Van Cleve leaves baseball, medical legacy
Posted on: October 03,2013
Dan Van Cleve, a Jackson doctor who scored more runs than any player in the storied history of Mississippi State baseball, died today. He was 51.
I did not know Dan well, but remember him as as an outstanding centerfielder, who set the table for Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro and Bobby Thigpen when he played for the Diamond Dogs in 1981-85. He scored 232 runs over four seasons and also ranks fourth on State’s career doubles list with 55. He holds the State single season stolen base record with 38, 10 more than any other Bulldog in history.
Ron Polk, Van Cleve’s State coach, did know Dan extremely well and was shocked by today’s news.
“Such a tragic loss, so, so young, so so talented,” Polk said. “I hate to talk about baseball because he became a world class heart surgeon, one of the best. But he was a dynamic baseball player, a key part of some great teams. This is hard to believe. . . . I always knew Dan would be successful, I just didn’t know what he would do.
“We talked about it a lot. I think he was going to be accountant, but he was too much of a type A personality to sit behind a desk. He talked about being a fighter pilot, a firefighter and a lot of other things. Then, he decided on med school an did just what everyone would have expected. He became a great doctor.”
Polk remembers recruiting Van Cleve out of Jackson Prep where Dan was an honors student.
“His parents were Ole Miss people and they had an Ole Miss flag on the front of their house,” Polk said. “When Dan signed with us at State, they flew the flag at half mast.“
Said John Cohen, who guided State to runner-up in the 2013 College World Series, “The word that comes to mind when Dan Van Cleve comes up is accomplished. He was so accomplished in every thing he did. Baseball. Medicine. You name it. I came to State as he was leaving, and he was everything you wanted to emulate in a student-athlete, on and off the field. This baseball program is a family and he was a big part of this family. We will also miss Dan Van Cleve.”
What I would like to do is to set this page for friends, teammates and others to post memories of Van Cleve, who became a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon.
Feel free to post in the comments section…