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Bob Seddon

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For 32 years now, two men have represented Penn baseball. Bob Seddon and Bill Wagner are the longest-tenured coaches at the University and are among the most experienced duos in all of college sports.

Their spring sport is a calm one. It is not the 60-minute war of football in the fall, nor is it the pressurized drama that turns the Palestra into a cauldron of intensity during basketball season.

As a sport in which even the best players spend nearly half the game on the bench, baseball lends itself to personalities. There are plenty of stereotypes --ÿthe gregarious slugger, the quirky left-handed relief pitcher, the gritty leadoff man.

At Penn, Seddon and Wagner are the most notable personalities. As the head coach, Seddon has seen almost everything, knows a lot of people, and always has plenty of stories to tell.

"He was always very good about recruiting and getting those big games," former Penn star Doug Glanville said. "I remember we played the Dodgers' A-ball team one year in Vero Beach, and one of the Dodgers' owners was a former Penn guy. And [Seddon] knew Tommy Lasorda really well, and I went to dinner one time at Tommy Lasorda's restaurant, and Seddon was let in like one of his brothers."

Wagner is like a brother to Seddon. As the pitching coach, Wagner brings more of a football mentality to the game, as he has also coached the Penn sprint football team since arriving on campus in 1970.

While Seddon is wont to go off on tangents when he speaks, often winding up telling a story, Wagner is very direct. Those styles might not go very well on their own, but they make for an effective combination.

"They're two different people, but they complement each other real well," Penn catcher Billy Collins said. "They have two different styles of coaching. Wags is aggressive, and Nine [Seddon] takes care of details. When they get together to make decisions, the sides come together and give it more of a complete coaching aspect."

At 62, Wagner remains active, playing in an over-50 baseball league. He estimaed that he has played over 4,000 games. "And I'm not ready to stop," Wagner said.

Wagner still plays because he believes he can still be successful. He views his own self-assuredness as an important trait, and it is one that he tries to instill in his players.

"I think that I could hit against anybody, and I always tease my guys," Wagner said. "Realistically, even the best hitters in the world make six outs out of nine at-bats because to hit .300 is certainly a nice thing to aim for. I honestly know my limitations, however, I still can hit the ball, and I would certainly take my stand in the batters box against anybody, not just Penn kids... If you've got a bat in your hand, and you think you can hit, that's about 90 percent of it. If you think you can't hit, you won't. If you think you can't get a guy out pitching, you're not going to get him out. That's been one of my theories of playing the game."

As Nick Barnhorst, a Penn reliever who graduated last spring, put it, "That confidence he has in himself is refreshing and it projects on al the players, the young guys especially, and makes them believe that, you know, theirs hang lower than everybody else's."

Barnhorst's point might not be subtle, but neither is Wagner. The coach is direct, and succinctly described how he has been able to work with Seddon for so many years.

"It's been a very close trust and loyalty over 30 years-plus, otherwise you wouldn't be able to communicate and make decisions and stay together for that many years if you didn't have that kind of respect for each other."

That mutual respect spreads to the players, and is shown in the way that the coaches deal not only with their charges, but with recruits as well.

"I remember when I first decided to choose Penn," Glanville said. "I'd had contacts with other schools, and the thing that I liked was that [Seddon] came to my house, he was very personable, seemed like a nice man, sincere, and I remember him guaranteeing me a chance to play outfield, because I had pitched a lot and was mostly recruited for pitching. And he backed up his word."

The decision worked out well for Glanville. After playing in the Quakers outfield, he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs, and now serves as the starting centerfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Glanville played for Penn during some of the Quakers' best years under Seddon and Wagner. Seddon is Penn's all-time leader with 574 wins coming into this season. He piloted the Red and Blue to 22 victories last year in what was ultimately a disappointing campaign as Penn did not fare well against its Ivy League foes. Seddon's success, though, has not come from one fixed strategy.

"With each decade of my coaching --ÿI've coached in the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s and now 2000s -- I started in the late '50s," Seddon said. "With each decade, there are major changes. So, to survive in those years, you have to change. Not that you have to give up all your principles or your discipline. You have to have some changes. People will say, 'Oh, he hasn't changed a bit.' Well, he had to, because how else would he survive? People change. The kids change. The academics change. The demands are different. I had to get computerized. In my generation, a lot of people won't go near a computer, but I had to do it to survive."

Seddon has shown his coaching ability not only on the diamond, but on the pitch as well. From 1968 until 1986, he served as Penn's head men's soccer coach, and compiled the best record of any Quakers skipper in the last 60 years with 163 wins, 85 losses and 29 ties.

Soccer, however, did not present Seddon with the chance to win the prestigious Irv Award, given annually by the Quakers to one of their own.

"The Irv Award started when a young guy by the name of Irv Antoni was on our team and he was a pitcher," Wagner said. "He was one of our four starters on the weekend, may have been the [number] one or two even. He was a good pitcher. But he was the slowest thing, and worst packer, and would leave stuff, and be the last one to get to a van, and constantly forgetting the right uniform or the hat. He always missed something. We decided that somebody who would do all of these things and create havoc, that we would give an award and keep a record of guys who basically screw up on a trip, and we've been giving out the Irv Award for all those years. Fortunately, I have never won it, and I don't plan on winning it. Coach Seddon has won it several times, and the guys try to give it to him because they hear things that he had done 15 years ago... It's a fun thing.

"Every time he's won it, he's deserved it," Wagner added about Seddon.

As the Quakers prepare for their annual trip to Florida to start the season, the players will again be looking for any reason to give Seddon another Irv Award. They will be able to do so without losing track of the game because baseball lends itself to such side activities, but also because of the atmosphere that Seddon and Wagner have created and fostered on the Penn baseball team over the last three decades.

The definitive lightning story

"Seddon is notorious for messing up cliches," Penn catcher Billy Collins says of his coach. "He says such things as `water over the bridge,' `water under the dam,' `a catch-two.' He just messes up every now and then." Seddon has had plenty of memorable goofs, and that is part of his charm. Of all of the Seddon stories, there may be no greater or more widely told anecdote than the Lightning Story. "We were playing at Brown, and it was a big game," said Doug Glanville, who was there on April 10, 1989. "We were up there, and the first day it was snowed out, and we had to win the game to win the Ivies. It was snowing really bad, and we were playing through it." In fact, it was so bad that Glanville, one of Penn's top hitters at the time, went 0 for 7 over the course of the afternoon's doubleheader. "Somebody had a flashbulb at the end of the dugout," Seddon recalled. "It was snowing so bad that we really shouldn't have been playing, and it was the bottom of the inning, and it was ridiculous. We were all getting on the umpire and anticipating for him to call the game." But the umpires did not call off either game. Penn had won the first game of the doubleheader, 2-0, and was closing in on victory in the second game, but not before one of the most memorable moments of Seddon's 32-year tenure at Penn. "We were looking for any reason to get this game over with," Glanville said. "So the photographer took a flash shot, and Seddon came running out of the dugout because he thought that the flash was lightning. So he's yelling, `Lightning means stop!' He just kept running. `Lightning means stop!' That's all he kept saying was lightning means stop. He had no idea that it was a flashbulb. He got the Irv Award for that one." But play continued, and the Quakers were saved when Tom Mascena made a running catch to preserve a 5-4 win. The victory was the Red and Blue's 13th in a row, part of an 18-game winning streak and a league championship season.

Photos by Andrew Margolies

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