Macoupin County Major League players

Bernhard SzaficBy Daniel Winningham
Growing up, many youngsters may dream of one day playing professional baseball. The odds of getting drafted, let alone making a team and having a successful career are slim.

But since Major League Baseball began more than 140 years ago — probably around the time the county courthouse was finished — there have been several individuals from Macoupin County who have played in the majors.

The last MLB player from Macoupin County to appear in a game was Jason Isringhausen, who attended Southwestern High School and later Lewis and Clark Community College in Grafton prior to being drafted by the New York Mets in 1991.

Isringhausen, an All-Star in 2000 with the Oakland Athletics, and in 2005 with the St. Louis Cardinals, totaled 300 saves in 16 seasons.

For his career, he finished 499 games and led the NL in saves in 2004 with 47.

Isringhausen, who began as a starting pitcher with the Mets, started 51 games in his first three seasons before getting traded to Oakland in 1999. Beginning with his time in Oakland, he was primarily used as a relief pitcher.

After the 2001 season, Isringhausen signed with the Cardinals, where he played from 2002-2008.

During his time with the Cardinals, the team won the National League Central Division four times (2002, 2004, 2005, 2006) and won the World Series in 2006, though Isringhausen was injured late in that season and didn’t appear in any postseason games.

In his time with the Cardinals, Isringhausen appeared in 23 postseason games, compiling a 1-1 record, 2.36 earned run average and 11 saves in 26 2-3 innings. Possibly his most successful postseason was 2004 in which he had three saves in 9 2-3 innings pitched.

Isringhausen appeared in the World Series in 2004, throwing two scoreless innings, striking out two and allowing just one hit.

In 2004, St. Louis defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series and then got past the Houston Astros in seven games in the National League Championship Series before getting swept by the Boston Red Sox.

Following the 2008 season, Isringhausen signed with Tampa Bay. He then appeared in 53 games with the New York Mets in 2011 and threw in 50 games for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the 2012 season.

In MLB action, Isringhausen won 51 games and lost 55 games while compiling a 3.64 earned run average.

In more than 1,000 innings pitched, Isringhausen faced 4,322 batters and struck out 830 hitters.

Shaun Watson of Brighton attended Southwestern High School and was drafted in the 41st round of the MLB Draft by the Mets in 1990.

Watson appeared in several games for Kingsport of the Appalachian League and Pittsfield of the New York-Pennsylvania League.

Watson posted a 6-5 record and a 3.86 earned run average. He started eight games and had one shutout. Overall, Watson struck out 72 strikeouts in 93 1-3 innings.

Joe Bernard, also from Brighton, appeared in one game for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1909. Bernard pitched one inning on Sept. 23 of that season, striking out two, walking two and allowing just one hit.

Bernard faced six batters and had one wild pitch, according to statistical data from Baseball Reference.

On Sept. 23, 1909, the Cardinals hosted the New York Giants, losing both games.

St. Louis finished the 1909 season with a record of 54-98 in second-to-last place in the National League, more than 50 games behind first-place Pittsburgh and only ahead of the last-place Boston Doves (45-108).

Bernhard Dzafic, a 1986 graduate of Carlinville High School, was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 16th round of the 1988 MLB June Amateur Draft.

Dzafic appeared in the Red Sox minor league system for five seasons.

Dzafic compiled an overall record of 13-21 and an earned run average of 3.53 in 138 games. In 298 innings pitched, Dzafic struck out 125 and walked 66 while facing 651 batters.

Dzafic started 11 games and finished 73 games. In the process, he earned nine saves.

Dzafic played for single-A Elmira in 1988, and competed at single-A Winter Haven, Fla. and a high-A minor league team Lynchburg, Va., in 1989.

Following surgery, Dzafic missed the entire 1990 and 1991 seasons and played again for Winter Haven in 1992.

In 1993, Dzafic played for double-A New Britain. In 1994, he played for independent team Champaign-Urbana and Lynchburg.

Though Dzafic never appeared in the majors, his teammate at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Mark Clark, compiled a record of 74-71 in 10 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers.

Clark was drafted in the ninth round of the 1988 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals while another Lincoln Land player, Brad Seitzer, was selected in the 37th round the same year by the Kansas City Royals.

Justin “Pug” Bennett was born in Ponca, Neb. but his Carlinville connection is that he attended Blackburn College.

Bennett appeared in 240 games during the 1906-7 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Primarily a second baseman, Bennett had a .262 batting average in 1906, collecting 156 hits and 20 stolen bases and scoring 66 runs.

Bennett led the league in games played at second base and was first in at-bats with 595, though he also led the league in outs made (460). He was second in assists with 447 and was sixth in singles (132).

Bennett played in 87 games in 1907, though his second season wasn’t as good as his first year. Bennett had 72 hits in 324 at-bats and walked 21 times. His final game was Sept. 20, 1907.

Ralph Rutherford, originally from Decatur, lived in Carlinville later in life. Rutherford played for St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league affiliates in Carthage (Mo.), Decatur and Winston-Salem.

In 1947, Rutherford played for the Carthage Cardinals and Decatur Commodores. While with Carthage, which is in the Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League, he had a .330 batting average, collecting 99 hits in 300 at-bats. Rutherford had 21 doubles, 11 triples and eight home runs.

Rutherford then played for Winston-Salem of the Carolina League in 1948.

Rutherford died in 2010 at age 83.

Walter Tappan of Carlinville appeared in 18 games as an infielder for the Kansas City Packers of the Federal League in 1914.

