Oct. 5, 2010
by Randy Policar - 2010 was a special year on the field for the Arizona State Sun Devils, as they continued their string of Pac-10 Championships, made a second straight trip to Omaha and the College World Series and swept the major Pac-10 awards. But it was a special year for former ASU baseball players as well.
During the 2010 Major League Baseball season, six former Sun Devils got the call to the Majors, establishing a new single season high for Sun Devil big league debuts. The six breaks the old mark of five, set in 1977 and equaled in 1978.
The 1977 Major League season featured the first career games of Floyd Bannister, Ken Landreaux, Paul Moskau, John Poloni and Bump Wills.
Bannister, who was the #1 overall pick in the 1976 draft, made his debut for the Houston Astros. He played 15 seasons in the Majors for the Astros, Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, California Angels and Texas Rangers, leading the league in strike outs in 1982 and earning an All-Star berth.
Landreaux debuted for the California Angels, playing two seasons for them before joining the Minnesota Twins. After two years with the Twins, Landreaux closed out his 11-year career by playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1981 to 1987. He won a World Series with the Dodgers in 1981.
Moskau saw his first Big League action with the Cincinnati Reds, playing five seasons with them before single seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs. Poloni had a very brief stay in the Majors, appearing in two games with the Texas Rangers in 1977.
Wills, the son of former National League MVP and multi-time All-Star Maury Wills, was a teammate of Poloni's with the Rangers when he debuted in the big leagues. He played five seasons in Texas before finishing his career with the Chicago Cubs.
In 1978, Mike Colbern, Darrell Jackson, Jim Lentine, Jerry Maddox and Bob Horner made their Major League debuts.
Colbern made his MLB debut as a member of the Chicago White Sox, playing on the South Side for two seasons. Jackson played for the Minnesota Twins for five seasons, including his debut year of 1978. Lentine played three seasons in the big leagues, debuting with the St. Louis Cardinals and finishing with the Detroit Tigers. Maddox, similar to John Poloni, had a short big league stint, playing in seven games with the Atlanta Braves.
Ironically, one of Maddox's teammates on the Braves was Bob Horner, himself a former Sun Devil and Braves rookie. Although the two were not at ASU at the same time, no doubt Maddox was familiar with Horner's achievements in Tempe. Horner helped lead the Sun Devils to Omaha and the College World Series in all three of his seasons at ASU, winning the national championship in 1977. He was the first ever Golden Spikes Award winner in 1978 and was the #1 overall pick of the 1978 draft.
Horner didn't waste any time getting to the Majors, skipping the Minor Leagues completely and debuting for the Braves on June 16, 1978, just eight days after finishing out his Sun Devil career in the College World Series. Leaving ASU as the school's all-time Home Run King, Horner homered in his first Big League game, the first of 23 he would hit that season on his way to National League Rookie of the Year honors. He remains the only man to win the Golden Spikes Award and the Rookie of the Year award in the same year, and one of only two (Jason Jennings, Baylor, 2002 NL ROY) to win both awards (San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, the 2008 Golden Spikes Winner, is a leading candidate for 2010 NL ROY). Horner played 10 seasons in the Majors, nine for the Braves and one for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Fast forward 32 years to April 11, 2010 at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. That day, former Sun Devil righty Mike Leake, the #8 overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, made his Major League debut for the hometown Reds, starting and going 6.2 innings. He allowed one run on five hits while striking out five, earning a no decision in a Reds win. Leake, like Horner 32 years before him, skipped the Minor Leagues, going straight to the Majors. Leake pitched in 24 games in 2010, going 8-4 in his rookie season. He also hit .333, collecting 16 hits.
Davis played first base for the New York Mets, establishing himself as a fan favorite right away by making highlight reel catches and blasting tape measure homers. Davis finished his first season with a .264 average, blasting 19 homers and driving in 71 runs. The 19 homers ties Davis for second all-time by a Mets rookie, and his 71 RBI are also tied for second all-time by a Mets rookie.
Curtis made his big league debut with the New York Yankees, appearing in 31 games and collecting a memorable pinch hit homer on July 21. Sogard was a September call-up of the Oakland Athletics, seeing action in four games. Romine joined the Los Angeles Angels late in September, playing in five games. Brett Wallace made his Major League debut for the Houston Astros, batting .222 in 51 games.
Curtis, Davis, Sogard, Romine and Wallace were all teammates on the 2006 Sun Devils, while Leake, Davis, Sogard, Romine and Wallace were all teammates on the 2007 Sun Devils. Six young men who share a Major League Baseball milestone also call Arizona State University and Packard Stadium their home.
As Arizona State counts down the days until their 100th Major Leaguer, the 2010 Major League Baseball season will be remembered throughout Tempe as the Year of the Sun Devil.