The Georgia Southern baseball team hosted its first NCAA Regional in school history last year. Another Eagle team celebrated an impressive first this weekend as the 1973 team who made the first ever College World Series appearance for Georgia Southern celebrated their 50-year reunion at J.I. Clements stadium.
Many of the players on the 1973 team hadn’t been back to Statesboro since their playing days and were happy to see some familiar faces, even though at times they had to look at the nametags to realize the name the face belonged to.
“It’s great to see everyone as it’s been a long time since this many of us have gotten together,” said former pitcher Ernie Venet. “We had some great players but not as much pitching as you see today. I feel like we had a few good hitters like Jim Morrison and John Tamargo who helped us look good. It’s amazing to see the changes here in town as well as the facilities here as they are beautiful.”
Tom Bigwood may best be known for his role as principal at Southeast Bulloch High School, but he also played a key part on the Eagle’s first College World Series team as a member of the pitching staff.
“I remember us winning in the Mississippi regional and moving on to the College World Series,” said Bigwood. “I really feel like we had a shot to win it all. We won a game, but just couldn’t get any momentum. It is so nice to be able to relive a lot of our memories with all of our old teammates and many of them we haven’t seen since back in 1973.”
The Eagles had a few of the 1973 go on the play in the MLB including pitcher John Tudor, infielder Jim Morrison and John Tamargo who went on to play catcher for the San Francisco Giants and went on to become a long-time manager in the minor leagues.
“I remember fondly my two years here at Georgia Southern,” Tamargo said. “We had a lot of guys from the Miami area and a lot of us knew each other before coming to Georgia Southern. Coach Polk was a great coach to play for and I feel he did a great job of creating chemistry on the team.”
The head coach of the 1973 was College Baseball Hall of Famer Ron Polk. Polk is considered to be the "Father of SEC Baseball” and compiled one of the most successful winning records, as a coach, in both Mississippi State and Southeastern Conference history. In 31 seasons as an SEC coach, he compiled a 1218-638-2 (.656) record. His career record stands at 1373-702-2. He currently ranks 9th on the all-time wins list nationally.
Back in 1973 Polk was only in his second year of coaching at Georgia Southern and feels much of their success came from his finding Junior College talent from where he had come from in Florida.
“When I got hired, they wanted to win right away and I knew the best way to do that was go out and get some talent from down in Florida in the Junior Colleges I was familiar with,” Polk said. “I think we put together a pretty balanced team with strong pitching and hitting. Going to the College World Series for the first time was exciting for all of us and something we won’t forget.”
Polk went on make eight College World Series appearances as coach at Mississippi State and currently does color on the MSU broadcasts.
“I still love being around the game,” Polk said. “I don’t have to travel with the team but I do as many home games as possible. To see what they have done here in Statesboro with the facilities is so impressive, but to see where things have come at MSU since I first took over there is also pretty incredible.”