A key figure from the 1980 College World Series was recently voted into the College Baseball Foundation Hall of Fame. However, in what has to be disappointing for University of Hawaii fans, it’s not Les Murakami, who coached the Rainbows to a runner-up finish in Omaha that year.
It’s outfielder Terry Francona, the most outstanding player of that CWS, who led Arizona over UH. Hawaii had two chances to beat the Wildcats for the championship of the double-elimination tournament but didn’t do it. The Rainbows have yet to return to the CWS.
The other inductees for this year are Duke shortstop Dick Groat, Southern catcher Danny Goodwin, Grambling coach Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones, Arizona State outfielder Oddibe McDowell, Cal State Fullerton first baseman Tim Wallach and Clemson coach Bill Wilhelm.
All very deserving, as far as I can tell.
But, for those of us who know his story, Murakami is a glaring omission. He built a program from nothing. His teams won 1,079 games and numerous WAC championships. He sent 76 players on to pro baseball. The stadium he pushed for in the early 1980s that is now named after him was the finest college baseball facility in the world for a long time and is still among the best today.
Murakami appeared on the ballot this year, but not enough of the 190 voters deemed him worthy this time around.
This Hall of Fame has existed only six years. If it had been started earlier, I think Murakami would already be a member. The 1,000-win club has expanded to 53 coaches since Murakami’s retirement after the 2000 season. Also, in the past decade, the political power base of college baseball has shifted east, dramatically. And when Murakami and the Rainbows were at their prime, national TV exposure was not what it is today for college baseball.
Again, I have no qualms with those voted in (and you get in via a percentage of the votes, so it’s not like the inductees kept Murakami out). But someone like Francona, who is a former major leaguer and continues to have high visibility in baseball as the manager of the Boston Red Sox, obviously enjoys more widespread name recognition than Murakami — especially among younger voters.
Murakami continues to recover from the stroke he suffered in 2000. He still attends UH games, loves to talk baseball and vows to return to playing golf. He was in fine spirits at Tuesday’s annual Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame banquet.
He is 74 years old. Hopefully Murakami soon takes his rightful place among college baseball’s legends in the hall, which includes his biggest star, Derek Tatsuno. Tatsuno was enshrined in 2007, among the second class of inductees.
» It would be silly to ever ask UH fans to root for BYU.
But maybe you join me in respect for the school’s institutional character in not making an exception to its honor code for a basketball player — especially at this point in time. As the team-leading rebounder who complements star guard Jimmer Fredette, Brandon Davies is a key to the Cougars’ 27-3 record this season. His suspension hurts the team as it heads closer to the NCAA Tournament.
Many other schools would have waited until after the season to suspend Davies, or covered up the whole thing.
» Mike Bibby to the Miami Heat is a great move. Call him The Minus Six Million Dollar Man.
A player willing to walk away from that much money is a player willing to do what it takes to help win a championship.
» Lad Panis and Matt Apana hosted an especially good StarComm Prep Beat show yesterday, as they asked listeners to chime in with their choice for the greatest Hawaii high school baseball player of all time.
It sounded like Kalani’s Lenn Sakata and Kaiser’s Sid Fernandez got the most votes, and plenty of other worthy names came up.
One I didn’t hear who deserves mention is Glenn Goya, who pitched a perfect game for Punahou in the 1972 state championship final against Saint Louis, and went on to repeat as the Interscholastic League of Honolulu’s MVP as a senior in 1973. Goya was also a great hitter who went on to star at Colorado State as a first baseman.