Walter Rabb coached the Tar Heels for 31 seasons.
April 4, 2006
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Legendary University of North Carolina baseball coach Walter Rabb, who guided the Tar Heels to four Atlantic Coast Conference titles and their first two trips to the College World Series, passed away Tuesday morning at the age of 91. He coached Carolina for 31 seasons and retired following the 1977 campaign as the winningest coach in program history.
"Coach Rabb epitomized what the title `Coach' means in every positive way," says Director of Athletics Dick Baddour. "He loved his university, the game of baseball and the young men who played for him. He was one of the most universally respected individuals I have ever known. Coach Rabb was one of those special people who helped define the University of North Carolina as an institution committed to academic and athletic achievement."
"I was very fortunate to play for Coach Rabb and was on his final team in 1977, and he was a wonderful man and coach," says UNC head coach Mike Fox. "The greatest testament to a coach is the respect of his players and the long term impact he had on them. I don't know of one former player of Coach Rabb's that did not only respect him greatly but also did not feel they were a better man for having played for him. I think that is Coach Rabb's legacy. We will all miss him."
"Walter Rabb was a great friend to me from the day I arrived in Chapel Hill in 1958," says former Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith. "That friendship continued through his time as interim athletic director to this very day. We used to have so much fun together on Educational Foundation trips. Just recently, Dean Cassell, a former Tar Heel pitcher from the 1940s and president of Dunlop, and I played golf together and then he made sure to stop in and visit with Walter. Dean donated to the University to fund a lounge in Walter's name at Boshamer Stadium. That shows the type feelings his former players had for him. Walter was a very special part of Carolina athletics."
Funeral services will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Chapel of the Cross at 304 East Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. Donations in Rabb's honor can be made to the Boshamer Stadium renovation project, Orange County's Inter-Faith Council and Child Care Networks, Inc. in Pittsboro.
A native of Lenior, Rabb compiled a 540-358-9 record in his 31 years as head coach and led the Tar Heels to four NCAA tournament appearances, two NCAA District III titles and trips to the College World Series in 1960 and 1966. His teams captured ACC championships in 1960, 1964, 1966 and 1969. Rabb was named ACC Coach of the Year in 1964 after leading the Carolina to a 14-0 record in league play, which still stands as the only unbeaten conference mark in ACC history.
Rabb, who was often referred to as "The Old Leaguer," coached scores of talented players at Carolina, including 10 All-America selections, 1968 National Player of the Year Dave Lemonds and 1966 ACC Athlete of the Year Danny Talbott. Additionally, Tar Heels earned All-ACC honors 83 times under Rabb.
One of the organizers of the North Carolina Collegiate Summer League, Rabb won many honors for his contributions to baseball in the state of North Carolina, including the Will Wynne Award and the Governor's Award. Rabb is a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame and the College Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame and also served as president of the American Association of Baseball Coaches.
Rabb also was assistant athletic director at Carolina from 1961-68 and served as acting athletic director from May 1968 to January 1969. He then served as associate athletic director until his retirement.
Rabb's friendship with textile industrialist Cary Boshamer led to Boshamer's funding of the stadium that bears his named today. The Tar Heels played their 1,000th game in the picturesque park last Sunday.
A shortstop in his collegiate and minor league playing days, Rabb graduated from NC State in 1937 and went on to play in the minors as property of the New York Yankees. He came to graduate school at Carolina in 1940 and '41 and joined the physical education staff in 1942. Rabb became the Tar Heels' coach in 1947 under Bunn Hearn and was named the sole head coach in 1957.
Rabb is survived by his daughter Amy, son Walter, Jr., brother Bob, two grandsons, eight nieces, five nephews and beloved friend Euva Meyer. He was married to the former Amy Warren of Snow Hill.