The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Flashback: Shaw's Greg Yarbrough a man among boys

Last week someone posted a question on the SABR discussion group I belong to about whether San Diego Padres rookie pitcher Ryan Weathers held the record for lowest ERA for a high school pitcher. The writer stated Weathers had an ERA of 0.09, giving up one earned run in 76 innings for a Tennessee high school in 2018.


The question immediately brought to mind Greg Yarbrough, a senior teammate of mine at Shaw (MS) High School in 1967.


Greg had Weathers beat, since he gave up no (zero) earned runs on his way to a 12-0 record that included four no-hitters. The left-hander allowed only 12 hits the entire season and struck out 194 of 257 batters faced. Greg led our team to the Mississippi Class BB state championship over Woodville. Shaw had lost to Woodville in the state finals the year before. Revenge was nice.


It often seemed like Greg was pitching to Little Leaguers in the way he overpowered opposing batters. His rising fastballs and sharp curves left many batters standing at the plate after striking out, trying to figure out what they had just seen. Of course, this was a time before radar guns were used to measure pitchers’ speed. But I don’t’ think I’m exaggerating to say I believe Greg must have thrown in the low 90s on a good day, which was pretty much every game. Fifty years ago, 90 mph was the velocity many major leaguers aspired to.


Defensive shifts have been used extensively in the majors in the last 5-6 years. Well, our team used a shift back then, but not because we had a ton of data on batter tendencies like they do today. It was actually pretty simple. Most of the right-handed hitters couldn’t get around on their swings against Greg’s fastball; and when they did make contact, which wasn’t too often, they’d invariably hit it in the hole between first and second base. Consequently, as the second baseman, our coach had me routinely cheating over toward first base to prevent any grounders from making it through the hole. Heck, we were just ahead of the times!


Greg was intimidating to most of the batters he faced. It was understandable, since he would strike out almost 75% of the hitters that came to bat. I recall one game in the playoffs against the team from DeKalb, in which one of the opposing players told me after game, “We probably should have just forfeited this game against that guy (Greg).”


Greg was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 28th round of the 1967 MLB Draft following his senior season. This was before professional signing bonuses became outrageous, and as the 28th pick, Greg didn’t likely get offered much to sign. (For example, the Giants’ first-round pick in 1967, Dave Rader, only got $22,000.)


Instead, Greg opted to accept a baseball scholarship offer from Mississippi State University. Ironically, the person who represented State in the signing process was Boo Ferriss, a former Shaw High pitcher who eventually became a star major-league pitcher. Boo was working in MSU’s athletic department at the time.


The jump to the collegiate level of baseball in 1968 didn’t seem to faze Greg. In his second start for the Bulldogs in the prestigious National Collegiate Tournament in Riverside, California, he led them to a 4-1 victory over Tennessee. Vols hitters must have felt like the Little Leaguers that day, as Greg struck out 13, tying a tournament record. Oh yeah, he also hit a two-run homer. Greg went on to post a 5-4 record in nine starts for the Bulldogs. He pitched five complete games and had an impressive 2.85 ERA.


He decided to leave school and signed with the Giants organization for the 1969 season. He was sent to Great Falls, Montana, where he played in the rookie Pioneer League. He made 16 appearances, mostly in relief, posting a 2-0 record and 4.34 ERA. He was still striking out hitters at a high rate, 38 batters in 29 innings pitched.


However, Greg didn’t play another pro season, leaving baseball at 20 years of age. He remained a high school legend in the Mississippi Delta region for many years. Opposing players from his era certainly remembered him long after competing against him. Here are a couple of examples I’ve personally witnessed. Years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Archie Manning at a company function at which he was a guest speaker. When I introduced myself to Archie and mentioned I was from Shaw (about 25 miles from his hometown of Drew), he immediately recalled he had played against Greg and marveled at how impressive he was. I recently ran across Phil Greco, who now lives in the New Orleans area. A multi-sport athlete originally from the Delta in Leland, Phil had his own memories about batting against Greg.


When I watch today’s major-league pitchers, I often wonder how Greg would have fared if he had stayed in the game. Of course, it would be purely speculation. But I do know this: back in 1967, Greg was a man among boys playing the game of baseball.

4 comments | Add a New Comment
1. Steve | May 03, 2021 at 09:48 AM EDT

Richard - that was a very, very nice story! Hope you and Mary are doing well.

Regards

Steve

2. J Stacey Yarbrough | May 04, 2021 at 01:49 PM EDT

GREAT piece about my father! He was something special. I have the photo of him being signed, sitting next to Coach Boo Ferris. Those were the days. Hard to believe he gave it up, but he blew out his rotator cuff, and that was that. He passed away in 2011, yet his memory lives on. Thanks again for this great piece. It put a big smile on my face and made my heart happy. Regards, Stacey

3. Richard | May 09, 2021 at 10:05 PM EDT

Thanks for the note, Steve. We are doing well here in NOLA.

4. Richard | May 16, 2021 at 05:32 PM EDT

Stacey, your Dad was indeed something special. Besides being a great athlete, he had a great personality--a happy-go-lucky person that made you laugh. Actually, we are distantly related. Your great-grandmother Lisa Olmi is my great-aunt. She and my grandfather Marino Sandroni were brother and sister. Sorry I'm so late in approving your post. Richard

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