South Carolina baseball great Earl Bass has died at age 65. He lost a battle with cancer.
He was living in Florida and, according to his Facebook page, owned several restaurants. The news was first posted by a friend on Facebook on Sunday.
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USC athletics director Ray Tanner described Bass as a “A humble man just as great off the field. RIP” in a post Sunday on Twitter.
Bass, a multi-sport standout Airport High School in Cayce, went 34-3 in a four-year USC career, despite missing most of the 1973 season with an arm injury. A first-team All-America selection in 1974 and 1975, Bass had a 12-1 mark in 1974 and was 17-1 in 1975. He set a then-national record by winning 23 consecutive games over two seasons, a feat that still ranks second. Bass holds school records for shutouts (10), earned run average (1.34), and strikeouts (392).
Bass, who was known as “Earl the Pearl,” was part of the Southeastern Conference Legends Class in 2017 and was honored during the SEC tournament.
“I have been watching Carolina baseball, and he is the most dominant I have ever seen,” said WGCV sports talk show host Teddy Heffner, a summer ball teammate with Bass for the Columbia Jets. “He was a confident power pitcher who threw fastball or slider 90 percent of the time. He was a great teammate and great leader.”
Tommy Moody, the color commentator on USC’s baseball broadcasts, played with Bass for one season at USC but knew of him from when Moody played at A.C. Flora and Bass was at Airport.
“He was really a legend,” Moody said. “He and guys like Jeff Grantz and Gorman Thomas were some of the most confident athletes I have ever watched. They knew they were going to win every time they took the field. If Earl Bass is not the greatest Gamecock of all time, he is one of the top few for sure.”
Bass was a fifth-round pick by the Dodgers following his junior season in 1974, in which the Gamecocks fell just short of making it to the College World Series. He but opted to come back to USC to help them get to Omaha.
Bass did just that with his only loss that season coming in the national championship game against Texas on two days rest.
Moody remembers one of the top stories he heard about Bass came during the 1975 season when Bass was on the mound during the region clinching game against North Carolina State. USC led 4-3 in the ninth when Bass walked a runner with two outs.
Teammate Hank Small came out to talk with Bass after the walk.
“Earl told Hank to stick your glove in your pocket because this guy’s (butt) is mine,” Moody said. “And Earl struck the next guy out, then gloves and hats went flying and the place went bonkers.”
The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Bass in the second round of the 1975 draft. He went right to the Triple-A level and played four seasons of minor league ball with a 32-27 record.