The Nittany Lions have a long & outstanding baseball history that started well over a hundred years ago. The team website has a detailed history that includes a great story about their first player to break into the big leagues:
The Legend of Monte Ward
"In the spring of 1875, Old Main on the Penn State campus looked down on a strange sight. On the front lawn a small crowd was gathering in a semi-circle. In the center were three stakes driven in a straight line. And there was a stocky, light-haired youth with a baseball in his hand.
"The youth stationed himself at one end of the row of stakes and placed a companion at the other. He poised himself a moment, then threw the baseball. It started on the right side of the first stake, passed to the left of the second and curved back to the right of the third before the companion caught it.
"The crowd pressed closer. Professor William A. Buckhout leaned forward. The youth repeated the feat. History does not record whether the crowd was convinced, but it does say that John Montgomery Ward was one of the first curve-ball pitchers in baseball history."
Those words were taken out of a 1954 story in the Centre Democrat about Ward. All Nittany Lion fans have heard of Greg Vogel, Nate Bump and Michael Campo.
Those three, arguably, are three of the best players to ever play in Happy Valley.
But the most heralded player to wear the blue and white (black and pink at the time) was John Montgomery Ward, who went by the name "Monte".
The story of Ward has been visited and revisited many times, but it never gets old and it's always enjoyable to hear.
The gifted student and athlete was a native of near bye Bellefonte, Pa. He was born March 3, 1860 and enrolled at Penn State College at the ripe age of 13. He attended Penn State for several years and is generally given credit for helping found the very first Nittany Lion baseball team in 1875. However, the young pioneer never graduated from Penn State because he was kicked out of school for stealing chickens after numerous warnings from the administration. He received his Bachelor’s and law degrees from Columbia University in 1887.
His one year on the Penn State squad presented Ward with opportunities that led him into the 1964 class of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
Source: 2011 Penn State Baseball Media Guide.
Did you know that there are twenty-three former Pennsylvania State University players (and seven additional non-players) who made it to the show? Send corrections or updates to Baseball Almanac.