The 1983 Dukes Competed in the College World Series
College World Series Baseball Team
The 1983 James Madison University baseball team played a Cinderella role on a national stage, becoming an unexpected participant in the College World Series.
The Dukes were the first team (and still the only) from Virginia or what later became the Colonial Athletic Association to qualify for the Omaha, Neb., Division I national championships.
JMU's 1983 squad was among the final entries receiving bids to the 36-team NCAA Tournament. However, the sixth-seeded Dukes swept through the six-team East Regional at the University of North Carolina with a 4-0 record to secure their College World Series invitation.
JMU beat top-seeded South Carolina (9-4), William & Mary (13-8), The Citadel (5-2) and Delaware (6-5) to win the regional crown.
In Omaha, JMU fell 12-0 to an eventual national championship Texas team whose roster included future professional standout and certain Hall of Fame member Roger Clemens. The Dukes were then eliminated in a 3-1 loss to Stanford.
Also on rosters of teams playing in the College World Series that season were future professional standouts Barry Bonds ( Arizona State ), Barry Larkin ( Michigan ), Chris Sabo ( Michigan ), Dave Magadan ( Alabama ), and Billy Swift ( Maine ).
The 1983 Dukes opened the season with a doubleheader exhibition against the defending world champion St. Louis Cardinals (then-St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog and then-JMU athletics director Dean Ehlers are long-time friends) and finished with a 37-13 record. Their qualifications for an NCAA Tournament bid were widely questioned, but their regional tournament performance silenced the critics.
After the top-seeded Dukes finished third in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) South Tournament, the JMU players, with no assurance the team would receive an NCAA bid, returned home for the summer.
When the regional invitations were extended more than a week later – only three days before play began – the team had only one full day of preparations before departing for Chapel Hill, N.C.
The Dukes broke a 1-1 tie with six third-inning runs in their tournament-opening win over South Carolina and used timely hitting, consistent pitching and solid defense to advance through the double-elimination regional without a loss.
William & Mary was in the regional field as the ECAC South winner; The Citadel was the Southern Conference champion; and Delaware was the East Coast Conference winner. Host North Carolina, the Atlantic coast Conference champion, was the other team in the six-team field.
The Dukes faced two of the nation's top three ranked teams in the College World Series and played well except for one inning. Texas erupted for eight eighth-inning runs in a 12-0 decision over JMU in the tournament opener, and third-ranked Stanford eliminated JMU 3-1 in the second round.
Texas pitched future major-leaguer Calvin Schiraldi against JMU. Clemens worked later during the tournament.
World Series Ring
In addition to their post-season accomplishments, the 1983 Dukes also put together one of their better regular seasons. Wet weather forced cancellation of an unusually large number of games in the East and all but ended JMU's hopes of a third-straight 40-win season, but the Dukes compiled a 32-9 regular-season mark, won the unofficial Virginia state title, and earned the top seed in the ECAC South
Tournament. JMU was 10-2 during the regular season in ECAC South play and 15-4 against in-state foes.
A number of Dukes received All-ECAC South, All-East or all-regional team honors. Coach Brad Babcock won Eastern Region and District III Coach of the Year honors.
-- Gary Michael