It's time for our annual year-end awards, named in honor of John "Hi" Simmons' signature gesture.
The highlight of the season came on April Fool's Day, when I had the pleasure of watching a no-hitter, the first this old fan has ever been in a ballpark to see first-hand. A crowd of 677 gathered for the game, but only about a third of them stayed around to see the no-hitter to through to the end. Most of the rest left early after watching the tigers jump out to a 21-0 lead after just two innings. Nothing more to see here. Let's go home!
Some of them were kicking themselves when they heard the final outcome the next morning.
In the second inning, the Tigers scored 17 runs on just 6 hits. They garnered eight walks and four HBP, and benefitted from three balks and an error.
That second inning lasted so long, Max Scherzer had to go to the bullpen to warm up all over again, throwing an inning's worth of pitches while he waited.
And because of those extra pitches, Max was running on will-power alone by the 7th inning. Coach Jamieson went out to the mound in the 7th inning to talk to his ace. The crowd was thinking he surely would not pull Max in the middle of a no-hitter.
In the end, Scherzer finished the 7th inning and was relieved by Michael Cole, a seldom-used pitcher. Eyebrows raised all over the ballpark. Can Mike finish off Max's no-no?
Mike, Tiger fans will always remember you were a Tiger, if for no other reason than you came in and struck out 4 of the 6 batters you faced and earned yourself a spot in the Mizzou Baseball record books for all time.
We tip our cap to you, Max and Mike - and to all the Tigers who scored those 25 runs - for an evening none of us will soon forget.
MU's HBP & OBP MVP
John McKee only managed a .268 batting average for the season, 8th among regular starters. There were times, to be totally (and brutally) honest, when it seemed Johnny Mac wouldn't finish with a batting average even that high, especially during that woeful mid-season slump.
But even in the midst of that slump, a careful perusal of the MU statistics showed an unbelievable irony. The guy who struggled to pile up hits was among the team leaders in On-Base Percentage and Runs Scored.
In fact, at season's end, McKee finished just 2 thousandths behind James Boone for 2nd place in OB% at .455 and finished tied with Hunter Mense for 2nd on the team in Runs Scored (62, 1 behind Derek Chambers' 63).
The secret to Johnny Mac's success? He led the team with 53 bases on balls (far outpacing #2 James Boone's 38 and finishing 2nd in the Big XII behind Nebraska's Alex Gordon) and outdid everyone with 23 Hit-By-Pitch.
It became a spectator sport in its own right to watch McKee lean in while the pitchers threw inside. John would then artfully spin "out of the way" while somehow managing to still get thumped with the baseball and earning a free pass to 1st base. I can only remember one time (there may have been more) when an ump said he didn't try hard enough to get out of the way. Spoil-sport.
In the end (which is where many of those pitched balls hit Johnny Mac), McKee broke the old MU single season record of 19 HBP set by John Hay back in 1993.
A Tip of the Cap to John McKee for getting on base - and getting back home - any way he can.
(Parents of Tiger Athletes)
Karen Rallo, who had a virtual lock on this title for 8 years, was no longer around in 2005, so Glenda Admire stepped up to the plate and served as the central conduit for information between the families and friends of the players, organizing meals for the players, tailgate parties for everyone and who knows what else. You deserve a Tip of the Cap, Glenda, for all your hard work.
"First in the Standings; Last in Attendance"
At one point in the season, the Tigers really were in first place in the Big XII, but in last place in Big XII home attendance. Overall, the attendance figures looked like this (ranked from highest attendance to lowest):
Kansas Saturday 05/14/2005 2143
Kansas Friday 05/13/2005 1904
Kansas Sunday 05/15/2005 1426
SMS Tuesday 05/03/2005 871
Oklahoma Saturday 04/23/2005 851
Texas A&M Saturday 04/09/2005 832
Oklahoma Sunday 04/24/2005 821
Oklahoma Friday 04/22/2005 787
Texas A&M Friday 04/08/2005 694
E. Michigan Friday 03/04/2005 688
Texas Tech Friday 04/01/2005 677
Texas A&M Sunday 04/10/2005 673
E. Michigan DH Saturday 03/05/2005 629
Texas Tech Sunday 04/03/2005 608
E. Michigan Sunday 03/06/2005 465
Youngstown St Saturday 03/12/2005 452
Texas Tech Saturday 04/02/2005 408
SEMO Wednesday 04/13/2005 367
N. Dakota St Friday 03/18/2005 334
N. Dakota St Sunday 03/20/2005 297
N. Dakota St DH Saturday 03/19/2005 280
Youngstown St Sunday 03/13/2005 272
Youngstown St Monday 03/14/2005 262
Illinois State Wednesday 03/09/2005 224
Promoting & Publicity
2004-2005 was an athletic season that many Mizzou fans would rank as one of the lowest in the school's storied history. The Football team fell fall short of over-blown expectations, and the Men's Basketball team suffered what was without question one of the most disastrous years on record, what with disppointing on-the-court results, NCAA sanctions and the unfortunate problems with the naming of the new arena (not to mention the disappointing attendance in its inaugural season).
