Michael Roth is South Carolinas best athlete ever, trumping George Rogers and John Roche
Michael Roth’s legacy is secure. The senior pitcher from Greer is the face of South Carolina’s back-to-back College World Series titles, led the Gamecocks back to Omaha for a three-peat attempt and is the greatest athlete in school history.
Roth’s numbers in baseball — a 26-6 record — come with lots of zesty toppings.
Undefeated in 11 NCAA tournament starts, seven of them in Omaha.
Scholar. More academic awards than baseball honors.
Lots of charity work.
“More than anyone knows about,” USC coach Ray Tanner said.
Roth emerged as a sophomore, if not quite from nowhere, from a crowded bullpen. He came to South Carolina primarily as a potentially helpful left-handed hitting first baseman. Before the 2010 College World Series, Roth had zero wins in two career starts (Georgia Southern and College of Charleston) over two seasons.
But he wound up beating Clemson when the Gamecocks were a loss away from elimination in the 2010 College World Series, and the legend was born.
Rogers and Roche
So many accomplished South Carolina athletes, including Sterling Sharpe, Bobby Bryant and Olympic track star Terrence Trammell. And Matt Price, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Scott Wingo.
But strictly factoring impact as a South Carolina student-athlete, Roth trumps them all.
Even George Rogers, the 1980 Heisman Trophy winner, and John Roche, who made the cover of Sports Illustrated as the best player on Frank McGuire’s elite ACC teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
No doubt, football and basketball draw more fan and TV interest than baseball. Rogers is much better known nationally than Roth. Roche was a three-time All-American and twice was named ACC most valuable player.
Life without Roth
Rogers wins a lifetime achievement contest against any ex-Gamecock. The 53-year-old with the signature smile was the first overall pick in the 1981 NFL draft, led the NFL in rushing as a rookie, rushed for 7,176 yards in the NFL, made two Pro Bowls and has done lots of great work for charity and as an ambassador for USC.
Roche, 62, played in the defunct ABA before joining the NBA and saw action in 479 professional games. Now a Denver attorney, he remains close to Bobby Cremins and many other former Gamecocks from the McGuire era.
But take away Rogers and South Carolina fans don’t get that Heisman Trophy.
Deduct Roche and lose the SI cover and lots of great ACC memories.
Or take away Michael Roth and return those two national championship trophies, probably handing one of them to Clemson.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 843 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff