Thursday, November 1, 2012

SxSE: Georgia Bulldog Baseball, 1886-2012

The history of UGA Baseball is one of frequent stretches of being highly competitive, with brief slumps mixed in.  All of that success has resulted in only 1 College World Series championship, though.  In the past decade, under Dave Perno, UGA has been an NCAA Regional team, one that is expected to reach the Regionals each year.  Well, actually they can be counted on to reach a Regional about every other year.  Over the past 10 seasons, the bulldogs' average W-L record has been 34-27.


The Georgia Bulldogs have been playing intercollegiate baseball since 1886.

The Bulldogs changed coaches every 2 years or so until 1921.

From 1895 to 1897 the Bulldogs were coached by one of the early stars of Major League Baseball, Hughie Jennings. During that time he was still playing for the Baltimore Orioles and was enrolled in classes at St. Bonaventure University. It's not surprising, then, that the Bulldogs' record during his 3-year tenure was 5-17.

In 1908 the Bulldogs were coached by Hammond Johnson. According to GeorgiaDogs.com, "In 1908, team captain Frank Martin led UGA to a 20-2 campaign and its first-ever Southern Championship. The team's record of 20 straight wins stands today. The two losses came to professional teams in exhibitions. Famed sportswriter Grantland Rice, then sports editor of the Atlanta Journal, called the 1908 team "the greatest baseball team - or any other kind of team - ever assembled in the South." Georgia won its first SEC title in 1933."

From 1910-1913, Frank B. Anderson led the team to a 51-16-3 overall record (.729).

Frank Anderson: The Dean of Southern College Baseball Coaches, 1916–1944 (sabr.org)
At UGA, Frank Anderson established an exemplary standard of the “gentleman” athlete that he was to encourage in all young men who later were to play for him as coach. He always stressed running for conditioning; indeed, his college record for the 440-yard dash was 51 seconds on an oval track, which was not to be broken for 30 years, and then on a straightaway. The ultimate recognition of Frank Anderson as a college gentleman athlete was his election by his peers into the UGA Sphinx honorary society—patterned after Skull and Bones at Yale—which was limited each year to only 13 outstanding young men.4 His greatest sports moment as a collegian was on April 26, 1903, when he hit a ninth-inning, two-out home run to tie the game against arch-rival Georgia Tech at old Brisbane Park on Formwalt Street in Atlanta. With Tech leading 3–0 and just one out to go, Atlanta sportswriter Morgan Blake later recalled, fans had begun to “file to the turnstiles,” but Anderson “pulled a Frank Merriwell on Tech.” What happened was truly the stuff of baseball dreams.
. . .
In 1909, Anderson’s prep-school success was so great that UGA invited him to return to Athens to serve as head baseball coach. Anderson always regarded a 1910 contest hosted by Tech at The Flats, the historic old playing field in Atlanta, as the most exciting game he had ever coached. It was an ultimate defensive struggle, a 0–0 tie that went fourteen innings until the game was called. The two starting pitchers struck out ten and twelve batters. The bases were loaded seven times, yet superior defense prevailed. “There were a dozen times when it looked as if the tie might be broken,” Anderson recalled, “but the fielders worked as sensationally as the pitchers and every scoring threat was killed.” He was particularly proud of his catcher, who cleanly fielded seven bunts in front of home plate to throw men out at second every time. A scout from the Chicago Cubs who was there agreed with Anderson that it was the most exciting game he had ever seen. “It was certainly the Halley’s Comet in the baseball firmament,” wrote sportswriter Dick Jemison, “the brightest light that had ever shown in this section of the country.”12 In subsequent seasons, 1911 and 1912, Anderson compiled 17–5 and 15–6–2 records for UGA to win consecutive SIAA (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) championships
Frank Anderson's tenure was short, but it kicked off a stretch that could reasonably be called the "golden age" of UGA Baseball. Most of the Bulldogs coaches still did not last longer than a few years, but the team had success under several of these coaches.

  • Joe Bean (1914-16) 33-16-1; .660
  • Herman Stegeman (1919-20) 31-13-2; .674
  • W. P. White (1921-33) 224-100-7; .677
  • J. V. Sikes (1938-42, 46-47) 98-63-1; .605
  • Charley Trippi (1948-49) 34-18-0; .654
  • Jim Whatley (1950, 52-75) 336-327-3; .504

Steve Webber was the head coach from 1981-1996, the longest tenure for any UGA baseball coach.  He ushered the historically successful program into the modern era of college baseball.  Weber took the Bulldogs to the NCAA Regionals in 1987, 1990 and 1992; to the College World Series in 1987 and 1990; and led them to their only national championship in 1990.

