|By Bill Platt
Oklahoma State has an NCAA Baseball Championship trophy.
It was won 51 years ago in 1959 by coach Toby Greene in his third
trip to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., and he won it with
a team that was not expected to do much.
The preseason prospectus for 1959 read, "The baseball outlook for
coach Toby Greene's 16th edition of Cowboy baseball is quite
questionable. Despite the return of key members from last year's
pitching staff, it's hard to consider the Pokes much of a threat
with graduation, grades and the pros robbing the veteran OSU mentor
of all but one of his starters."
Only left fielder Don Soergel (.313) was back, along with veteran
hurlers Roy Peterson (6-2), Joel Horlen (6-3) and Dick Soergel
(4-0). Pitching strength and depth were the only bright spot for the
ballclub with the rotation of veterans Peterson, Horlen and Soergel.
The 1959 season opened with a southern swing that consisted of four
non-conference games - two against Rice and two against Houston with
Oklahoma State winning three-of-four.
The regular season consisted of 21 Big Eight Conference games which
was normal for the 1950s. The conference series were three-game,
round-robin affairs consisting of two seven-inning games on Friday
and a single nine-inning game on Saturday. Teams were not allowed to
start early, and there were not any makeup days allowed. The Cowboys
won the conference title with a 17-3 record by battling off Iowa
State and Missouri in the last two series.
Greene set his lineup quickly in 1959 which was a necessity with
only four non-conference games.
The catching duties were handled by Ray Bond, a sophomore from
Oklahoma City Capitol Hill, with Tim Smalley, a junior from
Stillwater, serving as the backup.
Grayson Mersch, a sophomore from Jay, won the first base job in a
three-way battle. Mersch was one of the first in a long line of
great fielding first basemen at Oklahoma State and possessed a
A brother combination - Bruce and Bob Andrew - provided the defense
up the middle. Bruce, a sophomore, secured second base early in the
season with his fine defensive play and a .300-plus batting average,
while Bob was the shortstop. Bob, who had played two years
previously, returned from military service to move into the hole
created by Jerry Adair, who had signed with the Baltimore Orioles as
a junior. Bob gave OSU solid defense, a good bat and much-needed
leadership in an infield that had four sophomores.
The third-base job wasn't decided until after the conclusion of
spring football when Jim Dobson came out for the team. Dobson, a
sophomore from Oklahoma City Capitol Hill, had an outstanding year,
finishing second on the team in home runs and RBI and winning the
Most Valuable Player Award at the College World Series.
The outfield had three veterans with seniors Tim Green and Connie
McIlvoy and juniors Ben Bancroft and Don Soergel. McIlvoy and
Soergel shared leftfield, batting .319 and .350, respectively.
McIlvoy came off the intramural field while Soergel was a returner
who also played backup at first base and was the most effective
pinch hitter as well.
Bancroft handled the duties in centerfield and the San Antonio,
Texas, junior handled them extremely well. Bancroft had been used
very little as a third baseman the previous season but proved to
have a good arm and led the team in home runs and RBI while hitting
.314. Green, a senior from Asher, was the starter in right field
and, at 5-9, possessed good speed, power and a strong arm while
hitting .279 and finishing third in home runs and RBI.
But the focal point of this team would be the pitching staff that
returned three starters and didn't have much need for relievers.
Peterson, a senior from Tulsa Rogers, finished 9-2 with a 1.42 ERA
to lead the staff, while Horlen, a senior from San Antonio, went 9-1
with a 2.23 ERA. The youngest member of the veterans was Dick
Soergel, who was only a junior and finished 8-1 with a 2.10 ERA.
Horlen went on to a successful career in the major leagues with the
Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics, while Soergel will be
remembered as one of the last all-sport athletes. He was a starter
at quarterback in football, a starter at forward in basketball and a
starting pitcher in baseball for three straight seasons. This was
when student-athletes were not eligible until their sophomore
season, and Soergel won nine varsity letters.
The 1959 staff finished with 229 1/3 innings, including 20 complete
games, and walked only 70 while striking out 206. Toby Bensinger, a
senior lefthander from Midwest City, was the most used reliever and
had only eight innings during the regular season. He had an
additional six and one-third innings in the College World Series,
including starting the championship game.
The 1959 District V Championship was a two-out-of-three affair with
the winner going directly to the College World Series. It was the
Big Eight champion Cowboys against the Missouri Valley champion
Bradley Braves on the Bradley campus in Peoria, Ill. OSU won the
doubleheader on Friday by scores of 7-6 and 6-2 to sweep the series
and head to Omaha. Soergel and Horlen were winning pitchers, and
Dobson hit a tape-measure home run in each victory.
