Aug. 26, 2005
BEAUMONT - Lamar baseball coach Jim Gilligan's coaching legacy includes a stint as the manager of the minor league Salt Lake Trappers in 1987, where he guided the squad to a then-professional baseball record 29-game winning streak.
It's for that accomplishment Gilligan will be featured during a segment on ESPN's SportsCenter Monday evening. ESPN is in the programming midst of SportsCenter's 50/50, which chronicles and highlights achievements from all 50 states in 50 days.
Gilligan, who is entering his 28 season at the helm of the Lamar program, is being included in Utah's SportsCenter on Monday, which will air at 5 p.m., 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Steve Cyphers of ESPN interviewed Gilligan on August 16 prior to a Houston Astros game at Minute Maid Park.
"Obviously, anytime you can get on ESPN its national exposure," Gilligan said on being included on SportsCenter. "Taping the segment with two players (Matt Huff and Neil Reynolds) that played for the Trappers and also played for me at Lamar was special. Listening to their comments about the streak and what it meant to them was great. It was nice of ESPN to remember something that happened that long ago."
In remembering that memorable summer; Gilligan gave much of the credit to the players. "We had so many contributors on that team. Everybody in the lineup could hit and we averaged over 10 runs a game, which makes it easier to win games.
"Al Vincent gave me the best advice in that you teach the players how to play the game. Give them the ability to hit, run, catch and throw. I just got out of the way and let them play.
"With a streak like that you are going to have some close games. That team had the ability to find ways to win. They were winners. It was a thrill to be involved with that team. Plus, that was my only year to manage in professional baseball, which made it all the more special."
To commemorate the consecutive game winning streak, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. created a permanent display featuring Gilligan's jersey. In addition to the winning streak, Salt Lake set a short-season record for attendance by drawing 196,000 fans for 35 home dates.
In 1986, Gilligan served as Salt Lake's pitching coach. The Trappers had the best pitching staff in the league and won the Class A Pioneer League Championship.
Gilligan won his 1,000th career game during the 2005 Southland Conference Tournament in Natchitoches, La., becoming the 32nd coach in NCAA history to reach the milestone. He has guided the Cardinals to 11 conference championships, 11 NCAA Regional appearances and has been named conference coach of the year six times.
Perhaps his biggest accomplishment was being inducted in the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004 as part of an induction class that included Houston Astros greats Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio.
Joining Gilligan in the ESPN interview were players Neil Reynolds and Matt Huff. Both Reynolds and Huff played for Gilligan at Lamar prior to joining him in Salt Lake.
A four-year letterwinner from 1984-87, Reynolds still ranks among the all-time career leader in several offensive statistical categories. He ranks second in at-bats (764), third in hits (233), second in doubles (56), seventh in home runs (21), tied for third in runs batted in (165) and third in total bases (360).
Huff was a two-year letterwinner at Lamar from 1985-86. He posted a career batting average of .285 with 43 runs scored, 17 doubles, seven home runs and 43 RBI.