Right Place, Right Time
Ed Vosberg is the only baseball player to play in four, count ’em four different World Series: The Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA, in 1973; the NCAA College World Series in 1980, the Major League World Series in 1997, and the Mexican World Series in 2002.
“Well, sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time,” he said. “I’ve been there a few times, been fortunate.”
As an 11 year-old, he was a member of the Tucson, AZ team that won its city and state titles and the western regional finals played in California.
“The next thing we know we’re flying to Pennsylvania. We didn’t know what to expect,” says Vosberg. “There were teams from all over the country. Germany, etc. You get home and look back in retrospect and say, ‘Wow!’ Over the years, every time the Little League series is on, I think of it. The tournament is so much bigger now than it was back then, just because sports are bigger.”
At the time, the Little League World Series was dominated by teams from Taiwan – who not only won every game, but hardly ever gave up a run. The Taiwanese teams were so good, in fact, American fans believed the players were older than their American counterparts. Little League investigated the Taiwanese system, and discovered the team played year round with each other, which is against league rules. Taiwan defeated Vosberg’s team, but he isn’t so sure everyone was the same age.
Ed Vosberg pitching in the 1973 LLWS. (Photo courtesy of littleleague.org)
“You know, I found it kind of funny, we saw them quite a bit the week we were there, and they would have kids that (were) shaving when they were 11, 12 years old. Nobody on our team would shave. I thought that was kinda strange,” he said.
“They weren’t much bigger than we were, but ability wise they were so far ahead of us,” he added. “We hadn’t seen anybody who threw like their pitcher.”
As a freshman with the University of Arizona, Vosberg’s team made it to the College World Series. In this series, teams play an elimination tournament; a school can lose once but still advance. The Wildcats had lost their first game and were trailing 4-1 in the second game going into the ninth, but rallied back to win the game and subsequently captured the crown. The experience of playing in a major tournament as a youngster helped Vosberg that second time he returned to a World Series.
“It definitely got me ready for a national tournament,” he says. “It helped me deal with certain pressures.”
Vosberg was selected by the San Diego Padres in the third round of the 1983 draft. He made it to the big leagues in 1986 for five games (three as a starter). He was traded to Houston, then Los Angeles, and later pitched in the San Francisco and Anaheim systems.
In the spring of 1992, he was cut twice by teams. Then someone suggested he play in Italy. Vosberg’s maternal grandparents came to America from Italy, and he pitched for a season for a team in the city Novaro (he met a cousin while he was there). At one game a scout, from Mexico saw him pitch a shutout with 13 strikeouts. After the game, he approached Vosberg and asked him, “What are you doing here?”
Vosberg with the Arizona Wildcats
With the scout’s help, Vosberg was invited to the Chicago Cubs’ spring training camp. He was signed and pitched for Chicago’s AAA team. Vosberg said his time in Italy “made me realize I could still do it.” (He hopes to return to Italy and conduct a baseball camp.)
He pitched for several organizations, and in 1995, he was called up by the Texas Rangers and had a few solid seasons as a left-hand reliever.
He made it to the post-season with the 1996 Rangers, who lost three straight to the Yankees. The following year, Texas slumped, and Vosberg heard rumors he might be traded to a contender.
When the July 31st trading deadline came and went, he was a little disappointed. “You don’t know if you’re ever going to get the chance again,” he said.
About two weeks later, while in Boston, he went to lunch and when he returned to his hotel room his phone message light was blinking.
“There was a message to call the Rangers’ GM. He told me I had been traded to the Marlins (in a waiver wire deal), and I needed to catch a flight to Houston. I was excited because Florida had a chance to win the wild card. I flew to Houston, and got into the game in the fifth inning. The team was getting beat real bad, and I got dressed quickly. I ended up coming into the game. I was introduced to the players while we were playing. It was a great group of guys, they had great chemistry.”
After defeating the Giants and the Braves, Vosberg found himself in his third World Series. He didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but a reporter found out about his other championship adventures and wrote a story about it.
1997: Ed Vosberg with the Florida Marlins. (Photo via Getty Images)
Vosberg and his wife are friendly with Rob Dibble, former closer with Cincinnati and later a broadcaster with ESPN. Vosberg’s wife told Dibble about the triple World Series appearances, and on an ESPN radio show Dibble asked one of his co-anchors if he knew who had pitched in the Little League, NCAA and Major League championships.
“He didn’t know, and Rob was all proud that he stumped his buddy,” says Vosberg.
But there was another part of the question to come.
After pitching for the Phillies in 2000 and 2001, Vosberg signed with the Montreal Expos. He was a victim of roster space, and the team sent him to its AAA affiliate in Ottawa. Instead, he chose to sign with the Mexico City Reds.
“It was closer to my home, and I’d be able to visit my family during the season,” he says. “I figured if I got a chance to start in Mexico and pitched well, I still might get a chance to get back to the major leagues. I’d done the minors for a long time and I didn’t want to go to Ottawa.”
The Mexican League allows its teams to carry four “foreign” players, so Vosberg joined Felix Jose, Roberto Kelly and Ben Rivera. Vosberg speaks enough Spanish “to get by,” and stayed in a hotel at the Mexico City airport.
The Reds were one of the better teams in the league (Vosberg says the league is comparable to an American AA league), and advanced through two rounds to play for the title.
He won game six in relief, and was supposed to start game seven, but Manager Bernie Tatis thought he might be more useful in the bullpen. The Reds used three starting pitchers in the game, which Vosberg ended up winning.
Vosberg received a trophy for his Little League appearance and has three rings from the various World Series, and also has rings from AA and AAA championships. He says he hasn’t worn a handful of rings at once – and today his knuckles are larger, so he probably couldn’t get some of the rings on his fingers – but he still takes pride in being the answer to one of baseball’s trickiest trivia questions.