Earlier in my journalism career, I was honored to write an article on former Arizona baseball coach Jerry Kindall for the 1993 College World Series program followed by another one about Terry Francona in the 1995 program.
Both articles were related to feats accomplished by Kindall and Francona in the CWS. Kindall remains the only player in CWS history to hit for the cycle for Minnesota in 1956. Francona set an NCAA record at the CWS when he got hits in seven consecutive official at bats on June 4 and 5, 1980. Dave Magadan (Alabama, 1983) and Barry Bonds (Arizona State, 1984) surpassed the mark with eight consecutive hits each.
In the Francona article, he talked to me about going 5-for-5 against California a day after he singled in his last two at-bats in a 3-for-6 night against Hawaii. All seven hits were singles. The perfect game at the plate against the Golden Bears was especially impressive because Cal’s pitchers had kept him mostly in check during the regular season.
“I was surprised to get a hit in every at bat against them (in the CWS),” said Francona, an All-American outfielder who batted .371 in his three-year Arizona career. “I couldn’t get a hit off their left-handers all year. I think coach Kindall even sat me once against them during the season.
“I remember just going out there to the College World Series wanting to win but also to have fun. I felt comfortable. It’s a good feeling coming through, helping the team like that in such an important time of the year.”
Kindall kept track of well-hit balls in his scorebook. He tallied 13 in six games of the CWS for Francona.
“His five hits against California were all well-hit — they were ropes,” Kindall told me. “The game was indicative of the kind of hitter Terry was. He hit to all fields.
“I think well-hit balls show the overall talent of a hitter and Terry had plenty of those. He was a smart hitter, very effective.”
The current Arizona Wildcats, victorious over Florida State and UCLA to this point in the CWS, probably have the same feeling as Francona had in 1980. Arizona, which plays the Seminoles today at 2 p.m. for the chance to advance to the championship round, is on an eight-game winning streak and is 15-2 in its last 17 games.
“I was basically a 20-year-old way in over his head at the College World Series, but I didn’t let any of the outside stuff affect me,” Francona said. “That’s the one week I can point to as the most important in my career. We won the College World Series, I played well and I was drafted (by the Montreal Expos).
“What more could I ask for?”
These quotes are from parts of the article I wrote for the College World Series program in 1995. This does not include the entire article.