Tappan collected eight hits in 39 at-bats and had a home run and three RBIs.

Tappan’s final game was July 15 against the Indianapolis Hoosiers.

Tony Etnier, who attended Blackburn College, played for Cook County of the independent Frontier League, going 0-2 in four starts. Etnier compiled a 3.76 earned run average and struck out nine batters in 26 1-3 innings of work.

Harry Patton of Gillespie appeared in one game for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1910.

Patton, 26, pitched for St. Louis on Aug. 22, 1910, threw four innings, allowing four hits and one earned run. Patton faced 17 batters, struck out two and walked two batters, in an 11-4 loss to the New York Giants.

Donald Borgini, now the Gillespie High School head football coach, appeared in five games for the Elizabethton (Tenn.) Twins of the Applachian League in 1981. Borgini compiled a 1-1 record and struck out 19 batters in 21 innings pitched.

Mt. Olive
According to Baseball Reference, three MLB players were born in Mt. Olive. The players, along with the year they first appeared in the majors, are:
• Mike Kreevich, 1931;
• Jess Dobernic, 1939; and,
• Frank Biscan, 1942.

Mike Kreevich, born in 1908, appeared in 1,241 games over 12 seasons with the White Sox, Browns, Athletics, Senators and Cubs.

Kreevich, an outfielder who saw the majority of his playing time at center field, was named to the American League All-Star Team in 1938. In that season, he finished with a .297 batting average, and collected 175 hits.

In both the 1937 and 1939 seasons Kreevich was 10th place in the MVP voting. In 1937, he finished with a .302 batting average and led the league in triples with 16. Two years later, Kreevich drove in a career high 77 runs.

More than half of Kreevich’s games were with the White Sox, playing in 826 of his 1,241 contests for them.

Kreevich died in Pana in April 1994.

Jess Dobernic, a right-handed pitcher, compiled a 7-3 record in three seasons. Dobernic went 0-1 in the 1939. Nine years later, in 1948, Dobernic appeared in 54 games for the Chicago Cubs and finished with a 7-2 record in 85 2-3 innings pitched.

The following season, in 1949, Dobernic appeared in a combined 18 games for both the Cubs and Cincinatti Reds. His final game was July 28, 1949, against the St. Louis Browns.

Dobernic died in 1998 at age 80.

Frank Biscan, a lefthanded hurler, appeared in 74 games during the 1942, 1946, 1948 seasons, all with the St. Louis Browns.

He finished with a record of 7-9 and posted an earned run average of 5.28. In 148 1-3 innings, he struck out 64 batters.

Biscan’s last game was Sept. 30, 1948, against Detroit. He died 11 years later in May 1959.

Louis Rochelli of Staunton appeared in five games for the Brooklyn Dodgers during the 1944 season.

Rochelli had three hits in 17 at-bats (.176 batting average), including a triple.

The 1944 Dodgers had a rather forgettable season, going 63-91 and finishing in seventh-place.

Rochelli played all five games at second base. He recorded 12 put outs and had 15 assists in 28 chances.

Rochelli, who was 25 when he played for Brooklyn in 1944, died in Texas in 1992 at age 73.

Henry Keupper of Staunton never played in the majors but appeared in 42 games with the St. Louis Terriers, a minor league team in the Federal League in 1914. In that one season, Keupper finished with a record of 8-20 and had an earned run average of 4.27. He struck out 70 and walked 49 in 213 innings.

Keupper, who was 27 when he started with the Terriers, died in 1960 at age 73.

Joe McManus of Palmyra appeared in one game with the Cincinnati Reds in 1913 at age 25.

On April 12, the first game of the season, McManus threw two innings against Pittsburgh. McManus walked four batters, struck out one, allowed three hits and four earned runs, according to Baseball Reference.

McManus didn’t start the game, which ended up being a 9-2 loss. The Reds finished 64-89 that season and were in seventh-place, only ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals (51-99).

Others players near Macoupin area
There have been 20 players from Springfield to make an appearance in the Major Leagues, according to Baseball Reference.

Most notable of the group is Hall of Famer Robin Roberts, a right-handed pitcher primarily for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1948-66.

Jayson Werth, now 34, graduated from Glenwood High School and has hit 160 home runs and collected nearly 1,000 hits in more than 1,000 games with Toronto, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington through 11 seasons.

A handful of MLB players were born in both Pana and Jacksonville while there have been 20 Major Leaguers from Springfield.

A couple of players from White Hall, Chappy McFarland and Monte McFarland,  saw time with Brooklyn, Chicago, Pittsburgh and St. Louis in multiple seasons prior to 1910.

No player from Macoupin County has been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, though one longtime White Sox player born in nearby Harvel was voted in by the Veteran’s Committee in 1955.

Ray Schalk, who played for the South Siders from 1912-28, appeared in 1,757 games for the White Sox.

Schalk attended Litchfield High School and first appeared in an MLB game Aug. 11, 1912, at the age of 19.

During his 19-year career, Schalk compiled a .253 batting average, drove in 594 runs and hit 11 home runs.

Perhaps his best offensive season came in 1922 when he appeared in a career-high 142 games with a .281 average, four homers, 60 RBIs, 22 doubles and 12 stolen bases.

Schalk led the American League in putouts every year from 1913-20 and also in 1922. He was tops in catcher’s field percentage in 1915-16 and again from 1920-22.

Schalk’s final game was Sept. 15, 1929, at age 37. He died in 1970 at age 77.