Grand Old Lady: Dudy Noble Field to be celebrated Saturday

Dudy Noble Field
Staff Writer

Dudy Noble Field was the biggest and nicest baseball stadium the Southeastern Conference had in 1987.
The $3.5 million project, which only took nine months to complete, was just what the Mississippi State baseball program needed to provide more lasting memories like it did in 1985 and previous seasons.
Over the last 30 years, the facility has hosted regionals, super regionals and some of the biggest moments in Bulldog history.
MSU Athletic Director John Cohen, who got to experience the stadium as a player and coach, said the college baseball experience was enhanced with what the Bulldogs did in 1987 and other SEC schools had to catch up.
“It’s the kind of facility that kicked off a revolution in SEC baseball,” Cohen said. “Once coach (Ron) Polk and Larry Templeton got this stadium built, it set a new standard for what a baseball facility is supposed to look like. The other 13 schools in this league looked at our school and wanted to accomplish that. Many of them did and I feel it’s time for us to set a new standard.”
As the regular season comes to a close Saturday, so does the time for the current structure of Dudy Noble Field, Polk-DeMent Stadium. Unless there is postseason baseball to come, the final game of the SEC series between MSU and the LSU Tigers at 3:30 p.m. will be the last for the facility.
The history of State baseball goes back even further than the current grandstand setup. This year marks the 51st season of baseball at the current site and the Bulldogs have played over 1,500 games at the venue and have won more than 72 percent of them.
Dudy Noble FIeld has attracted some of the largest crowds in college baseball history. MSU broke its own NCAA on-campus attendance record as 15,586 fans came to the 6-5 victory against rival Ole Miss on April 12, 2014..
The Bulldogs played in front of 39,181 people during that April 11-13 series against the Rebels, which was another record for a three-game series.
Two years after the grandstand was built, State enjoyed a crowd of 14,991 and that was an on-campus mark that stood until the 2014 Ole Miss game.
MSU baseball coach Andy Cannizaro said there’s nothing like the atmosphere of game day at Dudy Noble Field.
“It’s a combination of the whole thing,” Cannizaro said. “When you think of college baseball, you think of Dudy Noble Field and the Left Field Lounge. You think of the party that’s going on in the outfield and the smoke from the grills and everything. It’s really the greatest environment in college baseball.”
For radio broadcaster Jim Ellis, his memories go beyond 1987 when he had to call games from field level behind a chicken-wire fence.
When the new grandstand was constructed, Ellis said “it was like Taj Mahal” in the SEC.
“It was the best stadium in the league at that time,” Ellis said. “This place holds a ton of memories for me.”
Ellis’ fondest memories of the stadium were one of the firsts in 1987.
After the years of Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Brantley and Bobby Thigpen in 1985, which resulted in a third-place finish in the College World Series, the Bulldogs were going through a transition period in 1986 and 1987.
There seemed to be a resurgence in the program with a new place as the backdrop.
“We lost all of those players (from ‘85),” Ellis recalled. “We had a young team (in 1986) and a very young team in ‘87, but we had some really good players and it was a team that didn’t look like it was going to make the SEC Tournament, but they had a miracle weekend against Alabama the last week of the season, won four-straight games, won a surreal SEC Tournament and got to host a regional here. That was special.”
Prior to Saturday’s third game against LSU, there will be a ceremony to celebrate the memory of Dudy Noble Field at 2:50 p.m. Fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 2:45.
Former MSU players and coaches that have experienced the College World Series for five different decades have been invited back to take part in the festivities.
A ground-breaking will also take place earlier in the day for the anticipation of what’s to come with the new state-of-the-art Dudy Noble Field.
Ellis admits he will miss the stadium as it appears now, but looks forward to seeing what the change will present.
“This has been my vantage point for 30 years now to watch a ballgame and it’s going to be a little different now,” Ellis said from his radio booth. “I love this vantage point. I can see our dugout, the third base dugout, and I’m looking right at the Dudy Noble Field sign in centerfield and you get a real birds-eye view, but this has been a great facility and I think a lot of the players who played here are going to miss it not being here.
“At the same time, that’s part of progress. It’s a 30-year-old stadium. It’s going to be really strange not to see this facility. I’m sure we are going to build a gorgeous facility, everyone is going to love it and we’ll go through a growth process.”