BACK IN THE GAME

Erbaugh, After 40-Year Absence, Welcomes Turks’ Gig  

By David Driver  
Daily News-Record  

Harrisonburg manager Bob Wease put his left arm on the right shoulder of pitching coach Larry Erbaugh near the Turks’ dugout here Monday night, about 200 minutes before the first pitch against Charlottesville at James Madison’s Veteran Memorial Park.  

Once opponents on local fields in the Rockingham County Baseball League, the two went over plans as the Turks hosted a Valley Baseball League game against the first-place team in the South Division.  

Wease has been involved with the Turks for a few decades but this year he pulled another rabbit out of his hat – he convinced former Turner Ashby and University of South Carolina pitcher Erbaugh to put on a baseball uniform on a regular basis for the first time in decades.  

“It has been about 40 years,” said 1069 TA graduate Erbaugh, 71, begging for some shade back of the Turks’ third-base dugout before the first pitch with the temperature in the high 80s. “I played in the Valley League with the Turks for five years and then I played in the County League for Clover Hill for five years. That would have taken me up to 31 or 32 years of age” when he stopped playing.  

After retiring earlier this year from his day job. Erbaugh jumped at the chance to return to the Valley League.  

“Bobby called me and asked me if I wanted to be involved. I thought about it a bit; the timing was perfect, I had just retired,” said Erbaugh, who spent his career with Rockingham Redi-Mix as a dispatcher.  

“Someone who works full time, there is no way you can do this,” he added of the summer gig with the Turks. “I took one night to think about and I thought; “Why not, I am going to expand my horizons,” I would rather be quiet. But I can make myself be verbal. It is an effort sometimes. I am in a situation where that is a little outside of the box for me. I am enjoying expanding myself a bit. I am enjoying, to tell you the truth, talking to the (players) that want to know how it used to be. I am enjoying letting them know that.”  

Erbaugh said he doesn’t spend a lot of time talking, for instance, about the in-depth details of how to throw a curve with his young staff. 

“They know that,” said Erbaugh, whose wife, Joyce, is a graduate of Montevideo High. “I could help them a bit with their stuff, but I’m not. But I do know what pitchers want and what they need and the information they need. I think I can organize things a bit.”  

He admits the obvious; “It’s not my generation. Know what I mean? But I am trying. I am trying.  

He must be doing something right — the Turks were fourth out of 11 teams in team ERA at 4.11 in games through Monday. The Turks had allowed just 12 homers in 24 games — the second-best mark in one of the top amateur circuits in the country.  

If those young, 20 something pitchers with the Turks want to take a look at the numbers Erbaugh posted down Rt. 42 at TA in Dayton (before the more to Bridgewater) they may be blown away just like batters trying to hit a Nolan Ryan fastball.  

Impressive Numbers  

Consider the statistics for Erbaugh as a senior at TA in 1968; he was 7-1 with an ERA of 0.70 and his strick out  – get this – 128 batters in 53 innings.  

One of the rare losses for Erbaugh at TA was the last setback before the Knights won 40 straight games from April 2, 1968, to May 15, 1970.  

Erbaugh threw two no-hitters in 1968; against Page County at Clover Hill and at Luray. He also threw a no-hitter as a junior, beating Broadway 4-1 (TA made three errors) while striking out 13 at home in 1967.  

The Knights were 12-1 and won the District 10 title under Coach A.J. Botkin in 1968. For his TA career, Erbaugh had an ERA 1.39 with 253 strikeouts in 140.1 innings. 

In 1968 Sam Hess hit .444 and drove in 32 runs in just 45 at-bats; Dwight Eberl batted .458 and drove in 14 runs on 15 hits, and Erbaugh hit .459 and drove in 13 runs in only 37 trips to the plate.  \Another star pitcher on the team was Jodie Wampler, who was 4-0 with an ERA of 1.57. As a senior the next year, Wampler was 11-0 and went on to star at Division I George Washington University.  

There were no playoffs in 1968, so the first state title for the Knights would have to wait until 1971.  

Erbaugh was, however, part of two state-title teams at the American Legion level with a team in Staunton. He played against the American Legion team from Charlottesville – one that featured University of Virginia product Mike Cubbage, who had a long career in the majors as an infielder and recently retired after scouting for the Nationals.  

Erbaugh was playing in a Legion tournament in Alabama after his junior year at TA and pitched against a team from North Carolina. The home plate umpire for that game told the coaching staff at South Carolina about the TA product. 

Erbaugh is now guiding young pitchers 50 years his junior and many of them have never heard of Bobby Richardson, who played second base for the New York Yankees on seven World Series teams and was the Most Valuable Player of the 1960 Fall Classic – even though the Pirates won in seven games. 

Richard became the head coach at South Carolina when Erbaugh was a sophomore and the relationship went way beyond baseball. Erbaugh pitched some of his freshmen year but hurt his hand when he was hit by a line drive during batting practice, “He taught me how to throw a slider,” Erbaugh said of Richardson.

Yankee In The Valley  

A devout Christian, Richardson made the trek to the Shenandoah Valley to give a prayer at the wedding of Erbaugh and his first wife, Dottie, at the Dayton Church of the Brethren in 1974. The former Dottie Byrd died in 1987.  

“It was a privilege for me to play for Richardson”, said Erbaugh. “It was wonderful playing for him. After I graduated I was a graduate assistant at USC for one year with him.”   

Larry Erbaugh, with a degree in math from USC in 1972, never had a sore arm but didn’t get any major looks at pro ball. He was in the starting rotation for USC as a junior and senior.  

He had two brothers, Don and Doug, who also played baseball at TA. Doug Erbaugh had 255 strikeouts, a career ERA of 1.10, and graduated in 1979 before playing at the University of Virginia. Their brother, Don, also played for the Knights.  

Now Larry is imparting some of that wisdom he learned from Richardson and other coaches he had along the way.  

“He is doing a great job for us,” Wease said of Erbaugh. “I think he is thrilled to be back in the game.”  

One of the pitchers on the Turks is Mac Callari, who is from Florida and last month helped Wingate win the Division II national title.  

“He’s a really lax guy,” Callari said Monday of Erbaugh. “He wants us to have fun”. After 40 years away from the game, Erbaugh is trying to do just that.