Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Tip of the Cap to Kansas Baseball

From the Missouri State University Independent, a Mizzou student-run newspaper, February 8, 1886:

On the 30th of January last there was a meeting of quite a number of baseball enthusiasts held in the Engineering building for the purpose of considering what plans should be laid for the coming baseball season.

This year the chances are very favorable for establishing baseball on a firm basis, and this could once be accomplished those that are in position to know, say, that baseball would then be entirely self-sustaining.

We must have a team placed in the field early this year and one that is able to meet all comers. Challenges from Michigan University, Rush Medical College of Chicago, and from a college in Illinois have already been received, and now that we have an athletic field we probably could get Kansas to attempt to retrieve her shattered fortunes in a contest on the diamond.

The Border War. The Border Showdown. The Border Hoe-Down.

Whatever they're calling it these days.

The MU-KU rivalry ranks right up there with the other great sports rivalries. UND-Duke. Michigan-Ohio State. Yankees-Red Sox. Cards-Cubs. Kewpies-Jays. (I threw that last one in for Larry.)

As shown by that quote above from 126 years past, the rivalry between Missouri (known then as Missouri State University) and Kansas was already well established.

But apparently that rivalry is as dead as jayhawk road-kill.

The annual MU-KU baseball game at Kauffman Stadium was called off this year, presumably because KU's administration (pushed by basketball coach Bill Self), is miffed at the Tigers for leaving the Big 12.  I can't imagine that KU Baseball Coach Ritch Price really wanted to give up a neutral-site series that his team has dominated.

MU has played KU in more baseball games than any other team, compiling a record of 196-131-2.  Kansas was an original member of the Big 6, along with Missouri.

The first game in the official records between Missouri and Kansas was in in 1901, with the Tigers coming out the winners, 6-3.

According to my research, MU and KU met on the diamond earlier than that, as far back as 1899.  A couple of excerpts from the Columbia Missouri Herald that Spring:
May 5, 1899: The base ball team is retrieving Missouri's athletic reputation. In their first game, the one with Nebraska, they beat by a score of 8 to 5. They lost to St. Marys 16 to 11. In the third game they defeated Kansas by a score of 9 to 8. Their last game, the return game with Kemper at Boonville, they won 24 to 6. Curtwright, the new pitcher, is an unusually strong man in the box. He showed up well at all times and but few hits were made off his balls. Hawkins showed that he was a master hand at batting and knocked a home run with the first ball the crack Kansas pitcher threw him. Saturday night when the news of the victory over Kansas was received the boys made merry with a parade (robe de nuit). They went to the two colleges and cake walked and danced just to celebrate and for the benefit of anyone who might wish to see them.
. . .
May 26, 1899: The Missouri-Kansas base ball game Monday evening was one of the best base ball games ever seen here. A good crowd was out and the men of both sides in fine condition. The play was rapid and excellent, Missouri making only 4 errors, Kansas 7. This game gives Missouri the intercollegiate championship between the colleges of Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. The M.S.U. boys have lost only two games this season and have reason to be proud of themselves.
MU-KU Baseball has spawned its own stories and legends and villains.  I've asked other long-standing Mizzou Baseball fans what they remember most about the MU-KU rivalry.  Their answers included:

That last one stands out in the memory of many MU Baseball fans.

Who could forget the battle between MU and KU at the Big 12 Tournament in 2006.  The Tigers lost that game, which allowed the Jayhawks to move on to the championship game.

But the game stands out not for who won or lost the game, but for the brawl that took place at third base between Mizzou's Brock Bond and KU's Ryne Price (one of three of Head Coatch Ritch Price's boys).

Jayhawks fight way into finale (Lawrence Journal World, 5/26/2006)
In a road rendition of the Border Showdown, bad blood spilled in the second inning when KU's Ryne Price, rounding the bases during a home-run trot, dipped a shoulder into Missouri third baseman Brock Bond.

The two players locked up and soon were on the ground scuffling. Players from both schools immediately scurried to the scene from positions, the dugouts and the outfield bullpens. Fists were flying in some confrontations.

Several players had to be restrained by teammates as the two sides faced off near the Kansas dugout.

The umpires and coaches eventually cleared the field, and the two head coaches met with the umpires to discuss ejections, which were handed out to Bond and Price, the sophomore son of Jayhawks coach Ritch Price.
Another game sticks in my memory for a more personal reason.  It was the game that taught my son an important lesson.

On March 24, 1998, senior pitcher Jay Bell took the mound against the Jayhawks in a mid-week game and pitched one of the quickest, most dominating shutouts I've ever seen. (Read the Columbia Daily Tribune's account of the game)

After the game fans were laughing and trading high fives. And the father of one of Bell's team-mates told his son to go invite the pitcher to go with them to dinner, because he had just earned "the biggest, best steak he ever had".

My son, who was about 12 at the time, asked me, "What's the big deal? I thought you said this one doesn't even count in the conference."

And so I had the traditional father-son "facts of life" conversation - the facts about the evil birds from Lawrence and the necessity of always affirming the eternal truth that "KU Sucks".

And he has never forgotten the lesson he learned that day.

Oh, and one last thing.  This salute to KU Baseball would not be complete without yet another airing of  the most memorable KU video ever:

Here's a Tip of the Cap to the Kansas Jayhawks and Big 8 Baseball. May we meet again. Diamonds are forever.

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