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Monday, May 10, 2010


MEDFORD -- Tonight at the Fenway Park, Tufts will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the 1950 Jumbo Baseball Team that played in the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. Thirteen members of that team will be in attendance, along with Tufts President Larry Bacow and other University officials. George Minot, the captain of the team, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Red Sox-Blue Jays game. The Tufts party will then watch the game from a luxury box at Fenway.

With a talented mix of experienced players and exciting newcomers, the 1950 Tufts College Baseball Team had great potential for a successful season. The Jumbos, coached by Jit Ricker, made the most of their ability and earned the right to play at the NCAA College Baseball World Series (CWS) in Omaha, Nebraska that year.

By compiling a 16-4 record, which included key victories against Trinity, Connecticut, and two against Boston College, Tufts was chosen by a committee to represent New England at the eight-team, double-elimination NCAA tournament. The others schools in Omaha were Alabama, Bradley, Colorado State, Rutgers, Texas, Washington State, and Wisconsin. Tufts lost to Washington State 3-1 in their opening game at the CWS, defeated Bradley 5-4 in an elimination game, and then lost to Texas 7-0. Playing well against larger schools, the Jumbos impressed the national baseball audience in Omaha that week.

Tufts was the second New England team to ever play at the CWS. The NCAA College World Series had started in 1947, but 1950 was the first year that the tournament was held in Omaha. The College World Series has been held in Omaha every year since, and has enjoyed a tremendous growth in popularity. Tufts was there at the start of it.

At tonight's Boston Red Sox game, Tufts celebrates the 60th anniversary of the only Jumbo team to play at the College World Series. Since Tufts University is now affiliated with the NCAA's Division III, the 1950 season is a historic feat that will never be repeated. Here is a look back at that memorable season:

When they gathered for pre-season practice in February 1950, the team knew they had a chance to be very good. However, they didn't necessarily consider the possibility of playing in the College World Series. With 22 games on tap, the Jumbos were poised to play the most ambitious schedule in Tufts baseball history.

"We had never been on a trip south, and when they announced the schedule, we were playing Princeton, Rutgers, Seton Hall," said Ed Schluntz, a senior infielder on the team. "Playing against those big schools really started it off. We thought we had a good club, and we had some good teams to play right at the start."

The Jumbos were fast on the base paths, clutch at the plate, reliable in the field, and had a workhorse ace pitcher in senior Bud Niles. The team was experienced, with three-year starter and captain George Minot at first base, four-year regular Ed Schluntz at third base, slugger Rudy Fobert in left field, and Jim Jabbour as the #1 catcher for the third straight year. Senior right fielder John Lowe and junior center fielder John Panagos also returned as regulars. Sophomores Billy Burns at second base and Al Bennett at shortstop were a young and exciting middle infield. Other players such as Al Boyages, Arnie Castagner, Cookie Doliner, Moon Mullin, and Gene Riordan, as well as pitchers Bob Lauber, Dave Lincoln, and Don West made key contributions.

"Every position was strong," recalled Minot when reached by phone recently.

The 1950 Jumbos benefitted from having several players who had returned from World War II military service. After a year at a prep school, they came to Tufts with added maturity and physical talents. It was largely a local team, with 21 of 29 players coming from Massachusetts, including 16 from Greater Boston.

Typical of New England teams, the Jumbos were only able to practice outside twice before the season began due to the weather. However, they were unaffected by this, starting the season strong in New Jersey and never looking back.

At UPSALA (Monday, April 3) � Tufts began the year with a trip to New Jersey during mid-term vacation. Playing against an Upsala team that had an 18-2 record in the previous season, Tufts overcame a sluggish start as Al Boyages hit a grand slam to tie the game at 5-5. Cookie Doliner doubled home the go-ahead run and the Jumbos dominated from there to win 14-5.

At SETON HALL (Tuesday, April 4) � As the Tufts Weekly reported, "The only solace the Jumbo nine would squeeze out of their 12-2 shellacking at the hands of the Seton Hall Pirates was that they had rid themselves of a lot of bad baseball."

At PRINCETON (Thursday, April 6) � Senior pitcher Bud Niles earned his second win of the young season against a Princeton nine that had finished second in the Ivy League during the previous year. The game went 10 innings, where Niles singled and scored on a pair of Princeton errors. George Minot stole home as the Jumbos added two more insurance runs and won 5-2.

At LOWELL TEXTILE (Sunday, April 15) � The team's northern opener was appropriately delayed 30 minutes by snow. Niles took to the mound again and received lots of offensive support in a 13-3 victory. A three-run double by Al Bennett highlighted a five-run fifth inning for the Jumbos.

