Augie Garrido’s first trip to the College World Series sparked a lifelong yearning to return to Omaha.
Playing for Fresno State in the 1959 CWS was such an impactful experience for the man who would became a coaching icon in the sport that it remained dear to him even after he retired from baseball.
“It meant so much to me to be a part of it,” Garrido told The World-Herald in a 2016 interview. “It inspired me, and it taught me how hard you need to work to reach that ultimate goal.”
Garrido passed that inspiration on to players for generations. Wherever he went in his six decades in college baseball, wins and championships always followed. His ability to motivate and innovate produced five CWS titles with two schools and the most wins of any coach in college baseball history.
“I coached against him and watched hundreds and hundreds of other coaches, and he’s the best I’ve ever seen,” said Skip Bertman, the retired coach who won five national titles at LSU.
Garrido, who had been hospitalized in California following a stroke on Sunday, died Thursday. He was 79. The University of Texas, where Garrido wrapped up his career in 2016, announced his death.
“We lost one of the greatest coaches of all time, a truly special Longhorn legend and college athletics icon,” Texas Athletic Director Chris Del Conte said. “If you were fortunate enough to have spent time with Augie, or if you followed him in any way, he had a great effect on you with his brilliant combination of wisdom, wit and charm. He was just an incredible coach, molder of men and a great person.”
Garrido won three national championships with Cal State Fullerton in 1979, 1984 and 1995. He also won titles at Texas in 2002 and 2005. He stepped away from coaching two years ago and was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame the same year. His 1,975 career wins date to 1969.
“Augie dedicated his life to making young men better people. He will be deeply missed by myself and many others,” said Florida State coach Mike Martin, who is 18 wins from overtaking Garrido as the all-time leader.
Garrido also coached at San Francisco State, Cal Poly and Illinois. But he will forever be linked to the Fullerton and Texas programs, taking those schools to the CWS a total of 15 times in his career.
“Augie was certainly a fixture of the College World Series and brought a number of teams here,” said Jack Diesing Jr., president of College World Series of Omaha Inc. “He was a legend with his expertise, and I know he thought very highly of Omaha and what Omaha brought to the College World Series.”
Garrido got the most out of his teams playing a small-ball style reliant to move runners.
“He played 90 feet at a time and had great instincts on the field,” Bertman said. “I don’t think he really tried to be anything but himself. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was a fun guy. Most of all, he’s the best baseball coaching mind for college that I know of.”
Garrido won 25 conference championships and national coach of the year six times. He was the first coach to win national championships with different schools. He spent 20 years at Texas, which hired him away from Fullerton in 1997 to replace Cliff Gustafson, who won two national championships with the Longhorns and had the program on a regular rotation at the College World Series.
“The fact you can win three national championships on the West Coast and then come to a different part of the world for our sport and win two more … ,” Texas A&M coach Rob Childress said. “He’s the guy who set the bar higher than any of us will ever get to.”
Diesing credited Garrido, and other legendary coaches like Rod Dedeaux of USC and Jim Morris of Miami, with helping the College World Series reach a lofty status among NCAA championships.
“They’ve all meant a lot to the series just because they were great ambassadors for college baseball and for the national championship,” Diesing said. “It’s important to have those individuals, who are teaching the kids, to be able to convey the message of not only how important college baseball is and playing the game for the love of the game but how iconic it is to go to a special place to have a championship.
“I believe that Augie was one of those people who carried the message loud and clear.”
Garrido’s personality was California cool and his aura as a Zen master who talked as much about thinking about winning as swinging a bat took some time to take root at Texas. But once he did, Garrido had the Longhorns back among the nation’s top programs. His best years with the Longhorns were from 2002 to 2010 when he won the two national titles and had six 50-win seasons.
“When we were looking for a baseball coach, we already knew that Augie was the guy we needed, and he did not disappoint,” former Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds said. “He and his kids set the standard that caught fire within the athletics department when they won the national championship in 2002, showing all of our sports what could be done at the highest level.”
Garrido’s teams produced 15 first-round draft picks and 27 players won All-America honors 34 times. The Vallejo, California, native played six seasons in the minors with the Cleveland Indians organization before taking his first head coaching job at Sierra High School in Tollhouse, California, in 1966.
“This is a dark day for our sport,” Childress said. “Augie Garrido was the godfather of college baseball.”
World-Herald staff writer Tony Boone contributed to this report.
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