60 years ago today John "Hi" Simmons led his Missouri Tiger baseball squad to the 1954 College World Series national championship.
As in 1952, the season came down to one game. Win and be the champions; lose and go home dejected.
The Tigers were facing Rollins College again, and Brophy was scheduled to start. But in a curious move, Rollins coach Joe Justice penciled in Bill Cary as his starter. In so doing, Justice penciled the end for Rollins. Cary allowed three hits and two runs in only two innings before Brophy entered the game. But those two runs were all Missouri would need.
Rollins scored one run in the top of the fourth inning, but the Tigers stormed back and scored single runs off Brophy in the fourth and fifth innings. vEd Cook sailed smoothly after Rollins scored its lone run, perhaps helped in part by a little mind game that occurred before the first pitch.
``The very first pitch he threw warming up went all the way to the backstop on the fly,'' Beckman recalled. ``Hi Simmons, he just kind of stroked his chin and said, `Oh boy, here we go.' Evidently that helped get the other team kind of tight, too, because they saw that pitch go to the backstop and they didn't dig in on Eddie.''
Cook finished the day with a complete-game six-hitter for the 4-1 victory and the championship that had proven so elusive just two years earlier. He also struck out eight batters, even more impressive since he didn't know he'd be pitching until the morning of the game.
A day of rain afforded the starters an extra day of rest, and Simmons could have chosen any one of his pitchers for the big game.
(Columbia Missourian, March 14, 1994)
The celebration as the team returned victoriously to Columbia was huge, even though many of the players had other commitments they had to get to and didn't return to Columbia at all.
State Patrol Is Furnishing Escort For Tiger Team
Columbia Daily Tribune, June 17, 1954
Missouri's conquering Tigers are being escorted home from their victory in the NCAA college baseball world series at Omaha by Missouri state highway patrol.
A patrol car met the Tigers' bus when it entered the state at St. Joseph and other patrolmen will furnish an escort as the team travels to Columbia via Kansas City.
Trooper J.R. Phillips will be the escort during the final leg of the journey from Boonville to Columbia where Police Chief Paul Cheavens will meet the bus at the city limits.
The Tigers left Omaha this morning after defeating Rollins College, 4 to 1, for the championship last night and are expected to arrive in Columbia about 5 o'clock this afternoon
``There wasn't a lot of students,'' Dickinson said. ``The whole town turned out. Whoever was there, they turned out.''
Finally they got off the bus to take a victory lap around town.
``They had convertibles line up, black and gold and all that stuff,'' Musgrave said.
Columbia Daily Tribune, 5/14/1994
The entire team returned in the fall of 1994 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the title and the team's induction to the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame during halftime of a Tiger football game.
"It was so damn noisy, and the band never stopped banging. I don't think anyone heard our names when they were announced," Kammer said. "But it still felt good, and I felt proud to be one of 20 people in MU baseball history to ever win a national championship."
Columbia Missourian, 3/14/2001
Team captain Dick Dickinson echoes a sentiment felt by many Mizzou fans: Let's see some more national championships!
"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."
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.
Columbia Daily Tribune, 6/16/2004
And so we tip our cap to the 1954 national champion Tigers, and especially to their leader, John "Hi" Simmons.
In the midst of the youngsters, the streaks, the ups and downs and the jokes was one stabilizing force.
Players looked to him for guidance, and he in return nurtured them and led them through the transition from small-town ball to Division I baseball. He was a teacher, adviser, confidante, father, mother, dictator, scoutmaster and babysitter. He accepted the blame, refused the credit, received the complaints and handed out the accolades. And when he was very, very good, he fielded a winning baseball club while keeping 23 players happy.
That force was coach John 'Hi' Simmons.
Taking the reins of the Tigers in 1937, Simmons coached until 1973. During that time, Missouri finished first in its conference 11 times and second eight times. He had a record of 481-294-3 for a winning percentage of .620, both second in Missouri history to current coach Gene McArtor.
But the true measure of a coach's success goes much deeper than the numbers. The true quality of a coach is reflected in the men from his program - how they grow up. In that vein, Simmons is as successful a coach as there ever was.
His players have gone on to run a family-owned business (Buddy Cox), send sons to military academies (Lee Wynn), found a free-lance public relations firm (Bob Musgrave), become vice president of sales and marketing (Dick Dickinson), and serve as mainstays of the education system as classroom teachers (Wynn and Bert Beckman).
Although he had an aura of toughness, Simmons always kept his sense of humor. Laughter was important to a young, inexperienced team. Simmons recognized this and kept the team loose. Columbia Missourian, 3/13/94
For those whose appreciation of the event isn't complete without it, here are the numbers from the championship game:
Box Score: Championship Game
AB R H O A
Finegan, c 4 0 1 3 0
Talbot, 2b 4 0 0 5 2
Butler, cf 4 0 0 3 0
Helms, 3b 4 0 0 1 2
MacHardy, 1b 3 1 1 8 1
Smith, rf 3 0 1 1 0
a- Doran 1 0 0 0 0
Vancho, ss 3 0 1 1 4
Robinson, lf 3 0 0 2 0
Cary, p 0 0 0 0 0
Brophy, p 3 0 2 0 1
Totals.. 32 0 6 24 10
AB R H O A
Dickinson, ss 5 0 0 1 2
Sickel, 3b 3 2 2 1 1
Musgrave, rf 2 0 0 3 0
J. Schoonmaker, cf 4 0 1 3 0
Gleason, c 4 0 1 8 0
B. Schoonmaker, 1b 3 1 0 5 0
Cox, 2b 1 1 1 4 1
Kammer, lf 3 0 1 2 0
Cook, p 4 0 0 0 1
Totals. 29 4 6 27 5
a - Flied out for Smith in 9th
Rollins. 000 100 000 - 1
Missouri.110 110 00x - 4
E - McHardy, Robinson, Cox. RBI - Vancho, J. Schoonmaker, Gleason, Cox, Kammer. 2B - Brophy. HR - Cox. SB - Finnegan, Cox. S - Musgrave 2. Left - Rollins 5, Missouri 9. BB - Brophy 6, Cook 1. SO - Brophy 3, Cook 3. HO - Cary 3 in 2; Brophy 3 in 6. R-ER - Cary 2-2, Brophy 2-2, Cook 1-1. PB - Gleason. Loser - Cary.
Columbia Daily Tribune, 6/17/54