Decatur’s Lloyd Nix would be the first to admit that he’s lived a good life with a lot more success than regrets.
One of those regrets can be put to rest Sunday when Nix walks inside TD Ameritrade Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska, to watch the Auburn Tigers play in the College World Series.
“I would love to see an Auburn celebration on that field,” Nix said.
Nix is famous for being the quarterback of Auburn’s 1957 national championship team. For 53 years he was known as the only Auburn national championship quarterback. He welcomed Cam Newton to the club in 2010 when the Tigers won the school’s second national championship.
Not many people know that Nix also played baseball for the Tigers. After the football championship in 1957, Nix helped Auburn win the Southeastern Conference baseball championship in 1958.
College baseball was a little different in 1958 from what it is today. Teams didn’t play as many games. Auburn went 17-8 in Joe Connally’s one season as head coach in '58.
Several of the baseball players, like Nix, played other sports. Jackie Burkett, Tommy Lorino and Morris Savage were also members of the 1957 national championship football team. The left-handed throwing Nix started nine games and finished with a 9-0 pitching record.
Another baseball player was Rex Frederick, who was an All-SEC basketball player. Catcher Pat Duke was the school’s first All-American baseball player.
“The SEC had two divisions back then,” Nix said. “We won the East and Alabama won the West. We had a playoff at (Birmingham’s) Rickwood Field for the conference championship.”
The Tigers swept the Crimson Tide, 3-2 and 5-4. “Red” Roberts pitched all 13 innings in the 3-2 victory.
“Even back then the College World Series was played in Omaha,” Nix said. “Our goal that season was to make it to Omaha. We were told that if we won the conference championship and had a good record that we would be invited to the tournament.”
According to Nix, after the win over Alabama to wrap up the championship, the team got word while still in the dugout at Rickwood Field that they would not be invited.
“Back then the NCAA had a rule that if one sport was on probation, all of the school’s sports were on probation,” Nix said. “The football team had just gone on probation, and that kept us from going to the College World Series.”
The College World Series in 1958 had eight district tournaments with the winners advancing to Omaha. The only team from the South to advance out of district was Clemson. Southern California, coached by the legendary Rod Dedeaux, beat Missouri for the national championship. That was the first of Dedeaux' 10 national championships.
Auburn finally made it to Omaha in 1967. The Tigers returned in 1976, 1994 and 1997. Auburn’s best finish was fourth in 1967.
Nix never made it to Omaha on Auburn’s four previous trips. When you operate a successful dental practice, it’s difficult to redo appointments when your school suddenly finds itself advancing to Omaha. Now that Nix is retired, it’s not a problem.
“I went to the Final Four to see Auburn play basketball this year,” Nix said. “The next time I saw (baseball coach) Butch Thompson, I told him that seeing Auburn in the College World Series in Omaha was next on my bucket list.
“I told him that I’m getting pretty old (82) and I wanted to go real bad, so the sooner the better. I didn’t expect it to happen this fast.”