It was late in the 1984 gold medal game and the U.S. was down 3-1 to Japan. Starter John Hoover had pitched well, but he was in trouble. But the trouble wasn't all his doing. The two runners on base were there on a single and then an error.
Hoover stayed in and promptly gave up a three-run shot to Japan's Katsumi Hirosawa for an insurmountable 6-1 deficit.
"I threw a million pitches in my career, maybe a billion," Hoover told The Los Angeles Times eight years later. "A lot of them were good, some were bad. I left a curveball up and he did what any good hitter would do with it."
Taken by the Orioles that year in the first round, Hoover did throw many pitches in his seven-season professional career. But the number of pitches Hoover threw in the major leagues was a precious few.
Hoover only appeared in two major league games.
A native of Fresno, Calif., Hoover made the Olympic team out of Fresno State. Hoover went 31-16 with the Bulldogs, claiming the school's wins record. It was also enough to land him on the list of Fresno State's top athletes of the century. He is to also be put on his high school, Fresno High's, Wall of Champions this October.
It was during the Olympic run that Hoover signed with the Orioles. The contract meant Hoover would start his professional career at AAA Rochester. "It's great," Hoover told the Associated Press. "Better than I expected."
Hoover went 2-3 in five appearances, with a 5.21 ERA at Rochester that year. He didn't return to AAA for another six years.
Hoover spent much of that time at AA, staying with the Orioles through 1987. He went 8-16 at AA Charlotte in 1985 with a 4.72 ERA. But he did show flashes of why he was a first-rounder. In a May game, Hoover threw a three-hit shutout against Birmingham.
The Orioles shipped Hoover to the Expos in a five-player deal before the 1988 season. After spending 1988 at AA Jacksonville, Hoover got his release. It was then he was signed by the Rangers.
Hoover spent 1989 at the Rangers' AA team in Tulsa. A 3.38 ERA and a 9-6 record earned Hoover a promotion for 1990 to AAA Oklahoma City. Then, in May 1990, Hoover was brought up to Texas.
In his debut, May 23, Hoover gave up consecutive singles, one of them scoring. He didn't record an out. In his second and final game two days later, Hoover pitched 4.2 innings, giving up five earned runs. His career ERA in 4.2 innings was 11.57.
Hoover's appearance with the Rangers made him the 17th member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic team to make the majors, according to The Times. Three others never made it.
Hoover was released by the Rangers in July. Picked up briefly by the Expos system late in the year and Hoover's career was done.
Speaking to The Times in 1992, Hoover said the Rangers offered him a coaching position, but he had other interests. Hoover then was going into law enforcement, with the Fresno Police.
"I had a good time in baseball, but I'm not frustrated or disappointed that I'm not playing, that my professional career wasn't more successful," Hoover told The Times.
"I mean, I did some things people only dream of doing. I had more fun than anyone has a right to have," Hoover added. "I traveled all over the world. I was a member of probably the best amateur baseball team ever. That alone, being in the Olympics with that team, was unbelievable, overwhelming."
Hoover passed away in July 2014 at the age of 51.
- Spartanburg Herald-Journal, Associated Press, Aug 5, 1984: Hoover Signs With Orioles
- Eugene Register-Guard, Associated Press, Aug. 8, 1984: Japanese take baseball gold from Americans
- Rock Hill Herald, Associated Press, May 7, 1985: Charlotte earns split with Birmingham
- Los Angeles Times, July 22, 1992: A Silver Lining: Talented '84 U.S. Baseball Team Didn't Get the Gold, but the Sport Proved to Be an International Winner
- GoBulldogs.com: Bulldog Legends
Cards Reviewed: 239/880 - 27.2%
Players/Coaches Reviewed: 244
Made the Majors: 163 - 67%
Never Made the Majors: 81 - 33%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 73
10+ Seasons in the Minors: 75