LSU Baseball: If Alex Box Stadium Could Talk
Dear College Baseball fans,
I am writing this letter to say, “Thank you!” Thank you for 70 great years of visiting with me, cheering with me, crying with me, and helping me grow into what I am today.
You see, it all started 70 years ago, in 1938. Back then, I was known as the LSU Diamond. I saw my beloved Tigers play their first complete game on March 24, a 6-5 loss to Minnesota. About a half month later, the Tigers' winning tradition began with a 7-6 victory over Northwestern on April 11, 1938.
While the Tigers were in the offseason in 1938 and 1939, the New York Giants would host their spring training here. It was a great sight to see Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell, Bill Terry, and Dick Bartell all tossing the ball around the yard.
In 1939, my Tigers would claim the SEC title with a 16-0 victory over Tulane. That was back when Tulane was a member of the SEC.
Those were some of the biggest days for me! I would have visitors from all over Louisiana come into town just to cheer against those Greenie Weenies. I have seen a few crazy parties in the parking lots after a Tiger victory, and a few scuffles when my Tigers couldn’t pull it off.
In 1943, they renamed me Alex Box Stadium, after an outfielder on the 1942 baseball team. No, not “Alex,” it’s pronounced “Alec,” like the city of Alexandria. Anyways, Alex was killed while fighting in North Africa during World War II. He was a great guy and an outstanding player. He will forever be missed.
On May 6, 1946, the Tigers won their second SEC title with a doubleheader sweep of no other than those Greenies from New Orleans.
On May 12, 1961, my Tigers beat Auburn in extra innings to claim their third SEC title here. I remember there was a capacity crowd of 2,500 here to see that game, and just about all of them stayed all the way through.
I knew in time that it would come. After several close calls, my Tigers finally did it. Right-handed pitcher Bruce Baudier threw a seven-inning perfect game to beat Alabama 2-0. I still remember that final pitch like it was yesterday.
Then, in 1972, Tiger pitcher Randy Wiles pitched a no-hitter to beat Rice 3-0 on opening day. The Tigers would do it again on March 14, 1979.
In 1984, the LSU Administration hired Stanley “Skip” Bertman to head the baseball program. Skip had come from Miami, Florida and knew he could turn this program into something special.
I remember how he would come and walk around here and sometimes, he just stood around thinking. He asked the Athletic Director for money several times, but was always told that “he didn’t understand, he was just a coach.” Well I hate to break it to Joe Dean, but this Skip fella was pretty darn smart.
Within a few years of taking over, Skip found ways to fill my bleachers and grandstands every weekend. He started by having baseball camps right here!
Next thing you know, we were giving away tickets and prizes and attracting people from all over to see what all the fuss was about. In only his second year as head coach, Skip led the Tigers to the College World Series. On the way to Omaha, the Tigers hosted their first NCAA Regional right here.
I can’t lie; when Skip first took over I was showing my age a bit. My paint was flaking, my fence had holes in it, and nobody really cared. Thankfully, Skip helped me with several makeovers, including adding a coaches’ dressing room and a players’ lounge in 1985.
I received a new outfield fence in 1986, along with larger dugouts. In 1987, my restrooms were enlarged and new concession stands were built. I remember all the Tiger players trading in their jerseys and cleats for shorts and a paint brush. Skip would also help out, cleaning, painting, doing whatever it took to get me in condition for the following season.
In 1991, something magical hit Tigerland. I just had a feeling something magical was about to happen. My Tigers had such a successful season; I got to host a NCAA Regional for only the second time. The Tigers went on to win the Regional and claim their first National Championship.
Little did I know this would be the first of five in a span of just 10 years. The Tigers played so well during that span, I was forced to work overtime as the Tigers hosted a Regional for 16 consecutive years.
Now, I use the word “forced” very loosely. It was by no means a chore, it was a welcome sight. During that span I made more friends than I knew what to do with.
In 1992, they added more bleachers to accommodate all the people wanting to come visit, and in 1997, the “Intimidator” was added to commemorate LSU’s College World Series titles (1991, 1993, 1996, 1997, and 2000). To this day, the “Intimidator” is my most recognizable feature.
In 1999, my scoreboard was moved to right-center field to make room for even more Tiger fans wanting to visit. Those final bleachers pushed my capacity to 7,760, and every ticket is sold every year.
As a matter of fact, I am the most popular place for college baseball, attracting the most fans in the country for 12 seasons straight!
I remember the 1996 Regional; my Tigers scored 18 runs in a single inning to beat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 29-13. To this day, the Tigers still hold the NCAA record for most hits in an inning (13) and most doubles in an inning (eight).
On July 24, 2002, we lost a great player and an even better friend. I remember all the flowers that were brought right outside my gates, all in memory of Wally Pontiff Jr. He was everything LSU looks for in a player, and he was taken away too soon.
We will never forget what Wally did for LSU, and I always think of him when I see that “31” on the centerfield fence. Never has one number meant so much. We all miss you Wally.
In 2003, we hosted UNC Wilmington in the Super Regional. The Seahawks were great sportsmen throughout the series. The Tigers defeated the Seahawks, but asked the players to join them for a victory lap around the yard.
It was a great sight to see all the Tiger fans high-fiving and shaking hands with that great group of guys. I even heard that when they returned to North Carolina, several players and fans wrote thank you notes, explaining how LSU had the best fans in college baseball.
This was no new news to me, but it was great to see that others were taking notice.
I can’t sit here and be selfish claiming any of the glory. After all, I am just concrete, steel, and dirt.
It is the fans that make this place what it is. It’s the fans that show up rain or shine. It’s the fans that cheer for the great plays, whether it’s a Tiger or an opponent. It’s the fans that tailgate all weekend long, cooking jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish etoufee’, fried fish, and wash all that delicious food down with cold beverages of their choice.
This is LSU, things are certainly different around here. There is no offseason. I even get visitors on Saturday’s in the fall, when that stadium across the street gets roaring.
Unfortunately, I am no longer a spring chicken. I am 70, and it is time for me to retire.
It’s not a bad thing, though! I have seen more memorable moments than most will ever hear about. It’s time we make way to a younger, more energized, more fan-friendly stadium.
I am OK with that though. I was sitting right here when the magic of this place was sealed into that ball, and I will be there when they open it up in 2009.
Fans, you have done your part. This weekend, sit back and enjoy yourselves.
Take in all the sights and sounds I have left to offer. I may be old, but I think I have one last memory left inside of me!
Alex Box Stadium
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