Feb. 14, 2004
By Pete LaFleur
Dan Peltier’s junior season with the 1989 Notre Dame baseball team started innocently enough. He hit 2-for-4 in San Antonio vs. homestanding Trinity, with two doubles and a pair of RBI.
Three months and 67 games later, Peltier’s accomplishments were anything but ordinary. The smooth-swinging lefthander had compiled one of the top seasons in the nation, an amazing run of domination that remains unmatched in Notre Dame baseball history.
As part of the continuing offerings in the ND baseball program’s “Countdown to Opening Day,” www.und.com provides the following historical retrospective on Peltier’s 1989 season. This entry is the first of a series entitled “Notre Dame Baseball History Book” and is framed around Peltier’s weekly production during that 13-week season, with comments from Peltier and former teammate Cory Mee.
Week #1 – Texas swing at Trinity (2), Texas and St. Mary’s (2) … Hit .526 (10-for-19) with 21 total bases (1.105 slugging pct.) … 8 RBI, 9 runs, 2 walks (.571 on-base pct.) … 2 home runs, 5 doubles, 1 stolen base, 2 strikeouts
Most players are happy to bat .300 for a season but Peltier hit above .300 (usually well above) for 12 of 13 weeks in 1989.
In 10 of those weeks, he hit above .350; in eight of those weeks, .450-plus … and in six weeks (nearly half), he hit above .500 – including a blistering three-week stretch (April 5-23) in which he hit .565, .500 and then .500, followed by 4-for-5 over the next two games for a 42-for-78 stretch (.539) over 25 games.
Anybody along for the ride counted himself lucky to witness such a rare season-long assault.
“A lot of guys would go on a streak like that for a week or two, but Dan did it the whole season,” says Mee, then a wide-eyed fellow New Yorker who had joined the ’89 squad as a freshman infielder.
“I’d never seen anybody hit the ball so hard, so consistently. He carried us the whole season. I was wondering how I could do half of what he did. At times, it was jaw-dropping. You’d just find yourself being a spectator.”
First-week spectators saw Peltier hit .526 after five games and he stayed above .400 nearly all season, with the exception of a five-game midseason “slump” (3-for-19, dipped to .387). He responded by hitting 13-for-23 the next week and pushed his average above .440 the rest of the way.
He also hit at least one home run in eight of 13 weeks, including multiple home runs each of the four weeks leading up to the NCAAs. A three-game slump (1-for-11; March 29-April 2) still included a pair of RBI, with Peltier collecting RBI every week except one. He racked up 14 RBI in one mid-April week and added a 21-RBI outburst at the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament. In nine of the 13 weeks, he collected at least 5 RBI – including eight weeks with 7-plus.
His record-setting .783 season slugging percentage truly was a weekly lesson on how to punish a baseball. Only once all season did he finish with a weekly slugging pct. under .450 – led by three weeks above 1.000 (averaging better than a single for every at-bat). In six weeks he slugged above .865, with 10 weeks at .600-plus. His record-setting .513 season on-base pct. (now 4th in ND history) included 10 weeks in which he reached base at least 46% of the plate appearances, including nine weeks with an on-base pct. of .500-plus.
The “OBS” statistic (on-base pct. plus slugging pct.) has become a popular barometer for measuring a hitter’s effectiveness and Peltier’s 1989 production graded off the charts. In every week aside from the 1-for-11 slump (.258 OBS), his OBS added up to .900 or higher. Eleven of the weeks featured a four-digit OBS, including three with an OBS above 1.600 and eight at 1.200-plus.
Week #2 – spring break games in Florida vs. Pittsburgh, Rollins, Vanderbilt, Penn, Miami and Columbia … Hit .333 (8-for-24) with 16 total bases (.667 slugging pct.) … 8 RBI, 7 runs, 5 walks, 1 hit-by-pitch (.467 on-base pct.) … 1 home run, 1 triple, 3 doubles, 2 stolen bases, 2 strikeouts
When the dust had settled and the historic season had come to an end, Peltier hung up his bats and reflected back on the wake he had left through the 1989 college baseball season:
* His .446 batting average was 24 points higher than the previous ND record of .422, by fellow Academic All-American Dave Bartish in 1980 (just ahead of Peltier’s .414 in ’88), and his 1989 batting has been bested just once in the program’s history (.447 by Edwin Hartwell, in ’93). Peltier could have ended 1989 0-for-125 and still hit over .300 for the season.
