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Thumb Wars: ESPN Examines Steve Detwiler's Place in History

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Mike Tirico: Welcome back! We’re wrapping up ESPN’s coverage of the College World Series with this special retrospective look at the Cinderella season of the Fresno State Bulldogs, the lowest-seeded team ever to win a collegiate championship in any sport. F.S.U. got to the C.W.S. finals by going undefeated in elimination games just like Georgia did and the Cinderella story continued in Omaha as Fresno made Georgia just the second team ever to win the first game of the College World Series best-of-three finals yet go on to lose the final two games since the current format was adopted a mere five years ago. Had the Bulldogs of Georgia finished in first, they would have had 24 losses, the most ever by an N.C.A.A. baseball champion so instead Fresno State has the most losses ever by an N.C.A.A. baseball champion with 31, but Georgia came up short when Fresno State capped off its Cinderella season with an improbable victory by a regional No. 4 seed, making the champions the lowest-seeded team ever to reach an N.C.A.A. final. With me now are Kirk Herbstreit . . .

Kirk Herbstreit: How’s it going?

Mike: . . . and Mark May.

Mark May: Hey.

Mike: Kirk, Mark, one of the best storylines that evolved out of this Cinderella College World Series victory by the lowest-seeded team ever to reach an N.C.A.A. final was the story of Steve Detwiler. Some think he’s the love child of Ray Liotta and Kathleen Turner; some think he looks like Eddie Munster; others simply think of him as the Bucky F’ing Dent of Bulldog Nation. Nevertheless, the Thumbless Wonder led this Cinderella Fresno State squad from the lowest seeding ever by a team to reach an N.C.A.A. final through an undefeated run in elimination games, and he did it with his thumb hanging on by a thread.

Kirk: Incredible!

Mark: Amazing!

Kirk: Just . . .

Mark: . . . I mean . . .

Kirk: Wow! What can you say?

Mike: Guys, I think the question has to be asked. In this amazing performance, in which the lowest-seeded team ever to reach an N.C.A.A. final went on a Cinderella run, going undefeated in elimination games, how does Steve Detwiler’s thumb stack up against the other great thumbs in history? Do we have to rank Steve Detwiler’s thumb as the Best Thumb Ever?

Kirk: No question you have to give consideration to Steve Detwiler’s thumb after this amazing Cinderella run by a No. 4 regional seed, which is like being a No. 13 or 14 seed in basketball, through elimination game after elimination game. Are you kidding me? There’s no contemporary thumb out there that can hold a candle to Steve Detwiler’s thumb. If you’re going to find any comparison at all, you have to look back at great thumbs throughout history.

Mike: Well, let’s talk about that, then. Mark, is Steve Detwiler’s thumb the Best Thumb Ever?

Mark: I believe so, Mike, and here’s why. When Auburn ran its winning streak over Alabama to four games and were threatening to make it five in a row, the Tiger faithful had a slogan: "Fear the thumb." Well, there is no more fearsome thumb in all of sports than Steve Detwiler’s thumb. I mean, what thumbs are there out there that even compare? Tom Thumb?

Mike: All right, fair enough, but, Kirk, what about Little Jack Horner? He stuck his thumb in a Christmas pie and pulled out something special, just as Steve Detwiler stuck his thumb into the College World Series and pulled out a Cinderella storybook ending to a season by a No. 4 regional seed that had to win one elimination game after another just to survive. I mean, isn’t that a fair comparison?

Kirk: Come on, Mike! There’s no way to compare those two things! Steve Detwiler was in Rosenblatt Stadium, with Mike Patrick and Orel Hershiser and Poopsie . . . the big time! Little Jack Horner was sitting in a corner, by himself, a loner, with no one watching!

Mark: Yeah, and what did Little Jack Horner pull out, anyway? A plum? One lousy, stinkin’ plum? That’s nothing! That can’t even compare to batting in six runs in the final game of a Cinderella season by the lowest-seeded team ever to win a championship!

Mike: Are you sure you’re not selling Little Jack Horner short, though, guys? John Horner was the steward to the last abbot of Glastonbury Abbey at a time when Henry VIII was doing away with monasteries and, while Horner was taking the deeds to twelve manors with him to London to deliver as a bribe, he stole the best of the deeds---the plum, if you will---and kept it for himself. Acquiring Mells Manor in Somerset can’t compare to winning the College World Series? Really?

Kirk: What are you talking about?

Mark: It’s Omaha, Mike!

Kirk: Seriously, Mike . . . Little Jack Horner? What, are you sitting there with your thumb up your . . . ?

Mike: All right, that’s all the time we have for now. Join us later for "SportsCenter," where the debate will continue over Steve Detwiler’s thumb’s proper place in the pantheon of all-time great thumbs after Detwiler’s damaged digit helped to lead the Fresno State Bulldogs, the lowest-seeded team ever to reach an N.C.A.A. final, on a Cinderella run through a series of elimination games to win the national championship, when Trey Wingo and Scott Van Pelt will tackle the thorny question of Steve Detwiler’s thumb versus Thumbelina. In the meantime, be sure to visit and vote in our poll question, "Is Steve Detwiler’s thumb the Best Thumb Ever?" Good night.

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Go ‘Dawgs!