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Late picks prove promising in 1978

Late picks prove promising in 1978

Two players who helped redefine the role of the middle infielder in careers that eventually earned them places in the Hall of Fame came out of the baseball Draft 30 years ago. Yet neither Cal Ripken Jr. nor Ryne Sandberg was taken in the first round of the June 1978 First-Year Player Draft.

Sandberg, in fact, was not selected until the 20th round when the Phillies made him the 511th pick overall. Ripken went much earlier, in the second round by the Orioles, but not until 47 other players had already been taken. Cal's father was in the Baltimore organization, so it was no surprise for the Orioles to choose the local standout.

Ripken was a pitcher and a shortstop at Aberdeen High School and initially drew more attention for his work on the mound. Sandberg was an outfielder who also played some shortstop at North Central High School in Spokane, Wash. Both played some third base in the Minors before they found their future homes in the Majors, Ripken at shortstop at Sandberg at second base.

Ripken, at 6-foot-4, and Sandberg, at 6-foot-2, were considered tall for middle infielders in the early 1980s when they made it to the big leagues. They went on to win Gold Gloves for fielding and became integral parts of their team's offense as well. The production they supplied with their bats had more traditionally been the responsibility of corner infielders.

Indeed, the first two players selected in the 1978 Draft were corner men. The Braves had the first pick and used it to select Bob Horner, who played first base and the outfield at Arizona State, but was moved to third base by the Braves. Drafting second, the Blue Jays chose Oakland High School (Calif.) first baseman Lloyd Moseby.

Horner was no surprise as the No. 1 pick. He had been the Most Valuable Player of the 1977 College World Series and winner of the first Golden Spikes Award, and stepped right into the Major Leagues 10 days after the Draft. He had been drafted by Oakland in the 15th round in 1975 out of Glendale High (Ariz.), but did not sign and attended Arizona State, where he hit 58 home runs, an NCAA record, including 25 in one season. Horner was an instant hit for the Braves, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award in '78.

Moseby made it to Toronto in 1980 and was the Blue Jays' regular center fielder throughout that decade.

The Mets had the third pick and drafted Hubie Brooks, who was also from Arizona State. Brooks had been a pitcher in high school in Compton, Calif., but made it to the Majors as a third baseman, initially, and later a shortstop.

The A's took pitcher Mike Morgan with the fourth overall pick and promoted him to Oakland immediately. Morgan pitched in only three games that season and spent most of the next two years in the Minors. When he came back up, it was for a long time, 22 seasons for 12 clubs.

Another pitcher, Andy Hawkins, was the fifth selection, and one of a collection of hurlers the Padres took in the Draft that eventually made up San Diego's rotation in the 1984 World Series. Hawkins is still the only Padres pitcher to have won a World Series game. San Diego also drafted Tim Lollar in the fourth round, Eric Show in the 18th round, Dave Dravecky in the 21st round and Mark Thurmond in the 24th round.

Kevin McReynolds, the center fielder on the '84 Padres (although he did not play in the World Series because of an injury), was also a 1978 Draft choice by the Brewers in the 19th round, but he went to the University of Arkansas instead and was subsequently drafted by the Padres in the first round in 1981.

Kirk Gibson, a two-sport player at Michigan State, chose baseball over football and signed with the Tigers, who made him their first-round selection with the 12th overall pick. Gibson starred for the Detroit team that beat the Padres in the '84 World Series. He later created one of the most memorable moments in World Series history with his Game 1-winning home run in the Dodgers' 1988 victory over the Athletics.

The Yankees had three first-round picks that year and took infielder Rex Hudler 18th, outfielder Matt Winters 24th and pitcher Brian Ryder 26th. They traded Hudler and Winters away, and Ryder never made it to the Majors. Other first-round choices who had Major League careers were Tom Brunansky and Nick Esasky.

Outfielders Larry Sheets, Danny Heep and Mel Hall and catchers Matt Sinatro and Dave Valle were all drafted in the second round ahead of Ripken. Other second-round picks were outfielder Darryl Motley and first baseman Steve Balboni, later teammates on the 1985 World Series champion Royals.

Pitchers Mike Moore and Britt Burns and third baseman Dave Engle were third-round selections. Taken in the fourth round with Lollar were outfielder Rob Deer and first baseman Dave Hostetler. In the fifth round, the Blue Jays selected pitcher Dave Stieb, who became a six-time All-Star. Fellow pitchers Mike Boddicker and Andy McGaffigan went in the sixth round, along with first baseman-outfielder Mike Marshall.

The Angels chose Tim Wallach, then a first baseman who became a star third baseman with the Expos, in the eighth round. Second baseman Steve Sax, who won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1982, was the Dodgers' pick in the ninth round that also featured pitchers Charlie Lea, Tony Fossas and Charlie Leibrandt.

Several lower-round choices such as McReynolds did not sign that year and turned pro in later Drafts. That group includes pitchers Mark Langston, Frank Viola and Mark Davis, infielders Bobby Meacham and Howard Johnson and outfielder Otis Nixon.

Sandberg wasn't alone toward the bottom of the Draft. The Twins took local first baseman Kent Hrbek, out of Kennedy High School in Bloomington, Minn., in the 17th round with the 432nd pick. The lowest '78 Draft choice to find some success in the Majors was shortstop Vance Law, son of former NL Cy Young Award winner Vernon Law, who the Pirates took in the 39th round as the 758th overall selection.

Oh, yes, there was this outfielder from Newton High School in Elmhurst, N.Y., in the shadow of Shea Stadium, who was drafted in the 14th round by the A's by the name of Omar Minaya, now general manager of the Mets.

Jack O'Connell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["first-year_player_draft" ] }
{"content":["first-year_player_draft" ] }