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May 21, 2024

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Ragan was a baseball standout at Ole Miss 

By Rogers Varner, The Bolivar Bullet

The year 1959 was quite a year to be an Ole Miss Rebel.  The football team won its first of three national championships, polishing off a 10-1 season with a 21-0 thrashing of arch-rival LSU in the Sugar Bowl. However, there was also some added glory for the baseball team, going 18-6 and winning the SEC conference title.  The SEC then, as now, was the top standard for college baseball. Dr. Bob Ragan of Cleveland played on that team and was recently honored at an Ole Miss home game with five of his teammates.  

Robert T. Ragan was born and grew up in Cleveland and played on the Wildcat baseball team as a pitcher and outfielder (coached by Mr. Weathers, and Gene Medders).  He caught the eye of Ole Miss Coach Swayze during his senior year at Cleveland High School.  Ragan was also a good student and accepted the scholarship offer from Ole Miss.  He took difficult science courses and excelled, which culminated in an entry to dental school after earning his BS in Biology.

Ragan said transitioning from playing at Cleveland High School and against Delta Valley Conference teams was a huge step up to the SEC, and he was glad freshmen did not play on the varsity teams during those days.  It gave him a chance to better his pitching techniques and get ahead in his studies.  However, he was ready his sophomore year, earning starts and relief roles on the best team in the conference.  

Scanning the years Ragan was on scholarship at Ole Miss, one sees 2 SEC championships.  His four year period was an example of how well Ole Miss performed in baseball for three decades, beginning 1954.  There were 10 SEC championships, four College World Series appearances, one regional, and 17 years finishing 2nd or 3rd in the SEC.  In both the 1959 and 1960 seasons, Ole Miss was selected and the team voted to go to the College World Series. The 1960 team was 22-3, and won the regional.  Both teams were vetoed in going to the CWS by Governor Barnett, over desegregation issues of the day.

Ragan told a story of a series played his senior year against Mississippi State when State won the first game and Ole Miss won the next two.  The Rebels were winning easily in the last and deciding game, prompting disgusted MSU fans to roll up paper programs, light them, and place them at the bases of creosote soaked telephone polls by the Rebel dugout.  This resulted in the dugout being partially burned and completely filled with smoke, which forced the players to move into the outfield to finish the game.  

On a visit to play Tulane, Ragan was throwing for batting practice and was struck on his side by a sizzling hit.  He was laying on the field grimacing in pain, and Coach Swayze told Ragan to get off the field and he would finish batting practice himself.  On the next pitch Swayze was hit hard, breaking his leg, and had to go to a local emergency room hospital.  

Ragan graduated from Loyola School of Dentistry in New Orleans, then served in the Air Force as a Captain before returning to the Delta.  He raised a family in Cleveland and has a new knee to help his golf game.  Ragan works threee days a week, and there are several pictures of his championship teams in his office and his home.