By Rick Cleveland
JACKSON – Mississippi State is playing in the College World Series for the ninth time in the fifth consecutive decade. Surely, Dudy Noble would be proud.
Clark Randolph “Dudy” Noble, the namesake of State’s baseball stadium, was one of the charter inductees of your Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in 1961.
Noble was a baseball guy. He coached the State baseball teams even when he was the athletic director, which partially accounts for why State people have always considered baseball so important.
Indeed, Dudy Noble awarded the first full baseball scholarship in Mississippi history to a young pitcher from Shaw back in 1938. His name was David Ferriss. His friends called him Boo.
But Noble did a lot more for State than coach baseball and sign Boo Ferriss. He hired two football coaching legends, Murray Warmath and Darrell Royal. He hired Hall of Fame basketball coach Babe McCarthy, when Babe was out of the coaching business and had last coached at a junior high. He hired Hall of Famer Jack Cristil, State’s beloved Voice of the Bulldogs, and gave him this sage advice: “You tell that radio audience what the score is and who’s got the ball and how much time is left and you cut out the bull.”
That was in 1952. I loved the way Cristil described him more than half a century later. Cristil said he expected to find a young, well-groomed, business-like athletic director. He met a much different guy.
“Dudy Noble was a big man, over 6 feet tall and quite hefty,” Cristil said. “He was attired in an old cotton, flannel shirt and baggy britches. He had an unruly shock of gray hair that stuck out.”
Noble’s looks deceived. He was astute judge of talent. After all, he hired Jack Cristil. At State, Noble was known for doing a lot with a little. He ran a tight ship. He made the most of what he had, but he never had much, at least not from a financial standpoint.
Noble was of humble origin himself. Born in the tiny Hinds County town of Learned in 1893. He attended State (then Mississippi A & M), where he earned 14 varsity letters in four sports-football, basketball, baseball and track. He graduated in 1915, but not before accounting for five touchdowns in a 65-0 victory over Ole Miss. That’s still the biggest margin of victory in the history of the two schools.
Time in Oxford
Now, here’s the part that is hard for so many to believe. In 1917, Dudy Noble became the head football coach at The School Up North – yes, the University of Mississippi, Ole Miss. Noble was the football coach at Ole Miss for two seasons, the basketball coach for one and the baseball coach for two. For the record, Noble’s two Ole Miss football teams lost both times they played State.
Noble returned to his alma mater in 1919 and remained there for the next 40 years until his retirement in 1959. He was the athletic director from 1938 until he retired. His first love was baseball and his teams won 277 games and lost 209.
Even though he spent two of the formative years of his coaching career at Ole Miss, he apparently left with no affinity for the his alma mater’s arch-rival.
Dudy Noble once told a Tennessee sports writer: “I already know what hell is like. I once coached at Ole Miss.”
Yes, and Noble once owned a bird dog, a lazy mutt that refused to hunt.
Dudy Noble named him “Mr. Ole Miss.”
Rick Cleveland (rcleveland@msfame .com) is the executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.