It still stands as the single greatest season in Delaware State University baseball history — the year that the Hornets won it all.
And on Friday, Sept. 9, some 27-odd years later, the 1989 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) championship team got some well-deserved recognition for that season, when they were inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Among them were local residents Chris Megee and Chris White.
“I was so glad to get to see some of the guys after 27 years. We’re truly brothers forever,” Megee said, noting that he had been looking forward to last Friday ever since receiving the news of the HOF induction this past summer.
“It’s truly an honor to have the team recognized for our accomplishments. It just shows how hard we worked together. The work we put in paid off.”
Megee — who graduated from Indian River High School, eventually returning to coach not only baseball but football and softball for the Indians as well, while teaching physical education — served as the Hornet’s ace on the mound and still holds several records to this day.
After nearly three decades, he still remains in the top five of every major DSU pitching category, leading the team with a 7-2 record on the mound and 3.45 ERA during the ’89 championship season, and even being nominated as a Black College All-American the same year.
Now a State Farm agent, White also saw some action on the mound for the Hornets — getting the start and a win during the first game of the ’89 conference championship tournament — but mostly served as the team’s starting left-fielder, while holding down a .321 batting average.
Other Delawareans that were inducted on the squad included Anthony Alston from Seaford, Jeff Greenly from Milford, Ron and Don Probst from Camden, and Pedro Swann from Middletown.
Collectively, the ’89 team led the NCAA in batting average with a .396 and five players batting over .400 — a Division I record that still stands to this day.
They also led the nation in runs scored per game (10.3) and slugging percentage (.594).
During the championship run, under head coach Harry VanSant, they finished a perfect 4-0, starting off with a 19-2 win over North Carolina A&T and then going on to take down Florida A&M 9-3 and Howard 6-5, before clinching the title with a 17-2 win over Howard.
Considering all of their success during those years — earning a MEAC tournament bid three out of four seasons — Megee and White reflected on how the team came about, and how it almost didn’t.
After a highly touted career at IR, Megee had drawn offers from larger Division I programs, including Maryland and Virginia Tech, as a promising young lefty, but instead spent a year at Fork Union Military Academy for a post-graduate year.
A graduate of Caesar Rodney High School with an equally impressive baseball résumé for the Riders, White was headed off to the University of Tennessee and an SEC baseball career before suffering an injury and a setback.
When Megee had a long talk with his father about his future, and White had one with VanSant — who had coached him at Dover Air Force Base and was familiar with his accomplishments as a player — they both decided to attend DSU and build something with some of the teammates that they had played with for years.
“That really struck a nerve with me,” Megee said of his father’s advice to “help build something.”
“I wanted to make a mark on the program and do it with all my friends that I grew up with.”
“I was honored to be accepted to the team and to be able to fill an immediate need,” White added. “We were a very unselfish team — everyone was a team player. The part I liked most was being part of a group of players from all walks of life and learning from them what it takes to become a winning team.”
Megee agreed with White on the squad’s team mentality, noting that he felt that his own best attribute wasn’t his natural athletic skill but his leadership from the mound and being able to get his teammates to believe in him.
Some of those players were ones eventually making it the majors, including Pedro Swann, who spent 16 years in the minors and two in the majors on the active roster for the Atlanta Braves, Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles, Swann’s sole MLB homerun coming off a pitch from former MLB star Roger Clemens.
Megee also took his shot at the majors, being offered a roster spot for the Atlanta Braves’ affiliate the Idaho Braves. However, after posting a 73-13 career as a starter on the mound through high school and college, his pitch count had taken a toll on his arm, and he declined the offer.
Instead, he helped coach at Del State for a year, before landing a position at the Ocean City (Md.) Recreation & Parks Department and eventually making his way back to coach at IR.
“Coaching’s the only thing I ever wanted to do,” explained Megee, who recently earned his master’s degree in athletic coaching from West Virginia University. “Ever since I was a young kid, I kind of knew what I wanted to do. My dream job was to teach and coach at Indian River, and I’m certainly blessed to be able to say that I got a chance to do that.”
Megee’s coaching résumé at IR includes helping the Indians to five Southern Division championships and the 2011 state championship for football, five Southern division championships for baseball, and a Southern division championship in softball, to go along with both a Henlopen Coach of the Year and State Coach of the Year award as well.
As the Indians’ head baseball coach, Megee went on to coach White’s son, Andrew, in baseball for two seasons and as a kicker on the football team last season.
Interestingly enough, it was also Megee who introduced White to his wife, Marsha, which he said was still his favorite memory of his days at DSU, despite all of the other great game memories and road trips.
“My best memory from playing baseball at DSU was going to a party at the University of Delaware with Chris Megee and Chris introducing me to my future wife, Marsha Banks, who was dancing on a table to ‘Joy and Pain’ by Rob Base,” White recalled with a laugh. “Immediately after that, she started coming to all of my games, and now we have been married for more than 25 years.”
It’s stories like that that make the now-Hall of Famers wonder whether, even with SEC injuries and thrown-out pitching arms, maybe if all of it was part of the plan after all.
But part of the plan or no, one thing is for sure, neither of them have any regrets about how it all ended up.
“Playing sports has been the biggest learning experience, as well as one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life,” said White. “DSU allowed me an opportunity to continue playing baseball.”
“No regrets, no regrets at all,” added Megee. “It was great talking to Coach VanSant [at the ceremony]. He said that this was a once-in-a-lifetime team that he got to coach, and that kind of struck home with me. What we did was something very special. It was a very humbling feeling.”