SI Vault
That was THEN This is NOW
Hank Hersch
April 04, 1988
The '84 U.S. Olympic team had a heap of talent. Just look where its alumni are in '88
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
April 04, 1988

That Was Then This Is Now

The '84 U.S. Olympic team had a heap of talent. Just look where its alumni are in '88

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

Marzano never let up on his teammates, and he didn't let them down either: He batted .394, second to Clark's .397, during the tour and the Games. On the Red Sox this season, Rich Gedman will catch most of the pitches while Marzano catches most of the flak. "These guys kill me about the Olympics," Marzano says. " Wade Boggs says if I turn my back on the Olympic equipment bag I still use, he's going to burn it. And this spring, when we played a Japanese team in an exhibition game, they said I wasn't allowed to play because I didn't know how to beat them. But that Olympic team was the most fun I had playing ball. We were like a family."

The Young and Occasionally Restless. The 1985 free-agent draft may have yielded the best crop of first-round picks ever. The five Olympic underclass-men were the first, second, third, fourth and 10th choices. Clark (pick No. 2) has led the youth movement into the majors, but this season some of his classmates may catch up. B.J. Surhoff (No. 1), who often played the outfield for the Olympians but replaced Marzano behind the plate whenever Surhoff's Tar Heel teammate Bankhead pitched, will probably start a long string of All-Star appearances this season as the Brewers' backstop. Witt (No. 3), a two-year veteran of the Texas Rangers' rotation, has already become an irresistible force—he allowed an American League low of 7.17 hits per game in '87—though he can make the plate seem like a movable object, having led the league with 140 walks.

Barry Larkin (No. 4) will play shortstop and bat lead-off for the Cincinnati Reds, giving him an opportunity for stardom that he never got with the Olympic team. Back then he was a utilityman behind Alfaro and Gary Green, who had a cup of coffee with the San Diego Padres. Larkin is still irked about his role as an Olympian. "I guess it was a learning experience," he says. "Call it humility." So taught, Larkin still had trouble returning to Michigan for his junior year. "After the Olympics, I thought. Shoot, let's get going," he says.

Chris Gwynn (No. 10), the kid brother of Padre star Tony, is getting a lesson in mathematics from the Los Angeles Dodgers. As they add free-agent outfielders, Gwynn's chances lessen. "When I get that moment to put up some numbers," Chris vows, "I'm going to take advantage of it."

The Ace. In the Olympic finale against Japan on Aug. 7, Dedeaux gave his No. 1 starter the ball. With a big leaguer's curve and a bulldog's tenacity, Hoover had set NCAA career records for complete games in a season (19) and a career (42). "I didn't blow anybody away," he says, "but I could pitch a little bit." The Baltimore Orioles made him their top choice (25th overall) in the 1984 draft and offered him a signing bonus of about $60,000. But Hoover held out for the $100,000-plus he knew his fellow first-rounders on the Olympic team got. In the U.S. team's Olympic opener, he beat Chinese Taipei 2-1; the next day the Orioles upped their offer to six figures.

On the hill for the gold before 55,235 fans, Hoover hung an eighth-inning curve to Katsumi Hirosawa, who belted a three-run homer to put Japan ahead 6-1. The Olympic experience took a toll on Hoover's right arm: In an 18-month period beginning with his junior season at Fresno State and ending after his first pro season at Triple A Rochester, he threw more than 400 innings. His fastball slowed slightly, and he slipped to Class AA, then to Class A, before winding up back in AA last year.

Hoover, now 25, tried to make the Montreal Expos this spring. Sitting in front of his locker, squirting tobacco juice into a cup, he was optimistic. "There are dreams you grow up with—your first major league win, pitching in an All-Star Game or World Series," he said. "Those are still dreams to me. But another dream came true in the middle of it all, and that one will never be beat. If I had to do it again, even if I knew it would give me problems, I wouldn't hesitate. I enjoyed every second of that Olympic team." Montreal sent Hoover to the minors in March.

Most of the Olympians, even Clark and McGwire, won't reach their prime for another quadrennium. Pat Pacillo, who's now with the Reds, speaks for a lot of his Olympic teammates and perhaps for some baseball fans when he muses from time to time. "If only we could put that team back together...."

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

1 2