Wyant Enjoyed Success on the Diamond
July 3, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. -
Baseball and sports have always been a big part of Charles Edward Wyant’s life – from the countryside near Charlottesville, Virginia, to the baseball diamond at NC State.
In addition, his participation in the world of government and business – from directing recreational activities in Raleigh and Charlottesville to successful stints in a number of private businesses – has underlined the influence of inter-collegiate athletics on his life.
There are very few former Wolfpack players alive who have seen State’s progression from the old Southern Conference to the modern world of collegiate athletics in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Wyant, who played first base, outfield and pitched for the Wolfpack for two years (1956-57, 1957-58), was the most valuable player during his senior year, hitting .329 and leading the team in rbi. He also hit over .300 in his junior season.
Coached and recuited to Raleigh by then baseball coach Vic Sorrell, Wyant’s fondest memory is the Pack’s victory over North Carolina in 1957.
“Back in those days, if you pitched, you pitched the entire game,” he remembered. “We beat Carolina 12-6 and I notched the victory. It was sweet.”
That was also the year that the Pack tied Duke for the regular-season title – but lost to the Blue Devils in the playoff in Chapel Hill.
However, pitching wasn’t Wyant’s forte for the Pack because he hurt his brilliant left arm while serving two years in the Army. Before that stint, he had played on a summer league team in Virginia coached by Sorrell. His blazing fast ball besides his hitting impressed the Wolfpack coach, who guided NC State from 1946-66.
“There were a lot of great college players on that team,” Wyant noted. One of them was Dick Groat from Duke – a multi-talented baseball and basketball star who went on to an illustrious major league career as the shortstop of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“Sorrell recruited players from State, Duke, Wake Forest and Hampton-Sydney that summer. Johnny Ivers, whose brother was a member of the New York Giants and All-American at State, was on that team along with catcher Jack Tierney (State), Bruce Holt (Wake Forest, All-America), pitcher Rip Coleman (future Kansas City Athletics), outfielder Johnny Fusco (State), outfield-pitcher Eddie Holbert, and outfielder Connie Gravitt (UNC), who was also a football player.”
During that summer league season after a game against Harrisonburg, Wyant was stunned when Detroit Tigers scout Bill Desper appeared at his doorstep.
“I was taking a bath upstairs when I heard my mother answer the door. It didn’t take me long to dry off and zip downstairs to meet him. He offered me a signing bonus of $10,000 (a lot of money in 1950), but I decided to go the college route. I knew only a few signees ever reached the major leagues.”
Wyant’s name appeared at least five times in banner headlines during his prep days at Lane High School near Charlottesville. Although the program didn’t produce a winning program, Wyant’s brilliant pitching kept Lane in some tight games. The fire-balling lefty hurled a no-hitter only to lose (because of errors) and once struck out 16 batters.
“Those were the only losing teams I ever played on including teams at Fork Union, Hampton-Sydney, the Army and NC State,” he noted.
He was 9-0 at Fork Union and 4-1 at Hampton before hurting his arm in the Army where he also played on some excellent teams with a mixture of major league and professional players.
“That’s where I noticed the big difference in amateur-college ball and professional baseball,” he said.
Wyant also played basketball in the Raleigh Men’s League while attending State and one of the News and Observer’s newsprints gave him plenty of accolades after the season.
He was named the team’s league’s best offensive and defensive guard, the best-all-round player and won the sportsmanship award.
The N&O article read: “After Ed had taken home a hatful of medals, there was scarcely any left for other players. Congrats!”
After graduation, Wyant was fortunate to choose from post-grad scholarships offered from New York University, Southern Illinois, Michigan State and Indiana. He chose Indiana and procured a master’s degree in Parks and Recreation.
After a stint in Canada, he moved to Raleigh and worked under Governors Terry Sanford and Dan Moore in the Physical Fitness Commission for six years. During that time he also set up sports camps – some out of the United States.
Having the opportunity to move back near his roots in Virginia, he directed the Parks and Recreation of Charlottesville, Virginia. There he become connected with the University of Virginia.
“At Virginia home football games, I had seats beside coach George Welsh’s wife and sat with the assistant’s families.” Wolfpack football coach Tom O’Brien was there as a Cavalier assistant.
After six years, Wyant resigned and entered into a series of successful private businesses – one of which was a service station and body shop near the University.
“It was very successful and I made more money there than I did in government work,” Wyant noted.
“One of the things I remember there was when Virginia’s basketball center Ralph Sampson (7-foot-2), stopped by to get some gas. He was pumping it and was tall enough to look over the van at the pump and see how much gas was registering. He’s the only man I’ve ever seen do that.”
Wyant also owned grocery stores and got his real estate license – supporting his wife and four children.
He met a lot of people during his college days and career and some of his friends include the late former Pack footballer Dick Christy, basketball player-coach Bucky Waters, and the late ACC basketball official-media guru Lou Bello.
He now resides in Wilmington, N.C. in retirement and loves to talk his myriad of memories from yesteryear when life was slower.
“Yes, I was right there when the first ACC basketball tournament was played in Reynolds Coliseum,” he fondly recalled. “I was an usher. Those were the days.”
By George Cox, GoPack.com