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By Louis Berney

It might have been the biggest football game in the little halfback’s high school career. His team, Bishop Walsh of Cumberland, Md., was undefeated, and he was the school’s star running back and safety. The opponent was perennial powerhouse DeMatha Catholic of Hyattsville, Md., one of the top high school football teams in the country. It was a thrilling game. Bishop Walsh put up a good fight, but DeMatha’s quarterback kicked the deciding extra point to defeat Bishop Walsh, 14-13.

Perlozzo addresses the umpires Aug. 11, 2005, at Camden Yards during a game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Mark Goldman/Goldmine Photography

In two years, as fate would have it, the halfback from Bishop Walsh and the quarterback from DeMatha would become college roommates at The George Washington University and teammates on the Colonials’ baseball team.

Now, more than three decades after their student days at GW, their lives could intertwine again, this time in the field of major league baseball.

That halfback is Sam Perlozzo, BS ’73, the new manager of the Baltimore Orioles. The DeMatha quarterback is Bill Collins, BA ’72, a successful D.C. businessman who would like to own a major league team.

The two products of GW’s baseball program have waited a long time for their dreams to reach fruition. Perlozzo had applied for a half dozen major league managerial jobs during the past decade without any luck. But on Aug. 4, when the Orioles fired manager Lee Mazzilli, they named Perlozzo, a coach with the team for a decade, as interim manager. Then, last fall, they made the move permanent, or at least as permanent as any big league managing job can be.

For Collins, the dream is yet to be fulfilled. For a dozen years, he lobbied Major League Baseball to award a team to northern Virginia. When baseball officials instead moved the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C., Collins became a leading player in a group, American Baseball Capital, that vied to become owner of the team. However, seven other groups also made ownership bids, and Collins' group was not selected. Collins, who has owned minor league franchises in the past, thus continues his wait.

Perlozzo, on the other hand, has the job he has wanted since his career as a professional player came to an end 25 years ago.

“There are only 30 of these jobs out there,” he says of managing in the big leagues. “It’s pretty special.”

Perlozzo and catcher Javy Lopez talk before the team’s final spring training game, played against the Washington Nationals at Camden Yards.

Mark Goldman/Goldmine Photography

A career in the world of professional sports can be fleeting, and Perlozzo knows that the position of big league manager can be the most ephemeral of all. Managers come and go like the wind, and often their fate blows beyond their own control.

Yet if anyone ever was ready for taking over the helm of a major league club, it is Perlozzo.
He has been involved in virtually every level of amateur and professional baseball. Growing up in Cumberland, he recalls, “There wasn’t a whole lot else to do. Our spare time was spent going out and looking for other kids to play ball.”

He first hung out watching his older brother play and was invited by a coach to join in. He then moved on to the Dapper Dan League, to Little League, to the Hot Stove Recreational League. Then to high school ball, college at GW, the minor leagues, baseball in Japan, and very briefly, as an infielder in the big leagues.

Yet it never was easy for Perlozzo. He used grit, determination, and smarts to outplay other boys.
“I knew from early on that to stick around, I would have to do all the little things well,” he says. “If I didn’t pay attention and learn the game, I wouldn’t be around very long. You have to do everything right. I was never the best kid, even in Little League. There was always another kid who was stronger or bigger than I was. But eventually, if they didn’t have the skills, their strength didn’t matter. I paid attention to all the details. I paid attention to the other players and saw what they did.”

In fact, he was a better football player in high school than he was a baseball player. Perlozzo led the city of Cumberland in scoring his junior year and was named the city’s best back. Initially, college teams expressed interest in him. But when they found out how small he was, their enthusiasm waned.
He wanted to go to college, but his parents did not have much money. He knew that he needed financial aid if he was to continue his education. When he realized he never would get a football scholarship, he turned to baseball. He contacted scouts and coaches he had met through high school baseball and asked for help and advice. One sent him a list of 10 colleges he should contact about a baseball scholarship. GW was one of the schools on that list.

Within a week, Steve Korcheck, BS ’54, MA ’66, EdD ’70, (the former Washington Senator’s catcher, 1954-59) who was GW’s baseball coach at the time, responded to Perlozzo’s letter and said he wanted to watch him play. But on the day Korcheck arrived in western Maryland, snow was falling. The game he had come to see was canceled.

