Since the Missouri football team played its first intercollegiate game in 1890, there has been one team that brought a national championship to Columbia.
In 1954, the Missouri baseball team won the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., to become MU’s only team champion. John “Hi” Simmons coached the young team that had three seniors, including shortstop Dick “Scooter” Dickinson.
“At that point in time, if you said we would have never won another College World Series in school history, I would’ve said you’re crazy,” Dickinson said.
Enrollment at the university in March 1954 was 7,017. At the beginning of the spring semester, there were two women in the law school, three in the medical school and out of 391 business majors, 12 were women. Tuition was free for Missouri residents and was $112.50 per semester for nonresidents. The total estimated cost for room and board, books and enrollment fees was $400 a semester.
The baseball team played on Rollins Field on what has become the western side of Stankowski Field. Rollins Field had no grass in the infield, no permanent outfield fence and no permanent grounds crew, with each infielder trying to maintain his area to avoid unpredictable bounces.
The 1954 Tigers were one of many strong teams Simmons coached in the 1950s and ‘60s, including the ‘52, ‘58 and ‘64 teams that finished second in the College World Series.
Pitcher Ed Cook, who won the championship game against Rollins College, said 1954 was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Simmons because the team lacked experience. Freshmen were not allowed to play varsity sports, and the team had mostly sophomores and juniors. Sophomore pitchers claimed all five wins in Omaha, including one from Norm Stewart, the former Missouri basketball coach.
“We had some youth on the team that had the egos to go out and play and win,” Stewart said.
After the Tigers started 2-3, it appeared that it was going to be a rebuilding year for Simmons. Right fielder Bob Musgrave, who hit .421 and led the team in doubles as a sophomore, said the team improved quickly.
“We started off rather mediocre,” Musgrave said. “We were young, but everything seemed to catch on fire. I’m not sure if it surprised Simmons, but it probably did.”
Musgrave was the only Columbia native on the team and was an All-State quarterback for the undefeated 1951 Hickman football team. He said he had a habit of reciting poetry to cute girls who walked by while he was playing in the outfield, prompting Simmons to say, “Musty you’re very lucky I know your dad, and you hit so well and play a good outfield.”
Junior center fielder Jerry Schoonmaker, who hit .425 and had nine home runs in 20 games, was the only player who hit better than Musgrave. Schoonmaker played in the major leagues for the Washington Senators in 1955 and 1957.
“There’s only one reason I went there,” Schoonmaker said. “Because of our team.”
Senior Bob Schoonmaker, Jerry Schoonmaker’s brother, played first base, hit over .300 and in addition to baseball, lettered in basketball and football. He led the football team in scoring, kickoff returns and interceptions in 1953.
Behind a pitching staff that had a 2.27 ERA, the talented hitters and fielders led Missouri to an 11-game winning streak and a 17-3 record to take first place in the Big Seven Conference and earn a trip to the College World Series in Omaha.