Leaving The Game In Style

Mark Whicker (Daily News/Orange County Register)  —  These are Mike Gillespie’s final weeks at UC Irvine, a three-year gig that turned into 11, with a trip to the College World Series and two excruciating Super Regional losses.

On Tuesday night he makes his final trip to USC, where he won CWSs as a player and a coach, where he took the Trojans to Omaha four times and followed the toughest act in college baseball, Rod Dedeaux.

Gillespie has won 400 games at UCI, won 761 at USC and won 418 at College of the Canyons. The Irvine years were an unforeseen coda. USC fired Gillespie after the 2006 season, which bewildered everyone in baseball. In 2007 he coached the Yankees’ rookie ball team at Staten Island.

He could have done it again in 2008, but Dave Serrano left UCI for Cal State Fullerton.

Gillespie turned 78 last week. He might be remembered as the last 67-year-old to get hired to do anything, especially in college sports, and certainly the last 74-year-old to get a contract extension.

Gillespie was a leftfielder when USC won the 1961 championship. The Trojans walked around like winners and lived like pros.

“You’d walk through the hotel lobby in San Francisco and if Rod saw you, he might buy you a beer,” Gillespie said. “I don’t think that happens today.”

Dedeaux offered Gillespie a job managing warehouses for his trucking company. He also mentioned that coaching was a noble pursuit. When Dedeaux left USC he recommended Gillespie, but the sport was no longer USC’s property. Gillespie went to five regionals before he won his way to Omaha in 1995. He got his championship in 1998.

As Gillespie prepares for whatever awaits, maybe he’ll leave the fungo unpacked.

“I think I could be happy coaching somebody’s JV team,” he said. “There’s still a way to field a ground ball. There’s still a way to bunt.”

OCRegister.com

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Bobbo
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One of the most gracious coaches I have met. When John Savage asked Mike to let me son be the bat boy for the Trojans in Tucson for a 3 game series he said okay. It was my son’s 8th birthday present. We lost the Friday night opener by a run or two. As my son as he came off the field and into the stands I asked him if he learned much being with the team. He said “Yes, the coach sure uses the ‘F’ word a lot!”. That’s actually the quote. I didn’t clean it up. It was… Read more »

John Weld
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Priceless memory! smile

Pudly76
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Great stuff Bobbo!!

Trojanman
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Your story brought a smile to my face. Great memory for you and your son.

Bobbo
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Thanks guys. I actually have about 6 or 7 memories of a lifetime from this trip. One was getting to sit down and have a chat with Dick Tomey. Apparently he did this quite often. During spring practice he would sit up high in the stands Sunday afternoon and watch the game as he was going over things like scripting plays, making depth charts, organizing practices. He was such a nice fellow. One of those guys that makes just a perfect neighbor. He was interested in so much more than just football. If my son was a recruit I would… Read more »