Perhaps the only link between Orange, Calif., and Cooperstown, N.Y., lies in a black bat from 1968 that hangs in the doldrums of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It commemorates the Chapman Panthers baseball team that won the College Division Championship 40 years ago.In strictly baseball terms, Orange is no Cooperstown, but last weekend Chapman’s Don Perkins Hall of Fame did something that neither it nor the National Baseball Hall of Fame had ever done before induct an entire team.Fifteen players and all three coaches of the men’s 1968 National Championship-winning squad were in attendance as their team was inducted Saturday. A ceremony was held at the George Bush Conference Center in Beckman Hall.”In 1968 we were all pretty young and we didn’t realize the true impact of winning the College World Series,” said Fred Sohegian, a starting pitcher for the 1968 team. “The older you get and the more you reflect on your youth, the magnitude of the success becomes a lot greater. Forty years later, it’s a really big deal.”In June 1968, Chapman defeated Delta State University of Cleveland, Miss., 11-0 in Springfield, Mo., to clinch the College Division Championships.Center fielder Tony Spano was the MVP of the tournament.1968 was the first year that the college division, today known as Division II, held a championship tournament.”To win the national championship the first year it was held at the college division level was a great accomplishment. We were the first, and no one can take that way from us,” said Ed Peck, an assistant coach on the team.The win was also a first for Chapman sports, as the 1968 baseball team was the first Chapman sports team ever to win a national championship.”The first championship is special because it’s never been accomplished before. From what I know, it was a solid group of players ” several who went on to play pro ball ” and kind of set in motion this tradition of great Chapman baseball that has carried on through the years,” said Sports Information Director and Hall of Fame committee member, Doug Aiken.According to Aiken, four criteria make a team eligible for Hall of Fame induction.The team must be made up of students who are “in good standing morally, spiritually and socially,” and who demonstrate “academic achievement.”The team must qualify for the NCAA national championship game, and can only be considered five years or more after its championship game qualification. The team must be approved by a minimum two-thirds vote from the 15 Hall of Fame committee members.Induction into the Hall of Fame adds to the 1968 team’s long list of accolades.That season, pitcher Don Richards was named an All-American and struck out a record 134 batters, including 17 in one game against University of California Riverside. Spano established the single season RBI record with 50, and John Young set the single season stolen bases record with 27.Head Coach Paul Deese was also named the NCAA Pacific Coast coach of the year.”We had a motto, and we said ‘let’s go do our thing,'” said Deese, meaning the players would try their hardest.”We won several tournaments that way. We were one of those teams that had that kind of magic. It was the team of destiny, I guess,” he said.
Perhaps the only link between Orange, Calif., and Cooperstown, N.Y., lies in a black bat from 1968 that hangs in the doldrums of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.