Sunday, November 7, 2010

Baseball legend Clyde King was a true Tar Heel to the end

Talk about a Tar Heel born and a Tar Heel bred, Clyde King was that and more. The former UNC baseball player died last week in his hometown of Goldsboro at age 86 after a six-decade baseball career.

King, who was born in Goldsboro in 1924, was the first person in his family and the only one of seven siblings to attend college. He came to Carolina without a scholarship.

At the end of his college career, the next day, he tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers. As recounted in this excellent and insightful article from three years ago, King pitched in the very first big league game he ever attended, against the cross-town rival New York Giants, the very next day. Over seven seasons, he pitched for the Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds. His best season was 1951, when he went 14-7.

King, who married his college sweetheart and is survived by her, coached the Reds, the Cardinals, the Pirates, the Giants, the Braves and finally the Yankees. He then served as general manager of the Yankees in 1985 and 1986 and was a member of the coaching staff again in 1988. From 1998 to 2005, he was a special assistant to the general manager.

King was instrumental in the Steinbrenner family's $1 million pledge to name the courtyard to the entrance at UNC's Boshamer Stadium.

"It has been my great pleasure to get to know Clyde and Norma King during my time here at UNC," UNC baseball coach Mike Fox told CapitalSportsNC after attending King's wake. "Clyde was a special person who had an amazing career in baseball that spanned six decades. He traveled all over the world and played with and managed some of the greatest players ever to play the game. Yet he was always a Tar Heel and he came back to Chapel Hill regularly. He supported me and our program in many ways and he loved UNC."

His granddaughter, Hadley, worked in the Carolina baseball office for three years.

"I was able to visit Mr. King in Goldsboro last summer and had one of most enjoyable evenings of my life there," Fox said. "Clyde was a great man whose faith was and will always be how he will be remembered."

Tar Heel born, Tar Heel bred, Tar Heel dead... but never forgotten.

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