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Texas A&M Baseball

Olsen Magic remembered: '89 Texas series stands time's test

April 16, 2014
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Today is the 25th anniversary of the most exciting day in Aggie baseball history.

Texas A&M (40-1) was ranked No. 1 and facing No. 3 Texas (36-10) in the series that many thought would determine the Southwest Conference Championship.

Rain delayed the series to Saturday and Texas won the first game 6-2, breaking the Aggies’ 14 game-winning streak and becoming the first visitor to win at Olsen Field in 39 games. Craig Newkirk’s grand slam in the eighth inning paced the Horns, but Aggie All-American John Byington homered in the ninth off of Texas ace Kirk Dressendorfer — foreshadowing the day to come.

That set the stage for a day/night doubleheader with the Aggies and ‘Horns that would redefine the series. The two games on April 16th define “Olsen Magic” and, even though many comebacks and game winning hits have followed, these two games are the benchmark. 

Game one saw the Aggies jump on top of the Horns in the very first inning. A&M scored seven times in the bottom of the first, knocking future Houston Astro ace Shane Reynolds out of the game without retiring a single batter.

Byington reached on an error at short to start the inning and a tailor-made double play ball off the bat of Eric Albright was dropped at second by for another ‘Horn error. Those two plays opened the door and the Aggies stormed on through into history. {"Module":"quote","Alignment":"right","Quote":"Byington reached on an error at short to start the inning and a tailor-made double play ball off the bat of Eric Albright was dropped at second by for another ‘Horn error. Those two plays opened the door and the Aggies stormed on through into history. ","Author":""}
Texas rallied, scoring twice in the third of Ronnie Allen and eight times in the top of the fourth, including a grand slam off the bat of David Tollison, to take control 10-7. Texas added to its lead in the next two innings as well, roughing up the Aggie bullpen before Anthony DeLaCruz finally took over in the sixth.

He allowed the Aggie offense to scratch across two runs in the bottom of the sixth to make it 13-9. The Horns scored again in the eighth; with that insurance run, their 14-9 lead seemed insurmountable.

The ninth-inning rally started with the normally airtight Horn defense booting the ball around and it began to affect freshman closer Chris Gaskill, who was entering his third inning on the mound. Byington reached on an error at short to start the inning and a tailor-made double play ball off the bat of Eric Albright was dropped at second by for another ‘Horn error. Those two plays opened the door and the Aggies stormed on through into history.

Andy Duke singled to load the bases before Mike Easley singled in two runs to make it 14-11. Gaskill struck out Travis Williams for the first out of the inning but Jim Neumann drew a walk to load the bases; Aggie fans were going crazy with dreams of a rally when Brian Dare replaced Gaskill. Speedy Kirk Thompson beat out an infield single to make it 14-12 and Terry Taylor followed with a hard hit single to center that scored Easley and Neumann to tie the game at 14. With Thompson hustling all the way to third, Texas had no choice but to walk shortstop Jason Marshall, who replaced an ejected Chuck Knoblauch earlier in the game, to setup a force play at home.

That put the game on the bat of Byington, and Texas coach Cliff Gustafson brought Dressendorfer out of the bullpen to face him. As he was warming up, the roar of the crowd was heard all over College Station; it exploded when Byington hit the first pitch up and over the left field wall to empty the bases. That swing would mark the most important at-bat of Byington’s career.

Until the nightcap of the doubleheader. 

“I don’t know how you can explain it,” Gustafson told the Eagle after the game. “We just fell apart. It was just a total collapse all around.”

“He had to come in to me,” Byington said. “He couldn’t afford to walk me, so he threw a fastball on the inside corner. I didn’t really hit it that good, but I knew it was deep enough to score a run. The home run was extra.”

The all-time Texas home run leader blasted a game-tying three-run homer into the left-field power ally. Even though it was deflating for the Aggie players, coaches and fans, that home run actually set up the bottom of the ninth for a perfect ending to a storybook day. {"Module":"quote","Alignment":"left","Quote":"The all-time Texas home run leader blasted a game-tying three-run homer into the left-field power ally. Even though it was deflating for the Aggie players, coaches and fans, that home run actually set up the bottom of the ninth for a perfect ending to a storybook day.","Author":""}
Extra was right. The first game lasted over four hours, but the greatest day in Aggie baseball history was not over — not by a long shot. Game two of the doubleheader started with the Aggie offense continuing to roll, scoring single runs in the first, second, fifth and sixth to go on top 4-1. Texas cut the gap to 4-2 with a run in the seventh but A&M pushed the lead to 5-2 with a run of its own in the bottom of the eighth. Keith Langston’s pitching gem was derailed when he popped a blister warming up for the ninth inning and Pat Sweet replaced Langston after he walked the leadoff hitter.