* The consensus All-American collected hits in 57 of 68 games, with three double-digit hit streaks (16, 11 and 10 games), while reaching base in all but four games (including a 39-of-40 games-on-base stretch).
* His 115 hits (26 above his own ND record, set in ’88) included 36 multi-hit games (nine 3-hit, five 4-hit, one 5-hit).
* His .783 slugging was 53 points above the standing ND record (.730, by Tommy Shields in ’86) and was 279 points above the ’89 team’s second-leading slugger. His 52 extra-base hits included a nation-leading 32 doubles (two shy of the NCAA record and still four more than any other ND player), plus 5 triples and 15 home runs (2nd in ND history, now 7th). Peltier also had rapped 21 doubles in ’88 and remained the only ND player with 20-plus doubles in a season until Craig Counsell hit 22 in ’92.
“Dan had great hand-eye coordination and consistently centered the ball on the center of the bat, more than any hitter I’ve been around,” says Mee, who knows plenty about hitting as a former assistant at Notre Dame and Michigan State and now head coach at Toledo.
“Dan always stayed within himself. He was a linedrive hitter and could deliver a double at any time. He had occasional power but you looked up at the end of the year and he had 15 home runs. He maximized his ability for a great all-around season.”
* Peltier’s spot in the 3-hole, typically batting behind shortstop Pat Pesavento and second baseman Mike Moshier, led to plenty of RBI chances and he usually delivered. His 93 RBI were 19 better than the previous ND record (by Tim Hutson in ’88), with no other Irish player managing more than 85 in the program’s history (his 70 RBI in ’88 ranked 2nd, now 8th). In 41 seasons since 1962, just three players – Dan Trudeau (’85), Peltier (’89) and Brant Ust (’98) – have led the Irish in batting, home runs and RBI during the same season. Peltier also crossed the plate 81 times in ’89, matching the ND record set by Pesavento in ’88 (Peltier’s RBI helped Pesavento break his own record, with 88 runs in ’89).
* Defensively, the prep first baseman made the shift from right to center field in ’89 and made just two errors in 129 fielding chances (.984 fielding pct., with the second error coming in the NCAAs).
Dan Peltier’s many impressive stats from the 1989 season included nearly as many home runs (15) as strikeouts (17) and a 16-game stretch in which he went 60 at-bats without striking out.
Week #3 – games in North Carolina vs. Duke (2) and St. Bonaventure … Hit .500 (5-for-10) with 6 total bases (.600 slugging pct.) … 0 RBI, 3 runs, 3 walks (.615 on-base pct.) … 1 double
Anything in the strike zone – or slightly outside – rarely escaped Peltier’s deadly swing. He headed into the NCAAs with more home runs (15) than strikeouts (13, finishing with 17), ultimately averaging 17.7 plate appearances per K. One midseason stretch saw Peltier log 60 consecutive at-bats and 16 straight games without a strikeout. His .513 on-base pct. produced yet another ND record (now 4th).
“It’s seldom you have a hitter who is so aggressive and disciplined at the same time – but Dan had great knowledge of the strike zone. If you threw it over the plate, he usually was going to hit it,” says Mee.
“Dan knew it was important to get on base, but he never went up there looking for a walk. His game was all about hitting the ball and he was great at it.”
Peltier truly never let a good pitch go to waste.
“I struck out looking just twice in ’89 and one time the pitch was six inches outside,” he says. “I knew the strike zone and needed to be aggressive. If a pitch was there, I was going to hit it. If I missed a bit, I might foul one back and then work a walk.
“It came down to a level of confidence and knowing yourself, driving the ball no matter where the pitch is. Inside or outside, up or down, I always was looking to help my team score runs.”
