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One Vote For Best Ever: The 1975 Texas Longhorns

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Blueshorn sent in this Guest Column. Enjoy. S.R.

ONE VOTE FOR BEST-EVER: THE 1975 LONGHORN NATIONAL CHAMPS

As the 2009 Longhorn baseball team works its way toward a possible championship series in Omaha, it’s always fun to look back on other great teams in our storied past. The '49 and '50 teams, coached by Bibb Falk, set the standard. The 1983 title is associated with some of the biggest names to play for the Longhorns. Augie Garrido's 2002 and 2005 teams are favorites of the younger fans. Arguably the greatest of them all was the 1975 National Championship team, the first College World Series title team coached by Cliff Gustafson.

Those of us who were on campus in the early to mid-seventies were fortunate to see games at historic Clark Field with the short right-field porch and the legendary Billy Goat Hill. Baseball would be played a different way when the team moved to The Disch, and the ’75 team was the first to play the new brand of ball. Gone was the strategy of having left-handed power hitters bomb the area beyond the right-field fence. Outfielders no longer had to worry about how to scale the cliffs in the outfield and relay the ball back in as runners circled the bases. Disch-Falk was a pitcher’s ballpark and the ’75 team featured great pitching.

When one reviews the Longhorn record book and sees the career stats of Richard Wortham, it’s easy to forget that the ace of the ’75 staff was actually Jim Gideon. Gideon, a right-hander, finished the year with a 17-0 record, including a March no-hitter in Dallas against SMU. Think of Wortham as ace #1-A. A southpaw, Wortham didn’t even make first team all-conference that season, yet he also had a great year before going from goat to hero in Omaha. The Horns’ third starter, lefty Martin Flores, joined Gideon on the all-SWC first team, and finished the year with an ERA of 1.43. So good was the starting pitching, that the bullpen saved a total of four games in 1975. The staff ERA was an incredible 1.92 and they recorded a school-record sixteen shutouts. The relievers, resembling Maytag repairmen, were freshmen Don Kainer and Terry Ray.

The Longhorns had some outstanding hitters, but the emphasis turned from jacking it out to putting it in play. Keith Moreland, Rick Bradley, Mickey Reichenbach, and Mike Anderson led the way at the plate. As testimony to the new style of play, the ’75 team holds the school record for team batting average (.325) and triples (51). Moreland batted .410 in 62 games, second on the Longhorns’ single-season list.

Defensively, the team wasn’t among Texas’ statistical leaders, but being the first to play on the hard and fast surface at Disch-Falk had a lot to do with that. The infield consisted of Bradley (backed by Doug Duncan) behind the plate, Reichenbach at first base, Garry Pyka at second, Blair Stouffer at shortstop, and the three-time All-American Moreland at third. Outfielders and utility players included Anderson, Charles Proske, Wendell Hibbitt, Russell Pounds, and Frosty Moore.

The team sailed through the Southwest Conference schedule, finishing with a league mark of 23-1. A bottom-of-the-ninth inning homer by the Aggies in the last game spoiled what would have been the only unblemished record in conference history. The Horns then won the South Central Regional over South Alabama, Louisiana Tech, and Pan American to punch their ticket to Omaha.

Notable among the teams at the ’75 College World Series was an Arizona State team coached by Jim Brock that sent 13 players to the major leagues. South Carolina was coached by former Yankee great, Bobby Richardson. An interesting footnote was the first appearance in Omaha by Cal State Fullerton, led by a young coach named Augie Garrido. CSF was eliminated after their first two games.

Texas opened the series with a win, beating Oklahoma, 4-2. They would have to come out of the losers’ bracket to take the title, however. Wortham, struggling with his control and walking eight batters, dropped a 5-2 decision to the Sun Devils. Facing do-or die, the Longhorns eliminated Seton Hall and then pounded South Carolina, 17-6. Texas then won a draw that put South Carolina and Arizona State in an elimination game. The Gamecocks beat the Sun Devils, earning the right to a rematch with Texas in the final. Behind Reichenbach’s two-run homer in the third inning and Wortham’s 4-hit pitching, Texas beat South Carolina , 5-2. Wortham struck out nine Gamecocks.

The victory gave Texas its third national championship, but the first in 25 years. There have been three more since, and the championship teams have all featured great pitching. For my money, the ’75 National Championship team behind Gideon, Wortham, and Flores was as good as it gets.

Gideon ended the year with a career record of 40-6. Wortham would finish his career in 1976 and remains the winningest pitcher in Longhorn history at 50-7. He was the first pitcher in NCAA history to win 50 games. He also holds school records in games started (66), innings pitched (456.2), and complete games (34). He ranks second behind Greg Swindell in strikeouts, with 481.

1975 Season Superlatives:

Season Record: 56-6

All-Americans: Jim Gideon and Keith Moreland

All-SWC: Jim Gideon (MVP); Cliff Gustafson (Coach of the Year); Keith Moreland; Garry Pyka; Rick Bradley; Mickey Reichenbach; Martin Flores

CWS All-Tournament: Mickey Reichenbach (Most Outstanding Player); Richard Wortham; Blair Stouffer; Rick Bradley

Here's hoping the 2009 Longhorns bring home the hardware, in the great and growing tradition of Texas Baseball.