June 15, 2013 8:40:11 PM
Rufus Ward - [email protected]
With State playing in the College World Series this weekend, college baseball games of long ago come to mind. Even at the turn of the 19th century the rivalry between State and Ole Miss was fierce and in Oxford Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College (State's name back then) was called the "school for cow pullers." In the spring of 1897 the Red and Blue of Mississippi A & M played University (Ole Miss) a baseball game in Columbus. A & M prevailed, 5 to 2. The series then moved to University/Oxford where A & M lost 9 to 0. The red and blue of A & M is not a typographical error for in 1897 State's school colors, at least for baseball, were red and blue.
By the 1920s college baseball was a popular sport to watch in the South and newspapers contained lengthy accounts of the games. A & M was the reigning Southern Conference baseball champion when the 1925 season opened on April 17th. They started the season with an 11 to 4 victory over the "Tulane Greenbacks." Old newspaper clippings from the games that year are great fun to read.
A 1925 Tuscaloosa News has headlines on the sports page read "Crimsons Split Two Games With Aggie Sluggers." As an A and M college, Aggies was a popular name for states teams. The second game was described as "a hectic affair" which the Aggies won 8 to 6 after having lost the first game 6 to 3. Alabama scored twice in the victory by what was called "an unusual stunt" in the form of two successive bunts. Players on base were referred to as "men on the road."
Other newspaper clippings from1925 provide a most interesting view of both baseball and sports reporting at the time. By 1925 State's colors had evolved to maroon and white. An account of the opening game of a four game series with Alabama in Tuscaloosa in April 1925 was described as "Greater rigidity in the pinches gave Alabama a 3 to 1 victory over Mississippi A & M here Monday in the first of a four-game series. It was a narrowly battled affair every stride of the journey. Lefty Bolton was the victim of infield errors in the second that gave the Tide the winning runs."
In some hometown reporting the Tuscaloosa newspaper's headlines read: "Hot Moore Burns A & M... Famous Lefty Bolton Pounded." Bolton, State's pitcher who was "pounded," struck out 10, walked 3 and only give up 5 hits. State did have its share of miscues such as a player hitting a line drive but tripping and falling running between first and second base. State's short stop "Young Loewer" made three errors such as when Bama's Sewell "rolled a mild bouncer at Loewer and that unfortunate youth allowed it to continue unmolested to the gardens."
As for Bama's pitcher who burned A & M, the paper reported; "Hot Moore" was every bit as good as his opponent. The paper further in the article said of Moore; " The local find wasn't spectacular. He only whiffed two men. But he surely bore down in the pinches. He passed five... yet he sailed through tight after tight in a fashion that Grover Alexander could advantageously copy."
In a game two days later at A & M College, Mississippi, again with Alabama the headlines read "Maroon Infield Cracks." The article stated, "The Aggie infield crumpled into a morass of errors in the early innings and the Tide walked through the breach to score an unearned lead of five runs. After that the visitors began to hammer the offerings of the Maroon hurlers all over Hardy Hill." The next day State came back and defeated Alabama 4 to 3 in 10 innings with "Famous Lefty Bolton" back on the mound.
Though I am an Ole Miss graduate and fan I do have to admit to being, since about 1980, a big State baseball fan and supporter who has eaten an awful lot of good barbecue in the Left Field Lounge.
Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at [email protected]