Harlem's Lewis hits 800th career victory

Posted 2/16/2022

Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis became just the third coach in state history to record 800 or more coaching victories.

 

Harlem's Lewis records 800th career coaching victory

 

The fireworks may have had a little dust on them, but it didn't stop a wild celebration at the Harlem High School baseball field Wednesday night.

With some 40 to 50 former alumni in attendance and several members of the school's 1979 state championship team in attendance, this small Columbia County school celebrated with its native son after the Bulldogs defeated Grovetown 6-1, earning head coach Jimmie Lewis his 800th career coaching victory.

Lewis joins all-time wins leader Bobby Howard (Saint Anne-Pacelli) and Gerald Barnes (Westside-Augusta) as the only coaches in state history to win 800 or more baseball games.

"That is two of the best there is," Lewis said of Howard and Barnes. "I'm tickled. Just to be mentioned in the same sentence with Bobby Howard, Gerald Barnes and Terry Holder, that is truly an honor."

Lewis joked that Harlem officials had hoped he would achieve the mark last year during the state baseball playoffs, but Ringgold High School swept Harlem in the Class 3A quarterfinals, leaving Lewis just two victories shy of 800.

"But they had the fireworks ready to shoot off tonight," Lewis said. "And they gave me a big 'ol plaque. It was really nice."

His Bulldogs defeated Columbia County rival Lakeside-Evans 8-1 on Monday, which moved him a game shy of the 800-win mark. Unlike in 2017 when Lewis chased No. 700 and his team achieved the mark on the road, he wanted nothing more than to accomplish the milestone at home.

He said his former players watching Wednesday night made it even more special.

Lewis holds a career coaching mark of 800-429. He has been Harlem's head baseball coach since 1979 when he led the Bulldogs to a state championship in his first season.

The legendary coach is as synonymous with Harlem as Oliver Hardy, who teamed with Stan Laurel to form the duo comedy act Laurel and Hardy during the early Classical Hollywood era of American cinema. Hardy was born in Harlem.

The longtime coach grew up in the city. His father was a World War II veteran and former mayor who started the Oliver Hardy festival.

Jimmie Lewis' four sons played baseball under their father.

He guided Harlem to a state title in 1979 when the team won its final 28 games after starting the season 6-7. The Bulldogs won titles in 1981, 1982 and 1983, then added another in 1986. Lewis also has two state runner-up finishes and his teams have won 14 region titles.

He has hinted at retirement, but said he isn't looking at slowing down, at least not soon.

"I guess I'll stop when it isn't fun anymore," he said.