Clifford L. Gustafson: A Legend in American Baseball Coaching
Clifford L. Gustafson (February 12, 1931 – January 2, 2023) was a highly esteemed American baseball coach who made an indelible mark on the sport. Known for his dedication and coaching prowess, he left an enduring legacy in the world of baseball, particularly with the Texas Longhorns of the University of Texas at Austin.
Early Life and College Baseball
Clifford Gustafson was born in the charming town of Kenedy, Texas. His journey into the world of baseball began when he attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he not only pursued his education but also became a standout player for the Texas Longhorns. Notably, he was part of the 1952 team that clinched the Southwest Conference championship and earned a coveted spot in the College World Series. Gustafson showcased his remarkable batting skills, culminating in a notable .308 batting average during his college baseball career. This stellar performance set the stage for his future in the sport, including a venture into professional baseball.
Gustafson’s coaching career took flight when he transitioned from professional baseball. His impact was felt across high school and college baseball, leaving an indelible mark on both levels.
South San Antonio High School In 1953, Gustafson embarked on his coaching journey at South San Antonio High School in San Antonio, Texas. Over a span of 14 seasons at South San, his coaching prowess became evident as his teams achieved a remarkable feat—winning the Class 3A State Championships an astonishing six times. These victories occurred in the years 1958, 1959, 1961, 1963, 1964, and 1967, showcasing Gustafson’s ability to nurture young talent and lead them to success.
The University of Texas Gustafson’s career reached its zenith when he accepted the role of head coach for the baseball team at The University of Texas at Austin in 1968. This decision, which initially involved a pay cut and a memorable phone call with legendary University of Texas football coach and athletic director Darrell Royal (Gustafson initially thought it was a prank), marked the beginning of a storied coaching tenure.
During his time at the University of Texas, Gustafson achieved unparalleled success. He guided the Texas Longhorns to an astounding twenty-two Southwest Conference Championships and an impressive seventeen College World Series appearances. Notably, these appearances led to two national championships in 1975 and 1983, solidifying his status as one of the most accomplished coaches in college baseball history.
Gustafson’s impact extended beyond the college game, as many of his players went on to have successful careers in Major League Baseball. A roster of notable names includes Roger Clemens, Burt Hooton, Greg Swindell, and many more. His dedication and influence in nurturing future baseball stars earned him a well-deserved place in the University of Texas Hall of Honor (1983), the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame (1992), and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame (1994). He was even named National Coach of the Year in baseball in 1983 and received the prestigious 1998 James Keller Sportsmanship Award.
In recognition of his extraordinary contributions, Gustafson was honored as an inaugural member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. Until his passing, he continued to call the vibrant city of Austin, Texas, his home.
Legacy and Passing
On January 2, 2023, Clifford L. Gustafson passed away at the age of 91. His enduring legacy in the world of baseball coaching remains a testament to his passion for the sport and his remarkable ability to inspire and mold generations of talented athletes. His name will forever be synonymous with excellence in baseball coaching, and his impact will continue to resonate within the baseball community and beyond.