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 28, 2015.
When you have been at a university for a long time you meet lots of good friends. Unfortunately some of them pass on. On January 17, 2007 one of my friends and coaches I got to work with at UNC Pembroke died at the age of 75. Harold Ellen was the baseball coach at UNC Pembroke for eighteen years (1968, 1970-1986). Harold was inducted into the UNCP Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001 and had great success as the university’s baseball coach.
Coach Ellen made his mark on the baseball field by compiling a 331-287-6 record during his time as coach. In one of the games he coached the result was a tie. That tie in 1982 and its reason made him noteworthy in several national media outlets including a mention in the NY Times.
Ellen coached 16 all-Americans, as well as 33 all-district winners and 11 all-conference players at Pembroke. He and his wife Patsy had three sons who all graduated from UNC Pembroke David ’80, Rick ’88, and Rodney ’93. The dugout at Sammy Cox Field at UNCP is named in his honor.
Harold Ellen was an old school coach and he crossed paths with lots of coaches from both high school and college. One college coach he knew was Gary Robinson from UNC Charlotte. Gary and Harold made news together in 1982. Gary was the baseball coach at UNC Charlotte in his first year when the event took place at game at Pembroke.
A little info about Gary Robinson baseball resume includes him being a scout for the San Francisco Giants, Florida Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies from 1991-97. He served as head coach of the UNC-Charlotte baseball program from 1982-91, posting a 280-244-3 record during his tenure. One of those three ties came against UNC Pembroke.
Gary Robinson led UNCC to 30 or more wins five times and had 34 of his players signed to professional baseball contracts. He was voted the 1984 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year.
Prior to his head coaching stint at UNC-Charlotte, Gary Robinson worked for three seasons as a minor league umpire in the Midwest and Southern Leagues. He broke into the coaching ranks as a college assistant at Appalachian State (1975-77) and the University of Tennessee (1978-79). Gary played college baseball at Gardner-Webb College (now Gardner-Webb University) and was a First-Team All-American in 1975. His .466 batting average in 1974 still stands as a school record. In 1991 he was inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletic Hall of Fame.
The Friend-HAROLD ELLEN
The Friend of the Friend-GARY ROBINSON
Harold Ellen and Gary Robinson Coaching a Tie Baseball Game
In 1982 UNCC had a new head coach named Gary Robinson. At the time Pembroke State was a NAIA school. We often would play Division I schools early in the season and had our share of luck against them. In 1982 we only played 24 games our record was 10-13-1. It was that one tie that got UNC Pembroke and UNCC some national attention.
Our most-chronicled brush with the big time came in 1982, when media outlets across the country covered the results of our baseball game for the reason it didn’t finish.
The New York Times picked up news that UNC-Pembroke, and UNC-Charlotte called a game after nine innings. Maybe the big-city publications liked the quaintness of the reason — see with the score tied 8-8 after nine innings, the game “was called because of hunger.”
A newspaper article about the event said this.
It was 6:25, and it was getting dark,” said Harold Ellen, the Pembroke State coach. “We have lights, but the dining hall closes at 6:30. I don’t have the kind of money those big schools do. I don’t have enough money to take my team out when we’re playing at home. We don’t have those rich boys that can afford to go out by themselves, either.”
Ellen, who led Pembroke’s team for 18 seasons, was a man who emphasized fundamentals: solid batting, swift running, sure pitching. Eating dinner was a priority, too. “If they hadn’t gone to eat then, the players wouldn’t have gotten food that night,” said Ellen’s son, Rodney.
Harold Ellen didn’t welcome the spotlight on his ball club. It’s usually the umpires that call a game but this night it was their coach who said his players were going to eat dinner before the cafeteria closed.
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