Baseball’s Ron Polk will receive the 2017 Rube Award for his lifetime contributions to Mississippi sports, Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum officials announced Monday.
Polk will receive the award Aug. 5 at the 2017 Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet presented by Sanderson Farms and the Sanderson Farms Championship at the Jackson Convention Center. The Rube Award is named for the late Michael Rubenstein, the executive director of the MSHOF and Museum for its first 16 years of operation.
Polk, the former Mississippi State baseball coach, was chosen for his contributions to Mississippi sports, but it could have been for his contributions to college baseball nationwide.
Said his former MSU player Jay Powell, who will be inducted into the MSHOF that night: “In my opinion, there’s never been anyone in any sport who contributed more that Coach Polk has to college baseball. He showed everyone how to do college baseball at Mississippi State.
“When I came to Mississippi State just us and LSU had nice stadiums,” Powell continued. “Coach Polk started the arms race. He proved everybody that college baseball could be a big-time sport. It’s amazing when you look at the stadiums around the league now and how far baseball has come.”
Already inducted into the MSHOF and the College Baseball Hall of Fame, Polk achieved a lifetime won-loss record of 1,373–702–2. His Mississippi State teams played in six College World Series. He also took Georgia Southern and Georgia teams to the CWS.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate how college baseball advanced under Polk: When Polk took the State job in November of 1975, news of his hiring ran on page 3 of The Clarion-Ledger sports section in a three-paragraph story. There was no news conference, no TV coverage. The job paid $15,000 a year. But when he left State, the news ran in a banner headline across the top of the front page of the newspaper.
“As impressive as Ron’s record is on-field, how his hard work, dedication and vision changed the game of college baseball is even more amazing,” said Bill Blackwell, executive director of the MSHOF. “The effect that Ron brought changed the way the game is played and presented, not only in Mississippi, but nationwide.”
Said Johnny Ray, president of the MSHOF Board of Directors: “All you need to do is look at the stadiums and crowds now common in the SEC to see Ron’s influence. He has been driven to improve the game whether it is on-field, in the stands or at the NCAA level.”
This will be the sixth presentation of the Rube Award. Previous winners were Dave “Boo” Ferriss, Ben Puckett, Archie Manning, George Bryan and Gov. William Winter. Tickets for the 2017 banquet are on sale online at www.msfame.com or at the museum office.
Powell, who went on to win the seventh game of Major League baseball’s World Series, said that while most will remember Polk for his contributions to college baseball, Powell will remember him most as a teacher.
“He had more influence on me as a player and a coach than anyone can ever imagine,” said Powell, who now coaches at Jackson Academy. “He really knows how to teach the game and get his players to understand what is expected of them and how to play the game.”