College Sports in the Carolinas
from the East
Friday, May 7, 2004
By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News &
Smith threads run deep in
I told Earl Smith that the East Carolina baseball media guide stated that
Harrington Field was dedicated on May 9, 1971.
Smith, former baseball and basketball coach at ECU, thought for a moment and
said, “We were playing on that field before then.”
ECU played at Guy Smith Stadium, off of Memorial, before moving to the site
where an $8 million facility is scheduled to rise on campus in the coming
months. In fact, Guy Smith Stadium was home to the Pirates when they won the
NAIA title in 1961.
“I think we played at Guy Smith Stadium for just one year,” said Smith, who
took over the baseball reins from Jim Mallory in 1963.
According to Coach Smith’s memory, the first game at the current site off of
Charles Blvd. was played in 1964, by chance, against N.C. State. The game
was supposed to be played at Guy Smith Stadium but rain had left that field
Although there were still some finishing touches remaining at the new field
on campus, State coach Vic Sorrell agreed that they could play there because
wet conditions had not affected that surface as severely.
So they played — and ECU won, 5-4, thanks to Pirate hustle and a Wolfpack
“Chuck Conners laid down a bunt and they threw it past the first baseman,”
Smith said. “The right fielder should have gone to get the ball but he
didn’t and Chuck Conners went all the way around the bases.”
Smith, who threw out the first pitch in the Louisville series two weeks ago,
said the late Mallory actually laid out the field incorrectly.
“The first base line should run East and West because of the sun,” he said.
“Home plate should actually be in the right field corner.”
Shade from the pines that have grown up beyond the outfield have helped
solve problems with the sun. Smith was glad final plans for the new stadium
won’t have home plate in left field, which would have also resulted in
removal of the pine trees and, of course, The Jungle.
“If they did that the only person in the field who wouldn’t have the sun in
his eyes would be the catcher,” Smith said. “I don’t know who came up with
Smith nurtured the field at the site where the Pirates have apparently been
playing baseball for over 40 years. Pirate Club director Dennis Young, an
ECU student in the mid-1960s and Bill Cain, former ECU AD, confirmed Smith’s
contention that the Pirates were playing at the site of Harrington Field
“I sewed the grass myself,” Smith said. “I used my own hose to water it and
cut it with my own mower.”
Smith said he sometimes pulled his car up to the field and used his
headlights to see as he watered the outfield. The hose ran all the way to
the football field, the closest water.
One morning on his way to get some breakfast in the predawn hours, Smith
said he saw two trucks pulled up behind the stadium. He turned in and found
out that the drivers were delivering brick that was to be used in the
stadium. Smith learned later that ECU benefactor Reynolds May had gotten a
golfing friend of his who owned a brick company in Sanford to donate some of
Smith showed the men where to unload the brick and said they left to go get
May also convinced Milton Harrington, who Smith said played at Duke, to make
a sizeable contribution to the baseball stadium. Not all of the money May
raised for the baseball stadium was spent on the designated project.
“The field was supposed to have a roof and concrete stands,” Smith said.
But Smith said former ECU president Leo Jenkins allotted the money for the
roof to the swimming program and former athletics director Clarence
Stasavich had bleachers brought in from the old football field.
Decades later — after about a thousand games at the site that Smith used to
groom — the concrete stands and a roof appear to finally be in the plans,
according to the architect’s renderings.
“Now they’re going to finish what they were supposed to finish years ago,”
Football came first in the athletics pecking order as defined by Jenkins and
Stasavich. They knew that Smith could be successful without great resources.
“We know Earl will win whether we give him anything or not,” an East
Carolina administrator once explained when asked about increasing resources
Smith recruited tirelessly with just two scholarships.
“One reason I quit in 1972 was that they increased the budget for football
and basketball and never gave me anything,” Smith said. “The school still
has two rakes that belonged to me that I used on that field.”
Baseball success was principally responsible for the stature Smith enjoys at
ECU, but it wasn't his only sport. He had a 69-49 record in five seasons as
men’s basketball coach. He guided the Pirates to a 16-9 record in 1945-46
and took over the hoops program again for four seasons beginning in 1959-60.
Smith never had a losing season in basketball and only one in baseball from
1963 to 1972.
His baseball record at ECU was 185-103-2. He spent years as a major league
scout after coaching.
A three-sport athlete at East Carolina in his playing days, Smith was
enshrined in the ECU hall of fame in 1977 and remains a Pirate treasure.
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02/23/2007 12:45:38 AM