"Heroes get remembered, but legends never die."
Babe Ruth says this in "The Sandlot," when he comes to Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez in a dream to offer advice. That movie came out in April 1993. Three years and two months later, he could have said it to LSU's Warren Morris.
On June 8, 1996, at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb., Morris became a legend, for his school and college baseball as a whole.
In an epic championship game at the College World Series — in that era, there was a single game for the title, not the current best-of-three series — filled with 17 total runs, 29 hits, four errors, and countless swings of emotion and momentum, Morris hit the final pitch of the college baseball season down the right-field line and over the wall. It was a two-run, game-winning home run to give LSU the dramatic victory and its third CWS trophy since 1991.
On this date, 25 years ago, Warren Morris hit a walk-off home run to win our third College World Series!— LSU Baseball (@LSUbaseball) June 8, 2021
To this day, it’s the only walk-off HR in the CWS Championship game. #GeauxTigers pic.twitter.com/SGT0gn3l51
The moment would have been iconic within any context, especially because in the history of the CWS, it is the only time a walk-off home run has clinched the championship. But with every piece of information about the game and about Morris' season, whether you're learning it for the first time or refreshing your memory for the one-hundredth time, the moment grows in lore.
In the game, LSU came back from a 7-3 deficit to defeat Miami 9-8. At different stages, the Hurricanes led the Tigers 2-0, 5-3, 7-3 and 8-7.
Leading 5-3 in the sixth inning, Miami's Pat Burrell hit what just about everybody in the stadium thought was a grand slam. But on that June day in Omaha, a significant wind blew in. There was a steady breeze at 10 miles per hour with gusts reaching 17 mph. A ball that the Hurricanes were sure would break the game open only brought home one run.
"Pat crushed a ball to straight center," Miami shortstop Alex Cora said after the game to ESPN. "It didn't go out that day because the wind was blowing so hard. When he hit it, he thought it was a grand slam. That ball would've been out. We would have crushed them, you know? But it was just a sac fly."
The Tigers scored twice each in the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings to tie the game at seven. But Cora's RBI single in the top of the ninth put the Hurricanes back in front. They needed three more outs from freshman closer Robbie Morrison, an All-American who had been in the game since the seventh inning.
Brad Wilson led off the bottom of the inning for the Tigers and doubled down the left-field line on an inside-out swing. He advanced on a groundout before Morrison struck out the next batter. Morris would come to the plate with the tying run on third base and two outs.
The fact that Morris was even active in this game was an achievement. Most of his season had been marred by a preseason wrist injury that went undiagnosed, resurfaced, was misdiagnosed, then finally was shown to be a broken bone. He had surgery a little more than two weeks before the NCAA tournament began. All told he missed 39 games.
When he returned to the lineup for the regionals, batting ninth, he was essentially a glorified bunter. Each game and each round, helped by the fact that the Tigers were winning and thus avoiding having to play more games in the double-elimination format, Morris could do a little bit more at the plate. But, emphasis on the little bit. It wasn't until batting practice on the day of the title game, according to NCAA.com, that Morris said he felt like he could swing at 100 percent at last. Merely 29 days had passed since his surgery. Before his final plate appearance, he had already recorded two hits in the game.
The moment happened so fast. He hadn't hit a home run all season. Morrison was one of, if not the best, closers in the country. The best outcome LSU could have been imagining was a base hit to tie the game. The worst outcome Miami could have been imagining was a base hit to tie the game. If the game was going to end with Morris' at-bat, then surely — certainly — that meant Miami would be celebrating on the field.
And then, after one pitch from Morrison to Morris, the game was, in fact, over.
The right-handed pitching Morrison started the left-handed hitting Morris with a curve ball, the same pitch he had struck out the previous hitter with. And, truth be told, it was a pretty good pitch, curving low and inside toward Morris' back foot. But, when any pitcher goes to that location against a lefty, it has to be a great pitch. Because down-and-in is the happy zone.
In a matter of seconds, the game had swung from a potential Miami title to complete bedlam on the field, as every Tiger rushed from the dugout to mob Wilson and Morris at home plate. Cora, Burrell, and other Hurricanes lay facedown in the infield in utter shock and devastation.
"I get around third, and all my teammates are there at home waiting on me," Morris said to ESPN. "I didn't realize I had so many of them. I ended up on the bottom of that pile. You can't breathe, you got buttons missing off your jersey."
Morris' mother Barbara, watching from their home in Alexandria, La., was ecstatic. Then, like all mothers, she quickly grew concerned watching the mayhem of the celebration.
"I was hoping they wouldn't break his wrist again," she said to The Town Talk. She added that her son called her later that day, and she told him how proud of him she was.
Morris' teammate, pitcher Patrick Coogan, recounted the moment before the moment in the dugout.
"Someone — I'm not sure who said it — said 'Warren hasn't hit a home run all year.' The next thing I know, I was on top of the dogpile, holding my hand up high."
With Morris in the lineup that season, LSU went 22-0.
The 1996 CWS championship was LSU's third of a dominant decade, and the Tigers would go back to back the following season. The program has six national championships in total.
"It seems like it happened to someone else," Morris said after the game, according to the Columbus Telegram in Nebraska. "I don't remember much between first base and home plate. I wasn't trying to hit a home run. I wasn't trying to be a hero."
Instead, he became a legend.