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Continued: A baseball celebration: Siebert was Chief behind Gophers titles

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 9, 2014 - 6:53 AM

“I was pitching in a tournament that summer, and Siebert just showed up in the stands,” Rantz said. “That was the first time I talked to him about playing baseball at the U.”

Rantz played hockey for John Mariucci and baseball for Siebert at Minnesota. That’s another remarkable contrast from today: the number of two-sport Gophers who were major contributors to the baseball championships.

McCartan was a standout goaltender (and the hero of the 1960 U.S. Olympic gold medalists) and a slugging third baseman for the ’56 champs. Shorty Cochran and Dean Maas were noted football players.

Rantz and another standout pitcher, Bob Wasko, were hockey players in 1960. Tom Moe was a football player.

Davis, Archie Clark and Al Druskin were all basketball players, as well as important members of the ’64 baseball Gophers.

There were many other all-around athletes leaned on by Siebert. Paul Giel, the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy as a Gophers running back in 1953, signed a bonus-baby contract with the New York Giants as a bullet-throwing pitcher. Ken Yackel was a standout in three sports: football, hockey and baseball.

The 6-7 Davis was well-known for his basketball exploits at Richfield High School. He was a coveted recruit for both basketball coach John Kundla and Siebert.

“Starting in January, I would run over after basketball practice and take some swings in the nets,” Davis said. “I was playing summer ball in the Dakotas, 50 games in the Basin League, so I would actually spend more time on baseball than basketball.”

• • •

The 1963-64 Gophers basketball season ended on March 7. With Siebert, the Gophers made an annual trip to Texas to start the schedule. The first game was on March 23, a loss to Texas. The Gophers went 2-7 over a five-day period, including a pair of losses at Texas A&M.

“That’s what I remember about the season: How terrible we were on the Texas trip, and we wound up winning the national championship,” Davis said.

The ’64 Gophers had to sweep Northwestern and Wisconsin (with the outstanding Rick Reichardt) on the final weekend and get the Big Ten’s single bid to the NCAA tournament.

They defeated Kent State in the Mideast Regional to make it to Omaha, and opened the College World Series against Texas A&M.

“The A&M players mentioned in the newspapers that they wanted us again in Omaha,” said Archie Clark in a phone interview. “And they got us.”

The Gophers beat A&M, Maine and Southern California, lost to Missouri, and then beat Mizzou 5-1 in the decisive title game.

“Joe Pollock won three complete games,” Jerry Cawley said. “I still can’t figure out why he didn’t win the MVP award in Omaha.”

• • •

The 1960 title came in dramatic fashion — centering on three games vs. Southern Cal. The Gophers were down 11-2 to USC after 6½ innings in a winners bracket game, and made the biggest comeback in CWS history for a 12-11, 10-inning victory.

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  • Gophers coach Dick Siebert was surrounded by his players after they won the 1960 Big Ten championship. They went on to win the NCAA crown, too.

  • Former Gophers players gathered at Siebert Field: from left, Jerry Thomas (1956), Bill Davis (1964), Jerry Cawley (1964), Jack McCartan (1956), Doug Gillen (1956) and Jim Rantz (1960), with Gophers coach John Anderson at the rear. Anderson played for the Gophers in the 1977 College World Series.

  • Gophers coach Dick Siebert and pitcher Jerry Thomas carried the 1956 NCAA championship banner. The Gophers won the title by beating Arizona 12-1 in the College World Series final.

  • Thomas was an All-America pitcher and the MVP of the College World Series in 1956, pitching a five-hitter in the final game.

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