Pressure Makes Diamonds
A Timeless Tale of America’s Greatest Pastime
“Gamecocks baseball – University of South Carolina baseball – is where pressure makes diamonds. On June 30, 2010, the Gamecocks won their first, major-sport national championship after enduring 119 tumultuous years of college baseball.
“It was a long time coming.
“In 1892, tough ‘College Boys’ known as The Fighting Gamecocks played baseball for the sheer love of the game: the university had no budget for uniforms, travel or baseball gloves.
“In 2010, the stellar notes of extra-inning comebacks, spectacular defensive plays and Blake Cooper’s unexpected, for-the-ages, complete-game, College World Series performance rang loud and clear one Nebraska evening, and aired on national television on ESPN.
“Pressure Makes Diamonds A Timeless Tale of America’s Greatest Pastime pursues and reveals the personal agonies, demoralizing fears, abject failures, daring roles and almost-forgotten accomplishments of historic roster, storied Gamecocks players, among them 2009 ‘Most Valuable Oriole’ Brian Roberts; speedy Mets phenom Mookie Wilson; Seattle’s home-run hitter Justin Smoak; and the invincible ‘Killer B’s’—Kip Bouknight, Scott Barber and Peter Bauer—who pitched the Gamecocks to first-ever Number One national ranking with a 56-10 record in 2000.
“Diamonds do sparkle, but not overnight. And not before they are discovered, cut and polished.
“Legendary football coaches and athletic directors Billy ‘The Fox’ Laval and Paul Dietzel set the stage for former New York Yankee, Gold Glove, World Series-MVP legend Bobby Richardson to become Gamecocks baseball’s first full-time head coach.
“Richardson’s vision led his almost-20-winning-seasons successor June Raines, and three-time, NCAA Baseball Coach of the Year Ray Tanner, to work like diamond-cutters and fashion raw-material recruits into diamond-studded teams that eventually sparkled one glorious Omaha night.
But it did not happen overnight.
An Angel in the Outfield
“On June 14, 1996, former NC State head coach Tanner brought his 395-173-3 brand of aggressive baseball straight from coaching the US Olympic team in Atlanta to Columbia, South Carolina. In doing so, he promised the Gamecocks a national championship.
“After his fourth Omaha College World Series appearance, a grateful Gamecock Nation cheered the coveted crown and trophy. Tanner acknowledged that not all was of his own doing:
‘I was given the opportunity to step into the successful operation left behind by those ahead of me. All I did was walk into their shoes and kept to what the numbers dictated to me.’
“June of 2010 was also the last hurrah for Omaha’s venerable Rosenblatt Field. Unexpected heroics, extra-inning games, mystic ‘Avatar Spirit Stick’ antics, dugout hi-jinks and miracles from a seven-year old boy, Bayler Teal, were in the air.
Teal, the Gamecock’s invisible ‘Angel in the Outfield,’ and the Gamecocks’ Number One Fan, lost his battles against cancer during the Series but from the wings above he helped the unseeded Carolina baseball team defeat designated-favorite UCLA in the tournament Finals.
“The winning players vowed that night to come back and win again for Beal the next year… and they did win in 2011, joining only seven other teams to ever win back-to-back, national championships.
“So much more than a baseball book, Pressure Makes Diamonds is a five-star read about living lightning bursting with America’s revolutionary beginnings and soul-searing skirmishes drawn across racial lines.
“The co-authors analyse agrarian-economy booms and busts, two world wars and a war in Vietnam that divided the country, and baseball, and their parallels to the sport’s growth in Columbia and nationally. Even the integration of blacks and whites, and its effect upon the Gamecocks’ arduous, ebb-and-flow ascension to two glorious, diamond-studded, back-to-back, national-championship victories, are put under their microscope.
Tanner’s Worthwhile Purpose
“Ray Tanner, former Carolina baseball Head Coach, now the university’s Athletics Director, has not yet written his final lines. A father of three with a soft spot in his generous heart for physically challenged children, he dreams of building a Miracle League™ field for the children ‘as close as possible to Carolina Stadium.’
“’Through our foundation in the community, my wife and I try to reach out as much as we can and help those that are less fortunate. The purpose of this book is to help contribute to the creation of a ‘Miracle League’ field in the Columbia, SC area.’
“Men, women, boys and girls of all ages, if you love baseball stories, here is one heartwarming tale for the ages, co-authored by two internationally published authors, J. David Miller and Ronald Joseph Kule.
A portion of every eBook and book sale will help special-needs children, who love baseball and want to play the game, by contributing to a Miracle League field being built one day right next to Carolina Stadium and the heart of Gamecock Nation’s main campus.
A limited number of the hardcover, limited-edition book version is still available through The Ray Tanner Foundation. Many are signed and numbered. All are covered with real baseball leather and stitching!
Companies and collectors wishing more information about how to contribute to the Miracle League ballpark through book sales — the books make great corporate gifts — should contact:
© 2011, 2015 by J. David Miller and Ronald Joseph Kule. Reserved.