New Orleans resident Archie Manning has been invited to Omaha and the College World Series several times by his LSU friends down in south Louisiana.
Manning says he has always told them: thanks, but no thanks.
“I was holding out for Ole Miss to make it,” Manning said earlier this week.
So now the Ole Miss Rebels have “made it” – and Manning can’t.
He recently had knee replacement – and is recovering well – but isn’t up for the trip.
“It will make for some great TV,” Manning said, “but I sure do wish I could see it in person.”
Said Manning: “I love this Ole Miss team and I am happy for Mike (Bianco). He’s probably had more gifted teams that didn’t make it, but that’s just baseball. This is a really, really good team. They do everything well and they are so well-coached.”
You should know that Manning has been to Omaha and the College World Series once before, as a player.
Manning was a helluva baseball player, drafted four different times by Major League teams. In 1969, Manning was the slick-fielding, hard-hitting shortstop on Tom Swayze’s Ole Miss team that won the Regional at Gastonia, N.C., to make it to the CWS at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha.
“It was then and still is, the ultimate in college baseball,” Manning said. “So much has changed. It’s gotten so much bigger. There was no TV back then, and it wasn’t nearly as big a deal nationally, but it was big for the teams that got there and it was big for us.”
Just recently, Archie Manning received a text from son Peyton Manning, who had just made a speech in Omaha.
“Peyton said he had run into an old-timer in Omaha who remembered me hitting a triple in the College World Series,” Archie Manning said. “I know one thing, it wasn’t off of Burt Hooton. None of us hit Hooton.”
Hooton, who went on to pitch successfully 15 years in the Major Leagues, and the Texas Longhorns eliminated Ole Miss 14-1, ending Manning’s Omaha experience.
“Nobody could touch Hooton’s knuckle curve,” Manning said.
Ole Miss opened the 1969 CWS with an 8-3 loss to New York University. Then, the Rebels came back and eliminated Southern Illinois, the nation’s No. 1 ranked team, 8-1 in the losers’ bracket. Then came Hooton and Texas.
“We had a really good team,” Manning said. “Coach Swayze knew baseball. We had some football players and some basketball players. We all got along and just loved to play baseball.”
Manning said he enjoyed football, although it was often more like work.
“College baseball,” he said, “was just plain fun.”
Rick Cleveland (email@example.com) is the executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.