Week #4 – games at Butler (2) and Indiana … Hit .455 (5-for-11) with 6 total bases (.546 slugging pct.) … 1 RBI, 3 runs, 1 walk (.500 on-base pct.) … 1 double, 1 stolen base, 1 strikeout
When searching for challengers to the best all-around offensive season in Notre Dame history, three rush to the forefront: 1993 outfielders Edwin Hartwell and Eric Danapilis and 2002 centerfielder Steve Stanley. Hartwell typically hit in the 2-hole while Danapilis was the ’93 cleanup hitter, with Peltier’s 3-hole production and Stanley’s leadoff skills helping round out what could be the best 1-4 hitting lineup on an ND “fantasy team” (Danapilis is the only pure righthander among the four).
Hartwell and Danapilis join Peltier as the only ND players ever to post a slugging pct. above .700 and on-base pct. above .500 in the same season. Stanley is included in the discussion despite a modest .475 slugging – with his sparkplug role on the 2002 College World Series team involving havoc on the bases and putting pressure on opposing pitchers. His .506 on-base in ’02 ranks 7th in the ND record book while his 76 runs are 4th (most since Pesavento and Peltier in ’89) and his 32 stolen bases 5th. The 5-9 speedster’s 119 hits in ’02 edged Peltier’s record by four while Stanley’s .439 batting stands 3rd (seven points shy of Peltier’s ’89 assault).
Peltier’s 1989 OBS total of 1.295 (.783 slugging, .513 on-base) has not been threatened – but the 1993 duo gave it a shot during a memorable back-and-forth that saw each finish with a 1.248 OBS.
Hartwell – a former walk-on and captain of the ’93 squad – narrowly bested Peltier’s season batting mark (.447, to .446), with Danapilis at .438 (now 4th). The centerfielder Danapilis held the slugging edge (.726, now 5th), thanks to 24 doubles and 13 home runs, with the leftfielder/DH Hartwell checking in at .719 (8th, also matching Danapilis with 13 HR).
The switch-hitting Hartwell owned the better on-base (.529, to Danapilis’ .522 – both shy of Danapilis’ ND record .531 in ’91) and scored one more run (72-71) but Danapilis had the edge in hits (96-89) and RBI (85-68) to go along with 13 stolen bases (matching Peltier’s ’89 total).
Danapilis and Hartwell ultimately join Stanley in arguably coming up shy of Peltier’s season-long dominance. For one final comparison, Danapilis racked up a huge number of total bases in ’93 (159, with Stanley totaling 147 and Hartwell 143) … 43 shy of yet another seemingly untouchable Peltier record (202).
Week #5 – games vs. Chicago State and at St. Louis (2) … Hit .091 (1-for-11) with 1 total base (.091 slugging pct.) … 2 RBI, 1 run, 1 walk (.167 on-base pct.) … 1 stolen base
Peltier’s hitting ability dates back to his days growing up in the Albany suburb of Clifton Park, N.Y.
“I could always hit. It came naturally, because of playing with my older brother Ted and his friends,” says Peltier. “We’d play fast-pitch with tennis balls, 40 feet away and just bringing it. Sometimes we’d hit ping-pong balls with whiffle bats. It all really developed hand-eye coordination and gave me confidence playing with older guys.”
Peltier set the Shenendehowa High School record by batting .554 as a junior (then .510 as a senior) and also drew attention while quarterbacking Shenendehowa to the state football title. But he still was somewhat of a hidden gem, tucked in the upper northeast.
“I was not a big prospect – there’s not much prospecting that goes on up there,” jokes Peltier. “Some ACC schools had an interest and the ND coach, Larry Gallo, was friends with a Blue Jays scout who had seen me play. We had a family friend who was a senior at Notre Dame and his dad, Walt Rudge, was my summer coach. I drove out with the Rudge’s for my recruiting trip, during the weekend of the LSU football game, and just loved the place.
“I always liked Notre Dame and knew it was the place I wanted to go. I knew I’d get recruited for pro ball wherever I played.”