And yet it was an excellent season in MU Athletics overall. One report shows that MU ranked 4th in the Big XII in overall sports results. The reason is that the "Olympic" sports, the non-revenue sports, did remarkably well this year.
Baseball was among the leaders in that charge to excellence, posting its first 40-win season since 1991, being the only Big XII school besides Texas to make the NCAA Regionals for the third straight year, putting a consistently exciting "product" on the field, led by the best pitcher in the Big XII.
But where, oh where was the publicity and promotion for the Baseball team (or any of the other Olympic sports)? It was so little as to be easily missed entirely.
Quite late in the season, fliers were mailed out advertising some late-season Big XII matchups. Free tickets were distributed liberally for the Kansas series (the final 3 home games of the season).
A late-season game was designated as Greek Night, with special events and contests planned for the fraternities and sorrorities. The only problem was that most of the events that evening were poorly planned, even more poorly executed, and left most in attendance wondering what was going on.
I'm no expert in promotion and publicity, but surely a University known for its Journalism and Public Relations programs could come up with a way to market Tiger Baseball.
Eggs: Why is virtually no effort made to market MU baseball? Arguably this program has had more success since the Big 12 started then football or basketball. Hell, we finished 4th this year. How many times in the last 10 years has that happened in football or basketball? We have a very nice stadium here in Columbia and a lot of times some nice weather. I would go out and tailgate and have a great time and then go watch the game. I think with just a little bit of marketing they could make this much bigger. We also seem to have a coach with this team that is easy to get behind in Jamieson. Missouri is a great baseball state. Why does this program seem to get virtually ignored? I know $$$ has something to do with it, but I even think marketing this program could help them with that.
fpsloo: Every team that finished below Missouri has a better operational baseball budget and the coaching staff makes more in salaries. You can look it up
Attendance in 2005 averaged just 70 more than in 2004. Most of that increase was realized in that final Kansas series, the only series that was promoted with any intensity at all. Without the KU attendance (average 1,824), the season attendance average drops to 547.
Wash-out of the Year
Once again, the Oakland A's Spring Training Tournament turned out to be much less than the Tigers expected, managing to play only one game out of the tournament schedule, due in part to rains in the Phoenix area but also due to the Oakland A's preoccupation with keeping their fields in pristine condition for the upcoming Spring Training.
The worst part of losing those games, in retrospect, was losing the scheduled two games against Oregon State, a team which is now headed for the College World Series and would have provided the tigers with an early challenge against a worthy opponent, as well as a much-needed RPI boost.
Here's a tip of our cap to the MU Coaching staff if they manage to find an alternative sunny location to play in February.
If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all . . .
Longstanding fans of the Tigers were pleased to see Abel Newton rejoin the Tigers for 2005, after a long and winding road that carried him away from MU after his impressive Freshman season in 2002. He was an All Big XII Freshman Team selection that season, but was hampered by nagging injuries.
Following that season, Abel underwent surgery, and for the next 2-1/2 years went on and off the rehab list while briefly appearing on the rosters of Arkansas-Fort Smith and Southwest Missouri State.
He returned to the MU roster in time for the 2005 Spring semester, reportedly feeling 100% and ready to go.
He looked good through 14 innings and 5 appearances, posting a 2-0 record with 1 save and an impressive 2.57 ERA.
But then came another injury, a torn labrum in his shoulder, which required yet another season-ending injury.
We wish Abel the best and a speedy and healthy recovery. And we tip our caps to him for being a battler.
Tim Jamieson continues to confound the nay-sayers
Coach Tim Jamieson finally seems to be getting a little of the respect he has earned. And rightfully so.
After a few disappointing seasons, when voices were calling for Jamieson to be replaced, the coach has turned things around.
Despite being picked to finish in the cellar each of the past three years, the Tigers in 2005 posted their first 40-win season since Gene McArtor's 1991 team, and became one of only two Big XII teams (besides powerhouse Texas), to earn an invitation to the NCAA Regionals for the past three years straight.
Coach J has garnered some well-earned attention as a result, including being whispered as a possible candidate to replace Larry Cochell as the head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners.
We will tip our cap to Mike Alden if he manages to hang on to Tim Jamieson, and we will tip our cap to T.J. no matter where he is coaching next year.
Freshman of the Year
Jacob Priday earned this honor both by merit and by default. Only one other Freshman saw playing time in 2005 (Evan Frey had 55 at-bats in 28 games). But Priday grabbed onto a starting position early in the season and went on to lead the team in home runs and slugging percentage.
Transfer of the Year
Derek Chambers had the most impact for the Tigers as a position player, ably filling the shoes of the departed Cody Ehlers, both at first base and at the plate.
Andrew Johnston did the same for the pitching staff, becoming the Tigers' long-relief man and sharing closing duties with Taylor Parker.
Comeback of the Year
Zane Taylor struggled in the 2004 season with a bad shoulder, his average dropping to .270. Zane came back to post the third highest batting average on the 2005 team at .321
...and a Tip of the Cap to
The 2005 Tigers
An exciting team that got fans excited more than any year for a long while. And with so much of the core of this team returning for 2006, we look for next year to be a truly amazing season.
Thanks, guys, for a great time!