Leo Mazzone joined the Orioles as pitching coach this year after serving as pitching coach of the Atlanta Braves since 1990. Mazzone and Perlozzo, shown here after the Orioles defeated the Devil Rays 9-6 on opening day at Camden Yards, are best friends who grew up together in Cumberland, Md. Mazzone is one of the most highly regarded pitching coaches in the business, having cultivated the skills of Braves’ pitching stars such as Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz.

Mark Goldman/Goldmine Photography

Still, the GW coach met with Perlozzo and his parents and offered him a scholarship.

“I said, ‘Coach, you can’t offer me a scholarship, you haven’t seen me play,’” Perlozzo recalls. “He said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ve already talked to enough people who know you.’”

To celebrate, Korcheck wanted to take the Perlozzos out for dinner that night. Mrs. Perlozzo demurred, inviting Korcheck to have a home-cooked spaghetti dinner at their house. He agreed but said he wanted to buy the sauce. “So we let him buy the sauce,” Perlozzo says.

The next fall, in 1969, he began playing infield for the GW baseball team.

He was excited, not only about playing for a college team, but for one that took road trips. “It was awesome,” Perlozzo recalls.

It also was a little strange playing baseball at GW in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

First of all, like today, the team didn’t really have a field of its own on campus. Games were played on the Ellipse behind the White House. Players were shuffled to the field in an old van.

Richard Nixon was in the White House at the time, and his helicopter frequently would land on the Ellipse, delaying games. “It was a heckuva home field advantage,” Collins remembers. “Talk about something that would distract the opposing team. We didn’t lose many games there.” At other times passersby would simply walk across the Ellipse, holding up the game, to both teams’ consternation.

Perlozzo also happened to be at GW during one of its most volatile times. Anti-Vietnam War fever was high on campus. Protests and demonstrations were common and sometimes got out of hand. One day the baseball team returned from a road trip to find virtual martial law on campus. Cars were turned over and teargas wafted through the streets. With school officials concerned for students’ safety near the end of the spring semester in 1971, students were offered the opportunity to accept their midterm grades and go home. Perlozzo took up the offer.

“I had done really well with my grades, so I took off,” he relates. “I pretty much stayed out of the political stuff. I didn’t want to get involved in that. It was a little scary. I was one of those kids who stayed home and studied and played sports. I was always nervous about doing well in college. But I just worked at it. I was there to play ball and study.”

His studying paid off, and in 1972 he was named to the College Sports Information Directors Academic All-America first team.

And just as he excelled academically through hard work he became a baseball star as much through hard work as through innate athletic talent.

“He was an outstanding player,” Collins says. “He was incredibly dedicated. He was fully committed. He worked hard. He always worked on improving his skills.”

Perlozzo’s strengths as a ballplayer were his speed and defense.

As a freshman, he led the nation in stolen base percentage. He was constantly on base and running.

After his third year at GW, he was eligible to be drafted by a major league team. But the draft came and went, and no organization selected Perlozzo. Again, he was ignored because of his size. He lacked the commodities major league scouts were looking for. But that summer, playing ball in the Shenandoah Valley, a scout from the Twins approached him. The scout asked if Perlozzo was interested in playing professional ball. But Perlozzo already had scheduled a tryout with the Phillies and told the Twins’ scout he couldn’t break that commitment. After the tryout, though, Philadelphia declined to offer him a contract. Perlozzo told his parents he would return to GW for his senior year. But the Twins’ scout called again and made him an offer. He had landed a professional baseball contract.

Mark Goldman/Goldmine Photography

Perlozzo, though, also wanted to earn his degree from GW. He didn’t have to report to the Twins’ minor league training camp until the following spring. So he returned to campus for the first semester of his senior year. But he still was several credits shy of graduation. During his final semester, he was given permission to write some papers, which he did at spring training camp in Melbourne, Fla., when he couldn’t be in class. “While the other guys were worrying about their at-bats,” he says “I was worried about finishing a couple of papers in physiology so I could graduate.” Perlozzo completed all his course requirements on time, but he couldn’t attend graduation ceremonies. He was on the road as a minor league baseball player while his classmates received their diplomas in Washington.

During the next five years, Perlozzo slowly worked his way up the minor league ladder: from Fort Lauderdale to Dubuque to Reno to Orlando to Tampa. He certainly wasn’t a slugger—he hit only three home runs in those five years. But he batted a respectable .265, stole 115 bases, played tight defense, and worked so hard and with such dedication that the Twins promoted him to the Minnesota roster at the end of the 1977 season. He played in 10 games and hit .291 but was sent back to the minors the next year. By 1979 he had migrated to the San Diego organization.