Week #6 – games vs. Illinois-Chicago (2) and at Xavier (4) … Hit .565 (13-for-23) with 19 total bases (.826 slugging pct.) … 8 RBI, 6 runs, 3 walks, 1 hit-by-pitch (.630 on-base pct.) … 1 home run, 3 doubles, 2 stolen bases
Peltier’s freshman season featured a 15-29 record in 1987, with the promising rookie batting .331 (just shy of Pesavento’s team-best .333) with 39 RBI and 6 home runs. Gallo departed at the end of the season, taking an administrative position at Wake Forest, and weeks later Notre Dame introduced its new head coach.
The Pat Murphy era was set to begin and Peltier would be the centerpiece of the emerging program.
“Notre Dame baseball was about to become a different beast and the administration was focusing on it more,” says Peltier, who bulked up his 6-1 frame from 190 to 210 pounds with the Irish.
“Coach Murphy instilled a hard work ethic and nobody was going to work harder than us. We went 39-22 in ’88 and broke trough in ’89 for 48 wins and the program’s first trip to the NCAAs since 1970. We were hard-working, blue-collar winners.”
“Coach Murphy had a saying that we shouldn’t have the will to win but the will to prepare to win … and the wins will take care of themselves. That’s a principle I’ve used throughout my life.”
Week #7 – games at Illinois-Chicago (2), vs. Butler (2) and at Dayton (4) … Hit .500 (15-for-30) with 23 total bases (.767 slugging pct.) … 14 RBI, 9 runs, 4 walks (.528 on-base pct.) … 2 home runs, 2 doubles, 1 stolen base, 1 strikeout, 2 sacrifices
Former teammates are eager to talk about Peltier’s leadership and ability to be just “one of the guys.”
Mee and Peltier developed a bond despite playing together just one season. The pair shared rides back to their home state – with Peltier dropping Mee off in Rochester before continuing on to Albany.
“I didn’t know anything about Dan until I got to Notre Dame.” says Mee. “Dan and the other older guys were so great in how they treated us. They took us under their wing and set a great example.
“It provided the foundation for how the program was built and influenced guys in my class, in the way we dealt with newcomers.”
Mee vividly recalls a postgame scene, after the 1989 season had ended with a loss at Fresno State in the NCAAs.
“This ended up being Dan’s last game and he gets on the bus and plops down next to me, this scrawny little freshman,” says Mee. “That’s the kind of teammate Dan was, an everyday superstar.”
Peltier’s endearing qualities extend to his lighthearted demeanor.
“Dan has a great sense of humor and always kept things light, which helped in tough times,” says Mee. “He still calls me up and acts like he’s some prospect from Alaska who can throw 98 and wants me to recruit him. He’s 36 and a successful accountant, but he still likes to have fun, which is great.
“We talk regularly and I know Dan keeps in touch with a lot of the guys. That says something for what he’s all about.”
Dan Peltier (center) – pictured alongside fellow 1989 team leaders Mike Moshier (left) and Pat Pesavento (right) – played a lead role in the pair of 1988 all wins over Miami, providing a defining moment for the Irish baseball program.
Week #8 – games vs. Northwestern, Tri-State and Detroit (4) … Hit .500 (10-for-20) with 17 total bases (.850 slugging pct.) … 7 RBI, 8 runs, 3 walks (.542 on-base pct.) … 2 triples, 3 doubles, 1 sacrifice
During his final two seasons, Peltier hit .688 (11-for-16) vs. pitchers who went on to be All-Americans or first- or second-round draft picks.
For Peltier and his Irish teammates, the opponent was of no real concern.
“We learned from coach Murphy how to be mentally tough, focusing on preparation rather than who we were facing,” says Peltier.
“That attitude helps you achieve higher than you could imagine. I went up there looking for hits, no matter who was on that mound. I could bump into the guy the next day and not know who he was. It just didn’t matter.”
One of the program’s defining moments actually came in the fall of 1988, when Notre Dame battle perennial power Miami at Coveleski Stadium in downtown South Bend. Dubbed “The Battle Before The War,” the two games led into the football showdown between the Irish and Hurricanes (a win that vaulted ND to the ’88 national title).
“USA Today predicted Miami’s football team would have huge momentum because their baseball team would kill us,” says Peltier, who hit 5-for-8 vs. Miami. “It ended up being the other way around and that put us on the map. We knew we could beat anybody and it did wonders for our confidence the following spring.”