In that 1990 College World Series, Webber's Bulldogs beat a host of legendary coaches and their teams: Ron Polk's Mississippi State Bulldogs, Mark Marquess' Stanford Cardinal (twice), and Gary Ward's Oklahoma State Cowboys. That same CWS included Skip Bertman's LSU Tiger and Larry Cochell's Cal State Fullerton Titans.

The program slumped after that CWS championship. Ron Polk left Mississippi State to coach the Georgia Bulldogs in 2000 and 2001 and rebuilt the program, taking UGA back to the College World Series in 2001.

Dave Perno took over in 2002 and is still at the helm of UGA today. He has led the team to the NCAA Regionals in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011. Perno has taken his team to the College World Series in 2004, 2006 and 2008.

Notable Georgia Bulldog ballplayers

Georgia Baseball in 2012

The 2012 Dawgs finished with a 31-26 record, 24-12 in the SEC.  They went 0-2 in the SEC Tournament and did not get an invite to the NCAA Regionals.

The 2012 team was not built around power (redandblack.com, 4/29)
Consider this year’s team against the 2008 edition, the last time Georgia reached the College World Series.

Largely thanks to shortstop Gordon Beckham, who led the team with a whopping .804 slugging percentage, the 2008 team had a relentless onslaught of power.

The team posted a slugging percentage of .481 and an eye-popping 96 home runs.
The slugging percentage leader of the starters of this year’s Diamond Dogs is outfielder Hunter Cole, owner of a .519 percentage.

Collectively, the team has a paltry .376 slugging percentage, and though there are still many games to be played, it seems unlikely that the Diamond Dogs will match their 2008 counterparts, with just 20 home runs through Tuesday night.

But the team still has confidence in its offensive abilities.

“We definitely don’t hit for power, but we’ve been doing a pretty good job in keeping other teams’ power down,” head coach David Perno said.

The team has posted a respectable .276 batting average, and its 24 wins are a testament to an offense that gets the job done.

The Diamond Dogs are scoring runs, but the big, multiple-run innings are a rarity, and the offense can turn its plethora of singles into victories.

“We put the ball in play a lot, and we have a lot of fast guys so we get around the bases,” Powell said.
Georgia Bulldogs' Baseball Staff Changes Are Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing (DawgSports.com)
The Diamond Dogs failed to make the 64-team NCAA field for the second time in three years, and the Classic City Canines have not advanced as far as a super regional since 2008. Clearly, some changes were needed, and David Perno has made them, as a staff shakeup in the baseball program was announced today.

Previously, the full-time Georgia coaching staff consisted of David Perno, Jason Eller, and Allen Osborne, but, as of today, the Georgia baseball coaching staff consists of David Perno, Allen Osborne, and Jason Eller! That, my friends, is change in which we may believe.

No, I’m not kidding. After Greg McGarity made it plain that mediocrity would be tolerated in the Bulldogs’ oldest varsity sport to an extent that would not be judged acceptable anywhere else within the athletics program, Coach Perno felt free to address his team’s obvious deficiencies by rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic chairs at the conference table.
Diamond Dawgs Season Wrap-Up (DawgSports.com)
Players who arrive at UGA as highly touted recruits seemingly regress during their years in Athens. While the Diamond Dawgs have made three trips to Omaha under Perno's guidance, the last one was in 2008. Just two years ago, the team posted the worst record in school history. The teams who have had success shared a common link: they had a gutsy, outspoken player who was willing to lead his teammates to victory. When Georgia teams lack that, they don't win. Coach Perno appears to be unable to inspire his kids to go out and win. He also appears to be unable to teach fundamentals like hitting the ball if it's for anything other than a homerun. While Josh Morris, Rich Poythress, and Gordon Beckham hit awe-inspiring homeruns at Foley, new bats mean that doesn't happen anymore. Yet, Georgia's teams can not bunt. Our teams can not manufacture runs. We are unable to execute basic fundamentals like hitting sacrifice flies to score a runner at third, or even hit the ball on the ground to the first-base side of the infield to trade an out for a run.

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