Legendary Coach Ben Hines, 1972 National Championship Team Honored
Across the United States, baseball is often referred to as the national pastime. Yet throughout the baseball world, Ben Hines is revered as an international treasure. Acclaimed as one of the sport's elite hitting instructors, Hines has enjoyed tremendous coaching success for nearly 50 years, first in the collegiate ranks and later at nearly every professional level.
On Friday, Oct. 19, Hines will be recognized for his many accomplishments when the University of La Verne Alumni Governing Board presents him with its highest honor during the 2007 Homecoming Dinner & Dance. This year's event at the Sheraton Suites Fairplex in Pomona will also pay tribute to the school's 1972 national championship baseball team.
Registration and several special receptions get under way at 5:30 p.m., with the dinner to begin at 6:45 p.m. Cost to attend the dinner is $37 per person. Seating is limited and reservations are required. To purchase tickets or obtain more information, contact ULV Alumni Relations at (909) 593-3511 ext. 4665.
At the dinner, Hines will be given the 2007 Alumnus of the Year Award for Service to Profession. One of four awards presented annually by the university's Alumni Association Governing Board, the Service to Profession recognizes a La Verne graduate's achievements and contributions to his/her chosen field.
After graduating in 1958 from what was then La Verne College, Hines spent time in minor league baseball. In 1960 he returned to his alma mater, where he served as a coach and a member of the faculty for two decades. He transformed the Leopards baseball program into a national power, winning more than 500 games and guiding teams to the postseason every year from 1968-80. When La Verne rejoined the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 1971, Hines' teams went 137-25 in conference play and won eight SCIAC titles.
Under Hines, La Verne advanced to the NAIA World Series five times, winning 17 of 25 games. The 1972 team went 5-0 at the World Series including a 4-1 victory over David Lipscomb (Tenn.) in the championship game, garnering the university's first national title in any sport. That club finished 44-9 overall (11-1 in postseason play) and featured two All-Americans, Jim Beal and Willie Norwood, and five all-tournament team honorees – Beal, Norwood, David Cripe, Lou Berthelson and World Series Most Valuable Player Ben Ochoa.
In all, Hines sent 63 of his La Verne players into professional baseball, most notably the late Dan Quisenberry. A relief pitcher with the Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants, Quisenberry led the American League in saves five times and was selected to three All-Star teams. Other major leaguers who played for Hines at La Verne include Steve Barber (Twins), Jim Lentine (Cardinals & Tigers), John Verhoeven (Angels, White Sox & Twins), Dan Graham (Twins & Orioles), Dave Rucker (Tigers, Cardinals, Phillies & Pirates), George Hinshaw (Padres) and Norwood (Twins). And Nick Leyva – the first player in SCIAC baseball history named first-team all-conference four times – managed the Philadelphia Phillies from 1989-91 and is currently a member of the Milwaukee Brewers coaching staff.
From 1978-82, Hines managed the Alaska Goldpanners summer team in Fairbanks, posting a 195-93 record. His 1980 team finished 43-9 and won the NBC National Championship, a club some have said was the most talented non-professional team ever assembled. That squad – which included Alvin Davis, Kevin McReynolds, Harold Reynolds, Ron Romanick and Don Heinkel – batted .374 with a .573 slugging percentage and hit 82 home runs in 52 games. Hines earned the NBC Manager of the Year award that season.
Hines left La Verne following the 1980 season and joined the coaching staff at Arizona State University. His first year in Tempe the Sun Devils went 55-13 and set team records in batting average, RBI, runs scored and slugging percentage while winning the College World Series.
After two seasons at ASU, Hines moved up to the major leagues, working for the Mariners, Angels, Dodgers and Astros organizations. He served on the Los Angeles Dodgers staff from 1985-86 and 1988-93, initially as a batting instructor and later as first base coach. Those Dodgers teams won 90 or more games three times, captured two division titles, one National League crown and won the World Series in 1988.
These days Hines remains a popular baseball instructor and consultant, working with players and teams around the world. He has written about, given clinics on and developed videos dealing with the science of hitting. In 1985, he and Bob McBee put together “The Swing's the Thing,” a book focusing on the specifics of body position, movement and bat techniques involved in hitting. And noted author and baseball historian Roger Kahn, in his 2000 book “The Head Game: Baseball Seen from the Pitcher's Mound,” cited past research by Hines on the study of the curve ball in relationship to hitting.
Ben and his wife, Wanda, still live in La Verne. Two of their children, Bruce and Kristi, graduated from ULV, and granddaughter, Brittany, is presently in her junior year.
To obtain a complete schedule of Alumni Weekend events, go to www.ulv.edu/ur/events or contact ULV Alumni Relations at (909) 593-3511 ext. 4665.