With Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick set to be enshrined into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, what better time to look at a few former Major Leaguers with Utah ties that left their own indelible marks on the game. Just a sampling and listed alphabetically, we'd love to hear what former big leaguers with Utah ties you hold most near and dear.
Rick Aguilera, RHP, New York Mets (1985-1989), Minnesota Twins (1989-1995, 1996-1999), Boston Red Sox (1995), Chicago Cubs (1999-2000)
Aguilera was born Dec. 31, 1961, in San Gabriel, Calif. He was a member of the BYU baseball team before being picked in the third round of the 1983 draft. He spent most of his career as a relief pitcher, starting only 89 games. He is credited with 318 regular-season saves and 1,030 strikeouts. He was a three-time All Star game selection (1991, 1992 and 1993) and is a two-time World Series champion. He was the winning pitcher in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. He also appeared in and finished four games, including credited saves in Game 1 and Game 2 of the 1991 World Series, while giving up only one run against 20 batters faced. He is a member of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame.
Billy Cowan, OF, Chicago Cubs (1963-1964), New York Mets and Milwaukee Braves (1965), Philadelphia Phillies (1967), New York Yankees (1969), California Angels (1969-1972)
Cowan was born on Aug. 28, 1938, in Calhoun City, Miss. He was a member of the University of Utah baseball team before signing a free-agent contract with the Chicago Cubs. He was the first player from the University of Utah to play in the majors. His career stats include 493 games played, 40 home runs, 125 stolen bases and 125 RBIs. He is a member of the Crimson Club Hall of Fame.
In this photo: New York Mets team pose at Shea Stadium in 1965, New York. The players are, in the foreground, batboy Dom Ardivino, seated, Chuck Hiller, Dan Napoleon, Chris Cannizzaro, Yogi Berra, Don Heffner, Casey Stengel, Wes Westrum, Warren Spahn, Galen Cisco, Charlie Smith, and Johnny Lewis. In the second row are, trainer Gus Mauch, Al Jackson, Jack Fisher, Larry Bearnarth, Ed Kranepool, Dennis Musgreaves, Gary Kroll, Tom Parsons, Jim Hickman, Ron Hunt, Jesse Gonder, and assistant trainer Joe Deer. In the back row are, Ron Swoboda, Tug McGraw, Joe Christopher, Joe Stephenson, Larry Miler, Bobby Klaus, Roy McMillan, Billy Cowan, and Frank Lary.
Born in Ogden and a graduate of Viewmont High, Kelly Downs was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 26th round of the 1979 draft.
A right-handed pitcher, Downs broke into the bigs in 1986 with the San Francisco Giants. Downs’ best season was in 1988, when he won a career high 13 games.
Following his years with the Giants (1986-1992), Downs closed out his Major League career pitching for the Oakland Athletics in 1993.
Ken Hunt, RHP, Cincinnati Reds (1961)
Hunt was born on Dec. 14, 1938, in Ogden, Utah. He played baseball for BYU before signing a free-agent contract with the Reds. During the 1961 season, he appeared in 29 games, earning nine wins while pitching 136 1/3 innings and four complete games. He also earned The Sporting News Rookie Pitcher or the Year award. He was the first person born in Utah to make it to the Major Leagues and was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.
In the photo: (Left to Right) Gary Pullins, Alfred Pupunu, Danny Vranes, Ken Hunt, and Carl McGown are inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame.
Bruce Hurst, LHP, Boston Red Sox (1980-1988), San Diego Padres (1989-1993), Colorado Rockies (1993), Texas Rangers (1994)
Hurst was born on March 24, 1958, in St. George, Utah, where he played for Dixie High and Dixie College before being drafted 22nd overall in 1976. During his career, he faced 10,204 batters over 2,417.1 innings pitched with 1689 strikeouts.
Hurst was elected to the 1987 All-Star Game and finished fifth in Cy Young voting the following year. As a member of the Red Sox team that lost to the Mets in the 1986 World Series, he won two of the three games he appeared in with a 1.96 ERA, allowing only one home run over 23 innings with 17 strikeouts.
After his playing career, he was elected to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in November 2004, and coached the Chinese National team to a bronze medal at the Asian Baseball Championships in 2005 (their first such medal). Dixie State College re-named their field Bruce Hurst Field in 2009 in his honor.
