ECU's 1961 champions relive NAIA baseball title

ECU team celebrates anniversary

Staff WriterMay 1, 2011 

— It has been 50 years, but time has only made what East Carolina's baseball team did in 1961 even more impressive.

The '61 East Carolina team, which won the NAIA national championship that year, was honored before the 2011 Pirates lost 5-0 to Southern Miss at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Saturday.

Nine members of the '61 team, which were the first national champions in the school's history, threw out a ceremonial pitch simultaneously before the game.

The Pirates managed their title with only 13 players - eight position players, an extra catcher and four pitchers - and a coach.

The starting shortstop, Glenn Bass, who went on to play in the NFL, was injured after the first game in the NAIA World Series, and the Pirates played the rest of the series with 12 players.

"The school couldn't afford to fly any more players [to the series]," said pitcher Earl Boykin, who lives in Wilson.

The tournament was held in Sioux City, Iowa.

Most of the other teams had 18 to 24 players, Boykin said.

Boykin, watching Saturday's ECU game from the Pirate Club suite, had 15 strikeouts in an 11-3 win over Omaha in second round in 1961.

But he motioned over to teammate Larry Crayton, the championship MVP, who had 19 strikeouts the night before against Grambling, and then recorded the final out against Sacramento State to take the title.

"He was the hero," Boykin said of Crayton, who played left field when he wasn't pitching.

Saturday stood as the team's annual reunion.

For the past 10 years or so, the team has gotten together every spring, usually for an East Carolina baseball game, said Wally Cockrell, the team's center fielder, who has taken charge in getting everyone together every year.

"I just send out the email," he said.

Cockrell said he's reflected on the memory and the excitement of that moment plenty.

"More meaningful to me is what we were able to accomplish with 12 guys," he said.

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