Jerry Kindall


In celebration of Arizona's centennial, the Star will feature our picks for the 100 best athletes, moments and teams.

Throughout the summer, we will showcase our list - with the first 90 in no particular order. In August, Greg Hansen will choose his top 10, with a column on each.

1976 Arizona baseball team


Of all the classic Arizona-ASU sports matchups, few can rival the one produced during the 1976 baseball season.

En route to the UA's first national championship in any sport, the Wildcats lost to the powerful Sun Devils seven straight times before beating them when it mattered most - in a College World Series elimination game.

Arizona lost two three-game series to ASU during the regular season, then ran smack into the Sun Devils in its first CWS game - and lost 7-6 in 10 innings. But the Cats battled back through the losers bracket of the double-elimination event, beating Oklahoma, Clemson and Eastern Michigan before facing the Devils again in the second-to-final game.

"We lost three here and three there, but you could see they were two evenly matched teams," then-UA coach Jerry Kindall said. "Then in Omaha, they beat us again in extra innings. It was contentious because we felt we had the victory. So we sucked it up."

Given a second crack at ASU later in the CWS, the Cats finally broke through to win 5-1. Then they coasted to the title with a 7-1 win over Eastern Michigan the next day.

Pitcher/DH Steve Powers was the World Series MVP, while versatile outfielder Dave Stegman went on to play six seasons in the majors and catcher Ron Hassey played 14.

That is, after the 1976 season convinced Hassey he was a catcher.

Kindall said Hassey was an All-America third baseman as a sophomore in 1974 but initially resisted Kindall's suggestion that he try catching as a senior, even though he had gone undrafted as a junior.

The Wildcats needed a catcher that season, and Hassey needed a pro career.

Both happened.

"He finally saw the wisdom," Kindall said. "There were scouts that liked him, but he was slow. He was built like a catcher. When he took it as a good move for his future, he really got into it. We would have never won the national championship if not for Ron Hassey."

He said it

"It was one of my greatest thrills. We won two more (1980, 1986) but that first one turned the community upside down. It was great fun to watch." - Jerry Kindall

Bruce Pascoe