About the Exhibition
In the sports world North Carolina is best known as a basketball powerhouse, but through the first half of the twentieth century, the most popular college sports were football and baseball. Since then, the Wolfpack baseball team has sustained a tradition of excellence that draws loyal supporters.
To celebrate Coach Elliott Avent's tenth season, the NCSU Libraries mounted Wolfpack Baseball: A History of Achievement, a photographic exhibition drawing on the University Archives in the Special Collections Research Center. Installed on the mezzanine of the D. H. Hill Library from March 29 through November 10, 2006, the exhibition was free and open to the public.
"The national pastime came to A&M [NC State] as a pick-up game during the first years of the school's existence," wrote the historian Bill Beezley in The Wolfpack: Intercollegiate Athletics at North Carolina State University. When students wanted to start playing other colleges during the 1890s, they had to petition the faculty for permission to skip classes. NC State's main rival was not UNC but Wake Forest. As of the new century, the big game between the two took place every Easter Monday.
Although the "Easter Monday jinx" of losses remained unbroken from 1925 to 1935, Coach Charlie "Chick" Doak's teams drew large crowds with their offensive style of play and regular exhibition games against pro teams practicing in the South. One highlight was a 1935 game against the Boston Braves led by Babe Ruth.
After the inevitable hiatus of World War II, when gas rationing, the draft, and the lack of a full-time coach put a damper on Wolfpack baseball, the sport experienced a nationwide resurgence. In 1947 the NCAA organized a national championship, the College World Series. The dynasties of coaches Vic Sorrell (1946-1966) and Sam Esposito (1967-1987) each lasted for twenty-one seasons, climaxing in the Pack's third-place standing in the 1968 College World Series. Players from that era recall smaller teams, great camaraderie, and all-around athletes who participated in several varsity sports.
High points from the 1988 to 1996 tenure of Coach Ray Tanner included setting new school victory records and capturing the Atlantic Coast Conference title in 1992. Just as they had in the mid-seventies, when Esposito's teams brought home three ACC crowns in a row, the successes on the field renewed the excitement for baseball on campus and in the community. A similar phenomenon is taking place today, as a fresh crop of talent and a world-class stadium are drawing a new generation of fans to Doak Field at Dail Park.