The average sports fan can typically rattle off a long list of historic football moments and basketball memories, but it might take some research to come up with some famous baseball moments.
Fans will always remember Desmond Howard striking the Heisman pose, or Jim Valvano rushing the court as NC State wins the Final Four. There are a ton of magical, historical moments in college sports, but it might not be as easy to drop a baseball example if you aren’t a diehard fan.
While baseball may not have always been the most historic of sports on college campuses, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t had its share of extremely memorable moments. Take a look at our list of the top 5 most historic moments in college baseball.
The Most Historic Moments in College Baseball
These are the most memorable moments in the history of the college baseball world series and regular season.
- Big Dave
- The Grand Illusion
- Sunset, Sunrise
- Big Bats
- Fairly Offensive
1. Big Dave (1973)
While Dave Winfield got to the Hall of Fame as a big-hitting outfielder for the Padres, most people don’t even know that he had been an imposing pitcher for the 1973 Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Winfield fanned 14 Oklahoma Sooners in his first game in Omaha, then struck out 15 USC Trojans in his next start. Even though Winfield and Gopher relievers couldn’t hold off the juggernaut Trojans, his 29 strikeouts over two games was unforgettable.
2. The Grand Illusion (1982)
Ron Fraser’s Miami Hurricanes was one of the greatest dynasties in college baseball. In one of the wildest moments of baseball history, the Hurricanes won their first College World Series. The famous play, known as “the Grand Illusion,” helped Miami become the 1982 National Champs, beating NCAA-leading base stealer Phil Stephenson’s Wichita State Shockers and surprising the world.
Stephenson was taking his usual lead off first base when the pitcher threw the ball to first in an attempt to pick him off. Steve Lusby, the first baseman, dove to the ground trying to field Miami pitcher Mike Kasprzak’s errant throw – except Kasprzak never threw to first. Stephenson had turned and darted towards second, only to find Kasprzak tossing the ball to the shortstop for an easy tag. Thanks to relatively new ESPN coverage, the play made a national splash.
3. Sunset, Sunrise (2010–2012)
The South Carolina Gamecocks have been a popular guest in Omaha, Nebraska for the College World Series. As one of the great dynasties to come out of the south, there are many great years of baseball to look back on, but 2010 to 2012 were particularly memorable for Gamecock fans. Ray Tanner’s team out of Columbia, SC would make it to the College World Series finals in all three seasons, winning back-to-back national championships in 2010 and 2011.
Winning two CWS championships consecutively is very rare, only South Carolina, LSU, Stanford, Oregon State, Texas, and Southern California have done so, and the Trojans are the only team to have won more than two times in a row (five times from 1970 to 1974).
What makes the Gamecocks’ back to back victories so unique is it marked a key moment in Omaha baseball history; the 2010 College World Series was the last to be played at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium.
The Gamecocks lost the first game in Omaha, but ran up six-straight wins, including a two-game sweep of UCLA in the best of three championship series. The win marked the University of South Carolina’s first national championship in a men’s sport. The venerable Rosenblatt Stadium was retired in grand fashion, making room for a change.
The following year, in 2011, South Carolina would return to Omaha, this time to play in TD Ameritrade Park’s first CWS. The beautiful new park was a shining commitment by the city of Omaha to the NCAA in order to provide a home to the College World Series.
In that year, the Gamecocks would show up in Nebraska with an untarnished postseason record and then run through the rest of the CWS field. With their perfect postseason of 10-0, they became the first team to ever go undefeated in NCAA baseball playoffs. They also became the first team with 16 consecutive postseason wins and 11 consecutive College World Series wins.
4. Big Bats (1998)
The 1998 College World Series final matched the University of Southern California against Pac-10 rival Arizona State. A 21-14 score sounds entertaining for a warm October afternoon, but make no mistake, the Trojans and Sun Devils were absolutely playing baseball in Omaha that day.
The fireworks started early, with the Trojans sprinting to an 8-0 lead, but the Arizona Sun Devils would close the gap and get the score to 9-8 by the fifth inning. Both teams were hammering home runs on June 6, but USC eventually outscored the Sun Devils to claim the College World Series title. In fact, the number and length of home runs in that series were so ridiculous that the NCAA rules committee was forced to call for the dampening of college baseball’s characteristic aluminum bats.
5. Fairly Offensive (1961 & 1957)
There have only been two 1-0 wins in the history of the College World Series final. In 1961, the Trojans of Southern Cal eeked out a win against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Rod Dedeaux’s squad had just enough gas in the tank to outlast the Cowboys. In 1957, the California Golden Bears topped the Penn State Nittany Lions to remain undefeated in that season’s CWS.
The 2021 College Baseball Season
This year was historical itself, marking the first time that teams were advised of the possibility of hosting regionals and super regionals before Selection Monday. The NCAA did this to give potential host cities ample time to set up required COVID-19 protocols.
Could this year’s biggest memories actually occur off the field? That matter might be up to personal preference, but it’s safe to say the 2021 College World Series has certainly been entertaining on the field!