Legacy on the diamond: Elmer Bowling’s coaching journey

Published 5:17 pm Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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By C.Y. Peters

Elmer Bowling was a man of many hats – a dedicated newspaper employee, a deacon at East Side Baptist Church, an avid fisherman, skier, and bowler. However, it was on the baseball diamond where he truly left an indelible mark. For nearly three decades, Elmer dedicated his life to coaching the youth of Elizabethton, and his story is one of triumph, heartbreak, and an enduring love for the game.

In the spring of 1960, Elmer took the reins of the J.I. Cornett Little League team. Little did he know that this would be the beginning of an illustrious coaching career. Over the next 11 years, Bowling led the Cornett team to numerous victories, including a memorable runner-up finish in 1969. The pinnacle came in 1970 when Bowling’s coaching skill guided the team to the National Little League title – his first championship.

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The momentum didn’t wane in 1971 as Bowling took the Cornett team to the city championship game, showcasing his ability to mold young talents into formidable players. In 1973, he transitioned to Junior Babe Ruth, later taking over the American Legion team in 1976, where they clinched the season title. Bowling’s coaching philosophy went beyond wins and losses; he aimed to shape young minds into responsible, disciplined individuals on and off the field.

Through the years, Elmer Bowling became a fixture in the local baseball scene, coaching countless boys who would go on to play high school and college baseball. His impact stretched across various professions – lawyers, preachers, doctors – a testament to the character development instilled by Bowling. One of his greatest joys was coaching his own sons, Jackie and Freddy, and later his grandson, Dale Bowling Jr. The baseball diamond was a family affair, a place where bonds were forged and legacies were built.

Bowling was not afraid to take risks. A true gambler on the field, he would have a runner steal home with a tight game, two outs, and a runner at third. His battles with Jim Ensor, another coaching legend, were the stuff of local baseball lore. Whether winning or losing, Bowling’s matches with Ensor were marked by strategic brilliance and occasional mental mistakes.

Despite his competitive spirit, Bowling was a beacon of sportsmanship. Over the years, he received numerous awards for his dedication to fair play and respectful conduct. Yet, for Elmer, one of the most cherished accolades was encountering a former player on the street, who fondly remembered playing under his guidance. It was a testament to the lasting impact he had on the lives of those he coached.

Beyond baseball, Elmer Bowling was a stalwart member of East Side Baptist Church, where he served as a deacon. His commitment to faith and community mirrored his dedication to the ball field. In his leisure time, he enjoyed fishing, skiing on the lake, and indulging in a friendly game of bowling.

Elmer’s professional life was intertwined with the Elizabethton Star news, where he worked for an astounding fifty-seven years. Starting in various capacities, he climbed the ranks to Editor and Vice-President, leaving an enduring legacy in the field of journalism.

Tragically, on Sunday, October 25, 2015, Elmer Bowling passed away, leaving a void in the hearts of the community he served for decades. However, his legacy lives on in the countless lives he touched, the championships he won, and the sportsmanship he exemplified. Elmer Bowling’s thirty-year coaching journey remains inscribed in the archives of Elizabethton’s rich baseball history, a testament to the power of mentorship and the enduring impact one man can have on a community.