Cowboy’s baseball reunion highlights Mcneese Homecoming
The phone rang late in the summer and the caller ID indicated Jim Bischoff was on the other end. Jim Bischoff, I thought to myself, heck I haven’t seen or heard from him since he graduated from McNeese in 1962. That’s 51 years. What on Earth could he want?
Bischoff and I were in the freshmen class at McNeese State College in the fall of 1959. I was a mere 17-year-old kid while he just finished a four-year hitch in the U.S. Air Force.
After exchanging pleasantries, the former Cowboy fireballer said he wanted to have a reunion for everyone who played baseball at McNeese from 1960 thru 1963 at the 2013 Homecoming on October 19.
I reminded Bischoff that McNeese was recruiting all over the country back then and there’s no telling how scattered these senior citizen ex-ballplayers may be. I told him I’d try to find the few I knew that still were around Southeast Texas and Southwestern Louisiana.
Well to make a long story short, eight of us showed up Saturday afternoon at the Cowboy baseball stadium where present Head Coach Justin Hill was having his Fall World Series Game, which annually spelled the end of McNeese fall baseball practice.
After Bischoff contacted him, Coach Hill thought that the reunion was a great idea and said he would do anything he could to help us pull it off. Several of the present McNeese baseball players told us they were glad for us to be there.
Bischoff drove all day Friday from Bixby, OK. outside of Tulsa, and spent the night at our house in Orange. We headed for Lake Charles around noon and the tailgating festivities already were going strong.
Besides Bischoff and I, the other former McNeese baseball players who showed up for the reunion included Dickie Carr, Carlton Sweeney, Mike Giggar, Amos Ivey, Jimmy Blake and Barney Bridges. Blake and Bridges live in Lake Charles, Giggar is from Welsh and Ivey and Sweeney have relatives living in Lake Charles.
We arrived at the Cowboy baseball stadium and met Carr, who had driven in from near Erie, Pa. He decided to come to our baseball reunion when his wife Jan said she wanted to attend her 50-year class reunion in Morgan City, La. last weekend.
Carr played second base for McNeese in 1961-63 and then returned to Pennsylvania where he worked as a coach, principal and later as a superintendent. His wife Jan put together a scrapbook of those three McNeese baseball seasons and he presented them to players attending Saturday’s reunion.
Amos Ivey, a four-year Cowboy letterman also was on hand. Ivey was one of the best pure hitters in McNeese history. He led the team in hitting in 1958 with a .438 batting average and then came back the following season with an unbelievable .464 average.
Amos was all-Gulf States Conference all four years, was Most Valuable Player twice and recently was inducted into the McNeese Hall of Fame. He served as an athletic director in Georgia for more than 30 years.
Carlton Sweeney was one of the smartest hitters that I played with in my four year career at McNeese. Sweeney would look sick swinging and missing at a curve ball early in the count, and then when he had two strikes on him, he would drill the curve. He set up the pitchers, instead of visa-versa.
Sweeney went to Tulane as the Green Wave’s quarterback for three years and then transferred to McNeese but hurt his shoulder. He played baseball in his remaining two year’s of eligibility for the Cowboys in 1960 and 1961. His grandson is a graduate assistant at Washington State, working for Mike Leach, the former Texas Tech head coach.
Infielder Mike Giggar came in from nearby Welsh where he is a life-long resident. Mike played infield and was responsible for the only time during my career that McNeese defeated Loyola of New Orleans.
With the score tied 3-3, I led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a triple and Mike lined a single to center, giving the Cowboys a 4-3 victory.
Barney Bridges played first base for the Cowboys in 1962, had a good season and signed a contract with the Houston Astros.
A couple of hours before the Homecoming football game between the No. 9 Cowboys and No. 2 Sam Houston State, Jimmy Blake joined us for some tailgate Jambalaya. He was a four-year letterman, playing both shortstop and first base during his career than spanned from 1961-64.
Blake enlightened us for about 20 minutes telling us about how he played semi-pro football for three seasons and averaged an interception in every game. He played fast pitch softball and said he hit three straight home runs over the centerfield fence off pitching legend Bobby Spell (in batting practice).
