Written by Bryan Messerly
Paul Popovich, a native of Flemington, W.Va., earned a letter in men’s basketball and baseball in 1960 before embarking on an 11-year Major League Baseball career.
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Popovich had one of the finest seasons ever on the diamond for the Mountaineers when he batted .426, a school record at the time, with 43 hits, four home runs, 13 extra-base hits and 26 RBIs in 101 at-bats in 1960. He had five hits in a game against George Washington, and Popovich was named All-Southern Conference second baseman in 1960.
In basketball, he was a member of the 1960 NCAA tournament team that finished 26-5 overall with a Southern Conference championship. Popovich played in 26 games, averaging 3.3 points and 1.3 rebounds per contest. He was one of the top players on the WVU freshmen team in 1959.
Popovich, who signed a contract with the Chicago Cubs in 1960, was an infielder for the Cubs (1964, 1966-67 and 1969-73), Los Angeles Dodgers (1968-69) and Pittsburgh Pirates (1974-75). He was on the Pirates’ teams that won the 1974 and 1975 National League Eastern Division. Popovich was with the Dodgers during Don Drysdale’s 58-inning scoreless streak.
In 11 seasons, he played in 682 games and had 1,732 at-bats, 176 runs scored, 403 hits, 42 doubles, nine triples and 14 home runs. Popovich also logged 134 RBIs, 127 walks, four stolen bases and had a .233 batting average.
In his Major League debut during the 1964 season, he had one hit in his only at-bat.
Popovich averaged 41.3 points per game at Flemington High to set a state basketball record while earning state player of the year honors.
After retiring from baseball, he spent 10 years as an infield instructor for the Dodgers.
Popovich and his wife, Susan, have been married 42 years and reside in the Chicago area. They have two sons, Paul and Damon, and three grandchildren.