Vs. QUANSET (Tuesday, April 18) � In their first home game of the season, Tufts used its excellent base-running skills to win. They scored the tying run on a double steal with John Panagos crossing the plate, and then George Minot scored the game-winning run in the 10th inning by coming around from second base on a ground ball to first that was bobbled. Tufts won its second extra-inning game of the year, 7-6.

Vs. AIC (Saturday, April 22) � Bud Niles was outstanding on the mound, earning his fourth consecutive victory while allowing just six hits in an 8-1 victory. Rudy Fobert began to heat up after an early-season slump and was 3 for 5 to lead Tufts' 11-hit attack. The Jumbos were off to a 5-1 start.

At BATES (Tuesday, April 25) � Tufts got just two hits off Bates pitcher Andy McAuliffe and lost their first game since returning from their spring trip, 4-1.

** In the first seven games of the season, Tufts stole 33 bases. Rudy Fobert and George Minot led the way with eight apiece. Using their speed to help manufacture runs was a hallmark of the 1950 Tufts team.

The team also faced tragedy during the 1950 season. Fellow Tufts athlete Don Cooney passed away on April 30 as the result of a pulmonary embolism following an injury sustained in spring football practice. **

At MIT (Saturday, May 3) � Tufts won 4-3 in their third 10th inning victory of the season. Billy Burns, who led off the 10th with a walk, was caught off second on a pick-off attempt by the MIT catcher, but he dashed safely to third. Al Bennett, 0 for 3 with two strikeouts in the game to that point, lined a single to right to score Burns. Niles won his fifth, going the distance and allowing six hits.

Vs. BOSTON UNIVERSITY (Saturday, May 6) � Playing a memorial doubleheader for Cooney, the Jumbos lost two to the Terriers 3-2 and 6-1. Niles took his first loss in six decisions in the opener. A triple to left by John Lowe plated one of the Tufts runs. In the nightcap, Warren Haley lined a single to right to tie the score at 1-1 in the fifth, but BU produced a five-run inning to take the win. These would be the last losses until the team went to Omaha.

Vs. NORTHEASTERN (Tuesday, May 9) � Despite getting just four hits, Tufts won 4-2 with the help of six Husky errors. Niles, who earned his sixth win pitching, helped himself with a two-run hit. Outfielder John Panagos and catcher Warren Haley combined to throw out a Northeastern runner at the plate that would have tied the score in the seventh inning.

At QUANSET (Thursday, May 11) � After needing extra innings to defeat the Flyers earlier in the year, Tufts throttled them 23-2 the second time that the teams met. Along with the offensive explosion, the pitching performance by sophomore Dave Lincoln (six hits, two runs allowed) was the most encouraging.

Vs. TRINITY (Saturday, May 13) � Niles pitched a shutout and Tufts took advantage of sloppy play by the Hilltoppers for a 10-0 win. In a four-run seventh inning, Ed Schluntz hit a two-run single and a towering double by Al Bennett also scored two runs.

Vs. SUFFOLK (Monday, May 15) � Home runs by pitcher Dave Lincoln and outfielder John Panagos helped power Tufts to a 9-6 victory. Rudy Fobert had three RBI, scored three runs, and had two hits in the game, including a two-run, go-ahead triple to left in the second inning. Bob Lauber pitched well in relief.

At WPI (Wednesday, May 17) � Tufts won its fifth in a row, 14-0, to improve to an 11-4 record. Specific information on this game was not available.

Vs. MASSACHUSETTS (Saturday, May 20) � Tufts held on for a 9-8 victory after allowing seven runs in the ninth inning. Ed Schluntz and John Lowe had three hits apiece for the Jumbos.

Vs. WILLIAMS (Monday, May 22) � Rudy Fobert ripped a triple to center field into a stiff wind to help the Jumbos build an early lead, and five innings of outstanding relief by Bob Lauber brought Tufts home to a 7-2 victory.

** With a 13-4 record, and seven consecutive wins, news builds about the team contending for the College World Series berth with key games against Connecticut and Boston College upcoming **

Vs. CONNECTICUT (Saturday, May 27) � Tufts kept on rolling with a 5-2 victory. Specific information on this game was not available.

At BOSTON COLLEGE (Saturday, June 3) � As the Boston Globe reported, "Tufts virtually clinched the District One bid to the NCAA baseball tourney with a hair-raising 9-8 victory in 11 innings over BC." Boston College tied the game at 4-4 in the ninth, but the Jumbos scored five runs in the top of the 11th to take a 9-4 lead. Tufts manufactured the runs with four walks, two ground outs - including one to third in which George Minot beat the throw to home plate - a bunt hit by John Panagos, and Jim Jabbour's eventual game-winning hit. The Jumbos withstood a four-run bottom of the 11th by BC to win it. Niles, working his 11th inning of the day, got a ground ball out to Billy Burns at second to stop BC's rally with the tying run on third base.

