By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Never mind national tournament runner-up finishes in 1978 and 1991, and forget about three conference championships — two in the MIAA, one in the CSIC.
When many fans think about Missouri Southern baseball at Joe Becker Stadium, one thought quickly comes to mind: the Mutt Burger.
Warren Turner became Missouri Southern’s baseball coach in 1977, and he moved the Lions’ home games to Joe Becker Stadium.
“Mutt Miller was a close friend of my father and me,” Turner said. “When I took the job at Southern and we moved to Joe Becker, Mutt came to me and said let me run the concession stand and help you make money for the program. I said that would be great.
“Mutt liked to cook. I think he cooked for a football picnic. He had a special recipe for his hamburgers — garlic seasoning was part of it — and we called it the ‘Mutt Burger.’
“It was a good sandwich. We kept track for a while how many thousand we sold. I don’t know where it ended up.”
“At the time, part of any nutritious meal for any Southern baseball player was a Mutt Burger,” said Bryce Darnell, the Lions’ catcher from 1994-96 and now the Lions’ head coach. “Over spring break Coach Turner used to feed us, and at least two or three meals after games consisted of Mutt Burgers. It was especially good with cheese, and grilled onions definitely were a part of it. That goes without saying.
“My biggest memory is the smell when you’re playing. It was a baseball smell for sure.”
The Mutt Burger became well known throughout the middle of the United States.
“All those spring break tournaments we had, teams would come down from Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa,” Turner said. “Baseball coaches wanted to get out of town quick after their last game, and they would order Mutt Burgers to go and eat them on the way home. A lot of teams did that.”
And in Joplin, “Businessmen would come out for lunch and eat a Mutt Burger,” Turner said. “And we would get calls in the concession stand from people wanting us to deliver Mutt Burgers downtown.”
Miller continued to cook as long as his health allowed.
“When Mutt got older, he would come out and always cook the first ‘Mutt’ every year,” Turner said. “They Ray Younger took over, and ‘Cotton’ Dye, and Leroy Wilson. We called his the ‘Wilson Whopper.’ ”