STATESBORO - The members of Georgia Southern’s first team to make the College World Series celebrated a 50-year reunion last week at J.I. Clements Stadium.
Many of the players on the 1973 team hadn’t been back to Statesboro since their playing days under Coach Ron Polk and were happy to see some familiar faces, even though at times they had to look at the nametags to realize the name that went along with the face.
“It’s great to see everyone as it’s been a long time since this many of us have gotten together,” said former pitcher Ernie Venet. “We had some great players but not as much pitching as you see today. I feel like we had a few good hitters, like Jim Morrison and John Tamargo who helped us look good. It’s amazing to see the changes here in town as well as the facilities here as they are beautiful.”
Tom Bigwood may best be known for his role as a coach with the 1976 Bradwell Institute Class AA state championship baseball, but he also played a key part on the Eagles’ first College World Series team as a pitcher.
“I remember us winning in the Mississippi regional and moving on to the College World Series,” he said. “I really feel like we had a shot to win it all. We won a game, but just couldn’t get any momentum. It is so nice to be able to relive a lot of our memories with all of our old teammates and many of them we haven’t seen since back in 1973.”
The Eagles had a few players on the 1973 roster play in the major leagues, including pitcher John Tudor, Morrison and Tamargo, a catcher for the San Francisco Giants and later a long-time manager in the minor leagues.
“I remember fondly my two years here at Georgia Southern,” Tamargo said. “We had a lot of guys from the Miami area and a lot of us knew each other before coming to Georgia Southern. Coach Polk was a great coach to play for and I feel he did a great job of creating chemistry on the team.”
Polk, a College Baseball Hall of Famer, is considered to be the "Father of SEC Baseball” and compiled one of the most successful records in both Mississippi State and Southeastern Conference history. In 31 seasons as a SEC coach, he compiled a 1,218-638-2 record, a winning percentage of .656. His career record stands at 1,373-702-2 and he is ninth on the all-time wins list nationally.
Back in 1973, Polk was only in his second year at Georgia Southern and believes much of their success came from his finding junior college talent from where he had come from in Florida.
“When I got hired, they wanted to win right away and I knew the best way to do that was go out and get some talent from down in Florida in the junior colleges I was familiar with,” Polk said. “I think we put together a pretty balanced team with strong pitching and hitting. Going to the College World Series for the first time was exciting for all of us and something we won’t forget.”
Polk made eight College World Series appearances as coach at Mississippi State and currently is an analyst on the MSU broadcasts.
“I still love being around the game,” he said. “To see what they have done here in Statesboro with the facilities is so impressive, but to see where things have come at MSU since I first took over there is also pretty incredible.”