Title never in doubt for Tigers

Monday, June 7, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:29 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Senior Dick Dickinson gave the 1954 team a stern warning before it reached Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series.

The Tigers had played on archaic Rollins Field all season and Dickinson, who had been to Rosenblatt Stadium as a sophomore when Missouri lost 8-4 to Holy Cross in the championship game, knew what awaited them.

“When you guys step on this field, you’re going to love it; it’s like a soft pool table,” Dickinson said. “If we make as many errors up there as we did during the regular season, we should be shot.”

Junior Jerry Schoonmaker, the leading hitter for Missouri, said he remembers the moment he thought the Tigers were going to be champions. He said there was a line shot in the first game in Omaha that third baseman Todd Sickle made a diving stop on and fired to first for the out.

“I said to myself, ‘Ain’t no way we can lose this thing, not with plays like that,’” Schoonmaker said.

The Tigers were solid in the first game, beating Lafayette 5-3, but faltered in their second game, losing 4-1 to Rollins, putting them one game away from elimination for the rest of the tournament.

Sophomore Ed Cook pitched the next game against Massachusetts and held a shutout until the ninth inning, helping Missouri win 8-1.

Missouri’s fourth game was against Oklahoma State, then called Oklahoma A&M, and Simmons decided to pitch Norm Stewart, who became Missouri’s legendary basketball coach. Stewart had pitched in relief earlier in the season against Oklahoma State and had not performed well, botching a routine grounder that could have been a double play.

“I threw it over the second baseman’s head by quite a large margin and a large enough margin where it cleared the center fielder’s head,” Stewart said. “That was my contribution to that game.”

When coach John “Hi” Simmons announced Stewart was going to pitch, Stewart was standing in the back of the room and could not hear the announcement, but he did hear fellow pitcher Bert Beckman mutter an expletive.

“Bert, what’d he say?” Stewart said.

“He said you were going to pitch,” Beckman said.

Stewart, who would lead the Tigers in almost every pitching category in 1955 and 1956, showed signs of the pitcher he would become, leading Missouri to a 7-3 win.

Missouri’s semifinal game was against Michigan State and the Tigers took a 3-0 lead, but the Spartans came back, tying the game at 3 heading into the ninth.

Second baseman Buddy Cox led off the ninth with a walk and Simmons called on Lee Wynn for a pinch-hit sacrifice bunt. Wynn had lost the right lens in his glasses wrestling with a teammate and had not told Simmons.

After he fouled away his first two bunt attempts, Wynn swung at a pitch that was nowhere near the plate and went past the Spartan catcher, allowing Wynn to run toward first and Cox to reach third in the confusion. Pitcher Emil Kammer then hit the winning single.

After one rainout, Cook took the mound against Rollins in the championship.

Cook pitched his second complete game of the series, helping the Tigers win 4-1 to become national champions. George Gleason, who struggled at the plate during the regular season, led the Tigers in Omaha, hitting .400 with two home runs and five RBIs. Missouri voted him its Most Valuable Player, but Michigan State catcher Tom Yewcic won the tournament Most Outstanding Player award.

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