Once again, after he put together a good season at Triple-A in 1979, the Padres brought him up to the major league club in September. In his second game, however, Perlozzo pulled a groin muscle and had to be carried off the field on a stretcher. Little did he know then, at the age of 28, that that would be his final game as a major league player.

He worked himself back into shape over the winter and thought he had a good chance to begin the 1980 season with the Padres. But then a San Diego official called him and said another team was interested in purchasing his contract. “Who?” Perlozzo asked. The Yakult Swallows in the Japanese Central League, he was told. “I don’t even know where Japan is,” he remembers thinking. But he was told he had little chance to make the Padres the next year, and the Swallows offered him good money. So Perlozzo spent the next year in Japan, the one place where he was able to display a modicum of power. He hit 15 home runs.

The following year, he decided it was time to return home. He still wanted to play in the major leagues. But no team came calling. The Mets, however, asked if he would be interested in serving as a player-coach at their Triple-A farm club in Tidewater, Va. He said yes.
He quickly was dismayed to discover that the Mets were more interested in him as a coach than as a player.

“So at that point,” he says, “I realized my career as a player was done. I decided that if I wanted to stay in the game, I would have to coach and manage in the minor leagues. The least I could do was give it a try. I loved baseball so much. I wanted to keep the uniform on.”

It quickly became apparent that Perlozzo was a very good coach, especially in his work with young players.

“One of his greatest assets is his ability to communicate with today’s players, both young and old,” says Jim Duquette, the Orioles’ vice president of baseball operations. “That’s very important in today’s game and in how you manage your team.”

During the next five years, Perlozzo managed teams in the Mets’ farm system, from Class A up to Triple-A. Three of his five teams finished first in their leagues. None had a losing record.
He was a good teacher, a good strategist, a good communicator.

“The minor league managing jobs were very satisfying,” he says. “You were more than a coach and manager. You had 18-year-old kids playing for you. Their parents entrusted them to me. You took care of them and wanted them to move up to the next level. And then, as a Triple-A manager [for the Mets’ Tidewater Tides in Norfolk, Va.] you got to tell them when they were being promoted to the big leagues. You liked to see the look on their faces. It was very gratifying.”

Before the 1987 season, Mets manager Davey Johnson asked Perlozzo to become his third base coach in New York. He was there for three years, and then was hired as third base coach by Lou Piniella in Cincinnati, where he won a World Series in 1990 as the Reds swept the Oakland A’s. Piniella moved to Seattle to manage the Mariners in 1993, and Perlozzo went along with him.

Johnson and Piniella were two of the canniest managers in baseball. Perlozzo learned a great deal from each of them. He also learned that he had the skills and the temperament to manage himself one day. What he had yet to learn was how to convince someone to hire him as manager.

Meanwhile, Perlozzo’s father had become terminally ill back in Cumberland. The son wanted to be near the father, so when Johnson was named Baltimore’s manager after the 1995 season, Perlozzo asked to rejoin his former mentor rather than remain a continent apart from his father in Seattle. Johnson gave him the Orioles’ third base coaching job, and Perlozzo shuttled much of the year between Baltimore and Cumberland. “It was an extremely tough year for me,” he remembers. His father died on Sept. 11, 1996, just weeks before the Orioles were to go into the American League playoffs.

He remained as a coach in Baltimore, as one manager after another came and went. Each time he was hopeful of being promoted to manager. Each time he was passed over, just as he was by other teams searching for new field leaders.

But last year, after a surprisingly strong start, the Orioles began unraveling. With eight weeks to go in the season, Mazzilli was fired as manager and Perlozzo was asked to take over. He finally had the job he had coveted. But it couldn’t have come at a more strenuous time. Not only were the Orioles losing games on the field, but the clubhouse was in disarray. The hot-button issue of steroids infested itself in the Baltimore dugout when star Rafael Palmeiro failed a drug test. The Orioles had to suspend their former best pitcher, Sidney Ponson, after a series of arrests for drunken driving. The once great Sammy Sosa was faltering, and rumors existed of a feud between him and the team’s best player, Miguel Tejada. Through none of his own doing, all these episodes and others fell right into the new manager’s lap.

