Superdome hosted rare prep baseball doubleheader in 1977
New Orleans baseball fans from the 1970s, ’80s and ‘90s will most likely remember when the Louisiana Superdome played host to major league baseball exhibition games, a minor-league team’s regular-season games and annual college baseball tournaments featuring local universities against other nationally-ranked programs.
What those fans may not remember though are two high school baseball playoff games played as a one-time event in the Dome on May 6, 1977.
When the Dome was originally conceived, it was designed to be a multi-sport facility. Of course, the stadium is best known as the home of the New Orleans Saints with its devoted Who Dat fans and the annual Allstate Sugar Bowl. The New Orleans Jazz NBA team, featuring legendary Pete Maravich, also played there for four seasons in the 1970s.
Baseball was originally in the grand plan for the Dome, too.
The seating design for the stadium even allowed for a particular baseball configuration. However, despite repeated attempts to convince Major League baseball teams to re-locate to New Orleans, the city never got its own big league franchise.
The closest the Superdome got to top level baseball was a one-year stint by the New Orleans Pelicans Triple-A baseball team in 1977. The Pelicans, an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, played all of its home games in the Dome that season before moving to Springfield, Missouri, the next season.
With the Pelicans scheduled for a road trip to Omaha in early May, local high baseball officials arranged for De La Salle, West Jefferson, Bonnabel and Chalmette to play regional state playoff games in the Superdome to determine the teams to would advance to the Louisiana state finals in Baton Rouge. The venue was naturally a big and very different step up from Kirsch-Rooney Park, the facility used by many local high school teams.
The first game pitted De La Salle’s Cavaliers against the West Jefferson Buccaneers. Dave Moreau was the hitting star for the Cavs with his two-run single providing the deciding runs and lifting them to a 3-1 victory. De La Salle’s Bruce O’Krepki pitched a complete game, striking out 11. The Cavaliers advanced to the state quarterfinals to play Glen Oaks.
De La Salle coach Jerry Burrage commented after the game about Moreau’s performance: “I would rather have Moreau at bat with runners on base than anyone else. He has really come through for us as he has maybe five or six game-winning hits this year.”
In the second game of the doubleheader, Chalmette defeated Bonnabel, 4-2. The Owls’ Lorne Landreneau hurled a four-hitter, while Randy Wilheit drove in three runs. Chalmette moved on to face East Jefferson in the next round of the playoffs.
Forty-two years later, Moreau and Burrage still have vivid memories of the game in the Superdome. Both were recently interviewed about their recollections.
Burrage recalls meeting with the coaches of the other three teams (Ray Ferrand of Bonnabel, Jean Faust of Chalmette and Jesse Daigle of West Jefferson) at Andy Kreutz’s office in the Superdome to iron out the details of the two contests.
“Each team had an hour and a half to practice in the Dome the day before the game. My emphasis in our session was to make sure the players were acclimated to the Dome’s playing environment, mostly through fielding drills. Some thought it was odd we didn’t take our turn in the batting cage.” Burrage said. “The game in the Dome was a great thrill for our school, our kids, and their relatives who attended. Other than winning the state championship that season, it was my most unforgettable moment at De La Salle.”
Burrage spent ten seasons with the Cavaliers and later coached at East Jefferson from 1995 to 2007 before retiring.
Moreau remembered the thrill of seeing the playoff games being advertised on the huge outdoor display board at the Superdome.
“De La Salle got to play the early game of the doubleheader so we could attend our senior prom later that evening. Back then, that was a big deal for us,” recalled Moreau.
As the third baseman on the Cavalier team, Moreau especially remembered the ground balls coming fast off the artificial turf at the Superdome. Like Burrage, he still counts the game in the Dome as one of his all-time athletic high points.
Moreau is currently athletic director at Jesuit High School, following a lengthy career as head baseball coach of the Blue Jays.
De La Salle went on to win the state championship by defeating Chalmette in the title game. Burrage recalled that all of Chalmette’s losses that season came at the hands of his Cavaliers squad.
Neither Moreau nor Burrage could definitively say whether their playoff appearance was the first high school baseball contest in the Superdome, which opened in August 1975. However, this writer’s search of the Times-Picayune archives didn’t surface any other prep baseball games having been played in the iconic Dome.
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New Orleans baseball historian
Richard Cuicchi, Founder of the Metro New Orleans Area Baseball Player Database and a New Orleans area baseball historian, maintains TheTenthInning.com website. He also authored the book, Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives. He has contributed to numerous SABR-sponsored Bio Project and Games Project books.