McALLEN – Give Texas A&M annual class credit for gathering its best athletes. This May, they honored 12 baseball players, among the first Aggies to make it to the College World Series in 1951.
That was 60 years ago. The majority of their first great baseball team did not attend this time. Many will never return to Aggie-Land again. Some are far away or ill. Half of them are now deceased.
The old-timers still include both of the baseball catchers. Both have lived in McAllen most of their lives.
Al Ogletree and Marty Hamilton enjoyed the tributes they will always remember.
Ogletree said at the sentimental reunion last month, "The older we get, the better we were and the better the stories are."
This catcher added, "There are a lot of great guys and a lot of love in this room. We didn't have big time stars, but we loved each other then, and we still do. It was, and still is, a very special group."
Ogletree came to bat after the crowd was about to leave when Arizona's home field thought it was over. But Ogletree laced a double when the home team was shocked and the Aggies earned the trip to the College World Series.
"The College World Series was new then and none of us knew Omaha was a big deal. The College World Series was fairly new to everyone. The only thing we really knew was that the University of Texas had won that thing the year before, and we wanted to top Texas. Unfortunately that didn't happen.
"But we beat Ohio State and former A&M Coach Marty Karow. It was pretty sweet to beat Karow in Omaha, because he had been their coach at A&M before he had gone to Ohio State."
Ogletree had played a big part in beating Texas and knocking them out of the trip to the College World Series. Without his contributions, the Aggies would never have made it past Texas when the chips were down. He can still remember great details of that fabulous trip to go to the College World Series, which he later reached when coaching for Pan American University.
Marty Hamilton said, "My best game in 1951 was against UT and I went 2 for 3. However, we lost that game. Honestly, Al played catcher in most of our conference games, as he was a better hitter than I.
"Ogletree was one of five on our team who hit .300 or more that season. I was sixth at .259.
"My best memories are ‘team memories.' We beat Arizona twice of three games in their state, and they had a 29-2 record winning the Border Conference. We also beat UT two out of three games in College Station.
"I had the pleasure of introducing Al and Joann to each other while Al and I were visiting in Austin. Al and I had been friends since our freshman year at A&M in 1948. Al was a great teammate and he and Joann have been married for 59 years."
Both men talked entertainingly and anyone who loves baseball ought to ask them more questions, because I found it something we could talk about, me listening, about their baseball history. This is just a small summary of two men who went to the military service and held other good jobs, yet still remember many baseball games that fascinate me and seem some of the highlights of their life. If you don't believe me, ask them.
If you do believe me and like baseball, ask them yourself sometime. Ogletree and Hamilton still remember it like yesterday.