Gary Ward went poaching in the summer of 1982. The Oklahoma State baseball coach, buoyed by two straight Big Eight championships, scanned the draft picks of the financially-strapped San Francisco Giants.
Ward went after the Giants' second-round pick. Fellow by the name of Bonds. Barry Bonds. Would have gotten Bonds, too, Ward says, if OSU had accepted Bonds' high school P.E. credits.
Ward went after the Giants' 10th-round pick. Fellow by the name of Incaviglia. Pete Incaviglia. Got him, too.
One hundred college home runs and 25 years later, Incaviglia goes into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. Inky enters with the title of greatest college baseball player of the 20th century, bestowed by Baseball America in 1999.
Incaviglia hit 23 home runs as a 1983 freshman, 29 as a 1984 sophomore and a monstrous 48 as a 1985 junior. That's 100 home runs in 213 college games.
"A once in a lifetime event," Ward says of Incaviglia's power surge in Stillwater. "I don't think we'll see it again until college baseball moves to the summer and plays 100 games a year."
And maybe not even then.
That's what we remember about Inky, all those home runs, or maybe one in particular — I'll never forget his moon shot against OU in Stillwater as a freshman which seemed to clear the softball park beyond Reynolds Stadium's left-field wall.
But more subtle memories flood Ward when he thinks about the player who more than any other solidified Ward's status as a hitting guru.
* Incaviglia's brother, Tony, who played at Arizona and got to know Ward when he was coaching Yavapi (Ariz.) Junior College.
Scout Hank Sauer told Ward that Incaviglia, coming out of high school in Pebble Beach, Calif., was a "major league hitter."
Tony Incaviglia spoke up for OSU, and his little brother trumped Pistol as the school's greatest Pete.
* Incaviglia's work ethic. Incaviglia came across as a fun-loving, unshaven natural who fell out of bed, grabbed a bat and hit home runs.
Untrue. Incaviglia was very serious about hitting and it didn't come easy to him. He had to work.
"Raw," Ward said in describing Incaviglia. "Really crude (as a hitter). But he worked harder than any player."
Incaviglia went through a series of swing routines, 30 to 45 minutes of tosses and touches, every day.
Ward said Incavilgia wasn't kinetic-oriented. Didn't have good muscle memory. "What you told him Friday had to be repeated Monday," Ward said. "That's just the way he was."
Ward would have to make Incavilgia get out of the batting cage, because Inky would get into bad habits, trying to hit balls over that softball field.
But OSU coaches knew they had something special in Incavilgia. Dave Holliday, younger brother of then-OSU pitching coach Tom Holliday, also was on Ward's staff and became Inky's personal instructor.
"That last year, Dave exclusively had him as his pupil," Ward said. "He never missed a lick. Didn't take any days off."
* Incaviglia's lack of speed and natural athletic talent. That work ethic in the weight room — when Ward got Incaviglia to quit concentrating on bench press mass in favor of soft-tissue lifting — allowed Incaviglia to improve his 60-yard dash time from 7.18 to 6.82, which dramatically raised his stock among scouts.
Inky was not a great athlete. He came to OSU as a third baseman, but Ward said he knew after six ground balls that wouldn't work, and neither did a short trial at first base. So Incaviglia was dispatched to left field — "he was not a happy camper," Ward said — and his increased speed allowed Inky to at least survive in the outfield.
Hank Sauer was right. Incaviglia was a major league hitter. He skipped the minors after OSU and hit .124 his first five years with the Texas Rangers. Incaviglia hit 206 major league homers total.
Incaviglia will be the first living inductee to skip the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame ceremony. He's managing the Grand Prairie AirHogs of the American Association, an independent minor league team in suburban Dallas.
Incaviglia as a manager? No surprise to Ward.
"He had a high baseball IQ," Ward said. "Pete came across as an off-the-cuff guy, but he was a great teammate. Cared about his ballclub. He wanted to be great."
And great he was. The greatest college baseball player of all time.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.
OKLAHOMA SPORTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
The Oklahoman is conducting a series on the five inductees into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. The induction banquet will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Tickets are available for $150 per person. Call Pat Foster or Shirley Griffin at 405-427-1400 for more details:
Friday: Michele Smith
Today: Pete Incaviglia
Sunday: Rick Bryan
Monday: Troy Aikman
Tuesday: Don Demeter
If you missed Friday's article on Michele Smith, keyword search: Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.