Yale battery 129 years in the making
Craig Breslow thought about the first all-Yale battery in the major leagues in more than 125 years and couldn’t resist a pun about catcher Ryan Lavarnway.
”I guess Ryan caught like a bulldog,” he said.
Saturday was quite a day for ”Boola Boola” (the Yale fight song) at Yankee Stadium, when Breslow relieved in the eighth inning for the Boston Red Sox and helped preserve the lead in a 4-1 win over New York.
”We didn’t need to put any signs down. We’re all on the same wavelength,” Breslow joked.
With the Red Sox leading 3-1, Breslow came in and threw a ball and then got Robinson Cano to ground a cutter into an inning-ending double play.
”He knew exactly what he wanted to do and executed,” Lavarnway said.
According to STATS LLC and baseballreference.com, the only previous all-Yale battery was Sept. 15, 1883, when the Philadelphia Athletics’ Jack Jones pitched to Al Hubbard. The Red Sox said they had been talking with Yale in recent days and had not yet been able to confirm that.
Breslow, a molecular biophysics and biochemistry major, is a 2002 Yale graduate. Lavarnway, a philosophy major, left after his junior year in 2008 to turn pro.
”I got a lot smarter having them out there,” Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. ”I don’t talk to those guys. Bres is such a competitive kid, you wouldn’t think that he carries those kind of degrees around with him.”
Breslow thought of a way to add to the brainy battery and make it a real Mensa matchup.
”I guess if we could have had, I don’t know maybe Wil Venable at the plate or something like that, it would have put the finishing touches on the matchup,” he said, referring to the San Diego outfielder who is a 2005 Princeton graduate.
Breslow, 32, was a 26th-round draft pick by Milwaukee and is in his second stint with Boston following stops with San Diego (2005), the Red Sox (2006), Cleveland (2008), Minnesota (2008-09), Oakland (2009-11) and Arizona (2012). He has a 14-17 career record with a 3.00 ERA.
Lavarnway, 25, was a sixth-round selection in 2008 and made his major league debut with the Red Sox last year. He has a .179 average with two homers and eight RBIs in 67 career at-bats.
”I’ve gotten more congratulations about them than I ever got about myself,” Yale baseball coach John Stuper, a former big league pitcher, said in a telephone interview. ”Ryan will tell you it was because they had black-and-white television back then.”
Not quite. He pitched for St. Louis and Cincinnati from 1982-85, winning a World Series title with the Cardinals.
”I’m gushing. It was a thrill,” said Stuper, Yale’s coach since 1993. ”I’m going to the game tomorrow.”
While in the minors, Breslow remembered traveling from Pawtucket, R.I., to nearby Providence to watch Lavarnway’s Yale team play against Brown. Breslow has tried to be a mentor.
”I definitely look at him first as a baseball player, second as a friend and third as a Yale alumni,” Lavarnway said. ”He’s been great to me since before I got drafted, coming back and kind of talking to me, making the transition into pro ball and starting his foundation and stuff.”
Breslow’s sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was 14 and in 2008 he founded The Strike 3 Foundation to raise awareness and funding for childhood cancer research.
Stuper said Lavarnway keeps returning to Yale to visit kids he worked with in the Big Brother program.
”Character off the charts. Work ethic off the charts,” Stuper said.
And now, Yalies in the same box score.
NOTES: In addition to Breslow, Lavarnway and Venable, there are two other Ivy Leaguers in the major leagues: Cleveland pitcher Frank Hermman (Harvard) and New York Mets pitcher Chris Young (Princeton). San Diego optioned pitcher Ross Ohlendorf (Princeton) to the minors on Saturday and Washington utilityman Mark DeRosa (Pennsylvania) is on the disabled list.