The Beaver Team That Started It All
PASTIME: Centralia Resident Alex Goedhard Pitched For OSU’s 1952 College World Series Team
By Matt Baide
The Oregon State University baseball team just finished its sixth appearance in the College World Series on Saturday.
The Beaver baseball team, though, wouldn’t be where it is today without all the teams that came in the program’s early days, including the first Beaver team to make the College World Series back in 1952.
Alex Goedhard, a 90-year-old Centralia resident, was on that groundbreaking Beaver team.
Goedhard grew up in Pasadena and played for Pasadena Junior College in 1949 and 1950, helping the baseball team earn the California Community College Athletic Association championship in 1950. Goedhard was a team captain and pitcher.
The experience in Pasadena allowed Goedhard to walk on at Oregon State in 1951 as a junior, where he played two seasons for the Beavers.
“Our team was made up of raw talent. We weren’t technically knowledgeable as the teams today. If you see them train today, you’ll see the difference,” Goedhard said. “We were big kids. The Fresno coach, when we played for regionals, said that’s the biggest bunch of athletes they’ve ever seen.”
Oregon State was 27-12 in 1952, and earned a berth into the sixth College World Series in Omaha after winning the Pac-8 Championship. Goedhard remembers getting off the train and noticing how hot it was compared to playing baseball in the Northwest.
“The team was confident. We were sure we could win. We went there optimistic that we were going to be winners,” Goedhard said. “The difference occurred when we hit Omaha and got off the train — it was 104 degrees.”
On June 12, 1952, the Beavers played Duke in the opening round of the CWS. Goedhard came in after starting pitcher Don White lasted ⅓ of an inning while giving up four runs. Goedhard remembers his first pitch of the game well.
“I threw one pitch, it was a knuckleball and they grounded it and it was a double play,” Goedhard said. “It started great. That was good, then it all went to hell. The other team did well, but we did bad.”
He also had a hit, and scored the team’s first run of the game. Goedhard pitched 5 ⅓ innings. It was the last game he ever pitched.
“We just withered. I lost eight pounds in the 5 ⅓ innings I pitched against Duke, the catcher lost 14 pounds,” Goedhard said. “We wore wool uniforms, we had no Gatorade, no mist, you had to go into the dugout and out back and maybe there was a jug of water. We just weren’t ready for any kind of weather like that.”
Duke won 18-7, and the Beavers were eliminated the next day after a 10-1 loss to Texas.
After college, Goedhard traveled around Europe for 18 months before getting into forestry. He started working for Weyerhaeuser in 1956, and moved to Chehalis for work in 1972 after jobs in Longview, Tacoma and Snoqualmie.
His kids played baseball in the Twin Cities, and Goedhard helped coach his three sons. Goedhard has enjoyed the baseball community in Lewis County.
“Our kids played at Wheeler (Field). It’s very competitive and Centralia has always been a powerhouse. My son was a pitcher at W.F. West and it was very competitive, they seemed to always beat us,” Goedhard said. “It’s good baseball country here and it’s going to get better. As the facilities get better and money is put into it, it will be better yet.”
Goedhard has had the chance to see the game develop from its early stages, and is impressed at the level of play in today’s game.
“It’s fantastically good. The training and the technology and the strategy is so much more complex, it’s extremely competitive,” Goedhard said. “I can’t think of a more competitive sport than baseball right now.”
During Oregon State’s 2017 season, at the end of March, the 1952 team was honored during the Beavers’ three game homestand against Arizona. Goedhard toured the team’s new facilities and was in awe of how far the program has come since the 1950s.
“If we had 1,000 people there, that was great. At OSU, they get at least 3,000 a game, they don’t miss a game,” Goedhard said. “It’s amazing the number of OSU fans around here. My neighbor across the street is a Beaver. It’s fantastic the people that are following this. It’s beyond anything that I’d ever thought.”
Goedhard was able to meet current Beaver coach Pat Casey, and he was honored with a bat and a jersey during the ceremonies and threw out the first pitch.
It’s not the only big moment he’s had on the field since his OSU days; Goedhard played in a Pasadena alumni game, and a semipro game, with fellow Pasadena alum Jackie Robinson.
“He was a great man, we purposely went down to Brookside Park by the Rose Bowl to watch Jackie play ball because he stole everything,” Goedhard said. “If he got on first, you could bet he was going to steal. Everybody knew he was going, and we loved that. It was great respect to watch him.”
His favorite baseball memories? The hit against Duke, the March ceremony at OSU and the junior college championship.
“My best memory is I think getting up and first time at bat and getting that base hit because I knew I could hit, and I had a chance,” Goedhard said. “My next memory would be going back to OSU to be recognized in comparison to how well this team does today.”
Overall, Goedhard said his biggest impact on the game of baseball was the way the 1952 OSU team put the Northwest on the baseball map, a feat that has stood the test of time to this day.
“We were really the first team to say ‘You can play in the Northwest, play good ball.’” he said. “That’s the significance of our ‘52 win.”