Flashback Friday: The 1956 Ole Miss Baseball Team
April 29, 2016
By Morgan Goff, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
Sixty years later, the 1956 Ole Miss Baseball team is still being remembered for their accomplishments. After picking up the NCAA Division III crown, the '56 Rebels went all the way to Omaha, Nebraska for the College World Series, reaching the pinnacle of collegiate baseball and paving the way for future generations of Ole Miss Baseball.
From nearby Olive Branch, Mississippi, Buddy Chain was an important piece in the success for the 1956 team. As the catcher for the Rebels, Chain posted a .314 batting average.
"We had to change the make-up of the team and adjust our lineups, but in spite of that, we played inspired ball and won the region and ended up number three in the nation," Chain said. "It was an exciting trip to get that far and show the flag of Ole Miss in the College World Series for the first time. It is something we have all been proud of."
Despite several key seniors being ruled ineligible to play, per a NCAA law that only allowed three years of varsity play, the team went on to win two games in Omaha. The two wins on a 24-10 season record placed the team at third in the country. This College World Series finish is still tied for the best season result in school history.
A junior right-handed pitcher on the '56 team, Buddy Wittichen, remembers traveling to Omaha with his team and bringing back a piece of history.
"The most outstanding part was that we lost all of our seniors because they played varsity ball as freshman," Wittichen said. "We lost all of our seniors once we got out of the SEC, so that was a big factor. We still persevered and went to Omaha and won two games."
During the record year, as a junior left-handed pitcher, Cecil Burford tossed the second no-hitter in Ole Miss Baseball history during a 3-0 win over SEC opponent Vanderbilt. Senior second baseman Bernie Schreiber, a Sioux City, Iowa native, was named an All-American. Schrieber was also All-SEC at second base, while leading the league in hitting with a batting average of .443.
Although he was ruled ineligible for participation in the postseason because of pinch-hitting in two varsity games his freshman year, Eddie Crawford, a Jackson, Tennessee native, played a critical role on the team as well. Crawford led the Rebels as team captain and was an All-SEC center fielder. Joe Gibbon was a junior left-handed pitcher out of Hickory, Mississippi who helped lead the 1956 team to success. Gibbon later went on to play in the Major Leagues.
The 1956 team was led by legendary head coach, Tom Swayze. As head coach, Swayze led the Rebels to a 361-201-2 record during his 21 years. As previously mentioned, the Rebels finished third in '56 under his direction while claiming the NCAA Division III crown.
"Coach Swayze was a great guy on and off the field. He expected us to go to class and do well and for us to do well on the field if we wanted to play," Wittichen explained.
As the namesake for today's Oxford-University Stadium at Swayze Field, the legacy left behind by this outstanding coach and team is a constant reminder of what is Ole Miss. The family, the tradition and the success of the 1956 team continue to live on and be remembered by each passing year.
Many others helped this team reach such a high level of success. This Friday night, April 29, we remember them all. Rebels from the '56 team including: Raymond Brown, Cecil Burford III (representing his father, Cecil Burford Jr.), Buddy Chanin, Eddie Crawford, John Gainey, Joe Gibbon, Joe Pegram and Buddy Wittitchen will be honored in person. Ole Miss Baseball alumni, as well as the members of the 1956 team, will be recognized on Swayze Field for the accomplishments forever engrained in the hearts of Rebel Nation.
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