The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest Sports

April 12, 2013

Popovich had fine major-league career

MORGANTOWN — Did you ever hear of a Major League player with a perfect batting average of 1,000 for a season?

Well, meet Paul Edward Popovich, a native of nearby Flemington in Harrison County. He made his debut in the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs by hitting the first pitch into centerfield for a clean single against Philadelphia.

That was his only at-bat in the 1964 season, and he was 24 years old. Manager Leo Durocher lifted the 6-foot, 175-pound Popovich from the Cubs’ lineup after that one-pitch, one-bat appearance and shipped him back to the Triple-A farm club for more seasoning.

So the young man, who had played two years of both basketball and baseball at West Virginia University in 1959-60, is listed in his 11-year Major League resume as one hit and a 1,000 batting average for 1964.

Popovich had signed a contract with the Chicago organization in June 1960 while in Morgantown with a Cubs scout for a bonus of $40,000, which was a lot of money then. He bought a home for his parents in Morgantown so they could be closer to WVU Hospitals.

How did Popovich feel getting that first hit as a Major Leaguer? “It truly was beyond description,” he recalled recently. “Nobody could have understood the thrill that was for me.

“The pitcher threw me a fast ball and I hit the very first pitch to center field. The fielder threw it back in and I was given the ball.”

But Popovich said he has no idea where that ball is now. It eventually got lost in the shuffle of souvenir-savings.

After more seasoning in Class AAA, Popovich returned to the Majors for six at-bats in 1966 (no hits), and then finally to stay up there in 1967.

He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers with whom he spent two years, then rejoined the Cubs in 1970 for another four-year hitch.

Popovich retired after playing two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1974 and 1975. “I really enjoyed playing closer to home before family and friends,” he said.

Popovich, who averaged 41.3 points per game at Flemington High to set a state basketball record, played one year of varsity basketball and baseball after a year on a freshman team in each sport.

In baseball, he led the WVU varsity in batting (.427) in 1960 and also was tops in home runs and runs batted in.

He and pitcher Steve Kline (1993) each played 11 years in the Major Leagues. Charlie Hickman (1898-1906) logged the most years of any former Mountaineer in the Major Leagues with 12.

Hall of Famer Don Drysdale of the Dodgers set a record pitching 58 2/3 innings without giving up a run in 1968 or 69, and he said Popovich was a major contributor with his plays at second base.

“That’s the equivalent of six complete games,” Paul noted. “Nobody made an error to spoil that feat.”

During his Major League career, Popovich played 682 games, had 1,732 at-bats, 176 runs, 403 hits, 505 total bases, 42 doubles, nine triples, and 14 home runs.

He also logged 134 RBI, 127 walks, four stolen bases, and had a .233 batting average.

Paul and Susan Popovich have been married 42 years and still reside in the Chicago area.

They have two sons, Paul and Damon. They also have three young grandchildren.

1
Text Only
Latest Sports
  • WVU rifle coach competing in native Scotland

    West Virginia University rifle coach John Hammond is competing in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games in his native Scotland.

    July 24, 2014

  • 072414 WV Open.jpg Familiarity with Cobb helps Hess take lead

    It wouldn’t be a stretch to say Kenny Hess is comfortable playing the Cobb Course at Glade Springs Resort.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Golf and motocross are Jude’s passions

    Motocross and golf have very little in common.

    July 24, 2014

  • WVU’s Worley clear starter at cornerback

    There were few bright spots in West Virginia University’s 4-8 football campaign last year, and even fewer on the defensive side of the football, where the Mountaineers gave up more than 455 yards and 33 points per game.

    July 24, 2014

  • How to discover and love Major League Soccer

    When I began my soccer fandom following a missions trip to Brazil in 2000, I didn’t know what my next step was. I knew I loved watching the game, but there weren’t a lot of options for seeing it in the U.S. I knew of Major League Soccer — mostly from my friend and current FC Dallas beat writer Drew Epperley — but it was hard to find.

    July 24, 2014

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Expectations too high for a rehabbing Woods

    Tiger Woods finished near bottom last weekend at Royal Liverpool, drawing out his drought of major tournament wins. Despite the disappointing showing, Woods' return to form remains a matter of when, not if.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Holgorsen to appear on ESPN special

    West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen will appear Wednesday on ESPN’s annual mid-summer college football coaches’ “car wash” — in which guests appear across multiple programs and platforms over one day.

    July 23, 2014

  • 072314 brand Bradshaw or the field?

    If a betting window were set up on the Cobb Course at The Resort at Glade Springs for the 81st West Virginia Open Championship, which begins at 8 a.m. this morning, the most popular wager would probably be David Bradshaw against the field.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Holgorsen: WVU getting comfortable in new league

    Dana Holgorsen remembers the glory days of West Virginia University football — the ones that included conference championships and BCS bowl wins. In fact, he was part of one of those, leading the Mountaineers to a Big East championship and an Orange Bowl victory in his first season as head coach in 2011.

    July 23, 2014

  • 072314 justice Home sweet home away from home

    When Greenbrier owner Jim Justice was handed a copy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch Sunday, his eyes lit up like a Rockefeller Center Christmas tree on a cold December night.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

Saints Training Camp