Notre Dame faced Joe Grahe – who went on to have a long big-league career – in the first game “but we smoked them, 11-2,” recalls Peltier. Miami and another future major leaguer, Alex Fernandez, were poised to earn the split bit the Irish rallied from an 8-4 deficit, with Mike Rotkis’ home run providing the 9-8 margin.
The spring featured an early test at third-ranked Texas and the Irish “raked all day” in the words of Peltier, pounding out 21 hits in a 12-9 upset (led by Peltier’s 4-for-6). Another win followed at Miami (4-2), with both Grahe and Fernandez unable to match the pitching of Peltier’s fellow Academic All-American Erik Madsen. Peltier got the best of Grahe, doubling off the wall to forge a 2-2 tie.
“We faced three guys in that game who went on to be big leaguers, because Oscar Munoz also pitched,” recalls Mee. “That didn’t matter to Dan. He always was very aggressive and pitchers actually feared him. I’d heard stories about him going 4-for-4 vs. Evansville’s Andy Benes, who went on to be the No. 1 pick in the ’88 draft.”
Peltier’s final primetime assault came back at “The Cove” in the MCC Tournament, earning national player- of-the-week honors after batting 18-for-35 (.514) with 38 total bases (3 HR, 3B, 9 2B) and 21 RBI. The Irish battled long rain delays to claim the program’s first NCAA bid in 19 years. Notre Dame had to win its final four games in 23 hours, with Peltier and other top players shuttling to their dorms for a few hours of sleep during a 20-4 blowout win over Dayton that ended at 4:24 a.m.
“We never thought we’d lose that tournament … but it was extremely tiring, especially running balls down in the gaps,” says Peltier, who hit 4-for-7 with three doubles in the final vs. Detroit.
“We were a bunch of guys who were not superstars but who went out and played like it, no matter the opponent or situation.” Week #9 – games vs. Indiana, at Chicago State (2) and vs. Xavier (4) … Hit .455 (10-for-22) with 18 total bases (.818 slugging pct.) … 7 RBI, 8 runs, 3 walks, 2 hit-by-pitch (.517 on-base pct.) … 2 home runs, 2 doubles, 1 stolen base, 1 strikeout, 2 sacrifices
Peltier’s fondest memories involve the many great teammates that dotted the 1987-89 rosters.
“Steve Skupien was the captain my sophomore year and played mostly infield. That was the season Tim Hutson had a career year, with 18 home runs,” says Peltier. “I remember Mike Coss as a freshman, playing third base and the epitome of a hard worker. Chris Flynn was a great DH and Mike Harmon was the senior leader of that staff. He was a great competitor and had the perspective of a coach.
“In ’89, I was co-captain alongside second baseman Mike Moshier, a great leader. We had Pat Pesavento back for his fifth year and he was a tremendous leadoff hitter and solid defensive shortstop. James Sass had played football and we only had him for two seasons but he almost hit .400. Another football player, Frank Jacobs, was a big-time home run threat and Ed Lund was so solid behind the plate.
“Brian Piotrowicz and Eric Madsen were a great 1-2 punch and Mike Coffey was the classic stopper. Even a guy like Tony Livorsi was so tough against lefties, a great situational pitcher.
“It almost was a bonus with the great freshmen. Joe Binkiewicz stepped in at first base and had the talent for pro ball [he opted for medical school] while Craig Counsell was the starting leftfielder and he’s still playing in the majors. Cory Mee also was in that class and did so many things well for our team.”
Dan Peltier coupled All-American and Academic All-America honors in 1989 before going on to play in the Major Leagues with the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants.
Week #10 – games vs. Valparaiso, at Northwestern and at Detroit (4) … Hit .393 (11-for-28) with 18 total bases (.643 slugging pct.) … 5 RBI, 6 runs, 3 walks (.452 on-base pct.) … 2 home runs, 1 double, 2 stolen bases, 4 strikeouts
Peltier ended with an ND-record .406 career batting avg. (Danapilis nearing matched him, at .405) while his .659 career slugging has been bested by just one other, another three-year player and infielder Brant Ust (.676). Peltier also finished with the ND career on-base record (.484), bested only by Danapilis (.559) and mid-’90s centerfielder Scott Sollmann (.522).
