The main impetus for the construction of the Louisiana Superdome in the early 1970s was a new home for the New Orleans Saints. Superdome “father” Dave Dixon also envisioned the facility as home to the NBA and MLB franchises. He had the foresight to ensure that the stadium design included configurations to host baseball and basketball games in addition to football. After numerous attempts to lure a major league team to New Orleans, city and state officials attempted to lure a major league team. That’s not to say the Superdome hasn’t hosted baseball games. From 1976 to 2003, major league exhibition games, one minor league team’s regular season games, and college games were played in the domed facility. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting some of those memorable baseball games.
April 10, 2002: LSU vs. Tulane
Throughout its history, the Louisiana Superdome has been the site of countless sporting events with huge crowds, involving the New Orleans Saints, New Orleans Jazz, Sugar Bowl, and NCAA Final 4 championships. On April 10, 2002, LSU and Tulane faced off in a baseball game at the Superdome billed as a “Night of Records”. Its crowd size did not approach those other events, but at the time its 27,673 fans were the largest single-game crowd to ever attend a college baseball game.
LSU (20-13) and Tulane (18-16) had lackluster seasons in 2002, but that didn’t deter the rivalry. The game was originally scheduled for Zephyr Stadium in Metairie, but Tulane and LSU officials agreed to move the game to the Superdome.
The LSU-Tulane contest promoters intended to break the all-time record for a college game (24,859) that occurred during the 1999 College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. Tulane assistant athletic director Scott Sidwell said, “Having the opportunity to break the record was the driving force behind the move.” LSU athletic director Skip Bertman said, “It was a no-brainer. I’m all for the record, and hopefully we get it. The difference now is that we have a facility to do it, and we have great people supporting us in Louisiana.
Over 24,000 tickets were sold prior to the game, resulting in the largest crowd to attend a regular season game. That previous record was 21,043 in 1996, when Texas and TCU faced off at Arlington Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.
The crowd buying walk-in tickets put attendance well above the record, with a total of 27,673. Each fan was treated to a cardboard sign that read “I was there!” Record night.
LSU’s Bo Petit and Tulane’s Kris Kline pulled the starting pitching assignments.
Petit was perfect through the first four innings before hitting and walking in the fifth. He managed to come out of the set unscathed on a timely double play.
Meanwhile, LSU built an 8-0 lead after five innings. LSU shortstop Aaron Hill hit a two-run homer in the third inning, which knocked Kline out of the game. LSU hit three solo home runs (by Sean Barker, Jason Columbus and Chris Phillips) against Green Wave pitcher Beau Richardson in the fifth. Green Wave head coach Rick Jones ended up using six pitchers in the game.
Tulane got on the scoreboard in the seventh inning when Michael Aubrey hit a two-run single against Clay Harris. Gerald Clark hit a goal-laden brace to score three in the bottom of the ninth for the final score of 9-5.
Petit, who improved to 4-5, said after the game, “When you have a lead, it makes it easier to shoot. Luckily our team fed off the crowd a bit and kept up the intensity.
Obviously disappointed with his team’s performance, Jones said: “Being part of history is a special thing.”
LSU freshman head coach Smoke Laval said, “College baseball across the country should be excited. If we can do it in Louisiana, don’t be surprised to see it elsewhere.
Laval’s prediction was correct regarding future record crowds. The College World Series regularly has over 30,000 fans in attendance, including one in which LSU played North Carolina in 2008. The current all-time mark (40,106) was set in 2004, when the University of Houston played San Diego State in the first game played at Petco Park in San Diego.
Previous Crescent City Sports stories about baseball games in the Superdome include the first baseball game in the Superdome in 1976, the New Orleans Pelicans home opener in 1977, and a doubleheader in the playoffs of the high school in 1977.