Located about one mile from Progressive Field, Cleveland State University is a Division I athletic school. Despite that designation, CSU has never been known for its baseball program. In the 48-year history of the school, only four CSU graduates have ever gone on to play major league baseball. Three of them—Dale Mohorcic, Darrin Chapin, and Ken Robinson—were pitchers. The only position player was Jerry Dybzinski, and fittingly, he began his major league career with the Cleveland Indians.
Dybzinski, whose unwieldy surname caused his teammates and fans to refer to him as Dybber, or Eye Chart, was a native Clevelander. He attended Collinwood High School on Cleveland’s east side. Dybzinski pitched and played infield for the Collinwood Railroaders baseball team, graduating in 1973. He enrolled at CSU upon graduation. As a freshman, he was the starting third baseman for the CSU Vikings. Eventually the Vikings moved him to short. By the time Dybzinski graduated from CSU in 1977, he had set or tied school career records for the most runs scored, hits, triples, and RBI. The Indians drafted the Dybber in the 15th round of the 1977 amateur draft. He spent three years playing for the Indians’ minor league affiliates in Batavia, Waterloo, and Tacoma.
In 1980 Dybzinski made it to the major leagues as a utility infielder. He appeared in 114 games in the 1980 season, starting 67 of them, mostly at shortstop. He hit .230 as a rookie. Dybzinaki also spent the strike-shortened season of 1981 as the backup shortstop for the Tribe, this time hitting .298 in 48 games.
Before the start of the 1982 season, the Indians traded their starting shortstop Tom Veryzer to the New York Mets, and gave the starting job to Dybzinski. He failed to make the most of it, though, missing nearly two weeks of playing time in June due to a sore shoulder, only to see Mike Fischlin, his replacement, hit .333 over a 19-game span. On July 5, with his batting average at .216, the Indians sent Dybzinski to their Class AAA team in Charleston.
Or rather, they tried to send him there. Dybzinski didn’t want to go. Although he’d had 72 hours to report to Charleston, he didn’t do so, and began ducking calls from the Indians front office, going into hiding. He was fined by the club for his failure to report. After two weeks, Dybzinski finally contacted the team to say that he would accept the move to Charleston, although he didn’t actually report there until July 27. The disappearing act was not well regarded by Tribe management, although they did call him up to the majors in September, when the roster expanded to 40 players.
Dybzinski played his last game with the Indians on Oct. 2, 1982. He started at third base in the final game of the season, the second game of a doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers. Dybzinski played the entire game at third base, and went 1 for 4 with a single.
In April of 1983, the Indians traded Dybzinski to the Chicago White Sox for first baseman Pat Tabler. Dybzinksi played for the Sox in 1983 and 1984. In 1985, he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but only appeared in five games. The Seattle Mariners signed him in the 1986 offseason, but released him before the regular season began, thus ending Dybzinski’s career as a baseball player.
Perhaps people expected too much from the local hero, but obviously Dybzinski’s career with the Indians didn’t pan out the way fans and the Indians front office had hoped it would. And as for CSU, it ended its baseball program at the conclusion of the 2011 season, making it likely that Dybzinski will be the only CSU graduate ever to play major league baseball as a position player.
The photo above was taken by Paul Tepley of the long-defunct Cleveland Press newspaper, and is part of the Cleveland Press Collection of the Michael Schwartz Library at CSU. It is used here with their permission.
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On a personal note, as 2012 draws to a close, I would like to thank blog owners Susan and Stephanie for letting me be a part of Team Lajaway. I also want to thank the other people who write for this site for their hard work and their insightful posts. And thanks as well to you, our faithful readers. See you all next year!