Dane Iorg, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies (1977), St. Louis Cardinals (1977-1984), Kansas City Royals (1984-1985), San Diego Padres (1986)
Iorg was born on May 11, 1950, in Eureka, Calif. He was a member of the BYU baseball team before being selected 22nd overall in 1971. He was a member of the 1982 World Series Champion Cardinals and won his second world series as a member of the 1985 Royals against his former team. His .529 batting average during the 1982 postseason is tied for ninth on the all-time list. His winning hit in the 1985 series was only one of two hits for the entire World Series as he was primarily a pinch-hitter.
Wally Joyner, 1B, California Angels (1986-1991), Kansas City Royals (1991-1995), San Diego Padres (1996-1999), Atlanta Braves (2000), Anaheim Angels (2001)
Joyner was born on June 16, 1962, in Stone Mountain, Ga. He was a member of the BYU baseball team before being drafted in the third round in 1983. Often considered one of the best power hitters of the time, he totaled more than 2,000 total hits for his career, including 204 home runs and 1,106 RBIs. Named to the 1986 All-Star game, and was the co-winner of the Home run Derby the same year. He currently resides in Mapleton, Utah.
In the photo: Anaheim Angels' Wally Joyner, right, is congratulated by Angels' Troy Glaus, left, after Joyner hit a two-RBI home run off Cleveland Indians pitcher Bartolo Colon in the fourth inning Tuesday, April 24, 2001 at Jacobs Field in Cleveland.
Vance Law, IF, Pittsburgh Pirates (1980-1981), Chicago White Sox (1982-1984), Montreal Expos (1985-1987), Chicago Cubs (1988-1989), Chunichi Dragons (1990), Oakland Athletics (1991)
Vern Law, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (1950-1951, 1954-1967)
Even though Vern Law was not born in Utah and did not play college baseball here, he is included on this list for several reasons.
After his playing career, he spent 10 years as an assistant coach at BYU from 1969-1979, during which time Vance played for Provo High School and BYU. The father-son duo combined for 27 years in the majors. Both Vern and Vance were named to All-Star games (Vern in 1960, when he was credited with the save, and Vance in 1988).
Vern is credited with starting 364 games, winning 162 of them, including an astonishing 119 complete games and 2,672 innings pitched. His career ERA is 3.77 and he had arguably his best year in 1960 when he won the Cy Young Award, led the National League in complete games pitched with 18 and helped the Pirates win the World Series that year against the Yankees.
Vance played in over 1,200 games and finished with 71 home runs and 442 RBIs during his career. Vance returned to Utah after his playing career to coach at Provo High School, winning the 1997 state championship before returning to BYU as the head coach in 2000. Prior to the 2011 season he had 344 career wins.
Vern was known to assist as a pitching coach during his son’s early coaching career and both men still reside in Provo.
In the photo: Vern law of Provo, Utah throws out the first pitch as the Pittsburgh Pirates honor former Major League baseball player.
Jack Morris, RHP, Detroit Tigers (1977-1990), Minnesota Twins (1991), Toronto Blue Jays (1992-1993), Cleveland Indians (1994)
Morris was born on May 16, 1955, in St. Paul, Minn. He played baseball at BYU before being drafted in the fifth round in 1976. He spent 18 seasons in the Major Leagues and was a five-time all-star (1981, 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1991) as well as a four-time World Series Champion (1984, 1991, 1992, 1993).
He amassed 527 starts, 175 complete games and 2,478 strikeouts during his career and finished in the top five of Cy Young award voting five different times. He was named The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year in 1981 and won the Babe Ruth Award in 1984 and again in 1991, which was the same year that he was named World Series MVP.
He started the most games, pitched the most innings and was the winningest pitcher the 1980s.
Cory Snyder, OF, Cleveland Indians (1986-1990), Chicago White Sox (1991), Toronto Blue Jays (1991), San Francisco Giants (1992), Los Angeles Dodgers (1993-1994)
Snyder was born on Nov. 11, 1962, in Inglewood, Calif. He was a member of the BYU baseball team before being drafted fourth overall in the 1984 Major League Baseball First-year Player Draft. He earned a silver medal in the 1984 Olympic Games. Spent nine seasons in the majors where he hit 149 home runs and tallied 488 RBIs. His career was hampered by injuries, but also earned National League Player of the Month in June 1992. After retirement, he returned to Utah briefly to manager the St. George Roadrunners from 2007-09.
In the photo: Former BYU player and big leaguer Cory Snyder, who is now managing a single A team in St. George.
About the author: Landon Walters is a history and political science major currently studying at Salt Lake Community College and is an avid sports fan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.