Trea Turner on his way to being the top offensive MLB player ever from NCSU

Tim Peeler, Contributor to The Wolfpacker
The Wolfpacker
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Larry Blankenship

As the major leagues head into the final days of the 2017 regular season, which ends on Sunday, former NC State shortstop Trea Turner is getting closer to the title he will someday own: the top offensive major leaguer ever produced by Wolfpack baseball.

You could argue that no one really owns that title now. Pitchers — Mike Caldwell to Dan Plesac to Carlos Rodon — from the school have had much more success than hitters at the highest level of professional baseball through the years.

Unofficially, however, you could consider outfielder Dave Robertson, who led the National League in home runs in 1915 and ’16 while playing for the New York Giants; World Series-winning shortstop Jimmy Brown of the St. Louis Cardinals, a career .280 hitter who led the National League in at-bats in 1939 and ‘42; or first baseman Dick Burrus, the only major league player ever born on the Outer Banks, who posted a remarkable 200 hits, .340 batting average and 87 RBIs for the Boston Braves in ‘25.

Turner is not yet close, however, to catching a former NC State football coach in the one statistical category — stolen bases in a single season — where Turner has exceled throughout his baseball career. Turner has 42 in the 92 games he’s played this season, despite missing nearly two months with a broken bone in his wrist.

But let’s rewind more than 100 years and consider the uniqueness of this statistic: Two of NC State’s former football head football coaches have won World Series titles.

For Bo Rein, a standout shortstop and outfielder as well as a running back, it was the 1966 College World Series title in Ohio State’s only baseball championship. Rein was drafted by the Cleveland Indians to play professionally, but his career ended because of Achilles and hamstring injuries while playing for the Triple A Portland Beavers.

He then went into coaching, eventually guiding NC State to its most recent ACC football championship before becoming the head coach at LSU in 1979, though he died in a plane crash before ever coaching the Tigers.

The coach who won a major league baseball World Series championship was Arthur Devlin, who was at NC State at the turn of the 20th century. A former multi-sport standout and football team captain at Georgetown, the Washington, D.C., native was named head football coach at the age of 22 for the North Carolina State College for Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, after spending a season playing baseball for the New Bern team in the Single-A North Carolina League.

It was something to pass the time during the fall while working his way through the New York Giants minor league system.

Devlin compiled a 7-8-2 record in his two seasons at what is now NC State (1902-03). The team’s biggest win came in his second season, when the Farmers beat South Carolina. Back Joseph Miller scored a touchdown and kicked the extra point in a 6-5 victory in Columbia.

After the season, Devlin was told by the New York Giants that he would go to spring training, with the likelihood that he would be the starting third baseman for the 1904 season. Devlin was an immediate game-changer for legendary manager John McGraw, hitting .280 and driving in 66 runs during his rookie season.

The Giants won the National League pennant, but refused to participate in the fledgling championship called the World Series, between the champions of the more established National League and newer American League. No series was played in 1904.

In 1905, Devlin shared the MLB lead for stolen bases with Billy Maloney of the Chicago Cubs with 59, and the Giants won the first World Series title in franchise history, in the first of 89 consecutive World Series, a streak that ended with the 1994 players’ strike.

Devlin spent eight seasons with the Giants (1904-11) and two with the Boston Braves (1912-13). He was likely the reason McGraw and the Giants’ organization had their eye on Robertson, a football-basketball-baseball player at NC State.

Robertson struck out 23 batters against Guilford in 1911 and helped his team beat the MLB Philadelphia Athletics in a preseason exhibition game. Robertson’s pitching career ended after he broke both shoulders in a football game against Bucknell, but he became a power-hitting, sure-handed third baseman and outfielder in the waning days of the dead-ball era.

Devlin was a bit of a firebrand. He once went after a fan in the stands for calling him a “dog.” He is reportedly the only player to ever refuse to take signals from McGraw.

“If I didn’t know what to do without being told, I wouldn’t be with the Giants,” he said.

Devlin, who coached for the Giants for years after his playing career ended, died at the age of 68 in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1948.

For Turner, who has yet to play a full season in his three years in the majors, overtaking players like Robertson, Brown and Burrus seems to be just over the horizon. This season, he’s hit .277 with 11 home runs and 47 runs batted in to go with his 42 stolen bases.

And, in the coming years, he may be fast enough to overtake a former NC State football coach in stolen bases.

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Most Stolen Bases By Former NC State Player In Single Season

Rank

Player

Team

Year

Total

1

Trea Turner

Washington Nationals

2017

42

2

Trea Turner

Washington Nationals

2016

33

3

Greg Briley

Seattle Mariners

1991

23

4

Dave Robertson

New York Giants

1915

22

5

Adam Everett

Houston Astros

2005

21

5

Dave Robertson

New York Giants

1916

21

Most Single Season Home Runs

Rank

Name

Team

Year

Total

1

Greg Briley

Seattle Mariners

1989

13

1

Trea Turner

Washington Nationals

2016

13

3

Dave Robertson

New York Giants

1916

12

3

Dave Robertson

New York Giants

1917

12

3

Doug Strange

Montreal Expos

1997

12

Most Single Season Hits

Rank

Name

Team

Year

Total

1

Dick Burris

Boston Braves

1925

200

2

Jimmy Brown

St. Louis Cardinals

1939

192

3

Dave Robertson

New York Giants

1916

180

4

Jimmy Brown

St. Louis Cardinals

1941

168

5

Dave Robertson

New York Giants

1915

160

——

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