was a major contributor in Alabama’s national runner-up spot to Texas at the College World Series. 

He was also named the 1983 College “Player of the Year” by Baseball America. In addition to the .525 average, he also led the team in hits (114), doubles (31), total bases (180) and slugging percentage (.829). 

Magadan still holds Alabama records for single-season batting average (.525, 1983), career batting average (.439, 1981-83), single-season hits (114, 1983), single-season doubles (31, 1983) and single-season RBIs (95, 1983).

The Crimson Tide Top 5 will appear every day during the month of June on BamaCentral.

Crimson Tide Top 5: Introduction



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Men's Golf