Baseball players receive championship rings 50 years later

Published 12:50 pm Thursday, May 9, 2024

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Some 50 years later, 11 baseball players and two managers led by two coaches walked onto the Coy Tillett Baseball Field at Manteo High School to the song “We Are the Champions.”

Some were accompanied by family members. They stood along the third base line facing the current Manteo High School baseball players in their dugout.

The weather cooperated with a mild Thursday evening, May 2, 2024.

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These baseball players – along with two others who couldn’t make the evening and five who had died – won the North Carolina Class A State Baseball Championship June 7, 1974.

The team won the championship game 2-0 in seven innings against Cullowhee, whose team had to travel from the North Carolina mountains to the beach to play ball. Scoring the two runs were Steve Daniels and Robert Heroux, the catcher for Manteo.

Before walking on the field, the team and invited guests sat down to dinner in the Manteo High cafeteria. Capt. Bob’s from Hertford served up fried chicken, barbecue, green beans, potatoes, slaw and hushpuppies. Private donations paid for the celebratory meal.

Roger Griffith was the leadoff hitter in that championship game. He played at College of The Albemarle and at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ken Mann, who played in left field, hadn’t seen Griffith in 50 years.

The team and coaches gathered to celebrate that win and for a championship ring presentation. In 1974, championship rings were not presented. Today’s ring is a beautiful, big, heavy ring from Jostens with lots of bling and “Champions” on one side and personalized with a player’s name.

And again, thanks to private donations, each team member, two managers and the coaching staff received a ring.

Coach George Pearce with his spouse Linda Pearce and assistant coach Terry Wheeler and his spouse Valerie Wheeler led the procession onto the field. Linda Pearce presented the ring to George and Valerie Wheeler presented the ring to Terry.

The two men then presented the rings to Buddy Denton, R.V. Owens, Ken Mann, Kenny Kee, Karen Johnston Phillips, Stan Kee, Robert Heroux, Harry Niser, Stan Newman, Mike Parsons, Roger Griffith, and managers Barry Sawyer and Sam Daniels.

Unable to attend were Steve Daniels, the championship game pitcher, who was out-of-town celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary, and Greg Roberts, who was ill. Wheeler accepted their rings.

Team members who have died are Richard Bruenig and Johnny Parrish, whose rings were accepted by Wheeler and will be presented to the families. Phillip Etheridge’s ring was accepted by his grandson Cam. Mike Buckner’s ring was accepted by his granddaughter Omie Gornell. Tom Bill Daniels’ ring was accepted by his grandson Parker Daniels.

The current Manteo High School baseball team played baseball against Camden on this special evening and won 6-3.