Archive for Sunday, August 6, 1995


August 6, 1995


Dave Bingham deserved a better sendoff than the 24-33 record he compiled in his final season as coach of Kansas University's baseball team.

He and the Jayhawks were better than that, but that 1995 aberration will be part of Bingham's history, a legacy that began Friday when Bingham resigned after eight years on the job.

Bingham had a funny way about him. One of the most demanding and competitive coaches on Mt. Oread, he was also one of the most doggedly loyal. In fact, one of his former players likened Bingham to Indiana's combative basketball coach, Bobby Knight.

Bingham and Knight were similar, this player had said, in that sometimes, as a player, you questioned your coach and you questioned why you put up with his demands. You felt like one of the most insignificant people around -- until you graduated. As soon as you became a former player, you became important.

"He maintained that coach relationship when you were a player," former KU catcher Jeff Niemeier said. "But once I got done, especially with the draft, he said, 'I'm not your coach anymore. I'm your friend now.' He was a guy you could talk to about anything.

"He's an extremely loyal guy. And he appreciates the loyalty you show him as a senior. There's a lot of times you ask yourself if it's worth it. When you're done, you realize it was."

Wins aside, KU was made better by having him around -- and he'll be missed now that he's gone.

There are few better baseball minds out there, but Bingham rose above being just a baseball guy. In a profession so often rife with egocentrism and ugliness, Bingham was the picture of humility and class.

Take Friday, for example. Just hours after he had tendered his resignation, he answered the phone at his house and was more than willing to grant an interview.

I asked if he could rest easy knowing that the KU baseball program is better now than when he arrived.

"I hope it does come out that people will miss Dave Bingham," he said. "I hope that's the way it ends. You never know how the public will perceive these kinds of moves. But I hate to say those kinds of things. All I know is, I put every ounce of energy I had into it."

Bingham demanded the same of his players, and it showed on the field. The Jayhawks rose to national prominence by playing baseball the way it should be played: hard and fast.

I once saw a list of Bingham baseball tenets on a T-shirt. Among them were: Work fast, throw strikes and hit hard up the middle.

When the Jayhawks won -- and they did under Bingham -- they usually deserved to win.

Bingham was just as demanding off the field. He made his players go to class, and the Jayhawks responded with ever-increasing grade point averages.

"Baseballwise, he taught me more than I ever thought I'd know," Niemeier said. "He also made you go to class, and he taught you to handle things. He taught you how to be an adult about things."

What more could anyone ask of a man charged with teaching young men to play a child's game?

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