I was having dinner in the View restaurant above the Marriott at Times Square when I learned that the 1960 Ole Miss baseball team was having a reunion on the weekend of the series against Louisiana State University.
This was the team that went 22-3 for the season and beat the University of Florida for the SEC championship. However, this also was the team that could not play in the regional tournament that leads to the College World Series.
“Why don’t we have a panel with former Chancellor Khayat, Jake Gibbs and a couple of the pitchers on that team and have it at the Overby Center some time that weekend?” I said.
When I returned to Oxford I asked the Provost’s office for permission to have the panel. Curtis Wilkie was able to gather the panel participants. He obtained the services of former Chancellor Khayat, a two-time all conference catcher; Jake Gibbs, the third baseman who would become a catcher for the New York Yankees; Don Porter, who was 7-0 as a starter; and Larry Williams who was 7-1.
The crux of the panel was the race topic. Moderator Shepard Smith of FOX News, summarized the issue: “There was an unwritten set of laws and your team could not play in a tournament if there was a possibility that somebody with more pigment than you might play against you.”
The Overby Center is designed for discussions and lectures on Southern politics and Southern journalism. What an appropriate venue, and what a relevant topic.
The panel was Friday, April 23 at 5:30 p.m., before the first game of the LSU series. Many of the players came for the panel, and there were many great stories and great conversations.
The next day, a couple of the players came by Farley Hall and told me that they had forgotten to mention that the 1956 team had played in the college playoff regional tournament at Gastonia, N.C. At that time, only two years after Brown v. Board of Education, those opposed to racial integration had not yet realized that African Americans might play college ball. By 1960 that reality had led to a policy that prevented Mississippi from competing to be the best in the nation.
During 1959, ’60 and ‘62, Ole Miss won three national championships in football, and Sagarin selected the 1959 Rebels as its No. 3 all-time, highest-rated college team from 1956 to 1995, trailing only Nebraska’s 1995 and 1971 teams. The baseball team won two SEC titles, and there were two Miss America’s from the campus. Clearly, Ole Miss was among the best in the nation.
It just was not permitted to let the general public know how good it was in baseball.Tags: 1960, Meek School of Journalism and New Media, Ole Miss Baseball, Will Norton