But baseball is a game that offers renewal each spring, and this year Perlozzo begins as permanent manager with a clean slate. The players like him and respect him. Yet he knows he has a difficult task ahead of him. The Orioles have fallen on the hardest of times over the past decade. Their loyal fan base is becoming disenchanted. They keep waiting for a renaissance. It now will be GW graduate Perlozzo’s turn to see if he can perform the magic. And that is a challenge he relishes, just as he always has sought to overcome the odds, as far back as that football game against DeMatha more than a generation ago.

“People are taking shots at us all the time,” he says. “We now have the chance to turn things around and put ourselves on the board in Baltimore. That’s a pretty tough thing to do. But who could ask for a better opportunity.”

Louis Berney, BA ’72, is a Baltimore-based free-lance writer. He is the author of Tales from the Orioles Dugout (Sports Publishing, 2004).

A Winning Career

John Flaherty also turned Colonials baseball experience into MLB success.

John Flaherty warms up in batting practice May 15, 2005, before a Yankees game against the Oakland Athletics in Oakland.

Michael Pimentel/Icon SMI

After John Flaherty’s junior year at The George Washington University in 1988, he was offered a professional baseball contract by the Boston Red Sox as a 25th-round draftee.

His father told him that he only could sign with the Red Sox if he agreed to complete his course requirements so he could graduate from GW.

So, over the next two years, after summers playing minor league ball in Elmira, N.Y., and Winter Haven, Fla., Flaherty returned to the GW campus during the fall semesters, when other ball players were enjoying the leisure of their offseasons. He earned his degree in 1990 with a major in speech communications and a minor in psychology. And he soon after would earn the distinction of becoming only the third student in GW history to play in the major leagues (along with Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo and Washington Senators catcher Steve Korcheck).

Having announced his retirement in this year’s preseason with the Boston Red Sox, Flaherty played 14 years in the major leagues. He says both baseball and his other fields of study at GW helped him “every day” in his career as a catcher. That’s because the articulate Flaherty, who is 38, is a player who uses his head as much as his physical talents to survive in the majors. He continues to use those skills as a broadcaster for the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network.

Flaherty played for six teams—the Red Sox, the Detroit Tigers, the Toronto Blue Jays, the San Diego Padres, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and the New York Yankees. And, in one of those serendipitous twists that is not uncommon in big league baseball, Flaherty last winter returned to the Red Sox, the team that first signed him and that he then left 13 years ago.

The Red Sox sought Flaherty because of his brains, maturity, and ability to adapt to any situation a big league team puts him in. “He’s always been a true professional,” says Red Sox manager Terry Francona, using a word to describe Flaherty that is hallowed in major league clubhouses. “He understands his role, and he responds accordingly.”

GW Photo

Flaherty knew early this year when GW Magazine interviewed him that his days as a player were numbered. He hadn’t been an every-day catcher since 2000, when he played in Tampa Bay. But he liked the fact that he had come full circle and returned to his original team in Boston. “There’s always a soft spot for your first team,” he says. What’s interesting is that for the previous three seasons, Flaherty played in his native New York with the Red Sox’ archrival, the Yankees. Though he was never a Yankees fan growing up in Nyack, N.Y., nor in awe of the mighty Yankees aura, Flaherty enjoyed playing for the Yankees and being able to return home and play near family and friends. He continues that local connection through his pre-grame broadcasts for the YES Network.

In New York, Flaherty had one primary responsibility. Though he was second string to regular backstop Jorge Posada, Flaherty was assigned to catch every game pitched by Yankees super star Randy Johnson, one of the fiercest and most intimidating pitchers in baseball history. He initially fretted that being named to catch Johnson might harm his relationship with Posada. That didn’t happen, though. And when he one day looks back on his baseball career and shares stories with his grandchildren, Flaherty says, “I can say I was Randy’s personal catcher.”

Entering the 2006 season, Flaherty had a career batting average of .252 with 80 home runs spread over 14 seasons. He put together a noteworthy streak of hitting in 27 consecutive games with San Diego in 1996 and was considered an above average starting catcher with Tampa Bay seven years ago.

Flaherty is happy to remain in the game in his new capacity in the broadcast world. Eventually, he says, he might like to become a coach or manager but not until his two sons and one daughter, who range in age from 4 to 8, finish school. “I already put my family through the wringer,” he says, referring to the constant travel required of a major leaguer during the almost nine months of spring training and regular and post-season play. In the interim, Flaherty says, he hopes to continue work in broadcasting, a job in which he can utilize his intelligence, experience in the game, and eloquence as a speaker.

