Editor’s note: This summer, Star columnist Greg Hansen is counting down the top 10 of just about everything related to Tucson sports. Today’s list: The top 10 single-season UA baseball records.
Before the 1952 Arizona baseball season, a scout from the Pittsburgh Pirates arrived in Tucson and offered catcher/first baseman Lloyd Jenney a $12,000 bonus and a minor-league contract.
The Star reported that UA athletic director Pop McKale “chased the scout away and told him not to come back.”
Jenney was 23, a former Army paratrooper who met a Tucsonan while stationed in Japan. Even though Jenney grew up in Ohio, he was persuaded to play baseball at Arizona, then coached by Frank Sancet.
In his first season at Arizona, 1951, Jenney hit .346. But in ’52, Jenney took it to another level. He hit .484, possibly the most unassailable single-season record in Arizona baseball history.
In the 65 baseball seasons to follow, no Pac-12 player hit higher than .463. That was Washington State’s John Olerud, who batted .463 in 1988 and went on to play 17 MLB seasons, amassing 2,239 career hits.
Jenney’s record isn’t recognized by the Pac-12 because the UA played in the Border Conference in 1951 and 1952.
Critics contend Jenney didn’t play against top competition, but the Wildcats of ’52 played 14 games against older, more established ballplayers from Marine, Navy and Air Force bases. Nor did 1952 collegians have the advantage of using aluminum-based bats, or those of composite materials.
With an old wood bat, Jenney was hitting .456 when Arizona was sent to Texas to play the Longhorns in a best-of-3 NCAA regional. Jenney hit .533 that weekend, improving his average to .484. The only Wildcat to challenge that mark was Marty Hurd, who hit .473 in 1957. In the modern era, Dillon Baird hit .433 for Andy Lopez’s 2009 club.
Of the scores of season records in the UA record books, Jenney’s .484 will likely be the most difficult to erase. Here’s our Top 10:
1. Lloyd Jenney hits .484 in 1952. Jenney was selected to the All-American second team after the ’52 season, then the highest honor in school history. He played seven years of minor-league baseball, reaching Class AA.
2. John Fouse pitches six shutouts in 1965. Fouse was recruited to play football at Penn State, Florida State and USC — and was later drafted by both the Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Eagles — and is probably the top two-sport athlete in UA history. In ’65, he pitched four shutouts in succession (40 innings) and finished 12-2 with a 1.84 ERA. By comparison, this year’s UA team pitched three shutouts, but all were combinations between starters and relievers. The Wildcats did not pitch a shutout in 2004, 2000, 1986 (a year they won the national championship) and 1984. Competition? Fouse once struck out ASU’s Reggie Jackson, Rick Monday and Sal Bando in a game. Complete games are a rarity in college baseball, given composition of bats and limited pitch counts. Fouse’s record seems safe forever.
3. Ron Hassey drives in 86 runs in 1974. Then a sophomore from Tucson High, Hassey is also No. 2 in a season, driving in 84 runs in the 1976 national championship year. Terry Francona challenged the record, driving in 84 when Arizona won the 1980 College World Series. This year’s top NCAA RBI total was 84 by Gavin Sheets of Wake Forest.
4. Scott Erickson wins 18 games in 1989. An almost untouchable record; when iron-man Kurt Heyer pitched Arizona to the 2012 World Series title, he won 13 games.
5. Shelley Duncan, 24 home runs in 2001. Since Duncan’s big year, the UA’s two leading home run seasons were 20 by C.J. Ziegler in 2008 and 15 by Bobby Dalbec in 2016. Arizona hit only eight home runs as a team in 2014.
6. Donnie Lee goes 15-0 in 1956. The longtime major-leaguer can rest easy about losing this record. Since his UA days, the only pitcher with a double-figure undefeated record was Jon Meloan, 10-0, in 2004.
7. Dave Stegman scores 91 runs in 1976. Consider this: When Arizona won the 2012 World Series, Robert Refsnyder led Arizona with 66 runs scored.
8. Dan Schneider strikes out 186 batters in 1962. No one in college baseball struck out more than 156 this season. The closest UA pursuer in 50 years is Preston Guilmet, who struck out 146 in 2007.
9. Tommy Hinzo steals 45 bases in 1986. This year’s highest total in NCAA baseball was 39. Hinzo is also second in UA history with 43 in 1985. The stolen base no longer appears to be a priority in college baseball.
10. Rich Hinton posts a 1.07 ERA in 1969. Incredibly, Oregon State’s Luke Heimlich bettered Hinton’s ERA this year, with an 0.76 mark in the Beavers’ 27-3 Pac-12 season. UA pitcher Cameron Ming had a 2.78 ERA this season.
Contact sports columnist Greg Hansen at 520-573-4362 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @ghansen711