A new scholarship at Missouri State University-West Plains not only honors long-time local resident and major league baseball great Elwin "Preacher" Roe, it also upholds his strong belief in education.
Roe's sons, Elwin Jr. of Pineville, Mo., and Tommy of West Plains, along with their families, recently established the Preacher Roe Club Golf Teams Endowed Scholarship to help a full-time student participating in Grizzly Club golf achieve his or her dream of a higher education.
"My dad was always interested in athletes and school," Tommy Roe said recently. "And he always said his main regret in life was not finishing college. We hope that, with this scholarship, dad can encourage a student to finish their degree."
The scholarship will be awarded for the first time this fall.
Born in Ash Flat on Feb. 26, 1916, Elwin "Peacher" Roe developed a strong love for the game of baseball while growing up and attending school in Viola.
After graduating from Viola High School, he enrolled at Harding College in Searcy, where he averaged 18 strikeouts per game on the school's baseball team.
Those statistics were impressive enough to draw the interest of the St. Louis Cardinals and in 1938, just one semester shy of earning his college degree, Preacher Roe left college and headed to "the big leagues," often telling friends and acquaintance later in life that "when the big leagues called, "I couldn't get there fast enough."
Fortunately, the decision paid off for Preacher, as he compiled an impressive MLB career.
After being traded to the Pittsburg Pirates in 1944, he led the National League with 148 strikeouts a year later.
In 1948, he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and became one of the greatest pitchers of the era, hurling in three World Series and being one of the original celebrated "Boys of Summer," along with the likes of Jackie Robinson, Duke Snyder, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reece and others.
He also earned The Sporting News' Pitcher of the Year honors in 1951 and he remains the record holder among all Dodger starting pitchers for career winning percentage.
Preacher Roe retired from the game in 1954 and moved to West Plains with his wife, Mozee, whom he married at the beginning of his career in 1938, and their two sons to own and operate a grocery store.
Although he no longer played the game competitively, he continued to stay active by organizing and coaching youth baseball.
He also served the community in various capacities, including a term as president of the West Plains Chamber of Commerce, as a member of the West Plains Rotary Club Board of Directors and as a member of the First United Methodist Church Board of Directors.
He also continued to receive honors for his athletic career, being named to the Arkansas and Missouri Sports Halls of Fame and the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame.
At the "young" age of 77, Preacher decided to take up the game of golf, a game he played with great enthusiasm until near the end of his life on Nov. 10, 2008. From the moment he took up a club, he played daily and also shot his age on the golf course.
"Dad had three great loves in his life -- Mom, baseball and golf. He really loved it," Tommy said. "He always said he never would have been as successful in life without Mom. She was his rock. I had two of the best parents in the world. They were my best friends."
For more information about financial aid opportunities available to students at Missouri State-West Plains, call the office of financial aid at 417-2565-7243.