To celebrate WSU's return to NCAA post-season action for the first time in 19 years, Brayton agreed to select the best Cougar of all-time at each position, with four starting pitchers, a relief pitcher and a designated hitter. (The DH spot was open to hitters before and after the DH was created).
That gives you an idea of the type of talent that has made its way through Pullman over the years. The best of them all? Brayton says it has to be John Olerud, the college player of the year in 1988.
Olerud enjoyed a long and highly successful career as a major league first baseman after setting WSU records that still stand with a .464 batting average and 15-0 pitching record in 1988.
Brayton said the raw potential of Olerud (an All-American at WSU like his father, also named John) was obvious even when he turned out as a skinny freshman.
"I wouldn't even run him with the other pitchers (because he was so slow)," Brayton said. "He couldn't do a pull-up or a push-up. I used to run with him and adjust my speed so he didn't look so bad."
Brayton's all-time Cougar team, based solely on a player's performance at WSU, is listed below. Included is each player's hometown, his best statistical season with the Cougars and a comment from Brayton.
Keep in mind that wood bats were in use when many of these players were in college. Brayton said he believes the talent level in college baseball has dropped in recent decades because higher signing bonuses have lured more top players away from college into the pros.
John E. Olerud, Federal Way (.336 batting average, 7 home runs, 35 RBIs in 1965; first-team All-American): "His heart is what made him so good … no one ran on him."
|Ron Cey was a perennial All-Star in L.A. Also played for Cubs and A's.|
John G. Olerud, Bellevue (.464-23-81 with a 15-0 pitching record and 2.49 earned run average in 1988; first-team All-American and NCAA player of the year): "He was a great hitter but a great pitcher, too." Went on to become the 1993 American League batting champion.
Bobby Waits, Fresno, Calif. (.358-2-32 with NCAA Division I record of 59 stolen bases in 1971): "Bobby Waits was a guy I was hoping would be the next Cougar coach (when Brayton retired). He was that type of player."
Ron Cey, Tacoma (.362-8-33 in 1968): "You can't argue about that one. He was a good one." Cey earned six trips to the All-Star Game and a World Series co-MVP Award while with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Manny Perez, Cowiche (.362-2-22 in 1970): "He was quick ... a real good fielder."
Dale "The Whale" Ford, Lacey (.390-17-46 in 1966; first-team All-American): "A big kid … a terrific athlete. He could put a ball into orbit." Also a standout for the Cougar football team and a backup on the basketball team.
Bobby Fry, Billings, Mont. (.382-4-29 in 1964): "He covered ground … he loved that clutch stuff."
Doug Simon, Regina, Saskatchewan (.350-6-37 in 1975; second-team All-American): "Tremendous hitter."
|Bobo Brayton and Joe McIntosh represent their nation at the Pan Am Games in 1972.|
Pete Duncan, Red Deer, Alberta (.379-4-31 in 1970; first-team All-American at 3B): "He wouldn't say ‘boo' … he could really hit."
Mike Avey, Whittier, Calif. (6-1, 1.22 ERA, 4 saves in 1965): "He had a pick-off move like you never saw."
|Big-hitting Dale Ford was a first-team All-American in 1966. He also played four years each of football and basketball at WSU.|