Despite playing only three seasons, Peltier still ranks 3rd at ND for career RBI (202) and doubles (60), 8th in hits (257) and 11th in home runs (28). And in the telling statistic of OBS, Danapilis ranks 1st in ND history with a 1.202 career OBS while Peltier is 2nd at 1.143.
The Golden Spikes player-of-the-year award honored Peltier as one of nine finalists for the presigious honor in 1989. Off the field, Peltier he a rare sophomore Academic All-American and repeated that honor in ’89. Peltier signed with the Texas Rangers as their 3rd-round draft pick, returning the next two falls to finish up his requirements before graduating with a 3.42 GPA as an accounting major.
Week #11 – games vs. Dayton (4) … Hit .417 (5-for-12) with 13 total bases (1.083 slugging pct.) … 9 RBI, 6 runs, 3 walks, 1 hit-by-pitch (.529 on-base pct.) … 2 home runs, 2 doubles, 1 stolen base, 1 sacrifice
Peltier was honored with an invitation to the U.S. National Team tryouts but was unable to attend when he signed with the Rangers. He overcame a 1-for-19 start to his pro career, using a 22-game hitting streak for a .405 overall batting avg. with the Butte (Mon.) Copper Kings.
Three years later, Peltier was promoted from triple-A Oklahoma City and played with the Rangers for the rest of the 1992 season and all of ’93. He ended his pro career in 1996, as a member of the San Francisco Giants.
Week #12 – MCC Tournament vs. Butler, Detroit (3), St. Louis, Dayton, Evansville … Hit .514 (18-for-35) with 38 total bases (1.086 slugging pct.) … 21 RBI, 11 runs, 3 walks (.553 on-base pct.) … 3 home runs, 1 triple, 9 doubles, 2 strikeouts
Peltier accepted a position with Merrill Lynch in St. Paul, Minn., while still playing in the major leagues, and currently is a vice president of financial advising. He and his wife, former ND swimmer Amy Tri (a Minnesota native), were married in 1991 and are parents of sons Colton and Connor and daughter Paige.
Nine-year old Colton is a piano prodigy in the making, having played several times with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. A product of the suzuki “learn by ear” method, Colton quickly moved away from Chopsticks and now spends time on pieces such as the Third Movement of Beethoven’s First Concerto.
“It’s like playing Division I baseball as a nine-year-old and being an All-American,” says the proud father.
The six-year-old Connor has the makings of a future ND baseball player – “he has the attitude to be a great athlete,” says Peltier – while two-year old Paige has plenty of time to find her own calling.
Week #13 – NCAAs at Fresno State (2) and vs. Portland … Hit .308 (4-for-13) with 6 total bases (.462 slugging pct.) … 3 RBI, 4 runs, 3 walks (.438 on-base pct.) … 1 triple, 1 stolen base, 1 stolen base, 4 strikeouts
Notre Dame’s last two visits to Minnesota’s Metrodome Classic (’00, ’03) provided Peltier a chance to watch his alma mater in action while visiting with the players and sitting in on radio broadcasts.
“Notre Dame baseball has so much going for it with such a powerful alumni base. Coach Mainieri came into a situation where the program was on track and just busted down the door and took the program to another level,” says Peltier.
“Paul Mainieri knows what he’s doing and has made Notre Dame a consistently great program, one that makes the alums proud. When I started in pro ball, people would joke that they didn’t think Notre Dame had a baseball program. Now winning is expected, because of the hard work and great coaches and players who have been a part of that foundation. Notre Dame baseball truly is firing on all cylinders.”
Peltier also has some words of advice for the current players.
“They should respect the fact they’re able to be part of this program. Later on, they’ll find out it was the greatest part of their lives and such a great university.
“Notre Dame doesn’t make people a success. It’s the people who go to Notre Dame that make it a success. If you work hard, you will achieve the biggest success you can out of life.”