David Bell’s fascination with throwing a baseball began when he was a young boy in Toombs County.
“Since I was a little boy that is all I ever wanted to do,” Bell said. “I put a tin can up on the pack house and I got 60 feet and six inches away and a lot times I could throw that thing right into that can. I had a great curve ball. A so-so fastball. That curve ball, I could throw it and I didn’t care if they knew it was coming or not.”
Bell- a right-hander who also could play first base- took that great curve ball and that so-so fastball and became a standout pitcher. First he threw for Toombs Central High School and then he got a scholarship to Brewton-Parker College and he wrapped up his baseball career at Georgia Southern.
David played at Toombs Central from 1955 to 1958. “We were not all that good. We didn’t have the equipment like they have now. Like some of them do. We had a respectful country team.” Bell’s talent to throw the baseball obviously stood out. “I wasn’t bad. I got a scholarship from Brewton-Parker for baseball and basketball. I played baseball in the summer league since I was 14-years old. My freshman year, like an old country boy, I didn’t know anything and I didn’t have all that good of year, but the second year we had a winning season. I believe the second year we won the state (junior college baseball).”
It was at Georgia Southern playing on the NAIA level that Bell came into his own. Although, he had to wait a season to shine. “I went to Georgia Southern in 1961 and I got hurt. I got hit on the leg with a bat and I had an abscess and I sat out that season.”
In the spring of 1962 Georgia Southern became the first major sports team in the state of Georgia and at Georgia Southern College to win a national title. GSC went 21-8 mark in the regular season and advanced to the NAIA World Series in St. Joseph’s Missouri.
In Area 7 play the Eagles beat St. Barnard 7-5, Carson-Newman 7-5 and Pfeiffer twice 1-0 and 7-2. Then in the World Series GSC the Eagles took a stellar pitching staff to Missouri. “We had the lowest earned run average in the nation and we held our opponents to five runs in four games which is still a record. We went up there and we weren’t suppose to win nothing. Didn’t have that many people on the team and went up there and were underdogs. We went to the banquet with our blazers on with the crest. They introduced us and their was a little snickering going on. They didn’t snicker too much when we got through.”
Georgia Southern knocked off Minot State 8-3 in the first game and then in game two against Winona State, Bell pitched nine innings of four-hit shutout ball in a 1-0 victory in game which lasted only one hour and thirty-nine minutes. David finished the 1962 season with a 6-1 record. “I had everything working. All the rest of them did too. It is just something we wanted very, very bad. They (GSC) had been out there several times and they never could win. We just had a goal that we wanted to win the thing and we knew we had the team that could do it. We had the pitching. We had one of the best pitching staffs in the nation. So, we knew we could do it and all we had to do was go out there and do it and we had good hitters. In that game that I pitched I don’t think anybody made it to second base. I’m not sure. I don’t think they did. The other two pitchers did a great job. We all did, everybody did.”
The Eagles wrapped up their national championship beating Portland State 5-2 and 2-0.
One regular season game may have predicted the possibility of future success for the Georgia Southern team. “We beat Florida State. That was a big thing because Florida State was a great team. When I was growing up if you wanted to play baseball and be seen, you went to Georgia Southern or you went to Florida State. They were two of the best baseball teams in the country.”
Pitching so well at the national level got Bell noticed by several professional teams. “I came back home and I was invited to try out with the Dublin Braves (Milwaukee Braves Class D affiliate) and I was invited down to Moultrie by the Colt 45’s which are now the Houston Astros. I didn’t sign with either one of them. I had another year of eligibility at Georgia Southern. I didn’t care nothing about riding the bus. So, I went back to school. I got married that year and started teaching and coaching. I put it all aside because I wasn’t good enough to go to the majors. All my dreams came true. I got an offer and I got to play on a national championship team.”
David says he experienced a lot thrills while playing for Georgia Southern. “We got to meet Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese. On the way to the national tourney we stopped by and saw the Cardinals play. We stopped in Kansas City and met manager Hank Bauer. Coach knew him. He gave us a dozen bats and balls. That was big thing to us. We had a big time. When it all happened it wasn’t that big of thing, but as we grew older, it got bigger and bigger.” In 1998 the 1962 Georgia Southern baseball team was inducted to the Georgia Southern Athletics Hall of Fame.
In an early season game in 1962, Bell walked in the fifth inning and scored a run to put GSC up 3-2. Meanwhile, on the mound David pitched a complete game five-hitter with three walks in a 4-2 win over David Lipscomb. Through his first 32 innings in 1962, Bell went 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA and was the only GSC pitcher to toss three complete games.
In the 1963 season Bell led Georgia Southern to a 5-4 win at North Carolina. He threw eight innings allowing seven hits and four earned runs with six strikeouts and three walks. He also scored a run in three trips to the plate.
After his Georgia Southern days, Bell coached baseball and taught at Butler High School in Augusta for three years and then he moved on to Randolph County where he mostly coached basketball. These days David and his wife, Gail, live in Dawson. He is retired after working for 27-years in public service. David and Gail have three children and 10 grandchildren.
Bell is honored to be a 2018 inductee in the Toombs County Athletic Hall of Fame. “I’ll be there you better believe it. You can take a boy away from the country like that, but that is always home. They have had a lot of good athletes come out of there. I am very honored they chose me and I am very thankful. I never thought things like this would happen.”