Flaherty has come a long way since his playing days at GW, when he had no expectations of being a major leaguer. He and Perlozzo talk occasionally about their time at GW. “Sammy and I are both very proud of the fact that we came from GW,” he says. Flaherty also is proud of lasting in the major leagues for so many years. “I know I wasn’t the best player or the most talented,” he says, “but I worked as hard as any player, and I was always a good teammate.”

—Louis Berney

Colonials Depth Chart:

Other GW Alumni in Baseball

Steve Korcheck

University Archives

Mike O’Conner


Sam Perlozzo and John Flaherty aren’t the only former GW athletes to play in the major leagues.

Catcher Steve Korcheck, BS ’54, MA ’66, EdD ’70, spent four years (1954-55 and 1958-59) playing for the old Washington Senators after graduating from GW. His playing time was limited to 58 games. He then went on to earn a master’s degree and PhD at GW and serve as the Colonials’ baseball coach. Now a businessman in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, he is a former president of Manatee Community College in Florida.

Ellicott City, Md., native Mike O’Connor, BBA ’02, was selected in the seventh round of baseball’s amateur free agent draft by the Montreal Expos after graduating from GW. He is a left-handed pitcher in the Washington Nationals’ system and was named the organization’s 2005 minor league pitcher of the year. Early this season, he was pitching for the Nationals’ Triple-A team, the New Orleans Zephyrs. On April 27 he was called up for his major league debut against the St. Louis Cardinals, making him the fourth Colonials baseball player to play in the majors. He is shown here during his second major league game May 2 against the New York Mets, in which he led the Nationals to a 6-2 victory.

Several other GW graduates have had an association with professional baseball. Among them are:

Theodore Lerner, AA ’48, LLB ’50, GW trustee emeritus, and his family are the new lead owners of the Washington Nationals. Lerner is a successful real estate developer. Through his contributions, GW’s Theodore N. Lerner Hall and the Annette and Theodore Lerner Family Health and Wellness Center are named in the family’s honor. Other Lerner alumni are son Mark Lerner, BBA ’75, daughter Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, JD ’83, and son-in-law Robert K. Tanenbaum, JD ’82.

Jerry Reinsdorf, BA ’57, is the longtime owner of the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Bulls. He has been one of the most active owners in shaping the direction of major league baseball during the past two decades and was instrumental in paving the way for the move of the Montreal Expos to Washington.

Randy Levine, BA ’77, is president of the New York Yankees. A lifelong Yankees fan, he first worked with owner George Steinbrenner in 1990 while serving as the team’s outside counsel. In the 1990s, he served as MLB’s chief negotiator and director of the Players Relations Committee, helping to negotiate baseball’s five-year contract that expired in 2002.  To read more about him, follow this link to the fall 2002 GW Magazine:

Gregg Ritchie, BBA ’87, a former Triple-A outfielder in the San Francisco Giants’ system, is the hitting coordinator for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He formerly was a batting instructor for the Chicago White Sox minor league teams in Birmingham (Double-A) and Charlotte (Triple-A). His wife, Kelly, BA ’86, is a GW crew alumna.

Bill Collins, BA ’72, a roommate of Perlozzo while at GW, was involved for much of the past decade in bringing a major league club back to Washington. A prominent businessman in the district, first in telecommunications and now in golf course management, Collins was part of a group that bid for Nationals ownership. A former GW catcher, he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and played in the minor leagues for a couple of years before turning to business and politics.

Greg Patton, BBA ’02, played baseball for GW in the early 1990s and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1993. His career was cut short by injuries. He returned to GW to earn his bachelor’s degree in 2002.

Kevin Fitzgerald, BA ’85, MA ’88, JD ’91, was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and played one season in the minor leagues. He realized he wouldn’t reach the major leagues, so left baseball and returned to GW to earn his master’s and law degrees. He now is a partner in the D.C. office of the international law firm of Troutman Sanders and is a big supporter of the Colonials’ baseball program.

Mike Toomey, BS ’74, is a former GW baseball player and coach (1975-79) and has served as a major league and international scout for a number of big league organizations, including the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets, Texas Rangers, and Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals.

Anthony Raglani, a recent student and GW outfielder, is a prospect with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2005 amateur player draft. He is currently an outfielder with the Jacksonville Suns of the Double-A Southern League.