Thursday, May 30, 2013

Looking Back....Looking Ahead

As Vanderbilt celebrates its third Southeastern Conference regular season title in three seasons and while it looks ahead to another run to the NCAA College World Series by winning Regional and Super Regional tournaments on its home diamond at beautiful Hawkins Field over the next two weekends......

Here's another look back at the 1973 Commodores (courtesy of THE TENNESSEAN) as they celebrated on that very same field 40 years ago, the school's first ever SEC baseball pennant and (at the time) only the second SEC championship in any sport (along with the 1964-65 mens basketball team).

To more championships and more celebrations on the field soon! Maybe also even one this year in Omaha !

Monday, May 20, 2013

Celebrating The New While Honoring The Teams That Began It All

Last Friday evening, May 17, 2013, Vanderbilt celebrated its latest SEC baseball championship (a team that would soon set SEC (26) and team (48) records for most games won in a regular season). The school also took time to look back and honor the tradition of the first two VU teams that captured SEC crowns, the 1973 and 1974 squads.

As the teams of yesteryear (see photo above) were welcomed back to their "Field of Dreams" for the first time in four decades  by today's VandyBoys (as the current team is nicknamed), the exploits of Vandy's only two back to back conference champions were outlined to the applause of fans.

Here, courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics, is what was said about the remarkable seasons these two teams achieved, beginning a tradition of excellence that still continues today.

Ladies and Gentlemen …. Please direct your attention to the home plate area at Hawkins Field.  Tonight, Vanderbilt baseball is proud to recognize Commodore greats from the past.  On the field tonight with former Head Coach Larry Schmittou are members of the 1973 and 1974 SEC Baseball Championship teams.

The 1973 team won the first ever SEC Baseball Championship for Vanderbilt, and the ’73 and ’74 teams were the first and only back to back champions in the history of Vanderbilt baseball.

The 1973 team was lead by a strong group of seniors which included All-American and Vanderbilt Hall of Fame member Jeff Peeples.
    The late Jeff Peeples, VU first baseball All-American, pitching in 1973. The annual   Vanderbilt team MVP award bears his name.

Early season highlights included Peeples complete game 6-hitter to beat #2 ranked Southern California in a spring west coast tournament.  Just 2 days later, the Commodores defeated #1 ranked Arizona State, with a 14-hit attack led by then sophomore Rick Duncan, great defense, and good late inning pitching from Mark Bode who picked up the win in relief.

Catcher Greg Collins had an all-star tournament performance in the California tournament, slamming 3 home runs, throwing out 12 of 14 base runners, and picking 2 others off base.

A mid-season highlight and one of the most dramatic of the year was a 2-out, 2-strike walk-off grand slam HR by co-captain Tommy Powell to beat Tennessee  9-8 in a game that turned the Commodore fortunes against the pre-season favorite Volunteers.

Other season highlights included Jeff Peeples starting and winning both games of a doubleheader against Auburn, with 12 scoreless innings, giving up only 2 hits.

And, on the final weekend of the regular SEC season, trailing Florida by a game in the Eastern Division standings, the ‘Dores swept the Gators to win the SEC East for the 3rd consecutive year.

Then, it was on to the SEC Championship series against Western Division champ Alabama.  With 5-1 and 13-7 victories, the Commodores celebrated their first ever SEC baseball championship on this same site here at the old McGugin field.

After a 13-5 SEC Championship season, the Commodores made their first ever trip to the NCAA tournament, joining a 6-team field in Starkville, MS for the District III Championship.  After winning 2 straight games against GA. Southern and N.C. State, the ‘Dores lost in the late innings against Miami, Florida to come up 1 win short of a chance to play for the District III Championship and a trip to the College World Series.

The 1973 team ended the season at 36-16, at the time, a record for wins in the SEC.  Rising as high as #7 in the national rankings, the ’73 squad finished as the 13th ranked team in the country.
                                   John McLean in action during the 1973 season

A pitching staff that included senior stalwarts John McLean, Mark Bode and Doug Wessel established a team ERA record of 3.21, a mark that remained intact for 38 years until the 2011 College World Series staff lead by Sonny Gray topped this previous record.

