Former Ragin' Cajuns Baseball Coach, AD Mel Didier Passes Away At 90
LAFAYETTE – Mel Didier, a former head baseball coach and athletic director at then-USL from 1981-82 and would serve as a longtime Major League Baseball executive, died Sunday night at his home in Phoenix. He was 90.
Didier, who was employed by the Toronto Blue Jays as a special assignment scout at the time of his death, was head baseball coach for the Ragin' Cajuns from 1981-82, revitalizing a program that had won a combined 33 games in the previous two seasons.
A native of Baton Rouge and the younger brother of former Ragin' Cajuns baseball coach Ray Didier, Mel Didier led the Ragin' Cajuns to a two-year record of 73-48-1 that included the school's first-ever 40-win season.
Didier's first team in 1981 broke numerous school records, posting a 40-23 record while finishing one game behind Lamar in the Southland Conference South Zone. The first season under Didier's watch produced a pair of All-Southland Conference players – first baseman Billy Davis and second baseman Mark Lalande.
His team came back the following year with a 33-25-1 record and claiming the SLC South Zone with a 13-3 record.
"We could have won a lot more games than we did," said Didier after the conclusion of the 1982 season, "but we just didn't get some breaks that we needed and had some lapses when we didn't need them."
He spent the 1982 year as Athletic Director for the Ragin' Cajuns after Dan "Sonny" Roy retired from the post to go into private business.
Didier began his career in professional baseball as a part-time scout for the Detroit Tigers in 1954 and became the Director of Scouting and Player Development with the expansion Montreal Expos in 1969. Among his early picks while with the Expos included eventual Major League Hall of Famers Gary Carter (1969) and Andre Dawson (1975).
Didier has two stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers, serving as the top scout to general managers Al Campanis and Fred Claire and playing in instrumental part in acquiring talent for their 1988 World Series championship team.
His most famous moment in baseball came prior to the 1988 World Series doing advance work on the Oakland Athletics. The night before Game 1, he gave Dodger hitters a scouting report on Oakland reliever Dennis Eckersley, which included a report of a backdoor slider on a full count with first base open.
The report proved to be the difference in the series as Kirk Gibson hit one of the most memorable home runs in World Series history - a pinch-hit, two-run home run off Eckersley in the bottom of the ninth inning giving Los Angeles a 5-4 win and propelling the underdog Dodgers to a five-game series win. The pitch that was thrown by Eckersley on the full count? A backdoor slider.
Didier was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2003. Raymond Didier, who coached at then-SLI along with stints at LSU and Nicholls State, was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame earlier this summer.