The Day Preacher Roe Fanned 26 in One Game



Searcy Daily Citizen, December 22, 2000


he only former Harding College Bison to spend significant time in major league baseball, Elwin “Preacher” Roe gave the Harding faithful much to be proud of.  His accomplishments on the big-league level were many, sprinkled with a lowlight or two. Roe, who received the nickname “Preacher” from an uncle, was the winning pitcher in two World Series games, both over the New York Yankees.  Pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Roe beat the Yanks in 1949 with a complete game shutout and then beat them again in 1952. He was an all-star in 1945 and every year from 1949 until 1952.  He led the league in win percentage in 1949 and 1951 and in strikeouts in 1945. His best season in the majors, 1951, saw Roe compile a record of 22-3.  From 1951-53, Roe’s record with the Dodgers was a sparkling 44-8.   Roe’s career numbers include a record of 127-84 with 3.43 earned run average, 956 strikeouts and 504 walks.   

The lefthander joked about his pitching style in an interview with The Sporting News. “I got three pitches: my change; my change off my change; and my change off my change off my change.”  In a 1955 Sports Illustrated article, Roe admitted to throwing a fourth pitch.  The article was titled, “The Outlawed Spitball Was My Money Pitch.”

In 1946, Roe was involved with an altercation with a referee during a basketball game somewhere in Arkansas – details are sketchy.  Roe suffered a brain concussion in the fight. It was at Harding College in Searcy, though, that Roe tossed his best game statistically.  The odd thing was, the Bisons didn’t win. Roe’s Harding team hosted Arkansas Tech on April 27, 1937.  Harding scored first when it got two runs in the fourth.  Preacher’s brother, leftfielder Roy Roe, and catcher Glennis Campbell got hits in the inning. Tech didn’t score again until the seventh inning, when it strung together three hits and a Harding error to take a 3-1 lead. The Wonder Boys extended the lead to 4-2 in the eighth on another Harding error and a double.  Preacher Roe followed a double by reaching on an error in the bottom of the ninth. Both scored to tie the game. Play went on for four more innings before it was called after 13 innings due to darkness with the score knotted at 4. Roe’s final line read: 13 innings pitched, 26 strikeouts, 0 walks issued.  The strikeout total set a state record.  He would go on to throw in seven games that season for the Bisons, racking up 97 strikeouts.

After the season, the Bison – the Harding school newspaper – reported that Roe received numerous offers to sign with major league and minor league teams. He turned down all offers and decided to return to Harding. Roe initially came to Harding to play basketball.  After visiting the school, he returned home to Viola to gather his belongings. While at home, he caught the mumps and didn’t show up at school until baseball season started.

          Roe would eventually play both sports at Harding, starting for the basketball team the next season.


[The 6-2, 170-pound Roe pitched in 333 major league games in a career spanning 1938-1954. He won 127 and lost 84.  In 1,914 innings pitched, he gave up 3.43 ERA, 1,907 hits in 7,308 at-bats, 799 runs, 730 earned runs and 504 walks.  As a batter in the 333 games, he was at bat 620 times, with 68 hits, 37 runs, three doubles, o triples, one home run and 38 walks. He struck out 215 times.  His lifetime fielding percentage was .975 with only 10 errors during his entire career – 90 putouts, 295 assists, 26 double plays.] ]]]