In addition to All-American Jeff Peeples, the 1973 team was lead by All-SEC players Greg Collins, Ted Shipley, and Rick Duncan.

 The 1973 Commodores celebrate the school's first SEC championship in baseball.

In 1974, following the loss of experience and leadership of 7 seniors, the baseball Commodores were not expected to contend so highly.  However, with an outstanding pitching staff lead by Steve Burger, Rick Rhodes, Mike Coyne, Bob Latimer and freshman Eddie Wiles, the ’74 team came out of the box hot with an early spring record of 9-4, all on the road, which included 2 wins at LSU, a split against top-ranked South Alabama, and 2 of 3 at Florida.

Later in the conference season, another 2 of 3 series victory against UT ran Vandy’s record to 10 of the last 12 against the Vols.

Repeating Jeff Peeples iron-man performance from the year before, Junior Rick Rhodes started and won both games against Georgia, in a big late season series.  Rhodes then also pitched VU to a 4th straight Eastern Division title with a 2-1 victory at Auburn to clinch a 4th consecutive spot in the SEC Championship series for the Commodores.

In the SEC Championship series, again against Alabama, the Commodores avenged an early season loss in the Joe Sewell Classic by beating the Tide 12-8 at McGugin Field, and won the SEC title with an epic 2-1 12-inning thriller in Tuscaloosa.  In this title winning victory, Bob Latimer gave up just 4 hits and 1 run in 10 innings.  Steve Burger came on in relief to close down the win after his own single knocked in the go ahead run in the top of the 12th.

The NCAA District Tournament was again held in Starkville, MS in 1974.  Against another strong field, the ‘Dores defeated East Carolina, but had their highly successful season end with losses to Miami, FL and GA. Southern.  

The 1974 team finished with 37 wins, a new school record  … one that stood for 30 years until Tim Corbin’s 2004 team won 45 games.

The 1974 team ended the year as the 14th ranked team in the country.

The team also set a school and then NCAA record with 154 stolen bases, lead by Ted Shipley with 39 steals.

Juniors Rick Rhodes, Ted Shipley, and Rick Duncan were named All-SEC in 1974.

Head Coach Larry Schmittou continued to lead the baseball Commodores until 1978.  He amassed 306 wins in his 11 years at Vanderbilt, lead the team to 4 consecutive division crowns from ’71 to ’74,  and 2 consecutive SEC Championships, for which he was named SEC Coach of the Year in 1973 and 1974.  During his tenure here, Vanderbilt won more games than any other SEC school, and was one of only 2 schools to win   divisional championships.  He coached 20 All-SEC, 8 All-SEC East, 8 All-South region, and 7 Academic All-SEC players.  For all his accomplishments in baseball, including Nashville youth leagues, his Championship tenure at Vanderbilt, and then with the Nashville Sounds, Schmittou was enshrined into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.



Joining us today from these great championship teams are:

Steve Burger

Mark Bode

Greg Collins

Mike Coyne

1974 Co-Captain Rick Duncan

Bill Hardin

1973 Co-Captain Robert Hendrickson

Marvin Manson

Gene Menees

John McLean

Tom Moore

Ron Piacenti

1973 Co-Captain Tom Powell

Rick Rhodes

1974 Co-Captain Ted Shipley

Ed White

Eddie Wiles


And …. Head Coach Larry Schmittou
Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s give a big round of applause for these great Championship teams, the players and coaches from 1973 and 1974!
The saying goes..." If you build it, they will come." And so it is, 40 years later what our Vanderbilt classmates along with Coach Schmittou built, Coach Tim Corbin and the VandyBoys continue winning their third SEC regular season crown in the last seven years with perhaps even more to come the post-season ahead in the SEC tournament, then on to the NCAA Regionals, Super Regionals and hopefully, another College World Series berth in Omaha by June.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Don Evans Is Gone

Another of our favorite Vanderbilt professors has passed away.

Art Professor Don Evans died on May 6. In many ways he was a teacher who some thought was a "bit out there" before being a "bit out there" was cool. But he was cool and students loved him!

Here's a remembrance of Professor Evans from the local NASHVILLE SCENE weekly publication....

