June 12, 1973
USC 8, Minnesota 7
Dave Winfield, pitcher for the Gophers, was cruising against the three-time defending national champions from USC. Through eight innings the dominant 6-foot-6-inch right hander had struck out 15 Trojans and allowed just a infield single to a team with three future major league players in the lineup.
One of those players, Roy Smalley, recalled:
“He had such a long-legged stride that when he released the ball, it looked like he was halfway to the plate,” said Smalley, now a financial advisor in Minneapolis and an occasional studio analyst for Twins games. “It seemed like he was throwing 106 miles an hour.”
The switch-hitting Smalley remembered gearing up for Winfield’s fastball on a two-strike count, but being so badly fooled on a slider that he threw his bat into the first-base dugout.
“It’s true,” Winfield said in a telephone interview.
Entering the 9th inning of that semi-final game, USC was down 7-0.
Smalley said the Trojans figured they had no chance.
“We were toast,” he said. “We knew we were done. We were all probably thinking about who we were going to play tomorrow.”
That changed when, Smalley said, the first two Gophers batters in the top of the ninth tried to bunt their way on. Smalley said that agitated the Trojans, who thought Minnesota was trying to show them up.
“I could hear Freddie Lynn yelling obscenities at them,” Smalley said. “There was a chain-link protective fence in front of our dugout and Freddie almost ripped it off. That fired everybody up.”
It looked as though the comeback would not happen. After a lead off single, the second batter in the bottom of the ninth, Creighton Tevlin, hit into what seemed to be an apparent double play. Tevlin beat the relay to first, however, in a play that was so close Minnesota manager Dick Seibert argued until he was tossed out of the game.
USC continued to claw its way back into the game against Winfield, and later reliever Bob Turnbull, ultimately winning the game 8-7 and eliminating the Gophers. Despite the loss, Winfield was named the tournment’s Most Outstanding Player.
Winfield and Smalley crossed paths again in the majors:
Smalley and Winfield were Yankee teammates from 1982 to 1984, but Smalley said he never asked Winfield about that game.
“He didn’t like to talk too much about that day, so I never pursued it,” Smalley said.