Shaping the Rangers #18: Pete Incaviglia

Lone Star Dugout continues its look at the 20 biggest moves to shape the Rangers. This time, it's a glance at the 1985 trade that brought college superstar Pete Incaviglia to the Texas Rangers.

November 2, 1985: Rangers trade Jim Anderson and Bob Sebra to the Montreal Expos for outfielder Pete Incaviglia

Former Ranger outfielder Pete Incaviglia can tell you at least one thing about the Major League Baseball rulebook.

He's in it.

But the legend, and occasional tall-tale, of one Peter Joseph Incaviglia (or "Inky", as any fan will tell you) cemented its roots in collegiate baseball history long before it left any kind of mark on the major league baseball scene.

After being selected in the 10th round of the 1982 draft, Incaviglia declined to sign a contract and instead arrived at Oklahoma State University in the fall of that year, toting with him California High School Baseball Player of the Year honors from his sophomore year at Monterey High School. He would own a .371 average as a freshman that year, hitting 23 home runs and driving in 78 runs in just 194 at-bats. The young powerhouse led his team to the College World Series as an All-American, but the following year was even better for Incaviglia, as he upped his own records to 29 homeruns and 103 RBI while hitting a slick .352. Once again as a sophomore, he went to the College World Series and was named an All-American.

But in 1985, Incaviglia had a season that will remain forever etched in NCAA folklore.

As a junior, the outfielder demolished the NCAA record for homeruns in a season by hitting 48 of them and drove in an amazing 143 runs, obliterating that record as well.

In just three years at Oklahoma State, Incaviglia had hit exactly 100 Home Runs and compiled a .915 Slugging Percentage, both NCAA records. His 635 Total Bases and an unheard of 324 RBI were collegiate records as well, yet some scouts criticized him for his defensive shortcomings and a supposed lack of hustle combined with rumors of being a very arrogant ballplayer.

The majors would come calling again over that summer, this time in the form of the Montreal Expos. But upon being drafted, Incaviglia refused to sign on the dotted line for the Expos, stating that he'd rather play for a team in the United States and not Canada and would require more money in order to do so.

Incaviglia's agent, Bucky Woy, and Expos General Manager Murray Cook fought back and forth most of that summer over the future of the then 21-year old outfielder. Among Woy's demands was that his client be given a major-league contract and a chance to go from college immediately to the big leagues, leapfrogging over the minor league system. At one point, with a deal apparently near, Incaviglia packed his bags and headed to the airport only to be paged at the last minute and told the deal was off. The two parties were at stalemate, and it wasn't until after the season ended that Woy convinced former Commissioner Peter Ueberroth to allow another club to arrange contract terms and trade for the rights to Incaviglia.

Woy began calling other clubs, and found an interested party in Tom Grieve and the Rangers. The former GM hammered out a deal that met Incaviglia and Woy's approval: A $150,000 signing bonus in the first year and the major-league minimum salary - $60,000 at the time. If the club chose to exercise its option in the second year, Incaviglia would receive a guaranteed $172,000. It was a copious amount of money for a player who'd never stepped inside a batter's box in professional baseball, but the Rangers felt satisfied to spend it on power hitter such as Incaviglia.

But as a result of the Expos trading Incaviglia immediately after signing him, Major League Baseball instituted a rule in the years to come that stated a team cannot trade a drafted player until he has been under contract to the club for at least one year. Officially known as Rule 3(b)(7), the ordinance is also commonly referred to as the "Pete Incaviglia Rule."

On November 2nd 1985, the deal to officially bring him to Texas took place, with the Rangers sending two players to Montreal in return.

Incaviglia arrived at spring training in Pompano Beach, Florida the following spring without a great deal of fanfare, though it wasn't anything unusual. With the New York Yankees training only 10 minutes away, only the heartiest of followers showed up to watch players field grounders, take their swings in the cages, and all the other rituals of spring.

But Incaviglia was on a mission to become one of baseball's most feared power hitters, and reported early along with the Rangers' pitchers and catchers. As the story goes, he hammered three balls out of the park on his first three swings of batting practice. Then, with a crowd of reporters gathered around the batting cage, Incaviglia sent an odd hush over the assembly with a blazing line drive to left field that normally would have hit the outfield fence and bounce back. Instead, it went clear through it.

He had literally knocked a hole in the fence.

The baseball sized hole left in the outfield wall became a tourist stop for visiting fans and media alike, and with that the legend of Inky grew larger.

That spring, Incaviglia would go on to set a team record with seven home runs while owning a .303 average. His efforts were rewarded with the starting job in right field, and Incaviglia became just the fourth player in Major League history to debut in the big leagues without ever playing minor league baseball.

In front of a sold out Arlington Stadium crowd on Opening Day, Incaviglia took to a major league field with his teammates for the first time ever and collected his first hit, a one out double, in his third at-bat of the evening. He also struck out twice – a scourge that would plague the heavy hitter throughout his career.

Three nights later, Incaviglia connected on a two strike offering from Orioles pitcher Tippy Martinez and drove it out of the park for the first of his thirty homeruns on the year. That mark, along with his 88 runs batted in, are both franchise records for a rookie. But despite his slugging prowess, Incaviglia could not disguise his defensive failings and enormous strikeout totals. He would hit no fewer than 20 homeruns in each of his five seasons in Arlington, but Incaviglia also struck out a whopping 788 times including 185 during his rookie season of 1986. That effort in futility landed him four short of the all-time record for strikeouts in a season behind another former Ranger, Bobby Bonds. The Rangers parted ways with the man who some believed would shatter homerun records just before the start of the 1991 season. He would go on to spend the next two seasons with the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros before finding a niche as a platoon outfielder with the Philadelphia Phillies during their worst-to-first 1993 season. In his best season since his days as a Ranger, Incaviglia helped the club reach the World Series by slugging 24 homers and driving in 89 runs.

While in Philadelphia during the strike shortened 1994 season, Incaviglia injured his shoulder after crashing into the outfield wall on a failed attempt to run down a fly ball. He tried fighting through the pain, but slumped badly as the season ground to a halt and owned a .190 average through the final two months of the season.

While Major League Baseball was stuck in the picket lines, Incaviglia took his game overseas and was reunited with former manager Bobby Valentine in Japan before returning to the states for portions of the next three years. But in December of 1999, hampered by weight gain at the age of 34, Incaviglia hung up the spikes for good.

His final glimpse of baseball glory came when the man many called "Inky" was named College Baseball Player of the Century by fans and a panel of baseball experts that included noted authors George Will, Steve Wulf, and famed broadcaster Bob Costas.

For now, his time in the game seems to be over. However, Incaviglia has recently expressed interest in returning to college baseball - possibly as a head coach.


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