Take me out to the ball game

On the eve of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, we at Btown Banter thought it might be fitting to take our own break to acknowledge IU Bloomington’s proud baseball tradition and, more specifically, the Hoosiers who’ve appeared in the annual mid-season classic.

Any conversation about Hoosier all-stars has to begin with Ted Kluszewski, who batted .500 with a home run during four consecutive appearances (1953-56) in the mid-season classic. “Big Klu” had his best single season in 1954, when he bashed 49 home runs (without steroids!), drove in a league-leading 141 runs for the Cincinnati Reds and finished second (to Hall of Famer Willie Mays) in the National League’s most valuable player voting.

Ted Kluszewski, one of IU Bloomington’s greatest two-sport athletes, batted .500 over four consecutive Major League Baseball All-Star Game appearances.

Kluszewski’s 1945 season for IU ranks among the best for a two-sport athlete in the school’s history. As a member of the baseball team, he hit .443, a school record that stood for 50 years. (As the story goes, a groundkeeper for the Reds, who trained at IU from 1943 to 1945 because of wartime travel restrictions, saw the muscular slugger launching balls over an embankment near the baseball diamond that none of the Reds hitters could reach.) That same year, along with future NFL players Pete Pihos and George Taliaferro, the standout tight end helped lead IU to its first Big Ten football championship. The football squad, still IU’s only unbeaten team, finished 9-0-1.

In 1940, Merrill “Pinky” May was the first Hoosier to appear in baseball’s All-Star Game, going 0-for-1 and getting hit by a pitch. The third baseman and Laconia, Ind., native batted .293 for the Philadelphia Phillies that season. He would play three more seasons before going on to serve in the U.S. Navy during the war. Following his playing career, he managed more than 3,200 games as a minor league skipper from 1947 to 1972.

Mickey Morandini, who concluded his Hoosier career with a .392 batting average over four seasons (1985-88), earned all-star honors with the Phillies in 1995. A second-team All-American and gold-medal U.S. Olympian in 1988, he graduated as IU’s record-holder in runs (277), doubles (61), triples (29) and steals (127). Drafted in 1988 by Philadelphia, he helped the Phillies reach the World Series in 1993. Two years later, he became the first Hoosier to play in the All-Star game since Kluszewski nearly 40 years before.

If recent diamond-related happenings are any indication, Hoosier fans might not have to wait as long for another of their favorites to make it to the mid-season classic. Major league teams have drafted an impressive 15 IU players, including 2011 first-round draftee Alex Dickerson, in the last four years. Here’s hoping one of them follows in the footsteps of “Big Klu,” “Pinky” and “Mickey” and gets to shine on one of professional sport’s biggest stages.

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