By Joe Darby
I wear a lot of T-shirts in the summer and one of my favorites reminds me of the time that I yelled so loud that I woke up my stone-deaf sleeping dog and a neighbor called me to see if I was okay.
The yell was in reaction to the greatest college home run ever. I’m referring of course to Warren Morris’ dinger that won the 1996 baseball national championship for LSU. Then, years later, Mary and I got to meet Warren at a minor league game in Alexandria. That’s when he signed my T-shirt.
But before I get into details about all that, I need to explain how much I love baseball. When I lived in New Orleans, I had weekend season tickets to the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs (now for some inexplicable reason known as the Baby Cakes). Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday you could find me and my spouse at Zephyr Field, cheering on some future Major Leaguers.
Before the Z’s came to New Orleans in 1993, I’d even drive all the way to Jackson, Miss. to see a minor league game because that was the closest place that had pro baseball. (The minor leagues are pro, although most players don’t get paid much. They have to wait until they get to the Big Leagues for that to happen.)
Anyway, on June 8, 1996, LSU was playing the University of Miami for the college championship in Omaha. Cutting to the chase, Warren Morris hits a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the game for the Tigers, 9-8. Warren’s run around the bases with his arms in the air has become an iconic image of a sports triumph.
I was at home, watching the game on TV. My old dog, a shepherd mix, couldn’t hear a thing and he was taking a nap on my living room floor. But I yelled so loud that he woke up, raised his head in alarm and looked around to see if all was well. Maybe he felt the vibrations in the floor boards, I don’t know. Moments later, my best friend and next door neighbor Vince Lee called and asked if I was okay. He’d heard my yell too.
Fast forward to 2006, the 10th anniversary of Warren’s heroics. Alexandria had a little minor league team called the Aces, which Mary and I would drive down to watch several times a season and they had a promotion in which they gave away the T-shirts with Warren’s picture on it and Warren was at the game to autograph the T-shirts!
He is a modest man, soft spoken, friendly and down to earth. He played in the Big Leagues for a few years, but he’ll always be known of course for his 1996 game-winning homer.
It may seem odd to have a hero who’s some 30 years younger than yourself, but Warren was one of mine and I was thrilled to get the shirt and his signature. I still wear the shirt regularly although it’s now 21 years old. And I will keep on wearing it as long as it — or I — holds together.