Sunday, August 12, 2012

SEC Fan's Guide to Mizzou Baseball: Gene McArtor

Gene McArtor 1961
Gene McArtor was a scrappy first baseman for John "Hi" Simmons Tigers from 1961-1964.

After his playing years were finished, he stuck around as an assistant coach to Coach Simmons.  When the legendary Simmons retired after the 1973 season, the task of filling his cleats after 37 years was a daunting one.

Coach Mac took the helm of the Tiger Nine at a time when the playing season was growing and the game was changing.  The 1954 National Champion Tigers played a total of 26 games from the season opener through the championship game of the College World Series.  The record-setting 1964 team played all of 32 games.  McArtor's first team played 42 games (without going into the post-season).  Two years later the Tigers played a 62-game schedule.

The pace of the game and the popularity of the college game were also on the rise.  This was the era when first Ron Polk and then Skip Bertman were dragging the sleepy Southeastern Conference into a new age as a hotbed of college baseball.  Cliff Gustafson had the Longhorns rolling like a juggernaut and Gary Ward was about to turn the Oklahoma State Cowboys into the dominant team in the Big 8.

Gene McArtor and
John "Hi" Simmons
McArtor's Tigers never made it to the College World Series, but they did make appearances in the NCAA Regionals 6 out of his 21 seasons.  They won the Big 8 only three times during a period when the Big was dominated by Gary Ward's Cowboys.

McArtor still holds the record for most wins by a Mizzou Baseball coach, compiling a 733-430-3.  That averages out to about a 35-20 record over the 21 seasons of his career.

He was inducted into the American Baseball Coach's Association Hall of Fame in 1993. He also received the organization's highest honor in 1997, the Lefty Gomez Award. This award is given to an individual who has distinguished himself among his peers and contributed significantly to the game of baseball locally, nationally, and internationally. His number was retired in 1994 and adorns the left field wall at Taylor Stadium.

SEC Baseball Fan's Guide to
Mizzou Baseball
Upon retiring from coaching, McArtor spent several years as a Senior Associate Athletic Director at MU.  He is now the NCAA National Coordinator of Baseball Umpires

Columbia Daily Tribune on McArtor leaving the MU Coaching job, May 8, 1994
Like most MU coaches, McArtor spent most of the '80s trying to compete under a shrinking budget.

``To give in to that means you have no chance,'' he said. ``To just give in and throw up your hands, you have no chance. We tried to make the best of it that we could and in many cases succeeded above the funding level of the program.''

McArtor has had only one losing season. That was in his second year, 1975, when finances were flush in comparison. McArtor played a lot of freshmen that year. The next season, the Tigers won the Big Eight.

McArtor, too, grew into the job. Born and raised in Missouri, he played first base for the Tigers under John ``Hi'' Simmons in the early '60s. After six years of teaching and coaching at St. Louis-area high schools, he returned to MU to achieve a Ph.D in education and assist Simmons. Their combined tenure goes back to 1937.

``I had a clear-cut goal out there in front of me, and that was probably Enos Semore at the University of Oklahoma, who'd won a number of Big Eight Conference championships in a row,'' McArtor said.

``Oklahoma had a very, very successful program within the conference. And along with that, they had five or six key players that were from the state of Missouri. Some out of St. Louis, some out of Springfield.

``So when I took over, that was the goal that we were shooting for. We had to keep Missouri players in Missouri, and Oklahoma was the team that we were trying to catch.''

McArtor played on two College World Series teams but has not made it back as a coach, although six of his teams have made the NCAA playoffs.

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