Former Lobo Greats: Jim Kremmel

April 3, 2013

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - On October 12, 2012, the University of New Mexico baseball program lost a legend and one of its greatest players of all-time when Jim Kremmel passed away from an apparent heart attack at age 63. The southpaw pitched for the Lobos from 1968-71, and on April 17, 1970, he threw the only documented nine-inning no-hitter in UNM history as the Lobos won at Arizona 1-0.

"I remember the no-hitter like it was yesterday," former teammate and friend Wendell Franke said. "We all sat in the same places in the bullpen with our hands in the same positions. We didn't talk to him all game."

Another former teammate, Larry Minarsich, clearly remembers the no-hitter as well.

"I played third base so I handed him the ball at the beginning of every inning and after every out," he said. "I was much more nervous than he was as the game went on. It was amazing how tense I, and everyone else was, but not Kremmel. That's the epitome of who he was. He was very calm. Kremmel was just Kremmel. It was like any other ballgame to him."

Kremmel was fantastic that April day. He struck out 11, walked two, and he allowed only one runner to reach second base.

"I thought my curve was really working for me today," Kremmel said after the game. "I thought (catcher) Rick (Laub) called a fantastic game. I didn't have to shake off a single sign."

The native of Columbia, Ill., needed only 112 pitches to set down the Wildcats in the finest pitching performance in UNM history. It continued to be a stellar season for Kremmel, who on March 30 of that season tied a school record with 18 strikeouts in a game against Eastern New Mexico.

Known affectionately as "Goose" to his teammates, Kremmel remained the same level-headed guy at all times despite his success that season and throughout his career.

 "He set a lot of school records, but you'd never know he was a superstar, which is what I liked best about him," Minarsich said. "He was a very unassuming guy. He was very quiet and anything but bragadocious. He was tremendous. He was just a great pitcher.

"He was just a good guy and the same guy every day: steady, dependable and a great teammate."

He was all that and more. Kremmel was an All-WAC performer in both 1969 and 1970, he holds the UNM record for career strikeouts with 356 and is in the top five in numerous other categories: career innings pitched (second with 304 2/3), strikeouts in a season (second with 134 in 1970), ERA in a season (third with 1.63 in 1969), complete games in a career (fourth with 15), career ERA (fourth with 2.92), and career wins (tied for fourth with 22).

"He was the best pitcher I ever played with. I'm glad I didn't have to hit against him."
Larry Minarsich, former teammate and friend of Jim Kremmel

"He had a great curveball and was your typical left-hander," said Franke who was the complementary right-handed pitcher on those Lobo teams. "We called him `Goose' because he was herky jerky. He looked like a goose and walked like a goose, but there was no question that he had a great fastball."

His success in the Cherry and Silver was enough to make him a first-round pick in the 1971 January secondary draft by the Washington Senators. He reached the majors with the Texas Rangers in 1973 and appeared in four games that season. In 1974 he was with the Chicago Cubs and appeared in 23 games. His career was cut short, however, due to injury.

When Franke first heard why Kremmel stopped playing, he was shocked.

"He was a workhorse (in college)," he said. "I don't remember him ever having a sore arm. I couldn't believe when I read his career ended due to injury."

Following his playing career Kremmel turned his focus to psychiatry. He received his Master's in counseling psychology from Gonzaga University in 1991 and worked at Sacred Heart Medical Center Inpatient Psychiatry for several years. Following that he was a sports psychology consultant for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers from 1998-2002.

Over the years, Franke said he lost track of his old teammate and friend, but found him through social media.

"Thank goodness for Facebook," he said. "I found Jim, and we communicated back and forth a little bit."

Still, Kremmel's death came as a shock to his former bullpen mate.

"I had no idea that he had been sick or that anything was wrong," Franke said.

Minarsich was also upset when he learned of Kremmel's passing.

"He was extremely good and kind-hearted and warm," he said. "That's what I remember more about him. He was a great teammate and friend through all times. He was so courteous and unassuming."

Minarsich, who was an All-WAC performer himself in 1970, then couldn't help but add one more compliment.

"He was the best pitcher I ever played with. I'm glad I didn't have to hit against him."

Jim Kremmel Career Stats

1968 3 2 0 1-0 10.1 3 2 11 1.74
1969 13 12 6 7-2 88 22 16 104 1.63
1970 18 13 7 9-4 103.2 39 34 134 2.95
1971 19 15 2 5-8 101.1 61 47 107 4.13
Career 53 42 15 22-14 304.2 125 99 356 2.92