Burroughs, buddies bound by 1987 Dixie World Series experience

The 1987 Meridian, Miss., 14u All-Stars with current LA Tech head coach Lane Burroughs middle of the second row (kneeling). (Courtesy Photo)

By Malcolm Butler

Louisiana Tech skipper Lane Burroughs was the featured speaker for the opening ceremonies of the Dixie World Series that the City of Ruston hosted at the Ruston Sports Complex the past few weeks.

Burroughs spoke from his heart on back-to-back Friday nights as dozens of teams from around the nation converged on Ruston to play in their respective age groups Dixie Youth World Series.

A big stage for 10u and 12u teams, but one they have worked all summer to earn.

Burroughs was the perfect man for the job. After all, the Bulldog Boss knows a thing or two about playing in the Dixie World Series.

At age 14, the now-grizzled 50-year old and 15 of his Mississippi buddies represented Meridian and the entire Magnolia State in the 1987 Dixie World Series in Rock Hill, South Carolina. It was a hard-nosed group of 13- and 14-year olds. To this day, Burroughs and his buddies cherish and recall the experience as if it were yesterday.

They were bound by baseball.

“I got to carry the flag at the opening ceremonies at the field,” said Burroughs, referring to a ceremonial part of the opening ceremonies for the Dixie World Series. “You go put your flag up. As you lose, you go get your flag.”

Burroughs, who played centerfield for the Mississippi All-Stars, was team captain for a talented group that included numerous boys who would eventually play college baseball later in life.

Meridian is known for producing some great baseball players, including names like Oil Can Boyd, the Cole Brothers (Popeye, Greg, Michael, Brian), Jay Powell, Frank Baker. The list can go on and on.

“Meridian has a rich, rich history of baseball,” said Burroughs. “Baseball is a big deal in that community.”

Burroughs and his boys were just another in a long line of Meridian-based all-star teams that made noise in the Dixie World Series.

Bound by baseball.

“Back in those days 13-and 14-year old was called Babe Ruth, but it was basically Dixie boys baseball,” said Burroughs. “The two teams that came right before us from Meridian had made it to the World Series as well, but hadn’t won it. We felt like we were the team.”

And if the district and state tournament was any indication, they would be. The Meridian All-Stars ran through the sub-district tournament in Laurel and then the state tournament in Hattiesburg.

“I will never forget. We beat Clinton,” said Burroughs referring to the state tournament. “We were just mowing through every team. I remember that game. Ironically, the kid we beat on the mound that game (Patrick Nation) ended up being one of my college roommates at Mississippi College. His son, Connor, is coming to play for us this year. It was like 4-1. I can remember us being like, ‘Dang, we didn’t beat the crap out of them. What is wrong with us?'”

Not much was wrong with that Meridian team of 1987. Burroughs was far from a one-man show, and he will be the first to clarify that point quickly. The team was comprised of David Booker, Bill Cornish, Laverne Crowther, Jimmy Files, Shadrick Glass, Richard, Hickman, Monte Marshall, Marcus McCoy, Phillip Moore, Jamie Parker, Marcus Portis, Ashley Robinson, Jessie Smith, Brian Temple and Eric Wooten.  Corky Null, Mike Sterling and Randall Hall were the coaches.

A team bound by baseball.

And from August 7 through August 13 of 1987, these Mississippi-based all-stars took their talents to Cherry Park to face the best from across the south led by their team captain.

“Fast. Gritty. Sweat bands,” said Temple, recalling what 14-year-old Lane Burroughs was like in 1987. “Skinny as a rail. Hustle. Lead off hitter. Leader. Those are the first things that come to my mind. He was our captain.

“I remember Lane and other leaders on the team embracing everyone and making us all feel like a unit. We had a lot of team chemistry.”

Temple, who still lives in Meridian and is a stock broker for Stifel Financial, is still great friends with Burroughs. They tandem would serve as co-captains at Meridian Junior College in 1993 and talk “just about every week” according to Burroughs.

Afterall, they are bound by baseball.

Marshall, who was one of the few 13-year-olds on the Meridian all-star team, said Burroughs make him feel a part of the team instantly.

“He was very much a team player,” said Marshall, who lives in Birmingham and is a financial advisor for NBC Securities as well as the founder of the 33s baseball summer travel ball organization. “He cared about every body doing well and winning.

