Seton Hall Baseball
The definitive history...
The Seton Hall baseball program began in the 1890s when the school was still a college. They were called the Alerts for more than 20 years, before taking on the name of the school’s other sports teams, the Blue & Whites. The origin of the Seton Hall Pirates nickname can be traced back to a baseball game played in 1931. Seton Hall found themselves down four runs in the ninth inning against home team Holy Cross, the defending eastern baseball champions. An offensive breakthrough, however, would see Seton Hall score five runs and steal the game 11-10. Inspired by the comeback, a local sportswriter described the team as “a gang of pirates.” The school liked the call and soon adopted Pirates as its official nickname.
During the early years of the program, several Seton Hall players went on to play professionally, including the Shannon twins from Jersey City, Joe and Red. The first Pirate to make a career out of baseball was Gene Hermanski, a hard-hitting outfielder for the Dodgers in the 1940s and early 1950s. He graduated from Seton prior to World War II and lost his prime years to the military. In the early 1940s, Chuck Connors (right) attended Seton Hall and starred for the basketball and baseball teams for two years. Connors would go on to play in the majors and the NBA, and is credited with being the first pro to shatter a backboard. He was also drafted by the Chicago Bears but never played for the team. Connors would leave sports to go into film and television acting, and was the star of The Rifleman, a popular western series that aired for six season beginning in 1958.
The first long-term manager for Seton Hall baseball was Ownie Carroll (left), who led the Pirates for 25 years between 1948-1972. Carroll had pitched in the majors for nine years in the 1920s and 1930s. He holds the distinction of having been traded for future Hall-of-Famers three different times—Waite Hoyt, Jim Bottmley and Dazzy Vance. The Pirates went 13–1 in Carroll’s first spring at the helm and went 61–13 in his first four years. Among his top players were infielder Ted Lepcio, outfielder Johnny Briggs and pitcher Hank Fischer. All three would go on to big-league careers.
In 1964, Seton Hall appeared in the College World Series for the first time. In their second game, against Texas A&M, the Pirates found themselves trailing in the 8th inning. However, in the bottom of the inning, the Pirates broke out for 11 runs, setting a College World Series single-inning run record. They would finish 5th in the CWS that year. Again, in 1971, the reached the College World Series. This team was labeled as a "Cinderella Team" after a slow start but an impressive NCAA District II performance. It starred the pitching duo of Gary Cavallo and Jack Donovan, along with their battery-mate Steve Botyczewski. Cavallo and Donovan were first-round draft picks later that year.
Carroll would end his Seton Hall tenure after the 1972 season, having taken the team to two World Series and having 21 winning seasons in 25 years—including eight seasons with a winning percentage of .750 or better. The school’s baseball field was named in his honor.
In 1973, Mike Sheppard took over the manager spot for Seton Hall baseball. The Pirates tradition of success continued under Sheppard, with appearances in the 1974 and 1975 CWS. In the '75 Series, the Pirates entered as the No. 9 team in the country, and drew a matchup against No. 1 Florida State. Just hours before first-pitch, Ownie Carroll passed away at age 73. The team felt that they needed to win for their former manager, with Sheppard asking his players to “give coach one more day to live Rick Cerone (right) and Ted Schoenhaus cracked home runs and Seton Hall dismantled the Seminoles 11-0.
In 30 years as manager, Sheppard amassed 998 wins against 540 losses and 11 tie games. During his tenure, he recruited many future major leaguers to Seton Hall, including Cerone, Craig Biggio, Mo Vaughn, John Valentin, Jason Grilli and Matt Morris. Mo Vaughn is the single-season home run leader for the Pirates with 28 bombs in 1987. Vaughn also tops the all-time Seton Hall charts in home runs and RBI. Biggio is the all-time Pirates leader in triples and second in runs scored. In 2002, David Siroty authored a book entitled The Hit Men and the Kid Who Batted Ninth. It traces the baseball lives of Biggio, Vaughn, Valentin, and their All-American teammate Marteese Robinson.
Mike' Sheppard’s son, Rob, became manager after his father's resignation in 2003 and has been at the helm since. His tenure started off slowly with just two winning seasons between 2004-2010. However, the Pirates turned things around in 2011, snagging a berth in the NCAA Tournament that spring and and reeling off four straight 30-win seasons.
Seton Hall All-Americans