Sweet was shaky at best, giving up a hit and needing Mike Easley's diving stop of a hard ground ball to keep Texas from scoring. With the nation’s leading RBI hitter, Scott Bryant, coming up, Mark Johnson went to All-SWC closer Scott Centala. Bryant was ready for a pitch out over the plate and the all-time Texas home run leader blasted a game-tying three-run homer into the left-field power ally. Even though it was deflating for the Aggie players, coaches and fans, that home run actually set up the bottom of the ninth for a perfect ending to a storybook day.

Neumann, just like during the rally in game one, walked to start the inning and pinch-runner Deron Dacus and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Thompson. Texas went again to Gaskill and he intentionally walked Taylor to set up the double play. While the crowd stood even louder than the ninth inning of game one, Texas thought the strategy worked when Knoblauch grounded the ball to short — but a bobble and a hard slide by Taylor was more than enough for Knoblauch to beat out the relay throw.

Instead of walking Byington to load the bases, Texas’ strategy to pitch around him would be their downfall. Gaskill’s first pitch to “Big John” was in the strike zone. His three-run shot was gone the moment it left the bat, and the Aggies had exorcised the past demons of blown leads, miscues and just bad luck with the 8-5 victory.

“I have had game-winning hits before, but to do something like that against your arch-rivals is unbelievable,” Byington said after game two. “This is what you think about at practice, coming to the plate against Texas in the bottom of the ninth. That is as good as I can hit a ball right there.”

“I think we made a statement,” Johnson said. “I told our guys during pre-game that we had to make a stand for ourselves — a statement for ourselves.”

Those games were more than just two unforgettable swings of the bat. But those, burned into the Aggie memory bank, showed the true greatness of the 1989 baseball team.
Discussion from...

Olsen Magic remembered: '89 Texas series stands time's test

16,062 Views | 12 Replies | Last: 6 yr ago by Aggieangler93
clendenin
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Olsen Magic remembered: '89 Texas series stands time's test
Gabe Bock
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Great work by Clendenin on this! Today is the 25-year anniversary of that epic day at Olsen Field ... the double header sweep of Texas thanks to a pair of walkoff home runs by John Byington (a grand slam and a three-run jack, respectively). Check this out. And Happy Birthday to one of my best friends on the planet, Scotty C!
valvemonkey91
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That was such a great day! Still stings we didn't make it to the CWS. Even the announcers at the CWS that year made the statement that " the best team in college baseball isn't even here." Gig Em.
Aggie12B
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I still remember those two games like it was yesterday!

AGGIE12B
JC '88
If you value the Freedom and Liberties you have in your life, be sure to Thank a Veteran everyday!
aggie67,74&76
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Skippy88
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I was at ever home game that year on the second deck of Olsen. I have never had a better day at a park than I did that day. It was truly Magic!
WR
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I was seating out at the left field wall that day. There were two guys on a Kubota tractor seating on a cooler in the front end of the buckets. I remember some cadets came up later and sat down. What a great day.
WR
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S
I was seating out at the left field wall that day. There were two guys on a Kubota tractor seating on a cooler in the front end of the bucket. I remember some cadets came up later and sat down. What a great day.
jimbobuns
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29 years later and that day is as fresh as yesterday....lucky to be on the field w some lifelong brothers that accomplished one helluva comeback and Big John supplied the majestic blasts to beat those minions from Austin! #gigem, #8
Aggie12B
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29 years later, 16 APRIL '89, IS STILL THE GREATEST DAY IN AGGIE BASEBALL HISTORY!
IMO
Aggieangler93
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Nice writeup on this infamous day in Aggie baseball.
Class of '93 - proud Dad of a '22 grad and a '26 student!
West Point Aggie
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Aggieangler93 said:

Nice writeup on this infamous day in Aggie baseball.


Infamous in SIPPY history...

Simply (great) historic in Texas Aggie history!

Infamy is a BAD thing..
Aggieangler93
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Yikes....I've been mis-using that word for years. Thanks for catching me!
Class of '93 - proud Dad of a '22 grad and a '26 student!
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