“He was a very hard-nosed player, from batting practice just before a game to the very last pitch. He was on every pitch. Very intense. He wanted to win but he wanted to do it together. And he made me feel included.

“He was the first older player that I looked up to and say, ‘Hey, I want to be like that.’ If I get a opportunity with a younger player … that’s how I want to treat them. It was a whole lot of fun to play with him.”

These traits and more are the reason that Burroughs was voted the captain of the team.

“I remember taking batting practice at John Moss Field and Corky Null said, ‘Alright we need to elect a captain and person to carry the flag out to when we play in Hattiesburg and if we advance and to be the leader of our team,'” said Temple. “I vividly remember Marcus McCoy coming out and saying, ‘Ya’ll vote for Lane. Ya’ll vote for Lane.’

“We were an integrated team. Marcus was black. And here was the most talented player on the team saying, ‘Ya’ll vote Lane.'”

Bound by baseball.

After the opening ceremony, Burroughs and Co. got punched in the mouth in the opener, falling to Tennessee in the double elimination tournament.

“We lost to Tennessee in game one,” remembered Burroughs. “We had worn these blue jerseys with grey pants all season. One of our gifts for going to the world series was the (Meridian) mayor came and talked to us and presented us new red jerseys. We hadn’t lost a game (all summer) in the blues, and then we lost to Tennessee in the first game in the blue jerseys.”

It would force them to play their way through the loser’s bracket in order to make the championship.

They did.

“We voted that we were going to wear the red jerseys now,” said Burroughs. “So we ditched the blue and then it was ‘Here we go.’ We just kept winning in the red jerseys after that (first loss).”

It set up a match-up against Auburn Montgomery, Alabama and a tough task for the Mississippi fellas if they wanted to take home the title of 1987 Dixie World Series champions.

“We had to beat them twice,” said Burroughs. “We beat them (in game one), and so we had to play them again like an hour later. We are hot and sweaty, but we are rolling. We just knew we were going to win.

“But There was a division on the team on which color jersey we were going to wear. It was almost like there was a face off on which jersey we were going to wear. The red ones were all sweating from playing the first game.

“Our coach Corky Null said, ‘Lane, you are the captain. You decide.’ I said, ‘We are going to put the blue back on.’ And then we got beat. To this day, if I see one of the guys, they say ‘Hey, put those blue jersey’s back on.'”

According to Burroughs, the championship game was a back-and-forth contest. Basically, what a title game should be. Only the wrong guys won.

Auburn Montgomery 12, Meridian 10 … or that’s the score to the best of Burrough’s memory.

“It was eerie at the championship because there was nobody there,” said Burroughs. “You go from that place being packed and people everywhere. Then you make it to the championship game, and there are only two teams left and its their parents and our parents.”

“Pain. It still hurts today,” said Temple. “We should have won. I remember sobbing afterwards, and my dad telling me to quit acting like a little child. We all cried. I remember getting on the bus and Lane and I were sitting by each other sobbing.”

A couple of boys bound by baseball.

The thrill of victory. The agony of defeat.

“We didn’t lose because we were cocky,” said Temple. “We just didn’t play well.”

The summer was over. The season was over. The dream of winning a Dixie World Series was over.

“We probably weren’t able to do that without players like Lane,” said Marshall. “As talented as some players can be, that never-say-die mentality has to be there. You have to have players like that. We had a couple, and Lane was definitely one of those guys for us.”

More than 35 years later, the memories and the relationships built during the summer of 1987 created a bond so strong with 16 boys that it has lasted well into their adult lives.

“You don’t realize it at the time, but you are making memories and friends that will last a lifetime. We are on a group text, and we are constantly communicating,” Burroughs said. “It’s special. These are the guys I played little league with 36 years ago.”

Bound by baseball.

Burroughs won two state titles at West Lauderdale High School. He played for a national championship at Meridian Junior College. He has been a part of SEC and CUSA championship teams as an assistant coach and head coach. He has managed in numerous NCAA Regionals.

But the the Meridian All-Stars still hold a special place in his heart.

“That ’87 team … there was something different about it,” said Burroughs. “It’s the group of kids that you grew up with and went to school with and you are playing for your city. Now you are playing for your state. We almost did it, and really should have done it. You are connected now. Whether you like it or not, you will always be connected.”

Bound by baseball.