Perhaps you have some special memories of Don Evans you'd like to share from back in the days when we were on campus. Please please feel free to do so either by clicking on the link below or leaving a message back on the Class Facebook page.

Rest in Peace, Professor Evans.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

50 Years Ago JFK Comes To Vanderbilt For A Special Birthday

As members of Vanderbilt's Centennial Class (it says so on our diploma), I know we all think our class year (1973) represents the most important birthday so far in the school's history.

But actually the most historic Vanderbilt birthday came on Saturday May 18, 1963 (50 years ago this weekend) when the University celebrated its 90th year with a visit to the campus and a speech at Dudley Field by President John F. Kennedy! 

Yes, I know Vanderbilt's birth is usually celebrated on March 17 to mark the founding donation to begin the school from Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. But hey! I guess if the President can come,  you make your birthday celebration that year whenever he can make it.

And more than 30,000 people made it too. They packed the stadium to hear the President speak with an estimated 200,000 folks (probably more than the entire Nashville population back then) lining the motorcade route from the airport to Vanderbilt, and then after his speech,  through Hillsboro Village and out to the Governor's Residence where he had lunch.

Looking back on his remarks a half century later, it is remarkable how timely JFK words remain. He spoke of "the educated citizen" and our obligation to serve the public, uphold the law and defend the pursuit of learning. He came to the South at a time of unrest surrounding the civil rights movement and when some like Alabama Governor denounced him as a "military dictator.' Kennedy offered this eloquent statement, including a closing prediction about Vanderbilt's future at the end of the speech. You can see and hear almost the entire 20-minute address through this YouTube video of his remarks....

If I may be allowed some shameless self-promotion, I hope you in the Nashville area can join me for my INSIDE POLITICS show on this topic this weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 Network. John Seigenthaler, Publisher Emeritus of THE TENNESSEAN (nobody in Nashville knew John and Robert Kennedy better) and former Congressman Bob Clement (his dad was Governor at the time) will offer their thoughts and reflections.

Following that, courtesy of Vanderbilt University's Special Collections, we will air the 30-minute special Channel 5 (then WLAC-TV) aired the day JFK came to town in 1963. It's like going back in a time machine to see Vanderbilt, Nashville and our nation as it was exactly a half century ago.

Our INSIDE POLITICS air schedule is 7:00 p.m. Friday, May 18; 5:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Saturday, May 18; and 5:00 a.m. & 12:30 p.m.,Sunday, May 19. The show can be seen on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS which can be found on Comcast Cable Channel 250, Charter Cable channel 150 and on NEWSCHANNEL5's over-the-air digital channel, 5.2.

Don't forget the JFK special done by Channel 5 in 1963 will air immediately following INSIDE POLITICS. Both are 30-minute programs. Watch us (or tape one of the early morning broadcasts on your DVR or TiVo!

Monday, May 13, 2013

The New England Legacy

As Vanderbilt continues its very special 2013 baseball season by clinching this past weekend its 3rd Southeastern Conference regular season championship in the last 7 years, the Saturday (May 11) sports section of THE NEW YORK TIMES did a front page story about the unique relationship that has developed between high school baseball stars from the Boston and New England area and Vanderbilt.

That includes senior outfielder and all-star Mike Yastrzemski (right) whose grandfather (left) is Hall of Famer and Boston Red Sox icon, CarlYastrzemski.  This is great publicity for both the baseball program and the University that in many ways money can't buy. Read more at the link below.....

As Vanderbilt begins its final week of the regular season, it has the chance to be the winningest team ever in a single season in Southeastern Conference history. The team is already an incredible 24-2 in conference play, the best start ever by an SEC club. Two or more wins this weekend (Thursday-Saturday) versus Alabama and Vandy will hold the mark for most SEC wins in a season, playing in what most think is the toughest colege baseball league in the nation.

We will be posting more this week on Vanderbilt baseball, especially Friday night when our own Centennial Class team, the 1973 Vanderbilt Commodores, will be honored for the SEC crown it won (the school's first ever) 40 years ago this spring. The 1974 team also won the SEC the following year and will be honored as well Friday night.

