As the Michigan baseball team prepares to open up the 2019 College World Series against Texas Tech at 2 p.m. in Omaha on Saturday, Bryan native Dave Roebuck can’t help but think how much has changed in the 57 years since he took part in the 1962 College World Series Championship with the Wolverines.
“It brings back a lot of memories,” Roebuck, 78, said of Michigan’s most recent run. “But probably one of the biggest things is, back in the days when I played, it wasn’t as big a deal as it is now. Back then it wasn’t on TV or anything. I don’t think my parents even found out who won until the next day.”
With a 4-2 upset victory over UCLA in a super regional on Sunday, Michigan clinched its eighth appearance in the CWS and its first since 1984. The Wolverines have won it all twice — once in 1953, and again in 1962, with Roebuck starring as a pitcher, earning a 9-2 record and All-Big Ten honors.
Before that, however, Roebuck took a bit of a winding path on his way to Michigan.
As an all-around athlete for Bryan High School in the late 1950s, Roebuck lettered 16 times for the Golden Bears — four each in football, basketball, baseball and track, and in that time won a total of 11 Northwest Ohio Athletic League titles.
Roebuck said he had several offers to play football or baseball at the collegiate level upon his graduation from Bryan in 1959, and even some professional baseball opportunities. He eventually decided to play baseball at Wheaton College in Illinois and get started on a pre-med track.
However, after his freshman year at Wheaton came to a close, Roebuck was ready for a change, so he decided to transfer to Michigan. Per NCAA rules, Roebuck was forced to sit out the 1961 season — a year in which the Wolverines finished with a 20-11 record and a Big Ten title.
As the team headed into the 1962 season, even with the loss of future Tigers all-star catcher Bill Freehan, who signed a deal with Detroit in the offseason, Roebuck figured the Wolverines had a chance to be pretty good.
And while the Wolverines fell short of repeating as Big Ten champs in 1962, they were able to earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. Then in the District 4 Regional, Michigan knocked off the likes Detroit, Illinois and Western Michigan to earn a spot in the College World Series.
Michigan opened up the eight-team tournament with a trio of victories against Texas, Holy Cross and Florida State, before eventually losing to Texas in its fourth game.
From there, with three teams in the series remaining with one loss — Texas, Santa Clara and Michigan — Roebuck said the coaches of each team met to have a draw to see which team would have a bye into the championship.
Michigan drew the bye and went on to meet Santa Clara in the title game, which the Wolverines won 5-4 in a 15-inning thriller. Michigan finished the season with a 31-13 overall record.
Roebuck went on to earn his undergraduate degree from Michigan in 1963, and again had some opportunities to sign a professional baseball contract. At that point, though, his heart was set on attending Michigan’s medical school, which he was already accepted into.
“I figured that was a little safer route to go than professional baseball,” he said.
After doing his radiology residency in Ann Arbor, Roebuck took a job as a radiologist in Charlevoix, Michigan for four years, before returning to northwest Ohio and working as a radiologist for 23 years in Bryan, where his family has carried on his baseball legacy.
His son, Joe, is a 1987 graduate of Bryan and earned all-state honors his senior year. He was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 23rd round in 1987 and went on to a seven-year career in the minors, in addition to a three-year run as head coach of the Bryan varsity baseball team. Nowadays, Joe’s son, Benny, is a star pitcher for the Golden Bears and a 2020 commit to Kent State University.
To this day, Dave, who splits his time between Charlevoix and Bryan with his wife, Pat, fondly looks back on his career as a U-M baseball player. He says he tries to follow the program and keep up with his former teammates as much as possible.
“We used to live in Ann Arbor and we went to quite a few baseball games there, so I’ve been following the team the last few years,” he said. “And each year, our team from Michigan tries to hold a reunion. I haven’t gone to all of them, and as guys get older ... we don’t seem to be doing it quite as often as we used to.”
As for the 2019 team’s chances in this year’s College World Series, he realizes the Wolverines might be a bit of an underdog going into it, but at the same time, anything can happen.
“It takes break and it takes luck,” he said. “And baseball, that’s just the way it is. But at this stage, anything can happen. It’s nice to stay out of the loser’s bracket if you can. So that first game on Saturday is probably fairly crucial to keep their hopes alive.”