May 22, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
Earl Bass (1972-1975) is still at or near the top of many lists in the South Carolina baseball record books. The former All-American pitcher will be recognized as an SEC Legend during the league’s baseball tournament this week, and he is proud to be the second Gamecock baseball recipient honored as such, following in the footsteps of head coach Bobby Richardson.
“I was shocked,” Bass said about being named an SEC Legend. “It was quite a nice surprise. I didn’t know who else from the program was in there, but I said Coach Richardson has to be in there ahead of me, for sure. So it’s really special.”
Four former players or coaches are honored each year, and this marks the sixth consecutive year that the SEC has recognized a class of baseball legends. Bass is joined by LSU’s Ben McDonald, Ole Miss’ Don Kessinger, and Missouri’s Dave Silvestri as part of the 2017 class.
Bass posted a 34-3 career record, despite missing most of the 1973 season with a back and elbow injury. He earned first-team All-America honors the next two years after tallying a 12-1 record in 1974 and a 17-1 mark in 1975. He set a then national record by winning 23 straight games over two seasons, a feat that still ranks second. Even with that success, Bass remains humble about his accomplishments.
“We had great athletes, and I had great teammates there,” Bass said. “It was a total team effort. When we needing hitting, we had had Hank Small, who was the home run leader then. We basically had the same team those two years. It was just a bunch of good ol’ boys playing hard. They were just real fierce competitors.”
Coach Richardson was an amazing gentleman and just a super guy. He never had a bad word to say about anybody.
Bass was runner-up in balloting for the Lefty Gomez Plate, symbolic of the top amateur baseball player in the United States, in 1975 when he pitched the Gamecocks to within one game of the NCAA championship at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. He still holds South Carolina’s records for shutouts (10), earned run average (1.34), and strikeouts (392).
“I have quite a few great memories of playing at South Carolina,” Bass said. “Of course playing for Coach Richardson, and the way he assembled those teams with all the talent we had is right up there. I think 12 or 13 guys signed to play pro ball off of our 1975 team. I think the most memorable moment was when I came in relief of the (NCAA) regional final game. I think I pitched about three and a third innings to help shut down N.C. State to get into the College World Series. That was pretty special. We had a pretty good run.
“Coach Richardson was an amazing gentleman and just a super guy. He never had a bad word to say about anybody.”
The 1974 team went 48-8 and was one game shy of the College World Series. The next year, Bass helped the Gamecocks post a 51-6 record, finishing as the runner up at the College World Series. After a brilliant college career, Bass was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals and spent much of his professional career at the Triple A level and also played winter ball in Venezuela.
“In pro ball, you’re always up against someone who can really hit the ball,” Bass said. “I was not a big, physical person back then. There were a lot of people who could throw harder than I could. So everyone you faced in a lineup was a really good athlete.”
After four years of professional baseball, another arm injury cut his career short. Bass hopes the student-athletes of today will make the most of their opportunities to play the game.
“Play every day like it’s your last because you never know when it might be your last time getting on the field,” Bass said. “They’re so much bigger, stronger and faster now. They have so much talent these days, and they have so many more resources and exposure. The facilities they have now, and that ball park they play in now is as good as anything at the Triple-A level now and possibly some major league level fields. It’s really a good time for college baseball.”
Originally from Cayce, S.C., Bass comes back into town to visit with family each year. Now living in Palm Beach, Fla., the 64 year old owns a restaurant in nearby Manalapan.
The SEC Baseball Legends Presented by AT&T will be recognized individually throughout the two quarterfinal matchups on Friday and will have on-field recognition and an awards presentation by Commissioner Greg Sankey on Saturday during the semifinals of the SEC Tournament.
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