R.I.P. to Michael Rebhan, a star pitcher for the 1990 Georgia Bulldogs national champion baseball team. He died on February 27 after a short battle with cancer. He was 51 years old. Though he never played in the major leagues himself, he beat a future Hall of Famer twice to propel the Bulldogs to the College World Series.
Rebhan was born in Rockville, Md. on September 28, 1967 and went to Lake City Community College before transfering to Georgia. He had been drafted by the Red Sox in the 1988 Amateur Draft, but he didn’t sign with them and went to Georgia instead.
The 1990 Dawgs finished 52-19 overall and 18-9 in the Southeastern Conference, putting them second in the conference behind Louisiana State University. Both teams as well as the Mississippi State Bulldogs were invited to the NCAA Tournament.
Rebhan and teammate Dave Fleming (a future major-leaguer) were a formidable 1-2 combo for the 1990 Bulldogs. Rebhan had a 13-5 record and 3.01 ERA, appearing in 22 games during the regular season. He had 18 starts and 9 complete games, fanning 92 batters in 137+ innings.
The Bulldogs started off slowly, going 2-3 in its first five games. The team then rattled off a 14-game winning streak and didn’t look back. They slumped late, losing the SEC title and the SEC tournament to the Tigers right at the end of the season. Still, they were the #2 seed in the Northeast Regional division of the NCAA Tournament.
Rebhan pitched the Bulldogs past Maine with a 6-3 win and then earned a save in 6-2/3 innings in relief as the team slugged their way past Rutgers, 20-9, to advance to the College World Series. After beating Mississippi State, The Bulldogs faced the top-ranked Stanford Cardinal team on June 3. Rebhan outpitched future superstar and Baltimore Orioles #1 draft pick Mike Mussina in a 16-2 blowout win. He allowed just 5 hits and struck out 7. Stanford got revenge on June 6 with a 4-2 win, and Rebhan and Mussina faced each other again on June 8. Once more, Rebhan beat Mussina in a 5-1 win, putting Georgia into the championship game against Oklahoma State. Stanford coach Mark Marquess praised Rebhan’s performance in the games.
“He did another great job again against us. He came up with the big pitch when he had to. He kept us off balance again. It was just another outstanding pitching performance,” he told the Associated Press.
Georgia, with a strong pitching performance by Stan Payne and Fleming, beat the Cowboys 2-1 for the team’s first national championship. Both Fleming and Rebhan, along with 1B Doug Radziewicz, represented the Bulldogs on the 1990 All-Tournament Team. Rebhan was also named the CWS Most Outstanding Player for his two wins over Stanford. In those two complete-game wins, he had an ERA of 1.00, struck out 13 and walked 3.
“This is by far beyond everything I’ve ever dreamed,” he said, per AP reports. “It’s a great feeling just to win the national championship. To be chosen the most valuable player is unbelievable.”
Despite his success with Georgia, Rebhan was not drafted by any teams. He theorized that it had something to do with the fact that he was already married with two children at the time, and he didn’t fit the profile of a young, unattached prospect. He would later get free agent offers from the Dodgers and Braves, but nothing materialized.
“It is probably time to quit and stay home,” he told the Tampa Tribune. “My wife [Patricia] has had so much of the responsibility with the kids… it is time I did more.”
Rebhan completed his computer science degree and worked as a software engineer. He is survived by his wife, three children and five grandchildren.