One More Win

It is perhaps the call Jim Ellis will most be remembered for. It would be safe to say that on this day, the normally collected Ellis lost it. If Kimbrell can't throw a strike, this game is tied. If Masters gets a base hit this game is at least tied. The 3-1 pitch is a drive deep to left. Way back, it isssssssssssss gooooone! It is Gone! A grand slam for Masters! A grand slam for Masters!

Burke Masters was known in Starkville as a great student and a gritty baseball player. Masters had a reputation as someone who did the right things both on and off the field.

Masters was surrounded by power hitters like Pete Young, Tommy Raffo and Tracy Echols for most of his career in Starkville, but ironically it was a homerun by the light hitting second baseman that went down as one of the biggest hits in the history of Mississippi State baseball.

"It always amazes me when I go back to Mississippi State that people tell me that they remember where they were when I hit that," said Burke. "Or they tell me they were in the left field lounge for that game."

Burke had the chance to come back "home" to Mississippi State earlier this season and he spent some time out in the legendary left field lounge.

"I was just there a few weeks ago for the Auburn series and I went out into the left field lounge and people were telling me that the ball hit here or the ball hit there," chuckled Masters. "I guess it hit about five different places. It is suprising to me because I was definitely not known as a homerun hitter, but I am remembered for a homerun. So many other guys hit so many more homeruns, but I guess not in that big of a situation."

For Master the moment was surreal. He knew he had been part of something special. Little did he know how special his moment became to Bulldog faithful everywhere.

"There was a picture taken the day I hit the grand slam against Florida State," said Burke. "I was walking off the field with Russ McNickle. We were in the first base dugout that day, so we had to walk across the field to get to our locker room. I leaned over to whisper to Russ and that is when they snapped the picture. I told him, 'I can't believe what I just did.' It hadn't sunk in for me. I don't think I ever had six hits in a game in little league let alone in that big of a game in college."

Burke's homerun saved the day that day and the 1990 Bulldogs went on to beat Florida State again in the regional title game to head to Omaha. Masters knows first hand how the current Diamond Dawgs are feeling right now.

"It is an exciting time," explained Burke. "It is every young boys' dream to play in the college world series. To be one game away from it is very exciting. It is difficult to sleep. You're thinking about the game. You're ready to play right away, especially after winning such a big game today against such a good pitcher."

Seven Bulldog teams have played in the college world series and Burke reports that even for a veteran player it can he a bit overwhelming.

"I remember actually getting to the world series and having to pinch myself to realize that we were actually there." said Masters. "It is just a dream come true."

One of the biggest debates among Mississippi State baseball fans is about which Bulldog team was the greatest. If a team from the Masters era is in the conversation it would be from the 1989 or 1990 teams.

"I was on both the 1989 and 1990 teams and the 1989 team was probably the better team," explained Burke. "We probably had a better chance to win the whole world series with that team. In 1990 we didn't have quite the talent that we had in '89, but we came together and played well as a team. We had a lot of seniors and a lot of fifth year seniors and no one really expected a lot from us after we lost Pete Young, Jody Hurst and Richie Grayum. We just gelled together because we all knew each other so well. I think that is why we had so much success."

Masters reports that he is still a close follower of the Bulldog program and seeing Coach Polk, former teammate Tommy Raffo and close friend Russ McNickle excel is a rewarding experience for him.

"I was flipping through the stations today and I saw the game," said Burke. "I forgot the game was on and then once I saw it I stopped everything I was doing to watch. Russ McNickle was a graduate assistant when I was there and he and I are very good friends as well. To see all three of those guys in this situation and is just real special. I know them all so well personally. They are all great people and I just want to see them succeed. It's great to see good people have success. Coach Polk always said he looks for good people before he looks for good players. He himself is such a good person. He has surrounded himself with some great coaches and I want to see them all do well."

Doing well is something the Bulldogs have made a habit of the past few games. With another win, Burke may be meeting up with the Bulldogs once again. This time in Omaha.

"I am going to have to look at my calendar," said Burke. "I told Coach Polk if they made it, I would do all I could to make it out there."

After his playing days were done, Masters went from God's country to doing God's work. Burke Masters is known as Father Burke to parionshers of the Joliet Diocese of the Catholic Church in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

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