In our third article in the series about Penn players who have played in pro sports leagues, we take a look at Quakers who have played in the MLB and how their careers stack up to that of an average MLB player.
The majority of Penn alumni who played professionally in the major leagues were active in the early days of the sport, with the number of alumni debuting in the MLB reaching a peak of 12 in the first decade of the 20th century.
Towards the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, the Quakers were one of the premier college baseball programs in the country. The Red and Blue went 176-92-7 between 1890-1900 and sent 11 players to the majors in that timeframe. Between 1900 and 1914, they had only one losing season and sent 20 players to the majors just in the first 20 years of the 20th century. The Quakers continued their dominance with a streak of 13 consecutive winning seasons between 1920 and 1932, sending 11 players to the majors across those two decades.
Starting in the 1940s, however, the program began to fall steadily behind the competition. In the 48-year span between 1940 and 1988, the Quakers won only two Ivy League titles and saw a steady decline in the number of alumni playing in the major leagues, with only five Penn alumni getting drafted in this span.
Beginning in 1988, the program experienced a resurgence, led by three future major leaguers. Among them was infielder Mark DeRosa, who went on to have a 16-year MLB career. The Red and Blue reached four College World Series Regionals between 1988 and 1995 and won the Ivy League title five times while posting only a single losing season.
Since 1995, the Quakers have won the Ivy League title only three times, and have not had a player go on to play in the MLB.
This chart shows the average MLB statistics of Penn players who have played in the MLB compared to those of all other major league players. While the average Penn graduate’s MLB career is less successful than that of the average MLB player, there are a few Quakers who have finished their careers with statistics that would be considered above average according to these metrics.
There are 10 Quakers who have played longer than the average 5.6 years, led by DeRosa’s long career. In addition, both catcher Doc Bushong and center fielder Roy Thomas, who played in the MLB’s dead-ball era, had 13 year MLB careers.
Of Penn alumni with over 100 major league plate appearances, three have posted a batting average higher than the average of .262, one has posted an on-base percentage greater than the career mark of an average MLB player, and five have done both, led by Thomas’s .290 batting average and .413 OBP.
DeRosa, Thomas, Charlie Gilbert, and Steve Yerkes each eclipsed all of these three metrics over the course of their major league careers.
The Quaker with the most successful MLB career was DeRosa. Currently an analyst for MLB Network, DeRosa played on the Penn baseball team between 1994-1996 and was also the starting quarterback for the Red and Blue between 1993-1995. After being drafted by the Braves in the seventh round of the 1996 MLB Draft, DeRosa played in Atlanta for seven seasons. Following the 2004 season, DeRosa signed with the Texas Rangers and played another nine seasons for seven different teams. DeRosa finished his career with a .268 batting average, a .340 OBP, 100 home runs, and 494 RBIs.
Baseball has had a long and proud history at the University of Pennsylvania, being playing at the university since the days of the Civil War. With a history of alumni playing professionally and having successful MLB careers, the Quakers look to carry the team’s storied history far into the future.
Daily Pennsylvanian Analytics staffers contributed research for this story.
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