Sveum shadowed by more famous cousin

Nordmenn of baseball

Dale Sveum

Photo courtesy of Kansas City Royals
Kansas City Royals bench coach Dale Sveum (right) fistbumps All-Star catcher Salvador Perez.

Michael Kleiner
The Norwegian American

It doesn’t necessarily say much about your reputation when your bio highlights who you are related to. Or that you were mistaken for a quail while hunting with a former teammate. Dale Sveum is “a cousin of John Olerud.” That’s how I found out he should be included in this series on Norwegian-born and Norwegian-American baseball players.

He didn’t have Olerud’s numbers, but the utility infielder played 12 years for seven teams (1986-88, 1990-1999). It’s one of the oddities of sports that the lesser players become coaches and managers. Sveum has earned some championship hardware as a coach and is currently the bench coach for the Kansas City Royals.

Sveum was born Nov. 23, 1963, in Richmond, Calif., and attended Pinole Valley High School. He starred in football, basketball, and baseball, earning all-state and all-American recognition as a quarterback. He was offered a football and baseball scholarship to Arizona State University. However, the Brewers selected him in the first round, 25th overall, in the 1982 draft.

In 1986, he got a call to the Show. In his debut on May 12, Sveum doubled for his first career hit. Sveum appeared in 91 games, batting .246 with seven dingers and 35 RBIs.

The 1987 campaign looked like a breakout season as Sveum hit .252, clubbed 27 doubles and 25 homers, and drove in 95 runs. Three of his homers came in a game against the California Angels on July 17. It turned out to be a blip.

A collision with outfielder Darryl Hamilton late in the 1988 season cost Sveum the 1989 campaign with a badly broken leg.

Over the next few seasons, he struggled to hit .200, with a couple of stints back in the minors. In December 1991, the Brewers traded Sveum to the Philadelphia Phillies. After hitting .178 in 54 games with the Phillies in 1992, he was dealt to the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 8, where he batted .219.

He spent time in the majors with the Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates, and New York Yankees, as well as various minor league teams. His best MLB season in that time was 1997, when he played in 126 games and hit .261 with 20 doubles, 12 homers, and 47 RBIs for Pittsburgh. Sveum did get lucky, playing in only 30 Yankees games in 1998, none in the World Series, but earning a championship ring.

His career stats: .236 batting average, 125 doubles, 69 homers, and 340 RBIs.

There was still life in baseball for Sveum. At age 37, he was named manager of AA Altoona in the Eastern League. After a 63-79 record in his inaugural season, Sveum managed Altoona to its first back-to-back winning seasons and a playoff appearance in 2003. Baseball America tabbed him “2003 Top Managerial Prospect in the Eastern League.” The Boston Red Sox hired him as the third-base coach in 2004, the year they snapped their 86-year World Series Championship drought.

Sveum returned to Milwaukee in 2006, where he stayed until 2011. He was the third-base coach in 2006 and 2008 and bench coach for manager Ned Yost in 2007. When Yost was fired with 12 games left in the 2008 campaign, Sveum was named interim manager, guiding the Brewers to a 7-5 record and their first playoff appearance since 1982. They lost to the Phillies in the National League Division Series. Sveum filled out his tenure in Milwaukee as hitting coach.

The Chicago Cubs gave him his break, hiring him as manager on Nov. 18, 2011. The rebuilding Cubs suffered through 61-101 and 66-96 seasons and he was fired.

That may not have been the most embarrassing moment during that time. In December 2012, he went quail hunting with former Brewer teammate and Hall of Famer Robin Yount, when he was accidentally shot in the right ear and back with BBs. The Chicago Tribune reported:

“Yount lost track of where Sveum was, shooting at a bird behind Yount.

“He pulled the trigger, and I was like, ‘Uh oh,’” Sveum said. “Luckily, I was just kind of climbing, looking for birds myself when it was behind me. So, I got drilled with pellets in the back and one stuck in my ear.”

Yount bagged the bird, too. Sveum’s players teased him, but he took it amicably.

A few days after his firing by the Cubs in 2013, Kansas City manager Ned Yost hired him to be third-base coach. On May 29, 2014, he was named hitting coach. The Royals batted .268 with 74 home runs and averaged 4.1 runs the rest of the season, which resulted in a World Series appearance. In 2015, the Royals won their first World Series in 30 years, providing Sveum with his third ring—one more than his cousin. In 2017, KC set the team record for home runs in a season with 193. He earned a promotion to bench coach.

Meanwhile, some of the foundation Sveum laid in Chicago bore fruit, as the Cubs made the playoffs in 2015 and won their first World Series since 1906 in 2016.

This article originally appeared in the October 19, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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