A friend of a friend Umpire and Earl Smith-January 26

One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about friends of my friends. The post below is the story on a friend of a friend for January 26, 2015.

When I started college in 1971 I made a quick decision to major in Physical Education and In 1973 I had a class instructor that became a friend until he died on August 5, 2012 at the age of 95. This college instructor’s name was Earl Smith and he was a former coach at East Carolina University in two sports basketball (1959-1963) and baseball (1963-1972).

His baseball teams won 4 straight Southern Conference Championships. One of his star pitchers Hal Baird would later coach baseball at ECU (Asst Coach1977-79 Head Coach 80-84) and then move on to Auburn (1985-2000) where he would coach Bo Jackson. Hal still holds ECU strikeout record in a game with 20 K’s.

Earl also coached at Campbell University prior to coming back to his alma mater ECU. When Earl left Campbell in 1953 it was a junior college.  He had great success as Campbell’s Football and Men’s Basketball Coach. In 1953 he went to ECU to become an assistant football coach. It was at ECU that he recruited my mentor Dr. Ray Pennington to play football and baseball. Ray because of Earl’s loyalty and persistence was inducted into ECU Hall of Fame in 1998. I got to attend that ceremony and it was a great night. Earl Smith got inducted into the ECU HALL of FAME in 1977.

There is a great story on Earl Smith at link below written by Sammy Batten.


Earl graduated from East Carolina in 1939 and because of our age difference he was a great link to a lot of wonderful stories some about ECU, college coaching, recruiting, and some about life in general. He also liked to brag on Ray Pennington who was one of his players at ECU.

Over the years especially when he got into his 80’s he would call me up and say he was coming to Pembroke to visit. Earl lived in Fayetteville, NC and after he left ECU he worked as a pro scout for the San Diego Padres. His travels would take him near campus and I enjoyed our visits.

Earl really like the idea that UNC Pembroke was starting a football team in 2007. He gave me lot’s of suggestions as UNCP Director of Athletics on what to keep in mind. I know he was excited when Campbell decided a year later to bring football back also.

Earl grew up in the south (Micro, NC) when segregation was part of life in the 40’s-50’s-60’s. I never thought of him as a racist but he loved to tell me stories about the segregated life in the south. He loved baseball and all of the stories that went with the sport. His story is about an umpire calling a game in a Negro Baseball League.

A friend of a friend-EARL SMITH



A friend of a friend-UMPIRE from Negro League in then1950’s


Earl Smith story on a Umpire’s Call during NC Semi-Pro Negro Baseball League game in 1950’s

Earl said that great semi-pro baseball was being played in North Carolina in the Negro Leagues up until the early 1960’s. He mentioned that one team that had talent was the Raleigh Tigers. The Tigers would play teams in Eastern NC from Tarboro and Rocky Mount, NC.

He said one of the great umpiring moments he had ever heard in his career occured with a game between the Raleigh Tigers and Rocky Mount Black Swans. The Raleigh Tigers formerly had a great player named Charlie Neal who played 2nd base for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Here is the play that Earl said made the umpiring Hall of Fame. The Raleigh Tigers had come to Rocky Mount and held a one run lead in the bottom of the ninth. The Black Swans with one out had gotten the tying runner on first base. The Rocky Mount crowd was excited about possibly pulling the upset.

The Black Swans had a speedster on first base and the Tigers Pitcher threw over to first base multiple times to keep him close to the bag. Finally the Tiger pitcher throws a pitch and the batter hits a baltimore chop down the first base line. The summer heat has dried out the field and the ball goes 35 feet in the air half way down the first base line. The pitcher a lefty,  comes off the mound and fields the ball in the air and in fair territory. His momentum takes him into foul territory just as the runner goes past him. He plants and throws but being a lefty his throw is way off of first base onto the second base side.

The first baseman fields the errant throw but is way off the bag and notices the runner going to second Is heading back to him at first. The batter seeing his teammate is heading back to first base stops. The batter then turns and heads back to home and the Tiger’s first baseman almost on instinct throws the ball to the catcher. The batter seeing the ball going home to the catcher pivots and heads back to first. The catcher seing he is headed to first base throws down to first but the ball is cut-off by the pitcher short of first base. Earl said it is the first ever pickle between home plate and first base. The batter seing the pitcher with the ball turns and heads back towards homeplate. The Tiger’s pitcher gives chase trying to make the tag on the Black Swan batter. He can’t get to the Black Swan batter so he tosses it back to his catcher and the batter slides under the catchers tag. Everyone looks at the umpire for the call.

He shouts out and signals SAFE-then tell the Black Swan you bat again.

One comment

  1. Jeff Neelon · · Reply

    Who’s on first

    Jim Dameron was still Laughing today about the Bill Hussey story. He also went to college with Bill and roomed with him He is Jamie McVay’s uncle

    Sent from my iPhone


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