Five Jewels in the Crown: 1974

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USC baseball is celebrating the 40th anniversary of winning five consecutive national championships from 1970-74 under Rod Dedeaux by recognizing the Trojans' dynasty before Saturday's game against Cal (2 p.m. first pitch).

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The "Five Jewels in the Crown" were seen as an impossibility when the streak started as experts predicted parity in college baseball due to the major league draft, increased competition and the inconsistent nature of the sport.  Instead, USC, which had already won five national championships, only asserted its dominance further completing what John Wooden once called maybe "the most remarkable achievement in sports history."   

This week, we'll profile a different jewel in the crown each day. Here is the story of the 1974 team:

The 1973 USC Trojans had won an incredible fourth consecutive national championship with one of college baseball's greatest teams.  But as Rod Dedeaux faced the 1974 season, gone were five superstars - Fred Lynn, Roy Smalley, Ed Bowman, Randy Scarbery, and four-time NCAA championship first baseman Daryl Arenstein.  All except Arenstein had remaining eligibility. 

It would be up to a handful of veterans, led by third baseman Rich Dauer and pitchers Russ McQueen (1972 CWS MVP) and Mark Barr, to keep the dynasty in power.  The key would be how well the talented sophomore pitchers, John Racanelli, Pete Redfern, Ty Meyer, and George Milke would respond to the big time pressure.

With this being the first year of the DH (much to Dedeaux's chagrin), it would permit the potent bat of Steve Kemp in the lineup, joining veterans Ed Putman, Ken Huizenga, Rob Adolph and Creighton Tevlin.  Starting for the first time would be football stars Marvin Cobb and Anthony Davis.

With the dedication of beautiful Dedeaux Field and McQueen's no-hitter in the inaugural game, maybe the Trojans were a "Team of Destiny".  In perhaps his greatest coaching job, Dedeaux guided this young team in a harrowing pennant race to win the Southern Division crown. 

After sweeping Oregon in the conference playoff, it looked like the Trojans were out of miracles, trailing nemesis Cal State LA by two runs in the 9th inning of the final game.  Assistant coach Justin Dedeaux told Mark Barr to sit where his brother Jim had sat six years earlier, when on the same field, same team, same situation, the Trojans rallied from three runs behind to win the District 8 Championship and went on to win the 1968 national championship. 

After the eight-run 9th inning impossible comeback against Minnesota a year earlier in Omaha, could it happen again? Yes, the Trojans scored four runs in the 9th to advance to the College World Series.

The Trojans returned to Omaha searching for an incredible fifth straight title.  With McQueen injured, Barr came through with two complete game victories, but the series belonged to sophomore George Milke, who won 3 games and was named MVP.  The sophomores had come through and the Trojans had won again defeating Miami 7-3 in the final. 

In one of the greatest achievement in sports history, USC ran off 25 wins in 29 games against the best teams in America to earn five consecutive national championships.  A record which may never be equaled but will always be marveled.

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