Proffitt Went the Distance

Mississippi State won the Southeastern Conference baseball championship in the back-to-back years of 1970 and 1971. One of the top pitchers for the Maroon and White those years was Mike Proffitt. Proffitt was a Bulldog in a different era for college baseball, but what Mike started he usually finished.

Mike Proffitt started 40 games for the Bulldogs of Mississippi State and he completed an astonishing school record 36 of them.

"Well, we just went the whole game," chuckled Mike. "We did a lot of running and a lot of stretching exercises in those days to get in shape. We did a whole lot of running."

The Bulldog workhorse conceeds that the circumstances surrounding college baseball pitchers were different than they are today as were the expectations.

"We didn't have relief specialists in those days," said Proffitt. "Most of the guys were expected to finish the game unless they got knocked out and I got knocked out a couple of times."

Mike's Bulldog debut certainly did little to earn the confidence of then MSU skipper Paul Gregory.

"My first one is one I won't forget," said Mike. "I made it through two-thirds of an inning and I gave up six earned runs. I didn't even make it out of the first inning. That was my first game at Mississippi State and we were playing Tennessee. I was a freshman then and that was the first game of the year. I thought that might be it for me, but I got the chance to pitch about a week or ten days later."

Thanks to the support of the Bulldog coaching staff and the helpful calls of his battery mate, Mike turned things around.

"I had a really good catcher named Sammy Fletcher." said Proffitt. "I found out pretty quick that you couldn't throw it down the middle. You had to hit the corners."

Hit the corners he would. Proffitt took part in one of the longest pitcher's duels in SEC history later in the season.

"My freshman year I pitched a complete game against Alabama that went 15 innings," said Mike. "I played with and against a lot of those guys from Alabama when we were in high school. About three or four of them were on the same high school team with me."

Proffitt went on to post a 30-10 mark during his Bulldog career including a Bulldog record 11 shutout victories.

Mike was a shoe-in as an All-SEC selection and he earned a pair of championship rings for his efforts before leaving Starkville.

"Our '70 and '71 teams were special," said Proffitt. "Our '70 team had four starters on it. Our number one pitcher was Brantley Jones and our number two pitcher was Dennis Hall. Those guys and Jocko Potts our first baseman and Bill Rory our third baseman had all played as freshmen. They were unable to go to Gastonia with the team. The SEC allowed freshmen to play a full year before the entire NCAA did, so they were ineligble to play in the regional."

Despite missing their top two pitchers and the two position starters, the Diamond Dawgs made a run at Omaha that fell one game short.

"They weren't able to play with us and we finished second that year to Florida State," said Proffitt. "Florida State went on from the regional and they came in second in the college world series. We all always thought that if we could have had those four guys go to Gastonia with us that there was just no telling what could have happened."

In 1971, Proffitt led the Bulldogs back to the regionals and beyond as Mississippi State earned it's first of eight berths in the College World Series. For that reason the 1971 Bulldogs hold a special place in the hearts of Bulldog players and fans alike.

"In '71 we won just about everything," said Mike. "We had a good team. I still stay in touch with a lot of those guys. I helped get the last reunion together along with Brantley Jones, he is from Memphis. We got together for the LSU series up at Mississippi State. We had 21 or 22 guys that came back. We just had a great time seeing everybody."

When Mike's playing days as a Bulldog were over he got the chance to try his luck at Major League Baseball.

"I played three years for the St. Louis Cardinals in the minor league system," said Mike. "I started off in rookie league then I went to A ball and then double A and then triple A. Then I went back to double A and then back to triple A."

Proffitt gave his dreams his best shot, but soon the rigors of minor league baseball and the uncertainty of monetary matters were more than Mike wanted to deal with.

"I got married my senior year at State," said Proffitt. "Back in those days in the minor leagues you only got paid from the first week of April until the first week of September. You were on your own outside of that, so those first three years were real tough trying to make it financially. After three years of that, I decided it was time to go to work for a living."

Mike understands the demands that are placed on student-athletes and he has a healthy respect for the college players of today.

"Players today play so many more games," said Proffitt. "I don't know how in the world they keep up with school. It was tough enough when I played. One year we were 32-8 and we went to the college world series. Now they play 56 games in the regular season. I know that has to be pretty hard."

The talented pitcher counts it all as gain and he is grateful for the memories and friendships he has gained over the years as part of the Bulldog family.

"I had a great time playing at State," exlaimed Mike. "They have had some great teams since then. Mississippi State is one of the best teams in the SEC and the nation. If you just look at the attendance from the super regional games you can see what I mean. We set attendance records in both games. That says it all about our tradition and our fan support. That just shows you what baseball means to Mississippi State."

Proffitt was a two-time SEC performer and Mike was inducted into the Mississippi State Sports Hall of Fame in 1994. Mike's 36 complete games cannot be verified as an SEC record at this time, but based on the records of 12 of 14 current and former Southeastern conference teams Proffitt's mark is the highest career total.

Mike and his wife reside in Brookhaven. They have two daughters.

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