Baseball great Ralph Garr honored at home-opener

Grambling has its share of sports legends-Eddie Robinson, Frederick Hobdy, Doug Williams, Wilbert Ellis, and Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones. 

But Ralph Garr is one we hear less about. Garr is a Ruston native who led Grambling’s baseball team 35-1 in 1967 coming out third in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletic Championship.

Garr is 69 years old, but apparently he still has “it” as he threw the first pitch on the Tigers’ home opener against Wiley College on Feb. 18.

Head baseball coach James Cooper said Garr made a major impact on the team. 

“He opened up the eyes to our guys that they can do some of the things that he did,” said Cooper.

He went on to mention that Grambling’s baseball program now has locker rooms and batting cages all because of Garr.

“We have some things that he didn’t have back in the day,” said Cooper. “He’s one of the pioneers to help Grambling get some of the facilities we have today.”

Garr joyfully gives back to Grambling as he fully appreciates the opportunities Grambling has given him.

“I wasn’t an excellent student and my family wasn’t able to send me to college but, for president Jones to give me a scholarship and be able to go to Grambling for four and a half years and get a degree was a blessing,” said Garr, “That made a huge difference in my life.”

Garr’s batting percentage is what he is known for. He held a record of .585 at Grambling, leading the NAIA.

Garr gained national attention from his outstanding senior season and was even featured in an issue of Sports Illustrated.

Ralph Garr was drafted in the third round (52nd player picked overall) to the Atlanta Braves where he held a batting record of .383 in 1974.

 The Ruston native currently holds the record for more than 800 hits in his first four full seasons in the major leagues.

Garr was nicknamed “Road Runner” because of his remarkable speed.

I could run. I’d steal bases in the minor leagues, but after I got in the major league, then Mr. (Hank) Aaron was hitting third and I was hitting first it wasn’t necessary for me to steal many bases because Mr. Aaron could drive you end from first base just as good as he could from second base.”

Garr continued his Major Baseball League career playing for the Chicago White Sox from 1976 to 1979 and then the California Angels from 1979 to his retirement in 1980.

“I thank God I was able to play for ten years,” said Garr.

His former teammate Hank Aaron, who is also a know baseball legend, offered Garr a job as roving scout and minor-league base-running coach after his retirement.

“There’s no one who ever played the game of baseball better than Henry Aaron,” said Garr. “That’s my opinion and I believe that as long as I live.”

Garr was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1985, Grambling State University Alumni Hall of Fame in 1991, the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame in 2006, the International League Hall of Fame in 2008, and also the Ark-La-Tex Museum of Champions in 2014.