David Borne | Staff Writer
From 1951 to 2010, Duquesne University fielded a varsity baseball team, last competing at the Division I level in the Atlantic 10 Conference before the program folded in the spring of 2010 alongside men’s swimming, wrestling and golf. During that span, plenty of great ballplayers represented the Red & Blue on the diamond, and a select few even went on to play professionally. However, no Duke went on to have more pro success than pitcher Joe Beimel.
Beimel, now 40, played 13 seasons of Major League Baseball, spending time with seven different franchises. Baseball fans remember Beimel as the big-bearded lefty out of the bullpen with a sweet slider, but very few knew that he is the only MLB player to ever wear the No. 97 — or that he spent his final collegiate season here at Duquesne.
A native of St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania, located about 95 miles northeast of campus, Beimel had a number of good friends at Duquesne. Being able to reunite with old friends upon arrival at the school helped him transition to life on the Bluff, enriching his experience at Duquesne.
“I had a lot of people from my hometown that I grew up with who were actually at Duquesne. It was cool to be able to go there,” Beimel said. “I had transferred from a junior college — I went to a junior college for two years first. Coach [Mike] Wilson recruited me, and it was nice to be able to have some friends there and still be basically right in the middle of Pittsburgh.”
After he transferred from Allegany College of Maryland in Cumberland, Maryland, Beimel made his mark with the Dukes during the 1998 campaign. He led the team in wins (six), appearances (14), innings pitched (65) and complete games (4).
Following the season, he was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 18th round of the 1998 MLB Draft.
“That was just a really fun year for me. When I went to Duquesne, that’s where Coach Wilson really gave me my big break. I was one of the top starters, [and was] able to be seen by all the scouts and things like that,” Beimel said.
“I really appreciate him for that. For me, it was just a really fun year and I feel like that’s where it all started for me professionally,” he added.
Beimel gives plenty of credit to longtime coach Mike Wilson for the success he enjoyed during his Major League Career. He believes that Wilson was really ahead of his time in how he appreciated statistics and crafted specialized exercise programs.
Wilson was the head coach for the program’s final 17 seasons before it was cut in an effort to use funding to bolster other athletic programs.
“I always had a pretty good work ethic, but when I was there, Coach Wilson really knew his stuff. He was really ahead of his time with pitching and hitting mechanics. As far as working out, the types of workouts we did were really beneficial for not just me, but for everybody else.”
During his 13-year career, Beimel had stints with Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington, Colorado and Seattle. With the Dodgers, Beimel quickly became a fan favorite, winning a fan vote to have a promotional bobblehead made of him.
“They just really liked me for whatever reason,” Beimel said with a laugh. “I interacted with a couple fans, made a couple videos and they made a point to make sure they all voted for me and got me the fan-voted bobblehead.”
Beimel wrapped up his professional career this past summer after a brief stint playing independent league ball with the New Britain Bees. He’s enjoying his time off, but admits things can get boring at times. However, even though he’s no longer playing, he plans to stay involved with the game.
“I’m actually working with a few guys that have played professionally. Just kind of helping them with their mechanics and throwing programs,” Beimel said.
“I think it’s something I might want to do in the future. Helping them get better and to [reach] the next level and [to] achieve their dreams the way I was able to,” he added.
With his busy baseball schedule, Beimel admitted he hasn’t had much time or opportunity to visit Duquesne’s campus. Now, with all of his free time, he said he may try to stop by the Bluff one of these days.
“Maybe in the near future I’ll be able to come check out a basketball game or something, now that I’m retired.”