10 years later, Denny Neagle strikes it rich

SIDELINES

January 24, 1996|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

It was in 1986 that a tall, skinny (6-foot-3, 180 pounds) left-hander from Arundel High was named the Anne Arundel County Sun baseball Player of the Year and also made The Sun first-team All-Metro.

Now 26 years old, and 40 pounds heavier with four years in the majors, Denny Neagle has received the largest professional contract ever awarded a former county athlete.

This past weekend Neagle signed a one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates for $2.35 million after going 13-8 with a 3.43 ERA as a National League All-Star, and tying for the league lead in innings pitched (209.1) and starts (31).

Not even longtime major-league first baseman Jim Spencer of Andover ever played for that kind of money. Spencer signed a multi-million dollar contract with the New York Yankees late in his career, but it never approached $2 million per season.

Another former Arundel grad, running back Louis Carter, was a NFL first-round draft pick out of the University of Maryland, but never came close to the single-season money Neagle will get.

"I always knew one day he would pitch in the big leagues," said Neagle's high school coach, Bernie Walter. "Denny was only 16 when he graduated from high school and when you projected where he would be at age 20, you could figure on him being a pretty good pitcher."

Walter predicted after Neagle's 9-1 senior season and subsequent scholarship to the University of Minnesota that as he matured he would get a pro chance. By his junior year, Neagle had put on 20-25 pounds, and the upper body strength developed him into a solid starter in the Big Ten Conference.

The Minnesota Twins projected his potential and made him a third-round draft in 1989 despite a 4-6 record. Neagle's 71 strikeouts and only 22 walks in 78 innings pitched, along with his physical ability and poise, impressed scout Angelo Giuliani, who signed him.

On July 27, 1991, Neagle made his first major-league start for the Twins against the Milwaukee Brewers, but a Candy Maldonado line drive struck his left elbow and forced him out of the game after four innings.

The next March, Neagle was traded to the Pirates, along with unknown outfielder Midre Cummings, for 20-game winner John Smiley. Neagle's first major-league victory came over Houston in May of '92, but his career was up and down until last year when he put it all together.

Free throws

With today the final day of exams, Broadneck's No. 7 boys basketball team gets to test its stamina and depth on the court over the next three days.

Broadneck (7-3) plays host to No. 13 Glen Burnie (11-1) at 7 tonight, plays No. 2 Southwestern (7-1) at 2:15 p.m. tomorrow at Towson Center in the Charm City Classic and plays host to Meade (7-5) Friday.

* Glen Burnie leads the county's North Division at 6-0 by two games over Meade and North County, 4-2 each. The Gophers' only loss was to No. 8 Annapolis (10-2) in December. Annapolis is tied with Broadneck and Arundel for first in the South at 5-1.

Annapolis defeated Broadneck, Arundel downed Annapolis and Broadneck topped Arundel.

Free clinic

Physio Therapy Associates of Glen Burnie has scheduled a free sports injury clinic from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3 at the Bowie Baysox Stadium.

Baltimore Orioles trainer Richie Bancells is a consultant for the group and will be among the speakers for the clinic. For more information, call (410) 761-7660.

Eckman book on tour

The book on the life and times of the late Charley Eckman, "It's a Very Simple Game," will tour the NCAA Sweet 16 Tournament in North Carolina and Richmond, Va., next month.

"Fred [Neil, co-author with Eckman] is taking the book to the Sweet 16, Richmond, and has received requests for copies from every NBA team," said one of Eckman's daughters, Janet Eckman.

The longtime Glen Burnie resident, legendary broadcaster and former NBA coach and referee died last July 3.

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