After 22 years, Yale and Penn will meet again for the Ivy League Baseball Championship

Richard Slenker. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

UPDATE: The Ivy League Baseball Championship series between Yale and Penn at Yale Field this weekend has been postponed because of ominous weather forecasts for Saturday and Sunday. The first day’s doubleheader has been rescheduled for Tuesday, May 16th at 12:05 pm. The “if necessary” game will be the following day.

Yale’s baseball team had to wait a full week to learn the identity of its opponent in the Ivy League Championship series next weekend at Yale Field. After Yale had decisively won the Red Rolfe Division with a 16-4 record, Columbia and Penn ended in a tie at the top of the Gehrig Division. Each team had a 12-8 mark.

A divisional playoff became necessary and it was scheduled for Saturday, May 6th. But rainy weather during the week caused it to be moved back 24-hours to Sunday, extending the uncertainty of which team will be coming to Yale Field for the best-of-three set.

The tie-breaker, which took place at Columbia, ended with a Quaker victory, 6-3, so it will be Penn and Yale starting at 12:05 in the opening doubleheader on Tuesday, May 16. Should they split, the deciding game would be on Wednesday the 17th.

All contests may be seen nationally on ESPN3.

In order to offset a layoff that would have extended for 12 days, Yale has a hastily arranged game with UMass-Lowell on Wednesday at 6 pm at Yale Field.

The Penn-Yale championship matchup is intriguing because it reunites the same colleges on the same field on which a similar series was played in 1995, when the Ivy League’s present championship format was in only its third year.

otherbaseballdude After 22 years, Yale and Penn will meet again for the Ivy League Baseball Championship
Dave Feuerstein is the only player to play for both Yale and the New Haven Ravens. (Photo: Yale Sports Publicity)

Yale and Penn had met the previous season in the Championship Series. That was at, of all places, Palmer Field in Middletown, CT. Yale won it as well as the inaugural in 1993 against Columbia, also in Middletown.

The series in 1994 went to Yale in three games, the decisive one a 5-1 victory behind Keith Pelatowski from Ansonia. Pelatowski’s Ansonia High School coach was the same Mike Vacca who this week won his 500th game and was honored by the city and friends for nearly 40 years of coaching.

Pelatowski, who had opted to attend college close to his home in the “Valley,” received this compliment from Stuper after the previous day’s doubleheader was split..

“We’re sending last year’s Ivy League pitcher of the year (to the mound), I feel confident.”

The confidence was rewarded. Pelatowski went on to limit Penn to just an unearned run in improving his Yale record that year to 6-3.

In 1995 the league switched the sites to the fields of one of the participating colleges. The Saturday doubleheader in 1995, being at Yale Field, began at 11 am, to accommodate the New Haven Ravens, who had an Eastern League game that night on the same grounds. Not known by anyone at the time is that Yale centerfielder, Dave Feuerstein, who picked up four hits in the two games batting leadoff, was to return to the same ballpark a few years later as a member of the Ravens. He thus became the answer to this trivia question:

Who is the only member of two teams that played its home games at Yale Field?

Again, the answer is Dave Feuerstein, who played for Yale and later the New Haven Ravens.

A sunny but blustery day

It was on May 7, 1995, and the weather was not any better for those games than what we have been experiencing currently. It was sunny but very, very windy.

The games were tight and exciting. As rarely happens back-to-back, they ended in identical scores of 6 to 5, with Penn sweeping.

Although they were at Yale Field, the arrangement at the time was for the home team to bat first in the opener, and then do it the normal way in the next game.

mark derosa penn After 22 years, Yale and Penn will meet again for the Ivy League Baseball Championship
Mark DeRosa, who also played football at Penn, was a big reason the Quakers beat the Elis in ’95. (Photo: University of Pennsylvania Athletics)

Future major leaguer Mark DeRosa the Penn star

The big reason the Quakers won was a Penn two-sport star Mark DeRosa, who went on to further success with eight teams in a 16-year major league career, starting with seven seasons with the Atlanta Braves. DeRosa, most of the time an infielder, had a .268 lifetime MLB batting average, with 494 RBI and an even 100 home runs. At Penn, in addition to his exploits on the diamond, he was an outstanding football quarterback. In his senior year, Penn was Ivy champion in football, basketball, and baseball.

DeRosa was hitless in the opener of the 1995 Ivy Championship doubleheader but was the difference in the second game. He struck two home runs, starting with a wind-aided three-run homer in the first inning, followed by a game-winning HR in the eighth.

Yale’s hopes ended with a double play

Yale had a runner on second with one out in the ninth. Tom Kidwell hit a sinking line drive to center. Penn center fielder Tim Henwood – hero of the first game (with a ninth-inning home run) – charged in, made the catch, then threw out pinch runner Peter Bogue trying to get back to the base for the game-ending double play.

A highlight of the day for Yale was Dan Thompson’s sixth inning home run in the first game. It was believed to have been the only one ever hit by a Yale player over the centerfield scoreboard, and which was estimated to have gone 460 feet. The blast tied the score at 5-5.

box score After 22 years, Yale and Penn will meet again for the Ivy League Baseball Championship
Click to enlarge.

Comeback in the second game not enough

Down 4-0 in the second game, Yale, particularly Thompson, came back to tie. In the fourth he hit a two-run double off the base of the scoreboard, followed by Bryan Hobbs’ sacrifice fly. Then in the seventh, after the Quakers had gone ahead 5-4, Thompson again brought in a run on a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-5. But DeRosa ended the Bulldog hopes with his second 4-bagger of the game in the eighth.

Coach John Stuper, then in his third season in New Haven, later told the late Dave Solomon, writing in the New Haven Register, “We just ran out of comebacks. It takes something out of you to keep coming back, coming back, coming back. But you have to give Penn credit. They were the better team today.”

It is now 22 years later. Stuper is still at Yale’s helm. The playing personnel who will meet at Yale Field on Saturday have, of course, changed since 1995. The athletes who were on the field then are now in their early 40s.

Most of the young men who will be participating this weekend probably have had no prior knowledge of that unique Ivy League championship series of 1995. Half of them, (the Penn Quakers, will be hoping that history repeats. The other half, Stuper’s current group of Bulldogs, will be out to even the score and go on to the NCAA tournament.

What history is all about

Such scenarios are just another reason why the old ballpark on Derby Avenue in West Haven, which was once an apple orchard, and later described by Babe Ruth as the finest he had ever played on, is deservedly known as “Historic” Yale Field.

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