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Sunday, April 4, 2004

Former coach Temple appreciates Jayhawks’ gesture

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Floyd Temple might have retired as Kansas University's baseball coach more than two decades ago, but the KU skipper of 28 years was back where he belonged -- on the baseball field -- Saturday night at Hoglund Ballpark.

Temple, KU's career wins leader with 437, watched as his retired No. 13 jersey was unveiled on the right-field wall. He then threw out the first pitch.

His number officially was retired in 1992, but it wasn't enshrined in the stadium until KU second-year coach Ritch Price pushed for it after arriving on campus.

"This was his idea," Temple said. "I've had some great things done for me when I retired, but it was an interdepartmental deal. It didn't involve my players, former players and former teammates like it does with this deal.

"That's baseball only, and I am so humbled and pleased. It's unbelievable."

Temple has lived in Lawrence since retiring after the 1981 season, and he still follows the Jayhawks religiously. He said he remains a huge Kansas fan, and said he's optimistic about the Jayhawks' future under Price.

"I am so impressed with this young man and what he's done in a short period of time, and really how he's done it," Temple said of Price. "He's a fireball, he's excited about his players, he's excited about the program."

After gushing with optimism about KU's future, Temple turned to telling stories about the day and about the past. Among the highlights:

l He spoke of his FBI-agent son George's surprise visit, saying, "I almost had a heart attack because my children mean a lot to me."

l He recalled the struggles early in his coaching career and how he had "no regrets about what I had and what I didn't have."

l He reminisced about the time he was thrown out of a game at Baylor and had to turn the reigns over to the team bus driver, who also got kicked out.

l Temple chatted about what mattered to him the most as coach -- his players, many of whom were on hand.

"I had a lot of great kids," he said. "Probably 90 percent of them graduated, and to me that's the most important factor of anything. Wins and losses are super, but they're not the total answer."

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