OMAHA, Neb. – In the beginning, there was Game No. 1 of the College World Series. June 27, 1947, when California scored 15 runs in the last three innings to crush Yale 17-4. The Yale first baseman went 0-for-4 that day, and his name might ring a bell. George H. W. Bush.
Flash forward to Monday afternoon. Florida State is playing Cal State Fullerton in the 1000th game of the College World Series, and things have certainly changed. They didn’t have replay reviews back in 1947, and doubtful they had $25 foot-long calzones at the concession stand.
“I think the soul of the event stays the same,” Jack Diesing Jr. is saying. One thousand games means millions of visitors, and a bottomless influx of kids at possibly the most family-friendly national championship there is. Diesing mentions how hard they work for that to happen.
He is president and chairman of the board of College World Series of Omaha Inc. He is also the son of the late Jack Sr., one of driving forces who joined this town and this tournament. The Most Outstanding Player Award carries his father’s name. Game No. 12 of the CWS was the first one played in Omaha, by the way. Rutgers over Texas 4-2 to open things in 1950. The next 988 have been in the same city.
So No. 1000 ought to mean something to him.
Welcome to Omaha. pic.twitter.com/dzNAz2RG2o— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 18, 2017
“I guess one thing you’d say it means is, it’s emblematic of how Omaha has embraced the College World Series, the fans have embraced the College World Series, the teams love coming here, the players love coming here. All roads lead to Omaha,” he says. “The other thing it says to me is, this has been a very successful event. It’s something we don’t take for granted.”
In a thousand CWS games, there have been 115 shutouts, 83 walk-off victories, and two no-hitters. Ninety have gone extra innings, 275 were won by a single run.
Only 19 of the thousand have been played in under two hours, and the last time that happened was 36 years ago. Twenty-six went longer than four hours – 14 of those in the last 12 years.
Texas has played in 144 of them, winning 85 and losing 59.
No.100 was a national championship game, Wake Forest over Western Michigan 7-6 in 1955.
No. 164 was the last no-hitter, Oklahoma State’s Jim Wixson over North Carolina in 1960.
No. 500 was Texas pounding James Madison 12-0 to open the 1983 CWS.
No. 903 was the last game in Rosenblatt Stadium, South Carolina over UCLA 2-1 for the title in 2010.
The 1000th game is also the 52nd that Mike Martin has coached at Florida State, at the age of 73. Throw in his trips here as a player and assistant, he has been in uniform for 5.7 percent of the College Series’ entire history.
“I thought you were going to say, `Do you realize if you lost today, you’d be the losingest coach to ever play in this thing?’” he says afterward. “I didn’t realize any of that. Well, maybe I did. Somebody said something about that the other night, about this being the 1000th game. But I didn’t know that I had been involved in – what did you say, how many percent?”
That’d be 5.7.
“I’m just proud that we had a ballgame today that you truly enjoyed. That was good stuff. I mean, I’m sitting over there in the dugout and I’m not saying everything’s calm, there’s a lot going on inside this young body.”
The 1000th game is like so many before. Good game, good crowd, with both teams hearing cheers, sensing sympathy in the stands. “Everybody’s a home team here,” Diesing says. Florida State rallies for a 6-4 victory. Cal State Fullerton expires with the tying runs on base, and is the first team in 2017 that has to go home, with its ninth CWS loss in a row.
“Well, I can say at least we’re here to lose nine in a row,” coach Rick Vanderhook says.
The best toast for the College World Series as it hits 1000?
“It’s on a lot of people’s bucket lists,” Diesing says.
The workers are busy cleaning up TD Ameritrade Park. Time to get ready for Game No. 1001.