July 16, 2012
Laramie, Wyo. -
He's all of five-foot-five and has always sported a flat top haircut sharp enough to cut through iron.
His competitive juices flow as deeply as any I have ever been around.
To this day Bud Daniel is a baseball man. He loves the game. He certainly was superb at coaching it and is enshrined in both the College Baseball Hall of Fame and the UW Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame. I was reminded of him not long ago when Steve Beideck of the Omaha World Herald wrote a piece on him during this year's College World Series at Omaha. According to Beideck's story, Daniel has not missed a collegiate world series since the first one he attended in 1951. Reading the story (visit the link above) brought back a lot of great memories of Coach Daniel and Cowboy baseball.
When I came to Wyoming in 1967, Cowboy Field was four years old but Daniel was already in his 16th year as head coach. He would complete his Wyoming career four years later when he accepted a position at the University of Arizona in 1971 to create its Wildcat booster club. A delightful guy with hundreds of stories to tell, I always enjoy visiting with him.
While I have not had an opportunity to talk with him in a couple of years, we had a visit about Ryan Thorburn's book "Lost Cowboys" which came out in 2010. He was very pleased with the book which talks about Wyoming baseball. The focus, however, is on Daniel. He was the heart and soul of Cowboy baseball for more than 20 years playing and coaching the only way he knew how, all out.
The game has always been my favorite, and Daniel established Wyoming baseball on a national level. During his 20 seasons as head baseball coach he won a school-record 295 games. He coached UW to four Mountain States Conference Championships and one Western Athletic Conference divisional title. He coached 15 first-team all-conference players. In 1956 the Cowboys made their only appearance in the College World Series, winning a game before being eliminated. One of his most famous student-athletes was Art Howe, who would go on to play and coach at the major league level.
Back in '67 as a young freshman student assistant in Bill Young's Sports Information Department, I must say Daniel was an intimidating figure to me. I looked at him as legendary --among several in the athletics department at the time like Red Jacoby, Bill Strannigan and Young himself. I didn't have the opportunity to talk with Daniel very often as a "rookie" but when I did it was always enjoyable. His knowledge of the game and his history were right up my alley. He was a tough customer--he flew fighter plans during World War II--and his teams very definitely took on his personality. Daniel's Cowboy teams were always hard-nosed and played the game the way it should be played.
No doubt it was his way or the highway. I remember that none of us--Bill, Scott Binning, Rick Morris or myself-- in the sports information office were enamored with his decisions on game times. During my years with him, and certainly long before that, he always wanted to start our home games at 7:30 p.m. Night games in Laramie, even in May, were a 50-50 proposition at best when it came to weather. I remember many, many of those nights being so cold that all we could think of was warming up back at the office. Gloves were a necessity in the open air of the Cowboy Field press box. Scott, Rick and I cut the finger tips off of them so we could keep our hands semi-warm while we executed our scorebook, public address and scoreboard duties. There were nights when we had a hard time seeing the outfielders because of snowflakes. . .no kidding. But it was a great time nevertheless.
Bud maintained that the stadium would not have been equipped with lights had folks not wanted them to be used. So Cowboy baseball was under the lights. Our conference games would begin at 7:30 p.m. for the Friday series opener, followed by a 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. day-night doubleheader on Saturday. Those night games were tough alright, but it was all part of Daniel's plan. Teams hated coming to Laramie. Number one, they knew they would be in for a scrap, but number two, they dreaded those night games under the Wyoming stars. Obviously Daniel's teams were very successful, especially at home. He preached mental and physical toughness and his Cowboys were all of that. That's how he coached, that's how he played.
Making Daniel all the more impressive was the fact that in addition to coaching the baseball team, he also wore an even bigger hat, that of the department's business manager! No doubt it would be impossible for a dual role like that to happen within an athletics department these days. But he handled it without complaint, and was every bit as effective at that job as he was coaching.
It's always a shame when any intercollegiate sport is discontinued. It was certainly difficult here when it happened to Cowboy baseball in 1996. Nobody was any more broken hearted about it than Daniel, who put so much of his life and career into it. But, obviously, he's still very active and maintains his love for the game. He will always be one of my favorite characters at Wyoming.