As shown in previous posts about famous athletes of Westerly, the legacy of local baseball players runs deep. Perhaps the most well-known baseball player to come out of Westerly is Dave Stenhouse, a stellar pitcher who played more than a decade of professional baseball. Stenhouse also had two sons, Dave Jr. and Mike, who played professional baseball for many years.
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David Rotchford Stenhouse was born in Westerly on September 12, 1933 to Clarence and Mary G. (Driscoll) Stenhouse. From 1947 to 1951, he attended Westerly High School, and it was there that he acquired a reputation as a standout athlete. Interestingly, it was Stenhouse’s ability on the basketball court for the Bulldogs that garnered him the most accolades.
In his senior year, in addition to playing on the baseball team, Dave was named captain of the basketball team, and his success led to him being named the 1951 Rhode Island Athlete of the Year by the Rhode Island Association of Sports Writers.
In the Fall of 1951, Stenhouse began attending the University of Rhode Island, where he played on the baseball and basketball teams for four years. At URI, he compiled a less than stellar record of 11-16, but his skills as a pitcher were apparent. In 1952, he played in a Canadian summer league for a team in Grand Falls, New Brunswick, finishing with a record of twelve wins and six losses.
The following Summer, he played for the Kentville (Nova Scotia) Wildcats, finishing with a record of 13-6. After four seasons with the Rhode Island Rams, Dave Stenhouse gained the attention of several major league teams, including the Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Braves. Ultimately, he signed with the Chicago Cubs on June 29, 1955. During an interview with the Westerly Sun, Stenhouse said: “I believe there is more of an opportunity with the Chicago team…this is a terrific contract.”
As part of his contract, Dave gained permission from the Cubs to leave the team in mid-September to return to URI in order to complete his credits for a degree in Engineering.
In 1956, Stenhouse played for the Class-D Lafayette (LA) Oilers, the 1955 champions of the Evangeline League. The highly touted pitcher performed extremely well, finishing with a record of sixteen wins and fours loss and an earned run average of 1.92 in 26 games. Although the Oilers finished in first place once again in 1956, the finals were canceled due to a ‘lack of interest.’
Stenhouse then played for the Des Moines Bruins of the Western League. In 1958, he played for the Fort Worth (TX) Cats briefly before moving up to the Pueblo (CO) Bruins. On June 20, 1958, Stenhouse threw a no-hitter in Topeka, Kansas, striking out eleven batters. He finished the season with a record of 16 wins and eight losses, making the Western League’s All Star Team.,
On December 2, 1958, Dave Stenhouse was drafted by the Cincinnati Redlegs out of the Cubs farm system and was sent to Seattle, where he played for the Triple-A Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League for the 1959 and 1960 seasons., In 1961, he pitched for the Jersey City Jerseys of the International League. From 1959 through 1961, he pitched to a record of 39 wins and 37 losses.
Despite a somewhat lackluster win/lose record, Stenhouse saw a fair amount of success, including being named to Look Magazine’s All International League Team for 1961. He also pitched a one-hitter and two two-hitters while racking up 14 wins for the Jerseys. In 1961, the Redlegs had an obvious need for pitchers, however, they did not call up Stenhouse, leading him to express his disappointment to Look Magazine.
On December 15, 1961, Dave Stenhouse was traded with Bob Schmidt to the Washington Senators for Johnny Klippstein and Marty Keough. This move provided Stenhouse with a new opportunity, and he made the Senators’ Opening Day roster out of spring training. He started the season off by making several relief appearances before being used as a starting pitcher.
Stenhouse did not disappoint when called upon in the major leagues. Through the first half of the 1962 season, Stenhouse had a record of 6-3 and was near the American League lead in ERA. As a result, he was selected to play in the 1962 All-Star Game. He ended the 1962 season with a record of 11-12 and an ERA of 3.65 in 34 games.
Perhaps the highlight of the 1962 season, at least on a personal level, came on August 5, which was named ‘Dave Stenhouse Day’ at Fenway Park, when the Senators took on the Red Sox. Between games of a doubleheader, a ceremony was held honoring the pitcher, which was attended by more than 1,000 fans who traveled north from Westerly.
