Bob Cerv wasn’t just Nebraska’s first baseball All-American.
He was also square in the middle of one of Major League Baseball’s most famous summers.
As a senior at NU, Cerv led the nation with an .878 slugging percentage while batting .444.
After a stint in the Navy, he signed with the Yankees and had 12 pinch-hit home runs in six seasons before being traded to the Kansas City Athletics.
“I was the big dog in Kansas City,” he said. “Those were my self-satisfaction years.”
His breakout year was 1958, when he hit a Kansas City-record 38 home runs with a .304 batting average and 104 RBIs, and started in the All-Star Game ahead of Hall of Famer Ted Williams. Cerv topped Frank Robinson in the Home Run Derby at the Midsummer Classic.
“I beat Frank Robinson and the next day, I was so (expletive) tired,” Cerv told Fox Sports Kansas City in 2015.
Cerv played a stretch of that season with a jaw that was wired shut and a broken nose following a collision at home plate. The Weston, Nebraska, native was fourth in the MVP voting that season.
Late in his career, he would again spend time with the Yankees, a housemate of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris during the epic 1961 home run race. Cerv was featured in the movie “61*.”
When he retired in 1962, Cerv had spent 12 years in the major leagues, with 31 at-bats in three World Series, including a home run off the Dodgers’ Roger Craig, a .276 batting average and 105 homers.
In between raising 10 kids, Cerv would go on to coach baseball at Southeast Missouri State College. He was also a professor at John F. Kennedy College in Wahoo.
He was even mentioned in the film “Baseball.” In an anecdote about Cerv being shipped from New York to Kansas City, sportswriter Robert Creamer said Yankees manager Casey Stengel told Cerv: “There’s not many people that know this, but one of us has been traded to Kansas City.”
Played for: Weston High, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Kansas City Blues, New York Yankees, Kansas City A's, Los Angeles Angels and Houston Colt 45s
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Bus Whitehead, Nebraska's 6-foot-10 center on the Huskers' first two Big Seven Conference champions in 1949 and '50. Cerv was a guard on those teams. "Bus was the top scorer, the big man. There weren't many players his size in those days," said Cerv, an all-state basketball player at Weston High.
Best moment(s) as an athlete: His "self-satisfaction years," from 1957 to '59 in Kansas City when he got to play every day after sitting on the bench with the Yankees for six years
Cerv was No. 30 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »