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One major problem—perhaps the major problem—that I had when I was in middle school is that Tom Clancy, even with a 15-year head start, couldn’t write novels as quickly as I could read them. Being addicted as I was to novels about espionage and naval warfare—“submarine novels” was the overarching, somewhat derisive term my parents used on frequent trips to the public library and various bookstores—I had to find a substitute, and after brief and unsuccessful flirtations with Clive Cussler, Robert Ludlum, and a few others, I found one: Patrick Robinson.

Robinson is an Irish writer, now most famous for ghostwriting Marcus Luttrell’s memoir Lone Survivor, later adapted into the Peter Berg movie of the same name. But around the turn of the century, Robinson published an excellent series of submarine novels—technothrillers of such intensity, technical sophistication, expansive world-building and density of profanity as to boggle my 12-year-old mind. I recommend them highly if that’s your cup of tea.

From 1997-1999, Robinson wrote a trilogy of books based largely on the conceit that diesel-electric submarines, operated expertly and at low speeds, could be used to such ends as destroying American aircraft carriers with nuclear-tipped torpedoes or shooting down transatlantic airliners. The third book, H.M.S. Unseen, wrapped up this storyline, and so 2000’s U.S.S. Seawolf embarked on a new tale.

In this book, the titular Seawolf was disabled off the coast of China and ultimately captured, along with its crew, by the Chinese. The situation is made all the more precarious by the fact that the ship’s executive officer is the son of the President of the United States, precipitating a daring rescue by Navy SEALs.[1]

Now seems like a good time to explain how this is related to baseball.

In U.S.S. Seawolf, the names of two minor characters, both Seawolf crewmen, stuck out in my mind: Kirk Sarloos and Chase Utley. At the time the book was written, the real-life Saarloos (spelled differently in the book) and Utley were college baseball players, and I only knew who they were because the Phillies had just drafted Utley in the first round, and Baseball Weekly had recently done a story on Saarloos, and both had distinctive names. Several years later, Colorado Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins came to my attention, and I remembered his name belonging to another minor character in U.S.S. Seawolf as well.

It was a curiosity I couldn’t explain, why a European writer would name his minor characters after obscure college baseball players, or how he’d even come to know about them—all three played their college ball in California, far away from anyplace Robinson lived.

But in recent weeks, reporting my own story on Saarloos (the real-life pitcher-turned-TCU assistant coach, not the fictional U.S. Navy torpedoman) has brought up the mystery again, and in true technothriller fashion, the conspiracy is much wider than I’d previously imagined.

I was able to count 14—and I might have missed some—real-life college baseball players whose names, or names very close to theirs, were used on minor characters in U.S.S. Seawolf, and what they have in common explains the European novelist’s curiously detailed knowledge of turn-of-the-century UCLA baseball.

Robinson’s official bio reads, in part: “He lives in Ireland and spends his summers in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.”

Those 14 ballplayers also spent the summer of 1999 in Cape Cod, as members of the Cotuit Kettleers of the Cape Cod League. Here’s the complete list:

Name (alt. spelling)

College

Character Description

Played in MLB?

Rich Thompson

James Madison

Lt. Commander, Marine engineering officer on USS Seawolf

Yes

Andy Cannizaro

Tulane

Petty Officer Third Class, USS Seawolf

Yes

Chase Utley

UCLA

Petty Officer, USS Seawolf

Yes

Garrett Atkins

UC-Irvine/UCLA

Lieutenant (j.g.), U.S. Navy SEALs

Yes

Brad Stockton

Georgia Tech

Master Chief Petty Officer, Chief of the boat, USS Seawolf

No

Shawn Pearson

Old Dominion

Lieutenant, Navigator, USS Seawolf

No

Jason Colson

Winthrop

Petty Officer Third Class, Captain’s writer, USS Seawolf

No

Dan Conway

Providence

Lieutenant, Assault team leader, U.S. Navy SEALs

No

Kyle Frank

Clemson

Lieutenant, Sonar officer, USS Seawolf

Np

Andy Warren

Sam Houston State

Lieutenant, Officer of the deck, USS Seawolf

No

Henry Bonilla

Tulane

Captain, Commanding officer of the USS Jimmy Carter, member of board of inquiry

No

Mike Schultz (Schulz)

Loyola Marymount

Lt. Commander, Engineering officer on USS Seawolf

Yes

Tony Fontana

Bowling Green

Seaman Engineer, USS Seawolf

No

Kirk Saarloos (Sarloos)

Cal State Fullerton

Seaman Recruit, Torpedoman on U.S.S. Seawolf

Yes

In addition, Cotuit assistant coach Tim Scannell made an appearance as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and pitcher James Ramshaw, a lefty out of Lewis & Clark College who never played pro ball at any level, turned into Jimmy Ramshawe, a mouthy but brilliant Australian-born U.S. Navy officer who becomes a major character in later books.[2]

“Later books?” you ask. Oh, yes. After the 1999 Cotuit Kettleers showed up en masse in 2000’s U.S.S. Seawolf, Robinson published The Shark Mutiny in 2001, the story of a botched SEAL mission in China that leads to the titular mutiny aboard an American nuclear submarine. In addition to Ramshaw/Ramshawe, eight members of the 2000 edition of the Cotuit Kettleers appeared, along with a couple members of the 1999 squad whose characters carried over, and Twins reliever Jack Cressend, who appears as the Shark’s combat systems officer.[3]

Name (alt. spelling)

College

Character Description

Played in MLB?

