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What legends are made of ...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

(Photo)
Feb. 26, 1916 - Nov. 9, 2008
On the field, he was one of the greatest pitchers of his era and comfortable in the middle of some of the biggest and most famous sporting venues ever.

Off the field, he was the neighbor next door, comfortable on the golf course or the lake, with his family and friends.

He was Elwin Charles "Preacher" Roe, and he was one of the beloved "Boys of Summer."

After a battle with colon cancer, Roe passed away at Brooke Haven Healthcare in West Plains on Nov. 9 at 92 years of age.

Loving husband, devoted father, true companion and trusting friend -- Roe was certainly all of those -- and he was also a five-time Major League Baseball All-Star who pitched in three World Series.

The son of Dr. Charles Edward (Doc) Roe and Elizabeth (Ducker) Roe, Preacher was born Feb. 26, 1916, in Ash Flat. As an infant, his family moved to Wild Cherry where he lived until he was 6, before moving to Viola.

He married Mozee Clay on Sept. 6, 1938, and they had two sons, Elwin C. Jr. and Tommy.

Roe is enshrined in the Dodgers Hall of Fame, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Hall of Fame, the Harding University Hall of Fame, the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.

On the collegiate level, Roe starred as a left-handed pitcher for Harding College in Searcy. There, he averaged 18 Ks a game and once fanned an eye-popping 26 batters while walking none in a 13-inning game with pitching for Harding.

In 1938, Roe struck out 20, issued no walks and gave up just one hit in a 6-0 win over Arkansas College. He went 12-0 with 192 Ks that year and helped Harding win the AIC title.

Scouted hard during his junior year in college, Roe went on to sign with St. Louis in 1938 and he played one year for the Cardinals.

From 1939-1943, Roe played in the minor leagues in Columbus, Ohio, and Rochchester, N.Y.

He made his way back to the bigs and signed with Pittsburgh in 1944; Roe pitched for the Pirates until 1947. His best year in a Pirates' uniform came in 1945 when he struck out a National League-leading 148 batters, earning him his first All-Star appearance.

Branch Rickey signed Roe in 1948 to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In 1951, Roe racked up a 22-3 record and was named The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year.

Roe pitched in three World Series (1949, 1952, 1953), all against the New York Yankees.

He was a five-time All-Star (1945, 1949-52), pitched 261 games in the bigs, and finished with a career record of 127-84, with 956 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.34. Roe threw 101 complete games during his time in the bigs.

Some of Roe's major league records include: the highest winning percentage for a pitcher with 20 wins, two 10-game winning streaks in the same season and winning a game with the least amount of pitches (0).

Retiring after the 1954 season, Roe opened Preacher Roe's Super Market at Highway 63 (Porter Wagoner Boulevard) and Broadway in West Plains, not too far from the street that now bares his name, Preacher Roe Boulevard.

He was a member of the Missouri State-West Plains Grizzly Booster's Club and served as president of the West Plains Chamber of Commerce and served on the board of directors for the First Untied Methodist Church and the Rotary Club.

Roe was also an avid golfer and played the game into his nineties.

"Preacher Roe left an indelible mark in Dodger history," said Los Angeles Dodgers' chairman Frank McCourt. "He was one of the original "Boys of Summer" and his success in the World Series against the Yankees in 1949, 1952, and 1953 helped pave the way for the 1955 World Champions. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to his family and loved ones."

Until Benton's Cliff Lee went 22-3 for the Cleveland Indians this year, Roe was the last pitcher from Arkansas to post 20 MLB wins in a year. Lee's performance this season earned him the American League Cy Young award.

Donations in Roe's name may be made to the Missouri State University-West Plains' golf program.

For more on Preacher Roe, turn to the Sports pages inside this issue of The News.



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