Errors, Stranded Batmen Sink Harvard
1975: Baseball's THE Year That Wasn't
By all predictions, this was going to be THE year for Harvard baseball. I his was going to be the year that Harvard did more than a quick tango with the great teams of college ball before making an exit out the back door at the NCAA World Series in Omaha.
Somewhere on the road to Omaha, however, the Crimson baseball team got sidetracked. Some would point to the decision by the Administrative Board in early spring not to allow the baseball team to participate in any playoffs even should Harvard win the Eastern Baseball League crown, as the beginning of the downfall.
Actually, it probably began sooner than that, as the team could only practice for a couple of weeks in Briggs Cage before it went South because the track team was using the Cage in place of the now defunct bubble. Combine the limited practice with injuries to two key players. Leigh Hogan and Jimmy Thomas, and Harvard effectively began its season without a cohesive infield.
The Crimson soon suffered for its lack of practice as Tufts stunned the Harvard batmen the Monday after they returned from Florida, 7-5. Four days later, Penn came to town and while Crimson ace Milt Holt pitched well. Quaker centerfielder Tom Brandt tagged a three-run homer to win the game, 3-1. By April 11, Penn had jumped out to a 4-0 mark in the HBI while the Crimson sat at 0-1
Harvard gained back ground with eight wins against only one loss (a 13-12 debacle at the hands of lowly Brown) in the next two weeks to bring it to 4-2 in the Eastern League and 4-1 in the Greater Boston League. At that point, however, things began to fall apart. A 3-1 loss to Cornell on April 25 and a split with Arms on the next day all but mathematically eliminated Harvard from the HBI title race Losses to Boston College and Northeastern the next week dropped the Crimson from contention in the GBI for the first time since 1970.
The slide did not stop there, however as Harvard split with Dartmouth and then, for one of the biggest shocks of the season, lost to Brandeis for the first time in two decades.
Luck finally began to swing back for Holt last weekend, as he beat Princeton, 3-1, despite hits and committing four errors. In an exciting finale, Harvard came back to win the second game of a doubleheader with Navy last Saturday after it dropped the first one to the Middies. The loss eliminated Navy from the Eastern race and gave Penn the title.
Last year's Cinderella team looked much like this year's version in the early part of the season. The difference, though, was that midway through last season, everything came together, both on defense and offense.
Harvard coach Loyal Park has always prided his teams on their ability to bunt and come through with a clutch hit, and on their defense, especially the defensive infield. At times this spring, the squad looked as if it were handling a hot potato instead of a baseball.
It must have been a disappointing season for shortstop Ed Durso; at one point he had more errors than hits. This was a far cry from his performance as a sophomore when he batted .395 in EIBL action and was named second team All-EIBL.
Harvard traditionally plays a scrappy game. A hit, a bunt or steal and then another hit have been counted on to provide most of the runs scored over the years. But while the Crimson usually scored only a run or two per inning, it generally scored in five or six innings per game. This year the last hit, the one to bring the man home, did not come often enough. Against Northeastern on May 1, for example, Harvard left 13 men stranded on the basepaths.
The pitching this year was probably as strong as it traditionally has been, but the runs needed to back it up weren't there.