FLASHBACK FEATURE: 1972, 1977 Ole Miss Baseball Teams
May 10, 2017
By Dylan Edwards, OleMissSports.com
Winning a championship requires a special team with a special bond. It's a bond that doesn't really ever fade. Four decades later, that bond still is present with members of both the 1972 and 1977 Ole Miss baseball teams. When the teams have opportunities to get together, like at alumni weekend a few weeks ago, the camaraderie shows.
"When we get together, they always tell me this and that about what I said or what they did," Ole Miss legend Jake Gibbs said. "That's why it's good to get together and tell your old stories. Sometimes, I haven't even heard them."
Those stories involve winning and a lot of it. Both the '72 and '77 squads captured SEC titles under the tutelage of Gibbs, with the '72 team advancing to the College World Series. Both teams had the "it" factor so commonly referenced that makes a good team a great team.
"I had other good teams over the years, but these two were special," Gibbs said. "(Winning a championship) creates a bond. That goes back to a lot of sports. Guys that play together and have good teams and good success, they like to get together and support Ole Miss and have a good time."
After finishing his MLB career with the New York Yankees in 1971, Gibbs returned to Oxford to take over the Ole Miss baseball program. It's fair to say his first season at the helm in 1972 was extremely successful. However, Gibbs didn't really know what he had until the season arrived.
"When I came back, I came back in '71, and I was involved in football recruiting," Gibbs said. "I really didn't know what I had until the spring started. I got to know the guys. We had a meeting. I told them that baseball was a fun game and to get out there and work and play as hard as you can."
After a bit of a slow start, opening the season with a 4-5 record, things began to click for the team. The team ran roughshod over the other teams in the SEC West, compiling a 15-3 conference record. That included a clean six-game sweep against rival Mississippi State. The conference was secured by winning the championship series against Vanderbilt in two games.
In the playoffs, the team ran into adversity. After an opening game win, the team dropped the second game of the tournament to ACC champion Virginia to fall into the losers bracket. That meant the team needed four-straight wins to advance.
"I had some good leadership on that ballclub," Gibbs said. "They had a meeting in Gastonia (North Carolina) that I didn't know anything about. A couple of my players said they needed a team meeting without the coaches. In the meeting, they more or less said they didn't come here to lose."
And they didn't. The team beat Florida State and then repaid the favor to Virginia to reach the finals against South Alabama. South Alabama had swept the Rebels in the second weekend of the season. Ole Miss wasn't losing this time around, beating the Jaguars convincingly by scores of 8-4 and 12-1 to secure a spot in the College World Series.
"The team was relaxed," Gibbs said. "They came out and played hard. They started believing in one another. That's what you try to get. Everybody contributed. Everything came together. It was a great year."
In 1977, the Rebels began the season at a torrid pace, winning the first eight of the season. That team kept winning too, going on to then-school record 39 victories during the season.
Ole Miss' conference-best 15-9 record meant that the inaugural SEC Tournament would take place in Oxford at Swayze Field. After a second round loss to Florida, Ole Miss would storm back with three-straight victories capped by back-to-back wins against Florida to win the conference tournament on its home field.
"You never count yourself out as long as you have a next game to play," Gibbs said. "When you have good kids on your ballclub, they don't give up. They believed they could still win, and they did it."
In five years, there will undoubtedly be another anniversary for both teams. Fifty years will have passed since the '72 Rebels rallied to make the CWS. But, Gibbs and his former players aren't planning on that being the next time they get together and share stories.
"Both teams were outstanding ballclubs and outstanding men," Gibbs said. "I told the '77 team when I had them over at my house - and probably should tell the '72 team - we're not going to wait five years to have another get together. We're going to have one every year."
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