It's a Vanderbilt legacy of champions that began we were on campus and which is continuing today.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

40 Years Ago.....

 40 years ago this month this was us....the Centennial Class of Vanderbilt University going through our commencement exercises.

I know it sures makes me feel old to comprehend that fourty groups of graduating seniors have walked across that stage since we did. But what an opportunity! And how commencement has changed in some ways over the years.

First, ours was held on Curry Field (not Alumni Lawn where it is now). Memorial Gym is still the backup location as it was in 1973. But it's so hot in there with so many people crammed in and no air conditioning, let's hope the Class of 2013 doesn't need to go there either on their special day.

A couple of other changes....ours was held later in month on May 25 not May 10, and like almost everything else, it's gotten to be a much bigger event with festivities spread out over an entire week!

Here's a link to the Vanderbilt Commencement web page if you'd like to check it out....

One thing is sure for our class, 40 years later: our Vanderbilt degree has only gained in value over the last four decades. That's something we can all cherish and celebrate in October when we gather together on campus for our 40th Class Reunion to renew our friendships and look back on our remarkable time together in the late 1960s and early 70s.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Vanderbilt's baseball team is having a special season with an overall record (as of May 7) of 41-6  and 21-2 in the Southeastern Conference, the best start ever by an SEC club.

The team has already clinched the Eastern Division championship and is 3 games up in the loss column over LSU (with six games to  play) win the regular season crown.

Then comes the SEC Tournament followed by the NCAA Regionals, Super Regionals and, hopefully another trip to Omaha for a berth in the College World Series and a shot at a national title.

One of the keys to Vanderbilt's success has been the players recruited from the Boston and New England areas. That includes such players as Mike Yaztremski and Tyler Beede among others.

There's another special youngster who is about to become a part of the team next season and, according to this EPN article, he's already an inspiration to many, even the victims of the recent Boston Bombing Terror Attack.

This is a must-read article even if you aren't a baseball fan.....

Welcome to Vanderbilt, Josh!

Monday, May 6, 2013

In Memoriam

As we continue to move along in years, our dear teachers and administrators at Vanderbilt while we were on campus, are passing away.

One of the latest is Professor John L. Bingham who died on May 2 in Nashville at the age of 93. He held both a B.A. and M.A. degree from Vanderbilt in the Romance Languages. He taught for 40 years at the school and was instrumental in the growth of undergraduate majors in Spanish and Portugese. He also served as an Associate Dean in the College of Arts & Science and was awarded the Chancellor's Cup in 1982 for his for outstanding service to students outside the classroom. Professor Bingham was also quite active in Vanderbilt's studying abroad programs.

His full obitary from THE TENNESSEAN appears at the link below.....

May he rest in peace.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Meet Luke Kornet.

He's Vanderbilt's latest basketball recruit.

At 6' 10'' inches tall, and having grown over 6 inches in just the last year alone, he's an inside player Black & Gold fans can't wait to see fully develop over the next few seasons.

But what may have them even more excited is that Luke is a rare legacy player for the Commodore program.

Luke's father  is Frank Kornet, a 6' 8'' inch power forward who was a first team All-SEC player his senior year at Vanderbilt back in 1989 . He then went on to be an NBA draft pick and play for the Milwaukee Bucks for several seasons.

Frank Kornet is also Luke's high school coach and probably understands very well what it's like to pass on the legacy of something you love, such as the game of basketball, to your own children.

I think we have a member of our own Vanderbilt Centennial Class of 1973 who may, in a way, understand that concept even better.

I think everyone in our class will recognize and remember Ray Maddux, a 6' 8'' post player, who played a major role in both scoring and rebounding for the Commodores during his three varsity seasons from 1971 to 1973. Ray is today a longtime successful Nashville businessman. He is also part of the most extensive basketball legacy in VU history. First, his father Ed played for the Black & Gold in 1943. And then so did Ray's son, Drew Maddux, from 1995-1998.

Drew Maddux was also an All-SEC performer during his career at Vanderbilt and he is still 6th all-time in scoring at the school. Today, like Frank Kornet, Drew is a very succesful high school basketball coach here in Nashville, passing on the love for the game to another generation.

I guess that's what being a legacy player at Vanderbilt is all about.