Before all the records and All-Star appearances, before the World Series games and Hall of Fame induction, baseball great Lou Brock dug into the dirt at Sul Ross State College during a tied game between Municipal University of Omaha and Brock’s Southern University.
The future St. Louis Cardinal and then-left fielder for the Jaguars proceeded to launch a three-run shot over the wall, sending Southern on to an eventual 10-2 win and a claim to the 1959 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Championship — the first African-American team to ever earn such a title.
On Friday, the entire 1958-59 Southern baseball team will be inducted into the Southern University Sports Hall of Fame along with the other 25 members of the 28th Annual Enshrinement and Banquet Ceremony held at the Belle of Baton Rouge Casino and Hotel Atrium.
Southern’s win over Omaha — now named University of Nebraska Omaha — in the final capped off a 4-1 run throughout the tournament, but more importantly, it was the first HBCU school to win a baseball national title only six years after their inclusion in the league. The NAIA Tournament was only its third season at the time.
Team captain and third baseman Henry Triplett said winning the tournament was an outstanding feeling, but that it took some time before he realized the significance of their success.
“We didn’t think about that,” Triplett said. “We just played ball and tried to win the game.
“…We were all used to wining things, but since we had never been there before, it felt great for us.”
Triplett was personally enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1990 and will be joined by first baseman Herman Rhodes, shortstop Alvin Woods and pitcher Paul Lewis from that 1959 team.
Also to be enshrined during Friday’s ceremony is current Southern University Assistant Athletic Director Earl Hill, who, as head coach of the Southern University-New Orleans men’s basketball program, led the Knights to the NAIA Division I National Basketball Tournament three times during his tenure.
“It’s always an honor when someone thinks enough of you to say some nice things about you and hold a special occasion for you, so I’m a little excited about it,” Hill said. “We had a lot of great teams and a lot of good players, which meant I had to have a lot of help from my chancellors who were great men, to my assistants who were all great men, to my athletes who were all great students.”
Hill — an inductee into the Ashland University Sports Hall of Fame as a player — said the most memorable achievement of his career was when the Knights became the first team ever to win the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament in 1995.
Hill said another highlight of his career has been to see one of his former players, Willie Quinn, send his son to Southern in current Jaguars wide receiver and return specialist Willie Quinn.
Other members of the 2015 class include former women’s basketball coach Herman Hartman who led the Jaguars to the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship in 1992. That team featured fellow 2015 Hall of Fame inductee Yolanda Brown, as well.
Former men’s basketball star Kevin Florent will also be inducted on Friday.
“You’re looking at history and part of Southern University’s legacy,” Hill said. “It makes me feel good to be put into a group like that.”