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The 1935 CWS

Publication Date: March 23, 2004

An Eternal Squabble

If you've been paying attention to what's going on off the field (and I don't blame you if you're not, it's a bit tedious out there at times), you know that the biggest topic of discussion over the last few years, even bigger than the liveliness of the bats, has been the attempt by the Northern schools to, in their eyes, even the playing field by moving the season calendar later into the summer. Eventually, it'll happen, although I think it'll continue to be a gradual change like the one that's already begun, but in the mean time I think it's interesting to wonder about when this discussion started, so we can identify the root issues. Was it in the late '90's, when most of us began hearing about it as the selection committee started giving out what were essentially charity bids to the Northern teams? Was it in the mid '80's, when the tournament moved away from an attempt at regionalization of the "regionals", so that Maine, for example, stopped being a regular visitor in Omaha? Was it in the '60's, when Southern California and Arizona State took over the national championship and the chances for another Northern title seemed to go to zero? Well, I've got an answer, but I want to get to it by telling a story.

Recently, through the hard work of a guy named Larry Hayes who does research for the collegiate committee of SABR, I became aware of the first known plan for a College World Series. A couple of New York Times articles from April and May of 1935 detail the rise and fall of a proposal from long-time Columbia coach Andy Coackley to put together a "college baseball world series".

The plan was for an eight-team single elimination tournament to be played in either or both of Yankee Stadium or the Polo Grounds. Seven conferences were identified as major; their champions would be given invitations. For the eighth team, Coakley was truly ambitious -- his original plan was to invite a Japanese representative, which could lead to, as we say in the South, a whole 'nother discussion, about the awareness of and interaction with Japanese baseball before World War II. If that plan fell through, the last spot would be taken by a top independent team. Since the team generally regarded as the best in the nation was Holy Cross, an independent, it's a reasonable assumption they would have rounded out the field. The conferences, with their assumed champions:

Prospective 1935 CWS Field:

Conference                Team

Big Ten                   Minnesota
Big Six                   Oklahoma
Pacific Coast             California(*)
Southeastern              Alabama
Southern                  Washington and Lee
Southwest                 Texas
Eastern Intercollegiate   Dartmouth
Independent               Holy Cross

(*) The Pacific Coast Conference was in one of its periods when it was split into non-inter-competing Northern and Southern divisions; Oregon was the Northern Division champion. I can't find any record that discussions made it as far as determining which team would represent the league, but Cal was a reasonable assumption.

Now, in the context of the times, this was an ambitious proposal, since there really was no event to which it could be compared. The NCAA had progressed from its initial role as rules-making body to sponsoring national champions in 1921, but to this date the only events sponsored were individual sports like track and field, wrestling, or tennis; the first team tournament was still to come with basketball in 1939. The first NCAA-recognized-but-not-sponsored event, which is what this baseball tournament would have been, was still to come with the basketball NIT in 1938. This would, literally, have been a history-making tournament. And do you know why it didn't happen?

There were some early concerns about funding for travel and other costs, but there were signs that Eastern League alumni were willing to fund the event, probably in hopes of proving Eastern superiority on the field. (As an aside, at that time, in baseball as in most other sports, Eastern sports were assumed to be superior to the rest of the country. There was probably a good bit of truth to that assumption, but by this time the facade had begun to crack in football, and the fact that most of the significant media sources were located in the East make it hard to be sure in retrospect.) Responses from the various leagues were said to be enthusiastic. The thing that made it all fall apart, though, was the proposed schedule. In particular, there was a scheduling conflict with a boxing match in Yankee Stadium for the proposed week, which was the last week of June.

The last week of June is actually a week later than this year's CWS will be played. It is, in short, later than we historically think of college baseball being played, and that would be the issue that actually kept there from being a national championship until 1947. Moving a week earlier was not an option because it would interfere with the last week of the season for such Eastern powers as Harvard, Yale, and Holy Cross, who were still in contention at the time of the scheduling. Going later was considered to be "altogether too late in the college season." In order to get a feel for why that was too late (it would only be one week off for Dartmouth, for example), I dug through some media guides to find some non-Eastern schools that list dates with their old season results. I didn't find anyone in the Deep South -- Alabama in particular doesn't list dates -- but Oklahoma State finished up on May 16 that year, Illinois ended up on May 24, and Southern California finished up on April 27. In short, the rest of the country was finished at least a month to six weeks ahead of the Northeast. Without any substantation, I would note that school traditionally ended by the first week of May in the South, so the odds are good that the SEC teams ended even earlier.

Now, it's worth noting that the Eastern teams won the first round of this battle. I can't find a date for the 1947 CWS, but Southern California is good enough to list dates for all twelve of their national championships (if you've ever read a USC press release you'll note a gentle bit of mocking there). The 1948 championship series against Yale was played on June 25 and 26. After that, though, things began to slowly slide earlier. The 1951 CWS began on June 13. That middle-of-June date lasted through the '50's and '60's, generally starting somewhere between June 9 and 13, but the pre-CWS playoffs stretched longer and started earlier. The 1978 CWS, though, began on June 2, with regionals starting on May 26, and by then the coup was complete; that date lasted until the super-regional round was introduced in 1999.

Many things have changed since 1935, but, despite our thinking that we're always at a unique moment in time, it's always been cold in Massachusetts in February, and it's always been hot in Alabama in June. It's just, when you get right down to it, a big country. Any attempt to move the schedule around needs to recognize those facts and be handled as a negotiation between two groups that can't have perfect conditions and need to be given balancing compensation for concessions and not as some moral crusade for fairness, and any attempt that doesn't do that will fail.

Tournament Watch

This means absolutely nothing, ignore it.

