Two tradition-rich baseball programs, Grambling and Florida A&M, rank among the best currently in HBCU circles.
Those facts and the ties of Tigers and Rattlers icons to the tradition of the Atlanta Braves franchise have led to the creation of the Ralph Garr-Bill Lucas HBCU Baseball Classic, presented by Truist, March 12-14. The Braves’ Triple-A affiliate, the Gwinnett (Ga.) Stripers, will host the series at Coolray Field.
Ticket sales proceeds will benefit the growth of Black Baseball across the southeast, the Braves said in Tuesday’s announcement.
Garr, known as “The Road Runner” for his speed and agility, posted a career .317 batting average with Atlanta, tied for first in franchise history. While best known for his playing career, he has remained involved with the Braves for over 40 years and was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in 2006.
The fleet Grambling product was enshrined in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1985, with his friend and former teammate, MLB home-run king Hank Aaron, introducing him for induction in the ceremony at Natchitoches.
Lucas, a Florida A&M product, became the first African-American general manager in major league baseball in 1976, and like Garr, entered the Braves’ Hall of Fame in 2006.
Under coach James Cooper, Grambling’s program has had seven MLB Draft picks, two free agent signings, and has produced one big league scout and one minor league baseball development coach.
The Tigers have 61 SWAC Western Division wins over the past five seasons (2016-20), the most of any division opponent during that timeframe. Grambling has been second or first in the division each season.
FAMU’s program is tradition-rich as well, boasting Baseball Hall of Famer Andre Dawson as its most prominent product. Under current coach Jamey Shouppe, the Rattlers have won MEAC championships in 2015 and 2019 and have made the first two Division I NCAA Regional appearances in school history.
Grambling’s Garr made immediate major league impact. As a rookie in 1971, he hit .343 and set a Braves record with 219 hits. He won the National League batting title in 1974, with a career-best .353 average.
After his playing days, he joined the Braves’ scouting department and has spent more than 40 years as a player, coach and scout with the organization.
Photo: Garr – courtesy Atlanta Braves
Photos: Garr and Hank Aaron – Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame