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Woody's Ramblings
Saturday, February 19, 2005

By Woody Peele

Refuge at last for the weather-worn


I’m really looking forward to East Carolina’s first home baseball game of the 2005 season in the new Clark-LeClair Stadium — especially to having a chance to sit in the new and comfortable press box.

Forty-odd years ago when I first arrived in Greenville, East Carolina was still playing its baseball games in the city’s Guy Smith Stadium. The press box situation there was, to some extent, cramped, but nothing like what lay ahead.

One of the things I remember most about those early days at Guy Smith was that there was no fence in right field. It was get-all-you-can-get when you hit it in that direction. At that time, there was also a track out in right field with the 100-yard dash chute extending at a right angle from the foul line. Any ball hit over that chute was a home run for any one with decent speed.

ECU’s catcher at that time was Brazel Moore, who unloaded one over that chute. As the right fielder chased down the ball, Moore hustled (in his own way) around the bases. Nevertheless, his speed was not enough to reach home. A series of relays from right to center, to second to home nailed him by a dozen steps.

When Harrington Field was opened, wooden bleachers flanked a raised press box, separate from the stands. With two rows of seats, it could accommodate about six or seven people.

Earl Aiken was the sports information director then and very protective of his new Buick. For those old-timers who attended football games back in 1963, you may remember the PA announcer asking, “Has anybody seen WEAWAB?” or “Where’s WEAWAB?” Buick was running a promotion among SIDs with the best one winning a new Buick. WEAWAB stood for “Will Earl Aiken win a Buick?” Turned out, he won the contest.

Earl parked his car behind the press box, considering it totally safe from any foul balls. Sure enough, one had the perfect arch to put a nice dent in his hood one day.

As the bleachers aged, several fans broke boards upon stepping upon them, prompting a decision to replace the wooden planks with aluminum stands, those which stood until torn down after the 2004 season.

About that same time, a new press box — more like a shoebox — was built. It only seated three and even those three were crowded.

Of course, there was no heat — and no air conditioning except for that which blew in the open front.

One day, the Pirates took on Virginia. Sonny Lea was the student assistant in charge of baseball for the SID office. When the game began, the temperature was in the 60s, so Sonny appeared in shorts.

But as the game went along, the weather changed and the temperature dropped like a stone. In the seventh inning, it began to snow, larger and larger flakes. The Pirates were ahead, but as it got colder and colder, errors allowed the Cavs to rally and tie the game up. The teams stayed knotted up until the Pirates finally pulled it out after 14 innings — seven of them with the snow coming down heavily.

Sonny, his voice shivering, announced, “T-t-thank y-y-y-y-ou for c-c-c-c-coming out to c-c-cheer on the P-p-p-pirates.”

Then, finally, the press box that stood until Harrington was torn down, was built. It seated more people, but at the same time, the SID staff grew. With a new scoreboard, more people were needed to run the various functions of the game. The only trouble was, with the press box not squared to the field, those sitting in the far left side were unable to see third base or down the left field line. No one could see foul territory or the visitors bullpen.

At one point, vandals scratched up the Plexiglas front, so new windows were put into the press box. But unlike the older ones, which had panels that swung out to allow air to circulate, the new ones were sealed shut. It became a sweat box. An air conditioner was found and installed, but aside from those sitting directly under it, there was little relief.

Then, there was the night that Henry Hinton, broadcasting a game from the front left row, became sick just before air time, suddenly losing his supper and driving many, including me, from the press box.

Plans were made at one point to build a “real” press box at Harrington, but that idea fell through when designers said that state laws required an elevator to be installed to accommodate the handicapped.

Now, we have a new box and I’m looking forward to sitting in it for the first game, just to see how a real Pirate press box feels.


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02/23/2007 02:43:44 PM

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