Messing with Texas: '79 Hogs took pleasure in ending Longhorns' season in Omaha

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, June 17, 2018
Arkansas coach Norm DeBriyn, right, looks toward the ground while catcher Ronn Reynolds watches during a College World Series game against Cal State Fullerton on Friday, June 8, 1979, in Omaha, Neb.
Photo by Gary Fountain, Arkansas Democrat
Arkansas coach Norm DeBriyn, right, looks toward the ground while catcher Ronn Reynolds watches during a College World Series game against Cal State Fullerton on Friday, June 8, 1979, in Omaha, Neb.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Kevin McReynolds has some advice for the Arkansas Razorbacks when they take on the Texas Longhorns today in the College World Series.

"All I can tell 'em is go out there and put it to the Horns," McReynolds said. "Like the '79 boys did."

The Razorbacks beat the Longhorns 9-4 at the 1979 College World Series with McReynolds playing a starring role.

McReynolds, a freshman center fielder that season, hit a home run and a double while driving in three runs as the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville eliminated its Southwest Conference rival from the College World Series.

Norm DeBriyn, the Razorbacks' coach from 1970-2002, said McReynolds had some extra motivation playing Texas, which was staying in the same hotel in Omaha, Neb., as Arkansas.

"The day of the game I was on the elevator with Kevin, and we stopped and a couple of Texas players got on, but I guess they didn't recognize us," DeBriyn said. "One of the Texas players said, 'You know, Arkansas only has about three hitters. You get by Ronn Reynolds, Marc Brumble and Johnny Ray, they don't have much else in the lineup.'

"I looked over at Kevin. He never moved his eyes, but he heard it all. He went off that night against Texas."

McReynolds -- who played 12 seasons in the major leagues with the San Diego Padres, New York Mets and Kansas City Royals -- batted .556 in five College World Series games, going 10 for 18.

"Kevin just got better and better as a freshman," DeBriyn said. "When we got to Omaha, they couldn't get him out."

Arkansas and Texas haven't been conference rivals since 1991 when the Razorbacks left the SWC for the SEC, but having the teams matched up today brings back memories for DeBriyn and his 1979 team.

"I know LSU is the big rival for our players now -- and I hate LSU, too," said Scott Tabor, a freshman pitcher for the Razorbacks in 1979 who started against Texas in Omaha. "But before I hated LSU, I hated Texas.

"Back in the '70s, Texas was the team to beat every year. They were so deep in pitching because they had all the great Texas high school pitchers. Texas called them, and they went to Austin."

Ray, a senior second baseman for the 1979 Razorbacks from Chouteau, Okla., learned about the rivalry when he arrived at Arkansas for the 1978 season as a junior-college transfer.

"When I first started getting acclimated to Arkansas, it seemed like all anybody wanted to talk about was the Texas rivalry," said Ray, who played 10 seasons in the major leagues with the Pirates and Angels. "I didn't know what was going on, but it didn't take me long to find out.

"Even my instructors in class were talking about Texas. I'm like, 'Wow, this must be pretty big.' "

Ray experienced the Arkansas-Texas rivalry for the first time when the Razorbacks played at Austin in 1978 and took 2 of 3 games from the Longhorns.

"There were all these Texas fans sitting behind our dugout screaming anything and everything about our players," Ray said. "I'm like, 'You've got to be kidding me. This is just a baseball game.' But, man, it was dead serious.

"I came to find out later a lot of the people heckling us were doctors and lawyers in Austin. But I couldn't believe some of the things they were saying."

The Razorbacks swept a doubleheader at Texas on March 4, 1978, winning 5-4 and 2-1 in 12 innings. That same day Houston's basketball team beat Texas 92-90 in the Southwest Conference Tournament.

Bill Bakewell, a senior pitcher for Arkansas in 1979, said Texas also lost in two other sports -- he couldn't remember which ones -- that day.

"You know how Texas lights up their tower in burnt orange whenever they win," Bakewell said. "I heard on the news that night it was the only time Texas had participated in four different sports the same day and didn't light up the tower.

"That was a great night in Austin. I loved it."

Several of the 1979 Razorbacks, as well as players from some other teams in the SWC era, attended the Arkansas-Texas game March 13 at Baum Stadium and watched the Razorbacks beat the Longhorns 13-4.

"I'm a big Arkansas guy, so any time we can beat up on somebody it's fun," Ray said. "But it's especially fun to see us beat up on Texas with the history we have against them.

"Texas always has had that persona that they're better than everybody else. So yeah, that stays with you. You don't feel bad when teams pound on Texas."

While there has been a lot of animosity between Arkansas and Texas, there was mutual respect between DeBriyn and Cliff Gustafson, the Longhorns' coach from 1968-1996.

"I remember after we beat Texas in Omaha in '79, Cliff asked me if he could come over to the dugout and talk to our team," DeBriyn said. "I was kind of shocked, but it was a really nice gesture.

"Cliff told our guys congratulations and that we had a really good team. That's a memory that sticks with you."

DeBriyn said that in 2016 he and his wife, Carolyn, went to Austin and visited Gustafson and Augie Garrido, who was in his final season as Texas' coach. Garrido died on March 15.

"We spent some time with Augie and his staff and then we visited Cliff," DeBriyn said. "We rehashed a lot of memories."

Garrido was the coach at California State-Fullerton in 1979 when the Titans beat the Razorbacks 13-10 and 2-1 in the last two games of the College World Series to win the national championship.

"After we beat Texas, I wish we could have closed the deal in Omaha," Ray said. "You hate losing a close one in the championship game like we did. But it was still a great run for Arkansas."

The Razorbacks had never won an NCAA Tournament game before 1979, when they went 4-0 in the Tallahassee (Fla.) Regional to advance to Omaha.

Arkansas is making its ninth College World Series appearance, including four under DeBriyn and five under Dave Van Horn.

"What we did in '79 put us on the map," DeBriyn said. "It showed we could be a nationally competitive program."

Since beating Texas in the 1979 College World Series, the Razorbacks are 0-3 against the Longhorns in Omaha, losing 8-7 in 1985, 13-6 in 1987 and 13-2 in 2004.

The 1979 Razorbacks are optimistic Arkansas will end its Omaha losing streak against Texas today.

"Our guys don't need to try to do anything special," McReynolds said. "Just go out and do their jobs each and every play and put their faith in the man next to them to do his job, and they'll be fine."

Sports on 06/17/2018

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