Championship baseball team honored
This story was written by Ashley McIntyre, sports editor for the Campus Carrier. The photo is courtesy of student photographer David Chiem. Both are reprinted with permission from the Carrier.
In 1966, the Beatles proclaimed themselves to be "more popular than Jesus," actor Ronald Reagan was elected the governor of California and the Vietnam War was still being heavily contested. Garland Dickey was the athletic director at Berry and college baseball players still used wooden bats. That was the same year the Vikings baseball team won its first championship, with one of the best seasons in school history.
On Saturday, Feb. 20, Berry's first conference championship baseball team met for a reunion to celebrate their accomplishments and memories. The Vikings won the Georgia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship in 1966 and were runners-up in the NAIA Area 7 Tournament. They broke Berry's single-season wins record with 29, and had a regular season record of 25-10. The 1965 team, who won 13 regular season games, set the previous record. Head coach Jerry Shelton was named GIAC coach of the year and was the NAIA District 25 coach of the year.
The Vikings defeated West Georgia 3-1 to clinch the GIAC title. Don Law hit a home run, while his brother Gerry Law and Terry Jones had one RBI each. The Vikings played an errorless game while Renny Bryner pitched a six-hit game.
"This was the greatest part of my life," said Don Law, former Vikings infielder. "We traveled in two vans. The facilities weren't so great back then, but the fans were great and it was great winning. We got in a few scraps too."
Randy Davis, owner of the local radio stations TalkRadio WLAQ 1410 and 95.7 "The Ridge," was the event's master of ceremonies at Saturday's event. Davis introduced baseball head coach David Beasley and shared an experience from traveling with the team. Davis said that in his time broadcasting games and traveling with Beasley's team, he has picked up on a few things.
"I've learned that there’s Eastern Standard Time, Eastern Daylight Time and then there’s Coach Beasley Time," Davis said. "You’d better be on Beasley time, or else the bus will leave you."
Beasley spoke to the team before coaching the Vikings’ doubleheader against UVa.-Wise on Saturday.
"Looking at you guys today represents what we try and teach our kids about sports; the long lasting friendships," he said. "Forty-three years later and you guys are still all together."
Beasley addressed Berry's transition to the NCAA's Division III and although his team will not be able to compete for a championship for another three years, Beasley said he is encouraging his team to believe in the transition, and that Berry gives students and athletes a chance to be successful.
"I told them that the next championship we win will be up to them. The soonest one will be up to them, and I believe we will make it to the NCAA World Series," Beasley said.
During the course of the program, an anonymous $2,000 donation was given to the baseball program on behalf of the 1966 team.
Shelton and brothers Gary Law and Don Law were all recently inducted into the Rome/Floyd Sports Hall of Fame.
Former outfielder and current author John Dixon was in charge of the reflections portion of the program. He told stories about haggling the players at Georgia Tech, playing cards on team trips and surviving the repair of a pitching machine.
"I'm lucky to be alive fixing that pitching machine," Dixon said.
Dixon also expressed his appreciation to his former coach Shelton.
"We owe you more than you’ll be able to know, or how much we appreciate you," Dixon said.
Towards the end of the luncheon, Dixon reflected on how far they had come over the years.
"If our lives are a baseball game, we'd be at the top of the 8th inning, and that's sad," Dixon said. "We'll never be around quite like this again, and I’m glad to be around such great people as this."
The 1966 team was honored by the 2010 team before the first half of a double-header against UVa.-Wise on Feb. 20. Shelton threw the ceremonial first pitch. The Vikings went on to sweep the double-header, with scores of 13-2 and 3-2.