STILLWATER — During the ’80s, Allie P. Reynolds Stadium was new and among the better facilities in college baseball.

The advent of Allie P. coincided with a phenomenal decade for the Oklahoma State program. There wasn’t a national title, but there was everything else. There were rock stars Pete Incaviglia, Robin Ventura and Gary Ward. There were nine Big Eight championships and seven consecutive trips to the College World Series.

Today, there is a universal excitement about the development of a $60 million palace – O’Brate Stadium, which next year becomes the state-of-the-art home of OSU baseball.

During its rookie season in 1981, Allie P. was considered a dazzling ballpark. Today, it is inadequate and outdated, and yet it remains a venue for which OSU people have tremendous affection.

As Saturday’s Baylor-OSU contest was canceled because of weather, the Friday meeting of the Bears and Cowboys might have been the final regular-season game ever played at Reynolds Stadium.

A woman seated immediately in front of the press box wore a “Meet Me at Allie P.” T-shirt. She was part of the close-to-capacity crowd of 3,091 that saw the Cowboys prevail 5-4.

Jensen Elliott became the first OSU pitcher since Thomas Hatch in 2016 to get a second consecutive complete-game victory. Max Hewitt belted a fifth-inning, go-ahead home run — the first of his two-season Cowboy career. Andrew Navigato made an unbelievable play at shortstop. The weather was perfect.

If this was, in fact, the finale for OSU at Allie P., it could not have been scripted any more beautifully.

About 50 former Cowboy players were in attendance. During the afternoon, several Cowboy baseball alumni showed up for some nostalgia batting practice. Matt Holliday is said to have crushed three monster home runs.

If the 2019 Cowboys host an NCAA Tournament regional, a few more games would be played at Allie P. Because of O’Brate Stadium construction delays, there is a chance that Allie P. could be used for the first few games of the 2020 season.

However, there also is the chance that the new park is ready by Opening Day 2020. If OSU does not host a regional, and if O’Brate Stadium is finished by February, then the Friday Baylor-OSU game would have been the final competition at Allie P.

The OSU record at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium: 935-247-1.

Matt Holliday didn’t play at Oklahoma State. After having been a Stillwater High School superstar, he was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 1998. His 15-season Major League Baseball career included time with the Rockies, Oakland, St. Louis and the New York Yankees.

Holliday’s family, however, is heavily invested in OSU baseball. Tom Holliday was Ward’s pitching coach in 1978-96 and the Cowboy head man in 1997-2003. Tom’s son Josh Holliday was a Cowboy in 1996-99, recording a career batting average of .311 and 53 home runs.

Josh Holliday now is OSU’s seventh-year head coach, and he’s like many of those 3,091 fans who witnessed the Cowboys’ Friday conquest of Baylor. While he looks forward to coaching in the new stadium and presiding over the next era of OSU baseball, he has a lifetime of Allie P. memories.

“I grew up in those batting cages down there, trying to imitate the players and swing like them,” he says. “There was greatness occurring here that had never been seen before. To be a little kid watching it, I was just amazed by it and so desperately wanted to be a part of it.”

Holliday’s first home run was hit at the age of 13, during a summer camp and over the right-field wall at Allie P.

“I remember that like it was yesterday,” he said. “Sneaking bubble gum out of coach Ward’s upper left-hand desk drawer. Those are the things I’ll remember.”

OSU fans of a certain age — the fans who were Allie P. patrons during the ’80s — will never forget the unbelievable performances of Incaviglia and Ventura.

The bats of the ’80s were far more lively than the BBCOR bats of today, which means that Incaviglia’s numbers probably will never be matched. In 1985, he batted .464 with 48 home runs and 143 RBIs. Entering the weekend, this season’s national leaders had 23 home runs and 82 runs batted in.

Ventura had a career batting average of .428 and a national-record streak of having hit safely in 58 consecutive games. During the Ventura streak, Holliday was a 10-year-old.

Reflecting on the feats of Incaviglia and Ventura, Holliday said, “I would liken it to Zion Williamson now. Like a Heisman Trophy winner. Pete and Robin were Heisman Trophy winners. The king of their sport.

“Robin Ventura — that’s why I wanted to hit left-handed. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to swing like him, walk like him, talk like him and be like him. He was the best.”

What occurred on Friday was more an event than a game, but the most important chapters of the 2019 season are next for the 13th-ranked Cowboys (32-17 overall, 14-9 Big 12). The Big 12 Baseball Championship begins on Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

Former Cascia Hall catcher Bryce Carter now is a senior starter for Oklahoma State. He won’t get to play at O’Brate Stadium, but he and other seniors get the distinction of having been on the OSU roster during the final full season at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.

“Some of the great moments in college baseball history,” Carter said. “Some of the greatest players played here. Just to say that you were part of that, and that you played at Allie P., it’s pretty special.”

Allie Reynolds was a Bethany native and multi-sport athlete at Oklahoma State. As a big-league pitcher for the Cleveland Indians (1942-46) and New York Yankees, he was a six-time All-Star. With the Yankees, he was a six-time World Series champion.

During the process that resulted in the complete makeover of Boone Pickens Stadium, exactly no one expressed affection for the Cowboys’ former football home, Lewis Field, which had been a dull eyesore.

This baseball situation is completely different. Cowboy fans can’t wait to experience the new park while they celebrate the tradition of Allie P.

“When you’ve been here for as many days in your life as I have, (the memory of) this place will never leave,” Josh Holliday said. “We love this place, and when this time transitions to a new one, we’ll embrace what’s new.”

On March 5, 1981, when the first game was played at Allie P., “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang was a huge radio hit. At the zenith of the song’s popularity, you would hear it every 15 minutes.

On Friday night, at the end of what might have been the final game ever played at Allie P., there was a presumably unintentional homage to the stadium’s 1981 debut.

After the final out was recorded, “Celebration” boomed from the stadium’s public-address speakers.


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Bill Haisten

918-581-8397

bill.haisten@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @billhaisten

Sports Columnist

Bill joined the Tulsa World in 1990. Prior to having become a sports columnist in 2016, he was the only sports writer in Tulsa World history to have covered OU, OSU, the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts sports on an everyday basis. Phone: 918-581-8397