Chris Russ

Texas A&M

Lt. Commander, combat system sofficer, USS John F. Kennedy

No

Dallas McPherson (MacPherson)

The Citadel

Lieutenant, Explosives expert, U.S. Navy SEALS

Yes

John Nathans (Nathan)

Richmond

Lieutenant, Explosives expert, U.S. Navy SEALS

No

Matt Singer

Cincinnati

Lieutenant, Officer of the deck, USS Shark

No

Rob Cafiero

Villanova

Chief Petty Officer, U.S. Navy SEALS

No

Daylan Holt

Texas A&M

Rear Admiral, Commander, USS John F. Kennedy battle group

No

Stephen Ghutzman

Wake Forest

U.S. Navy pilot

No

Brian Wright

NC State

Lieutenant (j.g.), U.S. Navy anti-submarine warfare officer

No

A somewhat less illustrious group of baseball players—even McPherson, who made the majors, would’ve killed for Atkins’ career, let alone Utley’s—though their fictional alter egos make up for it by having more interesting jobs and higher ranks. Certainly that’s consolation enough.

In the acknowledgements for The Shark Mutiny, Robinson winks at what was by this point an obvious fascination with college baseball. The last paragraph of his acknowledgements for the novel reads: “The Shark Mutiny is a work of fiction. Every character in it is a product of my imagination only, though there may be certain college baseball players who recognize their names but not their lives, nor any other connection with reality.”

Ramshawe and Ghutzman reappeared in 2003 in Barracuda 945, in which a British SAS officer defects to Hamas and steals a state-of-the-art Russian nuclear submarine with the intention of using it to attack the United States.[4] It might surprise you to learn that the 2001 Cotuit Kettleers have a role to play in this story.

Name (alt. spelling)

College

Character Description

Played in MLB?

Chris O’Riordan

Stanford

Chief petty officer, U.S. Navy SEAL

No

Chris Hall

Indiana State

Lieutenant, U.S. Navy SEAL

No

Zane Green

Clemson

Lieutenant, U.S. Navy SEAL

No

Bill Peavey

Southern California

Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy SEAL team leader

No

Mitch (Mich) Stetter

Indiana State

Petty officer, U.S. Navy SEAL explosives expert

Yes

Scott Wade

Kentucky

U.S. Army Captain, NSA officer

No

Brantley Jordan

Texas

Lieutenant, U.S. Navy Seal bomb-lashing chief

No

Near as I can tell, Robinson stops going to the Kettleers in his later books, though Scimitar SL-2, which comes immediately after Barracuda 945, was the last book in the series that I read, so there might be unknown baseball players hidden in the pages.

In between The Shark Mutiny and Barracuda 945, Robinson dipped his toes into the baseball world for real, with Slider, which takes place in what seems to be a fictionalized version of the Cape Cod League. I don’t know if it’s any good, because I never read it; baseball isn’t nearly as escapist as submarine novels.



[1] I’m getting the shakes just thinking about this stuff—those books were great.

[2] I have no evidence to back this up, and I know he didn’t appear until a later book, but I bet this whole thing started when Robinson took a look at the name “James Ramshaw” and thought to himself, “That’s too good a name not to use in an espionage novel.”

[3] Cressend never played for the Kettleers or any Cape Cod League team, so I’m not sure what his connection to Robinson is.

[4] God, I love submarine novels.

Thank you for reading

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davinhbrown
3/11
Sweet! How excited must you have been to get this connection. Hope to see your continued excellent work on the site for a long time. I love fantasy baseball, and is main reason I come here, but do greatly enjoy the real baseball and side-bar articles too. Keeps the place well-rounded. (What ever happened to John Perrotto?)
jhardman
3/11
This article is too cool for school.
tearecrules
3/11
Oh man, hadn't thought about a Clive Cussler book in years. Cussler went (even further) off the rails once a Dirk Pit Expanded Universe came into creation. Awesome article.
marctacoma
3/11
I believe Cressend did play for Cotuit, albeit before this period. The Cape League lists him playing two years for them, 1995 and 1996.
michaeljbaumann
3/13
So he did--Baseball Cube didn't go back that far. This opens up the heretofore unforeseen possibility that characters from Nimitz Class and Kilo Class were also named after Cape Cod Leaguers as well.