OSU opened the 1959 tournament with a 10-2 victory over Western
Michigan as Horlen pitched a five-hitter. McIlvoy, Bancroft, Mersch
and Bond each picked up a pair of hits, and Mersch and Bond each had
O-State had to rally for three runs in the seventh in its next game
against Penn State and, after an insurance run in the eighth, won
8-6. Peterson worked the first seven before Bensinger came on in
relief to pick up the save with two perfect innings. Bond and
Peterson each had three hits as the Cowboys pounded out 11 hits as a
In their next game, the Cowboys found themselves on the wrong end of
a 5-3 score as Arizona picked up three runs in the fifth en route to
the victory. Soergel was the loser, and it was his first career loss
in 12 decisions.
Finding themselves in the loser's bracket, the Cowboys eliminated
Penn State, 4-3, as Horlen went the distance for his second win of
the tournament. O-State found itself down 3-2 but rallied for two
runs in the ninth to salvage the win.
A Fresno State victory over Arizona that night left three teams with
one loss each. Arizona won the coin toss and became the odd man out
as Oklahoma State and Fresno State met for the chance to play the
Wildcats for the national championship.
It was back to Peterson against the Bulldogs, and the big
right-hander responded with a four-hit shutout, 4-0. Dobson and
Mersch were the offensive heroes with three and two hits,
respectively. Dobson had a home run and a double while Mersch had an
The Cowboys had advanced to the championship game, but Greene was
faced with a pitching problem. Because of the extra game, Peterson
had pitched the day before and could only be used for two or three
outs if needed. Horlen had only one day's rest since going the
distance against Penn State, but was also ready for relief. And
Soergel had just two days' rest since working seven and one-third
innings against Arizona.
Greene elected to go with Bensinger even
though the lefthander had never started a game for the Cowboys and
had only worked 10 2/3 innings the entire season. Bensinger was
supposed to go as far as he could and would then be followed by
Soergel with Horlen and Peterson if necessary. Bensinger worked
three and two-thirds innings before Soergel came on to finish the
final five and one-third innings, including three shutout innings to
close out the game, after OSU had taken the lead in the seventh.
In the championship game, Dobson, who was voted the Most Valuable
Player, opened the O-State scoring with a towering home run over the
left-field fence in the fourth inning. Arizona picked up single runs
in the fourth and fifth and led 2-1. Bancroft tied the score with a
solo home run in the top of the sixth, but the Wildcats added a run
of their own in the bottom of the sixth to lead 3-2. It was another
sophomore, Bruce Andrew, who sparked the game-winning three-run
rally in the top of the seventh, and OSU led 5-3. Soergel shut out
the Wildcats in the final three innings and OSU had its first NCAA
Four Cowboy players were named to the College World Series
All-Tournament team, including third baseman and MVP Dobson. Also
selected were Bruce Andrew at second base, Connie McIlvoy in the
outfield and Horlen at pitcher.
The coach of this championship club was a different combination of
man. Greene came to OSU as a football assistant in 1939 and also
served as freshman baseball coach. He took over the varsity from
Henry P. Iba in 1942 and made his first entry into national
tournament play in 1947. Greene was soft-spoken on most occasions as
well as being articulate with a master's degree in English. He was
an accomplished pianist, but when riled his language could make a
sailor blush. Greene served as the head baseball coach for 21 years
and had an astounding record of 318-132 for a .707 winning
percentage. His teams appeared in seven College World Series and
dominated the Missouri Valley Conference before making the move to
the Big Eight in 1958.
I still can remember looking down from the radio booth atop the
Rosenblatt Stadium roof and seeing the Cowboy team and coach Greene
gathered around home plate for the championship ceremonies.
Coach Greene, a man of few words, stepped to the microphone with the
trophy in hand and said, "Tonight, these young men around me, have
made an old man very happy. Thank you."
Cowboy Baseball Legacy
1959 National Champions
College World Series
Hall of Fame Cowboys
In the Pros
Toby Greene coached the Cowboys to the 1959
national championship. Greene coached from 1942-1964 at Oklahoma
State and compiled a 318-132 record in his 21 years as head
Dick Soergel was a three-sport athlete at
Oklahoma State, and is a member of the OSU Hall of Honor.
Soergel was the winning pitcher for the Cowboy Baseball team in
the 1959 national championship game, played quarterback for the
Cowboy Football team that won the 1958 Bluegrass Bowl, and
played on Mr. Iba's 1958 basketball team that reached the Elite
Third baseman Jim Dobson was a sophomore on
the 1959 championship team, and finished second on the team in
home runs and RBIs. Dobson was voted the Most Valuable Player of
the 1959 College World Series.
Senior Joel Horlen joined Dick Soergel and
Roy Peterson to comprise a veteran pitching rotation that
anchored the Cowboys in 1959. Horlen was one of four Cowboys
named to the College World Series All-Tournament team that year.
The Andrew brothers, Bob (left) and Bruce
(right), played at shortstop and second base. Bruce helped spark
a game-winning three-run rally in the top of the seventh in the
national championship game against Arizona.