No matter what University of Texas sports heroes go on to accomplish after college, they are forever hailed in Austin for what they did as Long-horns. Nearly 25 years after his collegiate gridiron heyday, Earl Campbell remains the Tyler Rose, forever plowing over hapless Aggies and Sooners. Six Cy Youngs down the road, Roger Clemens is neither Red Sox nor Blue Jay nor Yankee, but Long-horn. This is not up for debate. It is gospel.
Huston Street, a gangly freshman of 18, has known this truth since he was six. At the time, Huston thought attending a Texas football game with his daddy, former Long-horns quarterback James Street, would be just that: father and son spending a fun Saturday afternoon together at Texas Memorial Stadium. "Dad signed more autographs than the players did," Huston says with a soft twang. "We stayed for three hours after the game was done, my dad signing and signing and signing. It was incredible."
Outside the Longhorn State, James Street is as recognizable as Ed Road or Steve Path. In Austin, however, he is royalty. That's what happens if you lead the Texas football team to a national championship, as James did during the 1969 season (capped by a Cotton Bowl victory over Notre Dame). That's what happens if you help pitch the Longhorns' baseball team into the College World Series, as James did in 1968, '69 and '70. Thirty-two years later James, who did not play professional sports and is now a financial planner, remains that dashing hero in burnt orange and white. For $150, you can buy an autographed, limited-edition print of James running the football from an on-line gallery operated out of Austin. The legions do not forget.
Perhaps that is why, minutes after his son had pitched 1? shutout innings to close out a 12-6 victory over South Carolina in the College World Series final last Saturday, James had tears and sweat and a proud smile on his face. By saving all four of his team's wins at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Huston Lowell Street became not only the tournament's Most Outstanding Player but also—whether he turns out to be the next Roger Clemens or not—a Longhorns legend, right there with his pop.
On a team known for its Pacific-deep starting rotation, the righthanded Street played the largest role in Texas's first baseball title in 19 years and coach Augie Garrido's fourth in four decades. (Garrido, who became the first coach to win the series with two schools, had won three at Cal State-Fullerton.) In 6? innings of relief, Street allowed a total of two hits and one run while striking out five—a performance that fed the growing perception that he was a closer as invincible as Trevor Hoffman or Mariano Rivera. As South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said the night before his team faced Texas, "You know they have Huston Street waiting. That's not comforting."
During the final innings of the tide game a female fan held aloft a sign that read HUSTON, WILL YOU MARRY ME? To the Streets, this is hilarious, because four months ago the only request the 6-foot, 179-pound Huston got was HUSTON, WILL YOU PLEASE THROW ME ANOTHER MEATBALL? That came from opposing hitters who, while struggling with Street's hard-cutting slider, sat on his fastball, which reached the low 90s but was as straight as a pencil. During February and March, pitching coach Frank Anderson tinkered with Street's motion, dropping his three-quarters delivery a nudge or two lower. "The competitiveness was there, but his stuff wasn't moving enough," says Anderson. "There wasn't much deception."
Street had good stuff in his first three appearances in Omaha; what he had on Saturday was good fortune. When he came on in the eighth inning against the Gamecocks, Texas was beginning to unravel. South Carolina had cut the Longhorns' six-run lead to 8-4 and had runners on first and second with one out. In a 10-pitch at bat shortstop Drew Meyer fought off Street long enough to earn a walk. Centerfielder Justin Harris then hit a grounder to third that should have been an inning-ending, rally-killing double play. While pivoting to throw to first, however, Texas second baseman Tim Moss dropped the ball, allowing two runs to score.
Up stepped Yaron Peters, the Gamecocks' 6'2", 244-pound slugging senior first baseman, the son of Israeli parents. In Hebrew, Peters's first name translates as "happiness," which is what his team-leading .379 batting average and 29 homers brought South Carolina this season. To become melech (king) of South Carolina, however, he would need to accomplish something only two batters had done in 47 innings against Street this season: hit one out of the park. On a 3-and-2 count, Peters—wearing number 32 in honor of his idol, Sandy Koufax—took a monstrous swing through a hanging curve, missing in Kingmanesque fashion. Later, Peters admitted he was thinking home run ("I probably shouldn't have done that," he said), while Street conceded that the ball easily could have wound up in Tel Aviv ("a complete mistake pitch"). Regardless, as soon as the ball landed in his glove, Texas catcher Ryan Hubele pumped his fist and jumped high in the air. Carolina had let its last chance slip away.
Even though Peters and the Gamecocks were, for the most part, a likable flock, it was hard to root against the Longhorns, who exuded grace and class. Throughout the series Street displayed the character of a man twice his age, routinely deflecting praise toward his teammates. Indeed, the most heartwarming moment of the tournament came in the postvictory press conference on Saturday, when senior leftfielder Chris Carmichael, whose three-run homer in the fifth was the big blow for Texas, went out of his way to praise Street's maturity and heart. Obviously moved, Street, seated next to Carmichael, reached out and gently held his teammate's right hand. In the rear of the room, Huston's mother, Janie, who's also a Texas graduate, beamed. She and James had raised their boy right.
Later in the day, as Huston waited in a cramped hallway to be interviewed for the official College World Series video, he reflected on his father's status in the eyes of Texans. Ever since his early teens Huston had known that he would follow his dad to Texas. In fact, when other schools, including Baylor, Columbia and Georgia Tech, had asked him to visit, Huston declined. Why waste their time? "I've never thought of it as pressure, having a dad who did so well," said Huston, the lid of a white WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS hat covering his eyes. "He's my best friend. My role model. My adviser. My hero. It'd be an honor just to be mentioned in the same breath."