LIVE OAK, Fla. — It was a day earlier than desired, but four special guests welcomed the Suwannee High baseball team back to Booster Field on Thursday afternoon.
When the Bulldogs returned home following a tough 2-0 loss in a Class 5A state semifinal, the special guests knew exactly what they were going through.
Sid Allen, Chip Harris and Donald and Ronald Hurst had been there before.
Fifty-two years earlier, the four were starters on the last SHS team to play in a state baseball semifinal. Those Bulldogs also came up short, losing in the Final Four in Fort Myers.
“It’s ironic that we lost in Ft. Myers too,” said Allen, who teaches at the high school and has previously served as the public address announcer for SHS baseball games.
Allen said that wasn’t the lone similarity between the 1967 ‘Dogs and the current team either.
“This team played together when they were Little Leaguers,” he added. “And it’s kind of funny, we did.
“There’s a lot of similarities in these two teams. They had a dominating pitcher and we had a dominating pitcher.”
Despite the presence of that dominating pitcher in 1967 — Benny Proulx — SHS lost 17-5 to Cypress Lake in the semifinal. It was a team familiar to Proulx, who grew up playing with and against them in Fort Myers.
“I always felt like when we went down there, we should have let Ronald pitch the first game,” Harris said. “Benny, he was from there and knew all the guys. He just wanted to blow it by them.”
It was just one of a flood of memories that came pouring back to the four members from the 1967 team. They also recalled games with Columbia and Taylor County, including losing a game in which Suwannee led 15-0 when coach Harold Wallin took out the starters to play the younger bench players before Perry came back during a time when there was no re-entry rules.
Then there was at the 3-2 win in 17 innings against Pensacola Tate that sent the Bulldogs into the state tournament in that ’67 campaign. Harris recalled both starters going the distance in the marathon game, including Proulx for SHS. It didn’t end until the Hursts had doubles in the last frame to put the Bulldogs on top and ended on a grounder to Allen, who still has the game ball from the win.
“I think we felt like we beat the best team in the state when we beat them,” Allen said, with Harris agreeing. “So when we went down there, we were kind of like, ‘We’re going to cruise through this baby.’”
Harris added: “And we didn’t.”
But despite their own rough ending, those Bulldogs said they hoped their meeting with the 2019 version was a joyous occasion.
“I told Rhonda Wood, ‘I hope they do something that we couldn’t,’” Harris said.
Allen added: “There’s been some that have said to us, ‘Do y’all want them to win or not?’ I go, ‘Of course we do.’
“That’s what it’s all about. We hope we built something. It’s been 52 years ago, but we hope we built something.”