Finding Baseball Lore On the Back Roads of Arkansas

This past weekend my wife and I were on our first multi-day vacation since our 4 year old was born.  I heard an interesting story from a clerk at a store where we were buying some items. The clerk noticed that I was going to buy a few baseball books. He said his dad hit the only RBI when the Arkansas Razorbacks lost the only time they were in the College World Series. We said goodbye, but I got thinking and tried to see if I could find who this boy's dad might be.

First, I went and looked to see if Arkansas had even been the in College World Series and been limited to only one run. Well, Arkansas has actually been to the College World Series six times (1979, 1985, 1987, 1989, 2004, 2009). Seems like the father expanded the story a bit, but what father hasn't exaggerated a time or two.

Alright, let's look for a any 1 run losses that Arkansas experienced in any series. I am going to look at all the series's except 2004 and 2009. Even though the boy was probably between the ages of 16 and 20, I don't want to imagine that a person would have a son when they were 10 years old, even in Arkansas.

Arkansas did lose a game to Wichita State 3-1 in 1989, but I will guess a game in 1979 College World Series was the game that the boy was talking about.   Arkansas won enough games to face Cal State Fullerton for the championship. In that game, Cal State Fullerton beat Arkansas 2-1.  It probably wasn't the only series they were in, it was probably the only time they made it to the championship game.

The boy was probably telling the truth, but could actually brag a bit more. It seemed that his dad hit the RBI in the only championship game Arkansas has ever been in.

Trying to find a box score for the game was quite difficult, but remembering that winners usually keep better records of their exploits than the losers, I found a box score at the Cal State Fullerton website.

Larry Wallace was the only Razorback with an RBI that day and had half the team's hits with 2. He was a senior that season and made the all tournament team. Initially, I could not find much more on Mr. Wallace. No Larry Wallace shows up at baseball-reference.com as ever being drafted or playing in the minors or the majors. I did find that he was the 1973 MVP of the Arkansas Baseball State Tournament.

Finally, I found this great nugget in a 1979 issue of Sports Illustrated:

Perhaps the Razorbacks' finest all-round player was Shortstop Larry Wallace, who has been almost totally deaf since age two. A fine fielder, he was also hitting .533 going into the final. He doesn't wear his hearing aids in games because his batting helmet interferes with them. When he calls for a pop fly his teammates have no choice but to stand clear.

Holy cow, he was deaf. No wonder he did not continue on playing baseball. 

I love digging up and following odd pieces of data, but this is by far one of my favorites.  I found out a little more than I ever figured I would from just a short passing conversation.  The clerk seemed proud of what his father did. I on the other hand am straight up flabbergasted.

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