Leaving the Dugout

Bob Seddon will retire as Penn’s baseball coach at the end of the current season, and it is no exaggeration to say that new coach John Cole will have quite an act tofollow. Entering his 34th season this spring, Seddon had more victories (623) than any Penn coach in any sport, and more than any Ivy League baseball coach in history. When his 19 seasons as Penn’s head soccer coach are factored in, his victory total balloons to 777. He led five teams to Ivy titles and also coached three Ivy League players of the year, five league batting champions, and four pitchers of the year.

Seddon chuckles when it is mentioned that he is almost universally referred to as ‘9’—the uniform number he has worn for years. “It’s funny, people don’t know my name,” he said. We beg to differ.

Seddon, who is also featured in this issue’s “Window” on p. 96, recently spoke to Gazette sports columnist David Porter about his career and plans.

Did you ever consider coaching at another school?

My goals weren’t to see the grass greener somewhere else, or to get to the top of the world at a national level. It would have been hard to do that at an Ivy League school anyway, because we’re involved in academia, which is the most important thing. An example of that is that I have two players who couldn’t make our game [April 4th] because they have a test. It’s a rained-out game that’s being played on Monday. That kind of thing is not happening at some of the powers-that-be. So you have to know where you are, and I was very happy where I was and knowing what I could do. Obviously, they want you to be competitive and try to shape lives. We worked hard at that and I think it’s come 360 degrees. We were very close to our players and they’ve given back in many, many ways.

How has institutional support for baseball changed during your years here?

There’s a lot more help. I mean, I used to have to carry the scoreboard to the field. I had to do it all. From the academic standpoint, there’s also a lot more support as far as tutoring for kids, a lot more support academically. In terms of the sport of baseball, it needs to be more of a priority in the Ivy League, in my opinion. A lot of good players have come out of these schools.

Which were some of your most memorable Penn teams?

Probably our best teams were the 1988-89-90 teams. We won the league three years in a row. They were special. And to be honest, we would have won four if Doug Glanville [EAS’93] and Bill Wissler [C’92] hadn’t signed [pro contracts]. And we finished second. We had four pitchers that barely lost a game in the league in four years. I think we could have gone four straight. And that hasn’t happened in the Ivy League. Also, the ’75 team was a very good team. The ’95 team, definitely, that won the title at Yale when Mark DeRosa [W’97] hit the home run. We were right there in ’93 and ’94, but Yale beat us those two years, and we finally beat them in ’95. Then there was the ’90 team that lost the famous game when we had a 13-run lead and Judd Damon [C’90] had a no-hitter, but the game was suspended and we had to come back the next day and continue it. And we lost that game in 12 innings. And we came home and we saw it on ESPN. That was probably the toughest moment I ever had, as a player or as a coach.

How have your former players responded to news of your retirement?

They’ve all been supportive. Particularly in the last two weeks. You would not believe the letters I’m getting. Just the fact that they stay in touch with you means so much. As an educator and teacher, the payback is how they feel 10 or 15 years later. I just got a letter from a man who never played for me; he played for [pitching coach] Bill Wagner in sprint football, but he was on my list and got in through baseball. He’s a great kid. He wrote, “I could never express my appreciation. I want you to know I know that you were instrumental in helping me get into school.” But I always say to the guys, “You got yourself in. I was just supportive. They wouldn’t have taken you if you didn’t have the grades.”

What are your plans now?

I want to stay in baseball, and I would really like to get to the next level on a part-time basis. I’ve had offers to do scouting, but I don’t know if I want to do that. I don’t really want to take the uniform off. That’s the way baseball people get. One of my old high-school coaches used to say, “Make them tear it off you.” And he was 80-something years old! I’m 47 years in coaching—37 at Penn and 10 before that. I mean, c’mon. That’s enough. But I would like to give back. How exactly, I don’t know right now.

©2005 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 05/03/05

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