Patrick Reusse
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Dick Siebert was hired as Gophers baseball coach in 1948 and became a Minnesota legend. He died in December 1978 at age 66. He had taken the Gophers to five College World Series, and with presidential election year championships in 1956, 1960 and 1964.

George Thomas, a former big leaguer, had been Siebert's assistant for six years and replaced him. Thomas stayed three seasons, then departed, with this explanation offered in a 2012 conversation:

"The university threw around dollars like they were gold pieces. I told the athletic director, Paul Giel, that I needed more money, and he said he couldn't do it."

John Anderson, a pitcher, then a student manager for Siebert, had been elevated to assistant coach under Thomas. Giel's first instinct when Thomas quit was to try to get a coach with a bigger name to work dirt cheap.

Thomas said: "I told Paul, 'Give the kid a chance. If it doesn't work out, you can hire someone else.'"

The kid, Anderson, will coach his 43rd season next spring and then retire. That announcement was made earlier this week — not a surprise, with Anderson signing a two-year contract and having a third-year option before the 2022 season.

Siebert was "The Chief" to his players, and Anderson has been "14" — his uniform number — and they will have coached 74 of 77 seasons for the Gophers.

Siebert took them from Delta Field to the new Bierman Field in 1971. It was renamed Siebert Field after his death. Anderson might have saved the program by raising the funds to build a new Siebert Field that opened in 2013.

Opened on the cheap, without lights, actually — until other baseball boosters provided more millions at the behest of Anderson to turn it into a boutique gem for the college game, including an indoor batting and practice facility along the third-base line.

The major donation for that came from Glen Perkins, a Gophers great and three-time All-Star closer for the Twins.

The loyalty of former players to Anderson seems almost universal, and he deserves equal billing with Siebert when it comes to impact on Gophers baseball:

Siebert-Anderson Field perhaps, although Anderson might draw on his Iron Range humility to protest that.

What is clear is that there are many more Big Ten programs with a strong commitment to baseball than Siebert contended with in his career, or did Anderson in his earlier decades, and the competition will only become more daunting:

Southern California and UCLA join the conference from Los Angeles, with its endless talent supply, and Oregon and Washington from the Pacific Northwest in the fall of 2024. Oregon dropped baseball from 1982 through 2008, got jealous of Oregon State's excellence, resumed in 2009 and now has an outstanding program.

The Gophers were excellent in 2018, reaching a super regional for the first time and playing at Oregon State (the winner of the College World Series). They were 15-9 in the Big Ten in 2019; COVID-19 shut down the 2020 season early; and the past three seasons have been by far the worst stretch of Anderson's career.

One reason for Anderson to pick up his option was to not leave the program buried in the standings. With healthy arms, the Gophers could return to competitiveness in the last 13-team Big Ten season before the West Coast invasion.

Those of us paying attention to Gophers baseball only suspect athletic director Mark Coyle has minuscule interest in the program. And we can only hope there's no evil plot to send it the way of men's gymnastics, in order to put another couple million into P.J. Fleck's exciting, bowl-bound football program.

For sure, Gophers baseball is no longer in a situation where Anderson can point to an assistant and say to Coyle: "Give the young guy a chance. If doesn't work out, you can hire someone else."

Coyle should go immediately to "someone else." And this isn't like football or basketball, where Division I credentials are essential. An excellent, energetic baseball man with connections can come from anywhere.

The search could start with an 11-mile drive from Siebert Field to Bethel University:

Brian Raabe, 56, ex-New Ulm, ex-Gopher, ex-big leaguer, successful coach with the Royals. It's Division III, but he's smart, committed, fiery when needed — and those qualities will work anywhere in baseball.

If not him, there's Tim Huber, 46, ex-Belle Plaine Tiger, ex-MSU Mankato Maverick, and now a national title-winning coach at Augustana in Sioux Falls — such a baseball family that Tim and Paula have a son named Wrigley.

It's Division II, but Huber's credentials are impeccable, including a wide sweep with recruiting.

There's no need for the current AD to outsmart himself with this search. Excellent candidates are right here. All that's required is for Coyle to demonstrate he does have an allegiance to the oldest sports activity (1876) on campus.