Due West – The Erskine Athletic Department inducted five new members into the Flying Fleet Hall of Fame recently during Homecoming festivities at Erskine College.
Among the five new members is Eric Moody, a Palmetto High School baseball standout who went on the play at Erskine and then the major leagues with the Texas Rangers. Moody is The Flying Fleet’s first Major League baseball player since 1970.
Inducted were Mickie Ellis ’89, Bill Lesesne, Jr. ’87, Eric Moody ’93, Dr. Richard Taylor, Jr. ’69, and Velisalv Iltchev ’98. The inductees were honored at a brunch in the Founders Room of Moffatt Dining Hall in front of a large crowd of family, friends, former teammates and college officials.
Athletic Director Mark Peeler presented each inductee with a framed citation and picture that highlighted accomplishments as students, student-athletes and professionals.
The common sentiment among each of the inductees was the significant and selfless contribution that family and former teammates and coaches made in their success not only as student-athletes but as a person. As Eric Moody said in his induction speech, “in Proverbs it says, ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.’ That quote is so true about my experience. They (my teammates and coach) pushed me to be a better baseball player and person.”
Following the brunch the honorees rode in the Homecoming parade and were recognized prior to the men’s soccer match that afternoon.
Moody had arrived at Erskine from Williamston’s Palmetto High School as a gangly 6 ft.-6 in. shortstop. Coach Tony Caricari ’86 thought Eric’s build and strong arm might better fit him for the mound and started him in a late season 1990 game at Georgia College. Moody hurled a 2-1 victory and began a climb that was to lead to the majors. In 1992 he won seven games as the Fleet took a then-record 29 victories. In 1993 he led the team in innings pitched with 95 and in starts, with 11. When not pitching, he played in the infield, with a .286 batting average his senior season.
Former Erskine star and major league outfielder Jim Fairey ’64, scout for the Texas Rangers, was not misled by Eric’s 4-7 record in 1993, due to his receiving only 10 runs support in seven losses. Fairey signed him as a a 24th round draft pick and was rewarded as Eric stood out at every level in the minors. In 1995 he hurled a no-hitter for the Charlotte Rangers of the Florida State League. In 1996 he led the Tulsa Drillers of the Texas League in games and saves. His success as a starter and reliever at Oklahoma City in 1997 led to his call-up to the majors.
In August 1997, Moody became the first Erskine alumnus in 27 years to pitch in the majors and the first in 83 years to start a major league game. He took the mound twice for the Texas Rangers against the Cleveland Indians – a 2 1/3 inning relief appearance and 6 1/3 inning start. In 8 2/3 innings he gave up only two earned runs against the Indians’ Åmerican League pennant-winning line-up that included David Justice, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Matt Williams, Sandy Alomar, Omar Visquel and other all-stars. An unearned run cost him his only major league decision.
Moody pitched in ten major league games in 1997. He had a 4.26 earned run average in 19 innings and an impressive 12 strikeout to two walk ratio.
Though he was returned to Triple A Oklahoma the next spring, it was to prepare him to become the Rangers’ closer. He had an 18 inning scoreless streak early in the season but then went on the 60-day disabled list for elbow problems.
Inability to recover completely from post-season elbow surgery kept him from returning to the majors, though he pitched at the Triple A level for four major league organizations in the next four seasons.
Inducted into the Flying Fleet Hall of Fame along was Moody, of Columbia – Basdeball; Mickie Ellis, Donalds – Volleyball and Softball; William “Billy” Lesesne, Jr. of Durham, NC – Men’s Soccer; Dr. Richard Taylor, Jr. of Greenville – Special Category and Velisalv Iltchev of San Francisco, CA – Men’s Tennis.