There will be a sea of maize and blue on Monday when the University of Michigan returns to the finals of the College World Series for the first time since 1962. The Wolverines advanced to the best-of-three championship series with a convincing win over Texas Tech on Friday.
The 1962 Wolverines were crowned champions after defeating Santa Clara. The Michigan coach was Don Lund, a Detroit Southeastern High graduate and former professional ballplayer. Lund lettered in three sports at U of M before being drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945, the same year he was selected by the Chicago Bears in the NFL Draft. He later played right field for the Tigers, having his best season in 1953, the year before Al Kaline put a stranglehold on that position.
Lund’s champions featured a good pitching staff, just like the 2019 team. One of the stars was John Kerr, who pitched two games in one day to send the Wolverines to the finals, a total of 19 innings. And his arm didn’t fall off. Kerr’s grandson Jimmy, is an infielder on this Michigan team.
The most famous member of the 1962 champions is Dave Campbell, a Manistee native who played the infield. Campbell had a square jaw, deep-set eyes, and broad shoulders. He was quick and steady in the infield, whether playing short, second, or third base. The thrill of playing for the college title has never faded in his memory.
“I remember how excited we all were,” Campbell said in a 2007 interview. “I can’t believe it’s been so long, and we’re still the last Michigan team to win it all. [Just] proud to have been on that team.”
Campbell was signed by the Tigers in 1964 and made his major league debut three years later. He had a small part in another title in 1968, appearing in nine games for the Tigers when they won the pennant, though he was not on the postseason roster. In August, Campbell hit his first big league homer, an eight-inning blast against the Indians an a 6-1 Tiger victory.
“The Tigers had so many good players then, all of them or most of them coming from the farm system,” Campbell remembers. “I was another guy, some guy no one really knew much about, and I wasn’t hitting enough to get much of a chance.”
A little over a year later, the Tigers traded “Soup” to the Padres. In sunny San Diego with the expansion team, the former Manistee standout had his best seasons, in 1970 he was the starting second baseman and hit 12 home runs. He spent eight seasons in the majors, mostly as a utility player or late-season roster addition, but he while he was never a star player, Campbell made a larger impact outside the lines.
A few years after his playing career ended, Campbell accepted an invitation to broadcast college football games in San Diego. Soon he was working college basketball games for San Diego State, as well as serving as a play-by-play fill-in for the Padres, which blossomed into a full-time gig. With his baritone voice, precise diction, and enthusiasm for the game, Campbell became a favorite in the booth. In 1990 he began a 20-year career as one of the voices of Major League Baseball for ESPN. He spent years as one of the analysts on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” program. Campbell, 77, is now retired, but still has an eye on Michigan baseball.
“If they’re pitching stays strong, no one will beat them,” Campbell said recently in a phone interview. “Maybe I should say ‘Our pitching'” he added with a laugh.