Sunday, July 29, 2012

SEC Fan's Guide to Mizzou Baseball: 1954 National Champions

1954 CWS Champion MU Tigers
Missouri Tiger Baseball in 1954 was quite different from the modern version in many ways.

Most notably, there was no Simmons Field, not to mention Taylor Stadium. Simmons was the name of the Head Coach - John "Hi" Simmons - and his team played their home games at Rollins Field, in the heart of the campus. The field was located, logically, on Rollins Road, near the still-standing Brewer Field House. As is apparent from the photos on this page (taken during the 1954 season), Rollins Field lacked some of the amenities now available at modern Taylor Stadium.

The Tigers played a 20-game regular-season schedule, including 12 games against Big Seven Conference rivals (Iowa State, Kansas State, Colorado, Oklahoma, Nebraska -- MU and Kansas did not meet on the diamond that year, due to a rain-out). They then advanced directly to the College World Series, where they played just six games against five opponents on their way to the national championship.

Norm Stewart
University of Missouri Freshmen did not play on the varsity baseball team in those days. The entire roster listing for the '54 Tigers includes only 20 players, compared to 33 ballplayers in '03.

One of the players on that roster was sophomore pitcher Norm Stewart.  Stormin' Norman is better known as the long-time coach of Missouri Basketball, but back then he was a two-sport player.  HE even threw MU's first no-hitter in

For a detailed retelling of the 1954 College World Series Championship season, check out the day-by-day game-by-game recreation of that season I did here on back in 2004, on the 50th anniversary.

SEC Baseball Fan's Guide to
Mizzou Baseball
♦ Former Tigers reflect on 1954 national title. (Columbia Tribune, Wednesday, June 16, 2004)
"Certainly nobody would have ever said this would be the only NCAA championship Missouri would ever win in a true team sport in the history of the university," said [Dick] Dickinson, one of three seniors on the ’54 team. "There were some great teams later on in the ’50s and ’60s, but nobody ever did it again. It’s really incredible."
"Some ballclubs just seem to find out how to win," said [Norm] Stewart, a sophomore pitcher for the ’54 team. "And everything seems to go well for them in critical situations. … Coach Simmons, if he wasn’t the best coach during that time … then he was one of the top two or three coaches in the country. You take the coaching and those unique players, and everything else seemed to fall in place. It was a loose group, and nobody ever thought about losing a game."
George Gleason caught and batted fifth. After a prolific week in Omaha, he was voted the team MVP.
"Our catcher was exceptional at understanding baseball and calling pitches," Stewart said. "He was a very good hitter, too."
"We just had the right blend," [Emil] Kammer said. "We had a couple seniors to keep us in line because we were always doing something crazy. But I think it was just one of those years."
"As they say, a lot of times a person can’t panic if he doesn’t realize his position," Stewart said. "The seniors and some of the older guys, they kept it serious enough. The young guys, we just figured we’ll just go out and play."
"It was a better diamond than Wrigley Field, which I played on as a kid in some all-star games," Dickinson said of Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium. "I told the guys on the bus, ‘If we make errors on this diamond, we ought to be thrown off the team.’ I think we made three errors in six games. They ask me what I hit in the College World Series, and I say, ‘Nevermind that. I was 33 for 33 in the field.’ "
Stewart said he doesn’t even remember any of the players’ parents attending the World Series games.
"Heck, my parents didn’t even know I went out for baseball," he said.
The team will be honored again this fall, marking the 50th anniversary, during the football team’s opening weekend Sept. 3. Two players, Bob Schoonmaker and Eldon Morgan have died, but 16 of the remaining 18 players have committed to attending the reunion.
"It’s going to be a great weekend for a lot of great guys," Stewart said.

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