|Organization:||Michigan State University|
For his contributions to the game of baseball, Danny Litwhiler received the ABCA/Wilson Lefty Gomez Award in 1976.
In 28 years of coaching Division I collegiate baseball at both Florida State and Michigan State, Litwhiler had a combined record of 679-445-9 (.603) and guided his teams to 10 appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
During his 19 seasons at MSU, Litwhiler, who was known to his players as "Skip," amassed a record of 489-362-8 (.574), captured Big Ten Championships in 1971 and 1979, and led the Spartans to NCAA Tournament berths in 1971, 1978 and 1979.
Litwhiler compiled a nine-year record of 190-83-1 (.695) from 1955-63 at Florida State and led the Seminoles to seven NCAA Tournament and three College World Series appearances (1957, 1962, 1963) before coming to MSU.
Not only were his players successful at Michigan State, but 13 of Litwhiler's players progressed to the major leagues, including Kirk Gibson, Rick Miller, Steve Garvey and Mel Behney.
A great player and coach, Litwhiler also served as an ambassador and innovator. He was the International President for the U.S. Baseball Federation from 1978-83, a member of the technical committee of the International Association of Amateur Baseball, a member of the Board of Directors of the ABCA and conducted clinics in over 10 countries. Perhaps his greatest innovation and the most widely-known was the development of the radar speed gun, with the first prototype used at Michigan State now residing in the Baseball Hall of Fame. All told, Litwhiler produced more than 100 inventions for the game.
In Litwhiler's own 11-year major league career from 1940-51, he spent time with the Phillies, Cardinals, Braves and Reds. He was named an all-star in 1942 while playing for the Phillies. A member of the Cardinals' 1944 World Championship team, Litwhiler was also with St. Louis when it lost in the 1943 World Series to New York.
Litwhiler, who entered the Army's Special Services during World War II, did not play during the 1945 season but returned to the major leagues in 1946 with the Cardinals following his discharge. During his time in the service, Litwhiler helped organize recreation activities for thousands of troops and credited that time for preparing him for coaching.
Beyond the collegiate level, Litwhiler also managed professional teams in Fargo, N.D. (1952), Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (1953), Jamestown, N.Y., and Duluth, Minn. (1954).
In 1968, Litwhiler led the United States to a gold medal at a post-Olympic international tournament in Mexico City by defeating Cuba. Two of his Spartans, catcher Harry Kendrick and pitcher Marvin Knight, were members of his team.
The 1968 ABCA President, Litwhiler was inducted into the ABCA Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Michigan State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1994. He is also a member of the Hall of Fame at Bloomsburg (Pa.) University, Florida State University, the Helm Foundation, the Royal Dutch Baseball Association, the Citizen Savings Athletic Foundation, and the state of Pennsylvania. He is one of only three Spartans to have his No. 1 retired and was named MSU's Distinguished Baseball Alumnus of the Year in 2003.
A 1939 graduate of Bloomsburg University, the baseball facility at his alma mater is named in his honor (Danny Litwhiler Field).
Litwhiler authored six books on baseball, including his memoir: "Danny Litwhiler: Living the Baseball Dream."
Named after the great Lefty Gomez, this annual award is presented to an individual who has distinguished himself among his peers and has contributed significantly to the game of baseball locally, nationally and internationally. The Lefty Gomez Award is sponsored by Wilson Sporting Goods.