Although Stenhouse did not pitch that day due to a knee injury, he was still celebrated by the crowd. During the event, which Stenhouse called “the greatest day of my baseball life,” he was made an honorary member of the Westerly Fire Department and received accolades from the University of Rhode Island and the state of Rhode Island. In attendance were his parents, brother Nick, wife Phyllis, and sons Mike and Dave Jr. October 5, 1962 was also proclaimed Dave Stenhouse Day by the Town of Westerly. At the end of the year, Stenhouse was named the Rhode Island Athlete of the Year once again.
In spite of high expectations based on his past performance, the subsequent seasons were not nearly as successful for Dave Stenhouse. In 1963, he compiled a record of three wins and nine losses with an ERA of 4.55 in 16 games. 1964 was equally disappointing, as he achieved two wins against seven losses with an ERA of 4.81.
After the 1964 season, Stenhouse would never reach the major leagues again. The 1965 season saw the pitcher play for the Double-A York (PA) White Roses before moving across the country to join the Triple-A Hawaii Islanders. Dave would remain in Honolulu until May 1967, when he was released by the Islanders, at which point he retired from professional baseball.
Stenhouse did not stay out of baseball long, however, as he was named varsity baseball coach and assistant basketball coach at Rhode Island College in December 1968. He remained with RIC for several years. In 1981, he took up the coaching position for the Brown University baseball team, a job he held for 10 seasons until retiring from coaching at the conclusion of the 1990 season. His 1986 Brown team finished with 23 wins, the most in school history.
Dave Stenhouse’s love for Rhode Island was apparent. Not only did he return to the Ocean State after his playing career came to an end, but he returned home to work between each season of his professional career.
Dave Stenhouse Sr. was not the only member of his family to find themselves on professional baseball rosters. Both of Dave’s sons, Dave Jr. and Mike Stenhouse, spent several years playing professional baseball. Mike Stenhouse was a highly touted outfielder beginning with his career at Cranston East High School when he was named to the Rhode Island Interscholastic baseball team in 1974.
Despite fielding offers from high-profile college teams including Arizona State, Mike opted to attend Harvard, where he found great success on the Crimson’s baseball team. In 1977, as a freshman, he was an All-Ivy League player, hitting .475, second-best in Division I. In 1979, he was drafted 26th overall by the Oakland Athletics, but chose to return to Harvard after Major League Baseball refused to make him a free agent following a salary dispute.
In the next draft in January 1980, he was selected 4th overall by the Montreal Expos, and in 1982, he was called up to the Major League roster. Mike spent much of the 1982, 1983, and 1984 seasons with Triple-A Wichita, where he found a great deal of success, hitting .355 with twenty-five home runs over three seasons.
In 1985, Mike was traded to the Minnesota Twins before the start of the season. It was in Minnesota during the 1985 season where he would see career highs in virtually every category including games played, at-bats, hits, home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases, walks, and batting average.
In December 1985, Mike Stenhouse was dealt to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Charlie Mitchell. In 1986, he would play in Fenway Park, the same stadium where his father was warmly received by hometown fans in 1962. Unfortunately, Mike’s career with the Red Sox was relatively-brief, as he collected only two hits in 21 at-bats. This would prove to be his final major league season.
He would later go on to work as an analyst for the Pawtucket Red Sox and an announcer for the Montreal Expos during the 1996 season. Today, he is the CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, a public policy group.
Mike Stenhouse’s brother, Dave Jr. also found himself involved in professional baseball for a number of seasons, spending six years in the minor leagues, three of which were at the Triple-A level. Dave Jr., a catcher, was a fifth-round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1982 amateur draft. He debuted for the Medicine Hat Blue Jays, where he hit .305 with eight home runs in 187 at-bats. In 1983, he was invited to the Blue Jays spring training camp. The following season, he jumped several levels in the minor league system, moving all the way up to the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. The next three seasons saw Dave Jr. play mostly in Syracuse, although he never received a call to the Major Leagues. After 1987, Dave Stenhouse Jr. retired from professional baseball, although he did play for the barnstorming Grey Sox team with his brother, Mike.
While the chances of any one person having a career in professional baseball are quite low, the chances of three men from the same family achieving this goal are virtually non-existent. These low odds make the story of the Stenhouse family even more amazing. The legacy of Dave Stenhouse has since become a part of Westerly’s lore, and he is still remembered for his beginnings with the Bulldogs.