The 2017 season was John Stuper’s 25th as the head coach of baseball at Yale. He and the Bulldogs celebrated the silver anniversary in style with a second straight Red Rolfe Division title, an Ivy League Championship and the school’s second 30-win season. Stuper, the 2017 Ivy League Coach of the Year, had eight of his players earn All-Ivy League honors.
His 488 career wins (246 in Ivy League play) are the most for any Yale baseball coach in its 150-year history. He surpassed the legendary Ethan Allen for that honor in 2009. Stuper reached the 100-win mark faster than any coach in program history and oversaw the best four-year period in program history from 1993-96 (104-68).
In 2016, Stuper led the Bulldogs to the Rolfe Division title and had six players earn All-Ivy honors, including righthander Scott Politz, who was named a freshman All-American. The program also had an academic All-American in outfielder Nate Adams.
The 13th head coach of Yale baseball, Stuper’s teams have six first-place finishes in the Rolfe Division and three Ivy League championships. His first squad, in 1993, won a school-record 33 games, earned an NCAA Regional appearance, and set numerous school records, including 160 stolen bases in 44 games. He earned 1993 New England Division I Coach of the Year and Northeast Region Division I Coach of the Year honors. The Bulldogs won the Ivy League championship in each of his first two seasons.
Stuper earned the 400th victory of his coaching career with a 5-2 decision in the second game of a doubleheader at Harvard on April 14, 2013. That day four Yale pitchers combined to strike out 13 Crimson batters, the perfect way for a former MLB pitcher to earn a milestone coaching victory.
“I try to tailor my offensive game plan to my talent. I want to run. I like to steal bases because it disrupts things,” Stuper said. Yale baserunners have stolen more than 1,300 bases in his tenure.
Stuper has seen 42 of his players sign professional contracts. Most recently, righthander Chasen Ford was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 27th round of the 2016 draft and began his professional career this past summer. Pitcher Rob Cerfolio was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2013 MLB Draft, but returned to Yale for his final season in 2014. Cerfolio’s selection represented the ninth straight year that a Yale player was selected, the longest consecutive stretch of draft selections by any school in the Ivy League at the time.
Not surprisingly, some of Stuper's top pupils have been pitchers. Brandon Josselyn, the 2009 Ivy League Pitcher of the Year (6th player to earn that distinction under Stuper), was drafted in June 2009 by the Seattle Mariners. Left-handed pitcher Craig Breslow, the captain of Yale’s 2002 squad, has spent 11 seasons on a Major League roster.
Stuper has also coached two All-Americans while at Yale, including catcher Ryan Lavarnway, the 2007 NCAA batting and slugging percentage champion. Lavarnway was drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 MLB amateur draft by the Boston Red Sox.
“I want my team to be difficult to play against,” said the Yale mentor who was managed by Whitey Herzog and Pete Rose in the big leagues. Not coincidentally, he lists them as two of his biggest influences.
“I watched how they ran a game. Their knowledge of the game, work ethic and preparation were second to none, especially Whitey with his aggressive style. We want to make things happen, not wait for things to happen. Having a versatile team will give us the ability to score runs in a lot of different ways.”
Stuper pitched in the major leagues for the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds from 1982-85, appearing in a total of 111 games. He posted a 32-28 overall record with a 3.96 earned run average. His most memorable performance came with the Cardinals in the sixth game of the 1982 World Series. With St. Louis trailing the Milwaukee Brewers three games to two in the best-of-seven series, the right-hander helped the Cardinals even the series with a 13-1 complete-game, four-hit victory. St. Louis went on to win the Series the following day. Sports Illustrated listed his World Series performance among the 10 best by a rookie pitcher in the history of post-season play.
The only two-time all-conference baseball and basketball player at Butler County Community College (1976-77), Stuper fashioned a 34-3 collegiate record. He also helped Point Park (Pa.) College to the NAIA World Series in 1978 while earning NAIA All-America honors.
Stuper, who received his bachelor’s degree from LaRoche College and his master's degree in English at Slippery Rock University in 1989, was head coach at Butler until March 1991, when he returned to the Cardinals as a minor league pitching instructor. He remained with the Cardinals until taking over the Bulldogs’ clubhouse in 1993.
He and his wife, Pam, Yale's Caroline Ruth Thompson '02 Head Coach of Field Hockey, reside in Hamden.