When he got to golf—he works part-time at Gray’s Plantation as a marshal—and told us he shot his age twice, I stopped him short by telling him that shooting a round of 142 is nothing to write home about.
Bischoff got his degree from McNeese in three years by going to summer school and set the school record with a 1.81 earned run average in 1961. He threw almost as hard as he said he did, and swore he could throw a baseball through a brick wall.
I remember playing against Sam Houston State in 1962 with Bischoff on the mound. McNeese had NEVER defeated the Bearkats during my career and was leading 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning with two out and two on base.
Their All-American center fielder Joe Haney was at the plate, hitless in four trips against Bischoff, and with an 0-2 count. I visited him from my third base position and suggested he waste a couple of pitches on him because we had a base open and Haney was just itching for this kind of situation.
“I still feel strong enough to throw one through a brick wall. One more pitch and this game will be over,” Bischoff predicted. He was quite the clairvoyant as Haney ripped that next fastball over the light tower in right field giving Sam Houston a 6-4 victory.
But Saturday night when Sam Houston came to Lake Charles to play the Cowboys in football it was a different story. After going three-and-out on their first two possessions and trailing 3-0, McNeese scored a touchdown and never trailed again to this team that had not lost a football game since 2011.
The 16,500 fans who shivered through that game after a cold front sent the wind chill factor down to around 40 degrees left Cowboy Stadium very happy as the eight-point underdog Pokes came up with a huge eight-point 31-23 victory.
The win upped McNeese’s record to 6-1 and 2-0, tied with Southeastern Louisiana atop the Southland Conference standings.
KWICKIES…The City of Houston lost two long-time football legends on the same weekend. O.A. (Bum) Phillips, who was born in Orange, passed away Friday and was loved by most football fans, players and fellow coaches. Bud Adams, former owner of the Houston Oilers and one of the architects of the old American Football League, died Monday and was merely tolerated by most football folks. But both made professional football very entertaining to Houston fans, although neither was able to get the team to the Super Bowl.
And speaking of Houston, what a difference a year makes as far as the Texans are concerned. Last year at this time Head Coach Gary Kubiak would tell the media at the post-game press conference that he was pleased with the results but there were several facets of the game that disturbed him. This season—Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs in particular—Kubiak told the press, “I’m proud of my team’s effort, but I’m disappointed in the results.” Last season at this juncture, the Texans were riding a nice undefeated winning streak and Kubiak would magnify picayunish mistakes. Today they are in the midst of a five-game losing streak and would do anything to stop the bleeding. Hopefully he will work their tails off during this bye week and find some competent replacements for the growing list of injured starting players. However, the injuries came DURING the tailspin and are not the reason FOR the five-game slump.
There were nine teams from last week’s Associated Press Top 25 College Football Poll and five in the top 10 that suffered losses last weekend. Alabama and Oregon retained their respective top two spots in this week’s poll, Florida State moved from fifth to No. 3, Ohio State stayed at No. 4 while surprising Missouri catapulted from No. 14 to No. 5. Baylor jumped from twelfth to No. 6, Miami moved up three places to No. 7, Stanford leaped from No. 13 to No. 8, Clemson dropped from third to No. 9 and Texas Tech moved up from No. 16 to No. 10. LSU dropped from No. 6 to No. 13 and Texas A&M fell from seventh to No. 14.
Some high school football results that might be of interest to local fans: Crosby 56, C.E. King 14; Dayton 38, New Caney Porter 0; Humble Summer Creek 27, Humble 11; Cleveland 20, Liberty 12; Lufkin 31, Bryan 19; Brenham 48, Bryan Rudder 24; Texarkana 43, Sulphur Springs 7; Carthage 55, Center 3; Geronimo Navarro 24, Wimberley 14; Jasper 55, Diboll 7.
JUST BETWEEN US…The 2013 World Series begins today at 7:07 p.m. in Boston and will be shown on Fox TV. I’m not real wild about either team, but I know if my mother and wife Susan’s dad were still alive they would be real happy. My mom was perhaps one of the biggest Red Sox fans in the state of New York while Susan’s father, who lived in Missouri, was a big St. Louis Cardinal fan. Both teams have great pitching and good hitting, but because I was a National League fan for so long, I’ll pull for the Redbirds to win the series in six games.