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Public Papers - 1989 - June

Remarks Congratulating the Wichita State University Shockers on Winning the NCAA Baseball Championship


First, let me salute the two Kansas Senators, Senator Dole, Senator Kassebaum; members of the Kansas congressional delegation; President Armstrong; Coach Stephenson; Shocker players; staff; friends; secret admirers. Welcome to the White House, and heartfelt congratulations on wrapping up and winning the NCAA Baseball Championship. And nothing personal at all in your having kicked the Texas Long-horns out to pasture. [Laughter] I'd forgotten that.

But it's a special treat to be here, for as you may have heard, I love the game. In fact, watching Greg Brummett's fastball last weekend reminded me of another one from the olden times -- threw that high, hard fast one -- the fabled Dizzy Dean, St. Louis Cardinal fame. As a player, he fractured the opponents' bats; but later, as a broadcaster, he fractured the English language. [Laughter] And he said once, of a homerun hitter: ``He's standing confidentially at the plate.'' [Laughter] And then he delighted listeners with his trademark quote that I'm sure even young guys remember: ``That runner slud into third.'' [Laughter]

Well, by winning Wichita State's first-ever national baseball title, you have slud headfirst into the sports hearts of America. And they're calling it Shocker Success or Midwest Magic. And remember how Judy Garland once said of Kansas, ``There's no place like home''? Well, with apologies to Senator Dole and Senator Kassebaum, you've proven there's also no place like Omaha and the College World Series.

If you'll excuse a personal reminiscence, I played in 1947 in the first College World Series finals. It started in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I think they played there 2 or 3 years before a move to Omaha. And next year, '48, again our Yale team reached the finals, but there was one problem. We had a good coach -- great National League baseball player, Ethan Allen; and we walked the eighth hitter, bases loaded, I think, to get to the ninth hitter. The ninth hitter was their pitcher, Jackie Jensen, who went on to be one of the greatest sluggers the Boston Red Sox ever had. And he hit a ball that's still rolling in Kalamazoo, Michigan. [Laughter] So, we lost both times. So, baseball can keep you humble.

But in 1989, you were the ones that kept your opponents humble -- 58 - 14 they were -- 58 - 14 on the regular season. Five victories in the College World Series, batting, pitching, fielding -- all of it right into the history books. Greg Brummett, of course, now famous nationally, led you there: only the seventh pitcher to win three games in a College World Series. Greg, the pickoff move of yours would nab Ricky Henderson [New York Yankees player]. And help came, too, from the Shockers' answer to the question, ``How do you spell relief?'' Well, Jim Newlin, only the fourth college pitcher to get three saves in a College World Series. And then there's Eric Wedge, your catcher; shortstop Pat Meares, clubbing a homerun in the title game -- called NASA this morning, and that ball's still in orbit. And Jim Audley, Todd Dreifort -- each of the four, All-Tournament selections.

So, don't worry; I'm not forgetting Mike Wentworth here. One week ago, you started reading the comic that covers a piece of bubble gum, and you came upon this fortune: ``Something magical will happen.'' And hours later, you belted a three-run homer to help beat top-seeded Florida State. And the next day, Gene Stephenson's team completed the magic act, becoming the first NCAA baseball champion in 23 years not located in California, Texas, Arizona, or Florida. And last week, Gene said, ``We wanted to prove to people all over the country that somebody outside those States can play baseball.'' Don't worry, Coach; they got the message.

And in that final game, Bryant Winslow had to leave because of a stress fracture in his right leg -- one of four major injuries to hit this ball club. He had, as we all would, tears in our eyes at a difficult situation like that. He didn't want to leave, but he led his teammates from the bench.

And a writer once observed, ``The Kansas spirit is the American spirit double-distilled.'' And my friends, you embody that spirit. And it -- and you -- have made the Shockers number one.

The Vice President and I are delighted to be here to salute you, along with our distinguished Members of the Congress. Congratulations to a team of champions -- well done! Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:03 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Warren B. Armstrong, president of the university, and Gene Stephenson, coach of the team.

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