The last time members of Temple’s 1972 baseball team were all together, they were getting off a plane in Philadelphia after a deep run in the College World Series.
On Friday, they reconnected and ventured back to campus from all corners of the country for a ceremony celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the program’s most successful team. It was a welcome return for Temple baseball, which folded following the 2014 season when seven varsity sports were cut as part of a budgetary cutback.
That evening, they convened at the Phillies-Diamondbacks game sporting custom-made commemorative Nike jerseys — as opposed to the wool jerseys they once wore — with 72 stitched on the back.
“We certainly didn’t know 50 years ago at that tournament that we’d be gathering to do something like this down the road,” said pitcher Ed Molush, who was a senior that year. “The value of doing it and the emotional connection, to be able to relive it is pretty remarkable 50 years after the fact.”
Former Temple pitcher Phil Gore reached out to then-athletic director Fran Dunphy on May 27, 2021, hoping to organize a get together. He clued in the team’s ace, Mike Arace, who forwarded the idea and helped reconnect 21 of the 24 players. Two are deceased and one is unable to travel.
Gore, who now lives in Ventura, California, likened the idea for a reunion to Halley’s Comet, which can be seen from Earth once every 75 years.
“I realized it’s coming around and thought, ‘Does anyone else know about it? Is anyone else thinking about this?’” Gore said. “Because this is just a once in a lifetime moment. If we don’t do anything now it’s gone and it may be gone forever.”
Players recounted stories when they finally shared the same room, bonding over a 1972 run that was cut short in the semifinal round.
Temple swept through the District II Tournament with two close wins over Penn State sandwiching a 1-0 defeat over Long Island. The third win earned their tournament bid, coming courtesy of a Jack Don walk-off single into center field, which scored Earle Chew in a 4-3 effort against the Nittany Lions.
The 1972 College World Series began on June 9 from Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska. Temple had the third game of the day with an 8 p.m. first pitch against Oklahoma.
Molush and Jackson Todd, a Sooners pitcher turned Mets second-round draft pick, each pitched complete games in a 13-inning grudge match, complicated by 90-degree sweltering heat. Oklahoma won 2-1 and forcedTemple into the loser’s bracket.
Don joked the Owls put on their hitting shoes the next two games, taking down Iowa 13-9 then Connecticut 7-4 in consecutive days.
Temple was scheduled to face Arizona State on Monday night but thunderstorms pushed it to Tuesday. A daunting task nonetheless considering the Sun Devils fielded multiple top picks and held a 65-4 record going into that game.
Molush was on the mound again. Maury Wills’ son, Bump, was the first batter he faced and Molush, feeling the weight of the game, walked him on four pitches. He settled in but a couple consecutive ground balls later on gave the Sun Devils the only run of the game.
“You always wonder as a player, are we going to be able to stand up to the moment and the pressure of the moment?” Gore said. “The team just stepped up and it didn’t seem to faze them…. We played great besides an individual play here or there. These guys from Philly stepped up and they played Temple baseball.”
The players credit coach Skip Wilson first and foremost for the team’s success.
“You think you know baseball but you don’t really know baseball until you’ve played for him,” said Don, Temple’s third baseman. “Our practices were rigid and demanding. When we took the field you knew every aspect of the game, that was Skip. He prepared us.”
Wilson took over the job in 1960 and didn’t leave his post until 2005. Temple’s baseball field in Ambler became known as “Skip Wilson Field” the following year.
He’s described as a thoughtful teacher and an astute observer. Molush added he struck the right balance of being hard on his players while embracing them lovingly.
Temple’s ‘72 team spent the morning after the Phillies game hosting a picnic in Central Jersey and 93-year-old Wilson even made an appearance, bringing the weekend as close as can be to a true team reunion.