Vs. BOSTON COLLEGE (Saturday, June 10) � On the day that the sectional NCAA berth was announced, Tufts reaffirmed its place as the #1 contender to go to the CWS with a 9-4 win over the Eagles in the regular-season and home finale. Tufts stole eight bases in the game, including three by Al Bennett, and drew 13 walks. BC, the defending New England champion, was beaten twice by the Jumbos on consecutive Saturdays.

** A committee chaired by Vermont's Larry Gardner and including Colby's Ed Roundy and Yale's Ethan Allen selected the New England representative for the CWS. Trinity and Holy Cross ended up as Tufts' biggest competition for the berth, while Boston College and Boston University had been in contention.
Fobert and Schluntz were at Holy Cross' Fitton Field watching the Crusaders play Boston College when a newspaper reporter informed them that Tufts had received the NCAA invitation. Fobert felt Tufts had been snubbed in 1948 when they had the best record in the East (11-1), but Yale was selected for the NCAA's. He figured Tufts would be overlooked again in 1950.

"Tufts is a good choice," Boston College's John Curley told the Globe. "That's the best team around."

To prepare to play under the lights at Omaha's Municipal Stadium (later named Rosenblatt Stadium), Tufts had night practices at Fenway Park and at Braves Field, home of the Boston Braves. "We forgot all about defensive work at Fenway Park when the boys concentrated on trying to clear that left-field fence," Ricker said in a newspaper article. Tufts also played a practice game against Harvard leading up to their CWS appearance and won 5-4.

The team left for Omaha on Thursday, June 15 aboard United Airlines. With many players on a plane for the first time, the flight included stops in Hartford, Cleveland, and Chicago. The players who made the trip to Omaha were pitchers Bud Niles, Bob Lauber, Dave Lincoln, and Don West, catchers Jim Jabbour and Moon Mullins, infielders George Minot, Billy Burns, Al Bennett, Ed Schluntz, Al Boyages, and Arnie Castagner, and outfielders Rudy Fobert, John Panagos, John Lowe, and Gene Riordan. Head coach Jit Ricker, his wife, and team manager Bud Goldstein were also part of the travel party.

For their first game in Omaha, Tufts would face a Washington State team that was considered one of the favorites. Facing the daunting challenge of playing larger schools like Washington State in Omaha, Tufts coach Jit Ricker wasn't concerned.

"I promise you we won't be afraid of any opponents," Ricker said to the Boston Globe. "We'll run �em and ride �em as usual. We can unnerve most college nines with our base running." **

WASHINGTON STATE (Friday, June 16) � In an outstanding pitcher's duel before a crowd of 2,234, Washington State's Lee Dolquist allowed just three Tufts hits and Bud Niles gave up five hits as the Cougars won 3-1. Washington State scored two runs in the sixth inning. Billy Burns scored the lone Tufts run in the fourth after walking, advancing to second on single by Al Bennett, and scoring on two ground outs.

** The Omaha newspaper mentioned in its report of the game, "The Tufts crew caught the fancy of a great many Friday fans. These lads played a smart game." **

BRADLEY (Sunday, June 18) � On a soggy field after rain on Saturday night and Sunday morning, the Jumbos earned their first tournament victory and eliminated the Braves with a 5-4 final. Tufts trailed 4-1 early, but Dave Lincoln pitched brilliantly in relief allowing the Jumbos to come back. John Lowe scored twice as Tufts battled back to tie the score at 4-4. The Jumbos won when Ed Schluntz was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force home the winning run in the ninth inning.

TEXAS (Monday, June 19) � The Jumbos were eliminated from the tournament when Jim Ehler no-hit them in a 7-0 victory by the defending champion Longhorns. "The lights bothered the team for the first few games," Jit Ricker said. "Just when they got used to them, along comes this Jim Ehler from Texas, and he was the hottest thing I've ever seen. He just had it, let me tell you. We naturally didn't like to drop out, but it was a wonderful trip."

The two teams that Tufts lost to ended up first and second at the CWS. Texas won its second straight national championship, while Washington State was the runner-up.

** Upon the conclusion of the season, Niles was named a Third Team All-American. A handful of team members went on to play professionally before moving on to other successful ventures in life. Rudy Fobert, a football/track/baseball star who won the Tufts' Athlete of the Year award in 1950 for the second straight time, would have an annual athletics award at Tufts named in his honor.

Sixty years have passed, but the memories of that season still remain strong for the 13 gentlemen in attendance tonight who represent the 1950 team. The historic season will have another grand moment added to it when Minot throws out the first pitch at tonight's Red Sox game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Once again, we are reminded of what a magical Tufts moment took place 60 years ago this spring.

"We had a wonderful group of fellows who pulled together," John Lowe said recently. "Nobody was viewed as a superstar. We were clearly a team." **