Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Sid Salter: MSU's National Championship Run Was Our "Field of Dreams" Moment

 What does winning the championship game in the 2021 College World Series mean to the average Mississippi State fan? In a word, everything.

But it’s a mixed bag – joy, relief, redemption, triumph, vindication, and celebration. More than anything, it’s admiration and appreciation for the guts and effort of the young men wearing the M over S logo and sporting maroon and white.

Like the Children of Israel wandering in the wilderness, the quest for a legitimate national championship in a major sport has been as elusive as the Promised Land – or as our marvelous radio announcer Jack Cristil often called it “the Land of Milk and Honey.”

In the lobby of the Marriott up the street from TD Ameritrade Park after the final game of the CWS, I saw retired Mississippi State University senior administrator Dr. Roy Ruby and his son, Robert, relaxing at a table over longneck beers. Robert recently retired from the FBI.

Ruby, in his early 80s, is a diehard Bulldog who has endured a lot of disappointments watching MSU athletics. But his knowledge of MSU sports lore is unmatched as is his general mastery of MSU’s institutional history and culture.

After the Bulldogs took the 2021 CWS crown and the NCAA national championship that went with it, Ruby shook his head and flashed a wry grin before muttering almost as much to himself as to me in his deep and lilting Mississippi Delta drawl: “I never thought I’d live to see it.”

The joy on Ruby’s face was also visible on the face of other Bulldog partisans, alums like retired Mississippi Court of Appeals Chief Judge John J. Frasier Jr. – now in his 90s and leaning on a cane – the Minter City native who briefly attended MSU before joining the military at age 18. As a member of a 15th Army Air Force squadron during World War II, he flew 35 missions over Europe as a turret gunner on a B-24 Liberator and was awarded the Air Medal.

One of the motivating factors that helped Frasier survive his wartime heroics was his zeal to return to then-Mississippi State College.

The Mississippi State faithful came from all over the state and all over the country to witness the Diamond Dawgs play for the national championship. More than 20,000 State fans laid siege to the greater Omaha area during the CWS. Without exaggeration, MSU fans took over the city and the baseball stadium.

The restaurants, bars and shops were filled with maroon-clad pilgrims from the church that Dudy Noble, Paul Gregory and Ron Polk built and where Boo Ferris, Del Unser, Alex Grammas, Rafael Palmeiro, Will Clark, Bobby Thigpen, Jeff Brantley, Hunter Renfroe and so many other Major League Baseball legends played their college ball.

In Omaha, Bulldog and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was perhaps State’s most visible fan along with business leader Richard Adkerson. Palmeiro was there, living and dying on every pitch and educating those around him on how hitters anticipate pitches and the strategies plotted by pitchers. Iconic Polk was there and in demand for autographs and cell phone photos with multi-generational fans.

MSU President Mark Keenum – who as a college student enjoyed the Left Field Lounge with his classmates and is a genuine baseball fan and student of the game – was in the Bulldog locker room just before the final out, helping MSU Athletics staff move the trappings of the coming celebration into place in the dugout to honor our athletes. Later, he exhibited the weary exhilaration of a man who’d completed a marathon.

There’s little wonder. Recent post-season runs in women’s basketball, baseball, and the school’s time at No.1 in the College Football Playoffs rankings during the Prescott era brought MSU millions of dollars in media exposure and contributed to enrollment growth even at a time when demographics would suggest an almost certain decline.

But those measures pale in the shadow of the parade and celebration last week in Starkville and Dudy Noble Field. Everyone in the Bulldog family and in Starkville is standing up a little straighter, with their chests out and smiles on their faces. For in Omaha, our baseball team earned the undisputed right to look friend and foe alike in the eye and say: “We’re No. 1!”

 Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at sidsalter@sidsalter.com.

 


17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great, great read. I concur with Salter—this championship means everything to Mississippi State University, period.

Anonymous said...

And, no matter how much shade is thrown at the cow college in east Mississippi, they are the National Champions.

Anonymous said...

#Hailstate

Wrap It! said...

Before the board gets deep into the eye-poking rivalry, I'd also like to acknowledge the many Ole Miss fans who not only pulled for the Dogs, but posted comments of congratulations on multiple social media pages and blogs.

Stuff About ZeroBear PolyBear said...

Sid, Nice homage to MSU and the Diamond Dawgs, So many of us have waited many many years for this exciting event and now can store away the memories of where we were during the events leading to the accomplishment by the team. As Coach Lemonis said, It is nice to go along for their ride.

Anonymous said...

Wow they are right up there with University of Mississippi Women’s Golf, they finally get their first recognized NCAA National Championship.

Anonymous said...

Truly wonderful read!

Anonymous said...

It was awesome baby ! Now the pressure is really on our NEW coaches in Football and basketball. The new girls b-ball coach is clearly "not the one" going forward and Mike Leach really needs 8 wins this year. Mens basketball is DOA for a few more years.

Anonymous said...

And John Cohen will run Lemonis off just like he did Vic Schaefer and Dan Mullen.

Anonymous said...

MS needs all of the good press it can get. Thanks and congrats to the Bulldogs from an Ole Miss grad.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of the many Ole Miss grads that were actually pulling for MSU.
(yes,I know that's sacrilege)

But come on Sid ... let's not compare a college baseball team to
"The Children of Israel wandering in the wilderness".

Geeze ... your "dawgs" have a long history of great baseball programs.

Anonymous said...

Too bad All the players (not just the more visible ones thanks the Supreme Court) don't benefit financially from successes like this. Or get a stipend for just playing the games. MSU sent me an order form for a framed poster for $250.00. And how much are the coaches' contacts going up?

Anonymous said...

12:33. Another UM alumnus here. I agree. They earned it and should be very proud of their championship. Long time coming. Little ole Mississippi had THREE schools in the final top 25.

MAH-ROOOM said...

You boys in East Batesville will take note that this national championship was not awarded by the Lafayette County Chamber Commerce. It's The Real Deal.

Anonymous said...

Mr John is 95 and his wife drove all the way up there and back for the entire tournament . Amazing story of determination and will. Thank you for telling that about him. He was so proud and excited

Anonymous said...

OK, State won the CWS.

Yay !!!!

Now let's hope they get to back to their basics ...(students up close and personal with a nervous cow as the poor cow gives birth to her calf).

Increasing cheese production.

And for some reason ...
thinking Starkville is close to Oxford (at any level).



Anonymous said...

What an immature, self conscious, insecure child.


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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.


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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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