Virginia Sports Hall of Fame Spotlight: Class of 2018 Inductee, Chuck Hartman
Hall of Fame Class of 2017
You might say that Chuck Hartman had to go “extra innings” to reach the latest honor for his storied career in collegiate baseball.
Hartman capped a 47-year coaching career in May 2006, when he retired after 28 seasons – and 961 victories – at Virginia Tech. It isn’t until a dozen years later, however, that the 83-year-old sportsman is reaching another pinnacle, as one of the eight Class of 2018 inductees to the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
“I’m very, very pleased with being inducted,” said Hartman, who still lives in Blacksburg. “Being perfectly honest, I did wonder if I was going to make it. I have no clue how I made it now. I’m not a guy who goes out and runs my mouth about it. But when I did see some of the names of the past, I kind of thought I should have been in there.”
The words “perfectly honest” defined Hartman’s years as the Hokies’ coach. If you want varnish, go to the paint aisle at Lowe’s or Home Depot. And it’s not as if the Gastonia, N.C., native was clueless on Hall of Fame inductions.
When Hartman joins the ’18 induction class on April 7 at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts at the Town Center of Virginia Beach, it will be his eighth Hall of Fame induction. He’s already in Hall of Fame for the American Baseball Coaches Association, the NAIA, Virginia Tech Sports, High Point University Athletics, Salem-Roanoke Baseball and Gaston and Guilford counties in his native state.
So, what’s left? A knighthood from Queen Elizabeth?
“Hey, now that would be a nice road trip,” Hartman cracked.
The late Jim Weaver, who was the Hokies’ athletic director when Hartman retired in May 2006, aptly summed up the longtime coach’s career.
“Virginia Tech has been the beneficiary of 28 years of service from one of the finest people in the profession of intercollegiate athletics,” Weaver said in Hartman’s retirement announcement. “Chuck has positively impacted hundreds of young men’s lives through baseball.”
Hartman, whose No. 1 uniform jersey is retired at Tech, posted a record of 1,444-816-8 (.638) in his 47 seasons as a head coach. He spent 19 seasons at High Point (1960-78) before moving to Virginia Tech. He left a High Point team headed for the NAIA national tournament to accept the Hokies’ job – “one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make,” he said. “But I don’t regret it one bit. I thought I had to move up.”
Hartman said when he moved to Tech, he had no idea he’d be in the dugout for nearly another three decades. When he left the game, he ranked fourth in all-time collegiate coaching victories. Twelve years later, he’s still No. 7 in career wins for NCAA Division I coaches.
“Do I miss the game? I’d go back, yeah … I still feel good about the game,” Hartman said. “Still love it. I go out and watch games here at Tech, and with the (renovated English Field), it’s going to be even nicer.
“As for staying that long, I don’t know … You just keep on keeping on. I felt good about it right to the very end, and then the last couple of seasons we were losing, and I just felt like it was time to turn it over to somebody else. It was time to go. There were things I wanted to do, and Ellen (his wife) and I wanted to do some traveling and we got to do that.”
Ellen Hartman died in July 2014 after battling cancer. Hartman can’t tell you his biggest win. But there’s no doubt about his greatest loss. He still lives in the same home near the Blacksburg Country Club, where his handicap once was as low as 2 and he won three club championships. He also continues to go fishing and hunting, and a few years back killed the top-ranked buck in the state.
Hartman led Gastonia High to a North Carolina state baseball title in the early ‘50s – he was the MVP of the title game – and then was a second and third baseman at the University of North Carolina, where he graduated in 1957. At High Point, he coached tennis before he got the baseball job, and was the athletic director for several years, too. He taught physical education, and one of his students was a future major college basketball coach of note – Tubby Smith. Hartman also was a college basketball official until he gave up the whistle in 1987.
The 5-foot-8 Hartman was what back in the day would have been called a “banty-rooster” type in baseball. His Hokie teams were known for their no-nonsense, aggressive style.
“I don’t know I’d call it a philosophy, but there was a way we wanted to play,” Hartman reflected. “It was come out and play as hard as we can – all of the time. No excuses. I don’t want to hear any and neither do your teammates. We were aggressive, quite aggressive at times, no question about that.
“That was what we were trying to do, and I think it worked out like that. As for me, most of the time I thought I had an excellent rapport with the players. If one of them got his ass chewed out, he didn’t whine to the others, and they knew the deal was that we were all in this together – because we were.”
Six of his Virginia Tech teams won 40 or more games. Two set school records with 50 victories – 50-9 in 1982 and 50-16-1 in 1985. Tech won four conference titles, and in a run from 1969 at High Point through 2004 at Tech, Hartman had 35 of 36 seasons above .500.
Hartman had four teams reach NCAA regionals in a seven-year span (1994-2000).
“We never did quite reach the one thing I wanted us to do at Tech,” Hartman said. “I wanted us to reach the national tournament (College World Series). “We had teams, I felt, that could have done it, but it just didn’t work out. That’s the only thing that bothered me.”
In his 47 years in the dugout and third-base coaching box, more than 80 Hartman players signed pro contracts, with nearly 60 of those at Tech. He had four first-round draft picks and five of his Hokies played for the United States in international competition.
He coached eight Tech players who went on to Major League Baseball.
“How about that?” Hartman said. “That’s something I’m really proud of. Having good people on and off the field, doing things the right way. That’s what’s important.”