John Whited, who was the University of Tennessee baseball coach from 1982-87, died Tuesday. He was 74.
Mr. Whited came to Tennessee in 1981 as an assistant to coach Bill Wright and took over when Wright retired following that season. He promptly led the Vols to three consecutive trips to the SEC playoffs, including second-place finishes in 1982 and 1984.
“He was very organized, demanding, and fair,” said Rusty Ensor, who played his senior season for Mr. Whited in 1982. “It’s sad to realize that the two coaches I played for at Tennessee are now gone.”
Mr. Whited amassed a record of 145-109 (.571) at UT. Included among his players were major leaguers Alan Cockrell, Rich DeLucia, Rich Rodriguez and Steve Searcy. In all, 12 of his players were drafted.
“He was a father figure for us,” said Searcy, who played from 1983-85. “He was a caring person who gave us direction. He could straighten you out when you needed straightening out.”
Mr. Whited earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education with a minor in health education from East Tennessee State in 1962. He received a Master of Education degree from Memphis State in 1966.
A native of Kingsport, Mr. Whited was named Most Valuable Player in the 1957 state tournament as a senior at Dobyns-Bennett High School. He spent five seasons in professional baseball as an infielder in the organizations of the Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles, and the Minnesota Twins, where he was an Alabama-Florida State League all-star selection in 1960.
From 1961-77, he guided Dobyns-Bennett to a 294-86 record, making him the winningest active coach in the state at that time.
Mr. Whited also served as an assistant coach from 1978-81 at East Tennessee State University, directing the pitchers for coach Charlie Lodes. Four of the pitchers wound up in professional baseball, including Atlee Hammaker.
“He took a chance on me, a 5-10, 160-pound, player from Farragut High School,” said Bobby Gaylor, who lettered from 1984-86. “He was a huge part of my development, leading to my getting drafted by the Montreal Expos.”
Mr. Whited retired from KUB in April 2012.
He is survived by wife, Pat Whited, children, Donna Corum and husband Mike, John Whited, III, and wife Pam, step-children, David Dalton, Rebekah Allen, and husband Donnie, Sarah Dalton Fortenberry, and grandchildren, John Michael Corum, Breanna Allen, and Harrison Fortenberry.
There will be a Celebration of Life Service at 5 p.m., Friday, at Cokesbury United Methodist Church-North Campus, 9919 Kingston Pike, followed by a Gathering at 6 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to Manna House, 9919 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37922 or The American Cancer Society.
Tom Mattingly is a freelance contributor.