Actually, this is an experiment for me to see how predictable the postseason makeup is. I want to see how accurate my picks are (using myself as the test subject as a moderately knowledgeable observer with no input into the results) at various distances from the selection. I'm not going to bother picking a team from the one-bid conferences, since the conference tournament will just be a crapshoot, but if I only list one team from a conference, they'll get an at large bid if they don't get the automatic bid.

America East       Florida State        Notre Dame             Louisiana State
Atlantic 10        North Carolina St.   St. John's             Mississippi
CAA                Virginia             UC Irvine              South Carolina
Horizon            Clemson              Long Beach State       Florida
MAAC               Georgia Tech         Cal Poly               Arkansas
MAC                Florida Atlantic     Cal State Fullerton    Tennessee
MEAC               Central Florida      Southern Mississippi   Auburn
Mountain West      Texas                East Carolina          Mississippi St.
NEC                Texas A&M            Tulane                 Texas State
OVC                Nebraska             Texas Christian        Lamar
Patriot            Oklahoma             Stanford               La.-Lafayette
SWAC               Oral Roberts         Arizona State          South Alabama
Southern Conf.     Texas Tech           Washington             Rice
Coastal Carolina   Oklahoma State       Arizona                San Jose State
Miami, Florida     Minnesota            Oregon State           Loyola Marymount
Wichita State      Ohio State           Washington State       San Diego

Pitch Count Watch

Rather than keep returning to the subject of pitch counts and pitcher usage in general too often for my main theme, I'm just going to run a standard feature down here where I point out potential problems; feel free to stop reading above this if the subject doesn't interest you. This will just be a quick listing of questionable starts that have caught my eye -- the general threshold for listing is 120 actual pitches or 130 estimated, although short rest will also get a pitcher listed if I catch it. Don't blame me; I'm just the messenger.

Date   Team   Pitcher   Opponent   IP   H   R   ER   BB   SO   AB   BF   Pitches
Mar 19 Stetson Cy McCuen Georgia State 8.2 9 3 3 3 6 36 39 153(*)
Mar 19 Jacksonville Dennis Robinson Mercer 8.0 12 3 3 3 8 35 41 157(*)
Mar 19 Central Florida Matt Fox Campbell 9.0 4 0 0 1 15 30 32 140
Mar 19 Campbell Blades Central Florida 9.0 6 2 2 2 5 30 34 121
Mar 19 Baylor Sean Walker Texas A&M 7.2 5 4 2 4 2 30 34 121
Mar 19 Cal State Fullerton Jason Windsor Fresno State 7.2 9 7 7 2 6 30 34 125
Mar 19 Western Michigan Mathes Evansville 7.2 10 2 2 2 14 33 35 153(*)
Mar 19 Louisiana State Justin Meier South Carolina 8.1 7 3 3 3 8 31 37 146(*)
Mar 19 Florida Justin Hoyman Arkansas 9.0 5 1 1 1 5 32 33 129
Mar 19 Louisiana Tech Clayton Meyer San Jose State 8.0 5 4 1 1 6 29 31 125
Mar 19 Rice Jeff Niemann Hawaii 8.0 6 3 3 2 13 26 31 121
Mar 20 Virginia Tech Jeff Landing Duquesne 9.0 5 0 0 3 6 29 33 138
Mar 20 Baylor Mark McMormick Texas A&M 9.0 5 0 0 4 7 31 35 133
Mar 20 Seton Hall Jake Haggerty Georgetown 9.0 10 3 3 2 5 34 39 141(*)
Mar 20 North Carolina-Asheville Cook Tennessee Tech 9.0 10 3 3 3 6 35 38 143(*)
Mar 20 Cal State Sacramento Ethan Katz Cal Poly 9.0 7 1 1 2 8 33 36 130(*)
Mar 20 Pepperdine Jacob Barrack Santa Clara 8.0 7 0 0 3 13 32 36 144
Mar 20 San Jose State Corey Cabral Louisiana Tech 7.2 8 2 2 2 8 28 33 123
Mar 21 St. Louis Ryan Bird North Carolina-Charlotte 8.0 4 3 3 1 8 27 29 128
Mar 21 Arkansas-Little Rock Kenny Geiersbach Murray State 7.0 6 3 3 3 7 26 29 126
Mar 21 Georgia Southern John Carroll Furman 10.0 12 4 4 1 11 39 40 158
Mar 21 The Citadel Chip Cannon Western Carolina 9.0 8 3 3 4 4 34 38 134
Mar 21 Santa Clara Kellan McConnell Pepperdine 8.0 4 1 1 3 10 26 31 128
Mar 22 Central Michigan T. J. Johnson Notre Dame 9.0 8 1 1 2 6 34 37 137
Mar 22 Coppin State A. Hangland North Carolina A&T 7.0 16 11 11 2 5 36 39 130(*)
Mar 22 North Carolina A&T Andy Peascoe Coppin State 8.0 9 5 3 4 5 32 36 139(*)
Mar 22 Maryland-Eastern Shore Graylon Kitchens Savannah State 7.0 14 9 9 5 6 33 38 146(*)
Mar 22 Southern Utah Justin Abbott Nevada-Las Vegas 8.0 11 7 5 3 4 33 39 140(*)
Mar 22 Seton Hall Chris Noonan Monmouth 9.0 2 1 1 6 8 26 35 135(*)
Mar 24 North Carolina A&T Richard Hawk Illinois 7.2 8 7 5 6 5 30 39 144(*)
Mar 24 Texas Southern Clint Young Sam Houston State 9.0 11 9 9 7 7 34 46 152(*)
Mar 25 Coppin State Graham Johnson Georgia Southern 4.2 13 15 6 2 1 32 34 128

(*) Pitch count is estimated.

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