OXFORD, Miss. — Wrigley Field is known as the world’s largest outdoor bar. The right field hill at Oxford-University Stadium on the campus of Ole Miss should be known as the world’s largest outdoor campus bar.
Many students lug in a cooler full of beer, cokes, water, liquor and ice to the hillside. No one really knows the rules concerning the beer and liquor but everyone pours their drink into a red cup and attempts to throw their empty beer cans into a trash can at the bottom of the hill.
When some students found a cooler after Friday night’s game against Monmouth, they discussed whether to take it or not after talking about it like it was a car they were about to buy. The main feature despite the missing lid was the all-terrain wheels the cooler featured.
“Those look like they’re custom made,” one student said. “Might have cost $30-40 per wheel plus that’s a good brand.”
Ole Miss freshman Ryan McDurmot got in line to enter the stadium at 5:30 a.m. Saturday. He left the stadium at nearly 10:30 p.m. Friday after Ole Miss beat Monmouth in the first game then returned to the stadium seven hours later to get in line for Saturday’s winner bracket game.
“You just sit in line, talking to your friends and playing cards,” McDurmot said.
McDurmot had to stake his claim at the top of the student hill in right field where beer cans pile up after the fourth inning, lawn chairs are clustered so tightly together that students have to crawl over each other to get out of the mob.
When the gates opened Saturday, it was like the Oklahoma land rush trying to get one of the select 15 or so tent spots available. Three people from McDurmot’s group rushed to claim the same spot they had for Friday’s double header. About 750 lawn chairs are put below the tents so close that people’s elbows touch.
McDurmot’s tent featured a light up Coors Light sign, a couch he picked up off the curb on Saturday morning and an iPod and speakers blasting music between outs. They also had frozen margarita mix and a blender. A grill cooked sausage, hamburgers with Swiss cheese and ribs. In the sixth inning, it was time to eat the home-made chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream they had mixing for most of the day.
After each inning when the Rebels are done warming up, the outfielder chucks the ball into the student section. Whoever catches the ball writes something on the ball and then tosses it back when the team comes back to warm up again. That’s how it goes for nine innings with the student section playing catch with the players.
The ball has the traditional sayings written on it from “Go Ole Miss” to the traditional chant “Hotty Toddy” and "Go to Hell, LSU" in reference to the Rebels' biggest rival. By the seventh inning, the ball is covered in ink. Saturday’s baseball had a woman’s phone number on it and some things about Western Kentucky.
When the ball is tossed back to the outfielder, he looks for what’s new on the ball then usually shakes his head.
Here at Ole Miss, the basketball team has been bad for so long that the baseball team is the second most popular team on campus behind the football team despite not making the College World Series since 1972.
The Rebels have hosted a regional in six of the last seven years and 9,110 were in attendance for Saturday’s winners bracket game against Western Kentucky. The Rebels average over 4,000 fans a game for the entire season including the 750 or so students that crowd into the right field hill to watch their team. For comparison, Missouri drew 4,000 fans when it hosted a regional in 2007 but many times this season fewer than 1,000 fans showed up to Taylor Stadium.
When the final out in the Rebels' win was recorded on Saturday, McDurmont’s tent blasted the Rebel fight song and did the “Hotty Toddy” chant to the players huddle in right field as students tossed the remaining beer in their cups up in the air in celebration.
“It’s tradition,” McDurmont said.