Black College Nines

A Blog of the College Baseball Hall of Fame's Black College Legends and Pioneers Committee


Ralph Garr (Grambling) – More than a “Face in the Crowd”

ralph-garr

Ralph Garr featured in 1967 Sports Illustrated magazine "Faces in the Crowd"

America’s baseball population was first introduced to a young Ralph Garr when he appeared in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” section of its June 26, 1967 issue.   The national recognition capped a brilliant senior season at Grambling College in Louisiana (now known as Grambling State University) where he led the country in hitting with a .582 batting average.

Back in 1967, with no cable TV, no internet and very little national coverage of college baseball, this recognition may have been more significant than college baseball fans of today might imagine.

The other significance of this recognition is that his achievement came in the day of wood bats.  It was not until seven years later that college baseball instituted the use of aluminum bats, accompanied with the inflated batting averages associated with their use.

ralph-garr-mini-cardRalph Garr was no one-year-wonder as a pro baseball player and certainly not as a four-year performer at Grambling College from 1964-1967.  And even though few knew much about Garr until the Sports Illustrated blurb, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and Major League Baseball knew about the young athlete who, during his 12 year Major League Baseball career, was affectionately know as the Road Runner.

Ralph Garr grew up in Ruston, Louisiana… a stone’s throw from the campus of Grambling College.   For this reason, there was no need to consider any other HBCU program.  To top it off, at the time, Grambling baseball was king of the hill.  As a freshman in 1964, Garr made only  21 plate appearances for the Tigers.  As he noted, “that team was loaded with talent.”  The proof can be found in Grambling’s NAIA College World Series second place finish with players featuring the likes of  future pro Johnny Jeter.

In his final three years in school, Ralph Garr was the team’s leading hitter each year.  His .582 average in 1967, not only lead Grambling by a wide margin, but also topped the entire NAIA  and at the time set a national record… as did his 11 triples.

During Ralph Garr’s career at Grambling, winning baseball was a foregone conclusion.  Its hard to imagine any one college player having taken part in a more successful four year span than Garr did at Grambling with its 103-11 record between 1964-1967.  In 1967, under school president and head coach Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones, Grambling won 33 of its 34 regular season games and finished third at the annual NAIA baseball championship.

Ralph Garr culminated a great career at Grambling with his selection as a first team NAIA All-American in 1967 and his selection by the Atlanta Braves in the third round of that year’s Major League Baseball draft (the 52nd player picked overall).

While the Recreation Administration major was a second baseman his entire career at Grambling and was drafted as a second baseman, Ralph Garr’s ticket to an eventual 13-year MLB career was as an outfielder.

il_hof_garr_smGarr reported to the Atlanta Braves’ Class AA, Texas League affiliate in Austin, Texas in July of 1967 and over the next four minor league seasons, accumulated a batting average of .326.  The last two years in the minors at Richmond (Virginia) of the International League saw Garr lead the AAA league in hitting both years (.329 in 1969 and .386 in 1970).  His average in 1970 remains the highest in the International League to this day, since 1938.  In 2008, Ralph Garrr was elected to the International League Hall of Fame.

In 1971, after short stints with the Atlanta Braves the previous three years, Ralph Garr was called up to the Major Leagues for good. 

garr-2In his first full season with the Braves, Garr’s .343 batting average ranked second best in the National League.  He would finish second again in 1972 (.325) and finally  in 1974, Ralph Garr won his first National League batting title with a .353 average and earned a spot on the 1974 National League All-Star team.

Garr ended his Major League baseball career in June of 1980 spanning 1317 games and a lifetime batting average 0f .306.

In 2006, Ralph Garr was selected into the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame. Besides the Braves HOF and the International League HOF, Ralph Garr was also named to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Grambling State University Alumni Hall of Fame in 1991.Ralph Garr in 2005

Earlier in 2009, Ralph Garr received the honor of being nominated for membership into the College Baseball Foundation’s Hall of Fame (along with another HBCU great, Danny Goodwin of Southern University) and on July 18, 2009, he’ll be part of the first class inducted into the Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame.  For more information on the event, click here.

These days, Ralph Garr serves as an area scout for the Atlanta Braves.

Year

AVG

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

SB

RBI

1964

.238

21

6

5

0

1

0

1

1

1965

.336

107

20

36

3

2

1

10

15

1966

.373

83

19

31

4

3

2

14

20

1967

.582

98

46

57

5

11

4

12

31

TOTAL

.418

309

91

129

12

17

7

37

67

RALPH GARR – GRAMBLING COLLEGE BASEBALL

Our thanks to Shannon Davis (Library Specialist in the Afro-American Center at Grambling), Dr. Rosemary Mokia (Director of Library Services at Grambling), Ralph Garr Jr. and of course, Ralph Garr for their assistance!

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