Former University of Kentucky pitcher Joe Dawson, one of the first student-athletes to receive a baseball scholarship to the school, died Tuesday in Louisville. He was 80.
Dawson, who was born in Louisville and attended Manual High School, played for Kentucky from 1957-59 for Coach Harry Lancaster and was a teammate of Jim Host and All-American Dickie Parsons, among others. Dawson and Host are considered the first players to receive scholarships from the program.
While battling illness that drained him of his energy, Dawson returned to campus as a guest of UK baseball during the 2018 season. Surrounded by family, Dawson threw out the first pitch before the Cats defeated rival Louisville at Cliff Hagan Stadium on April 3.
“Joe was a Wildcat through and through,” UK Coach Nick Mingione said. “He had a love and passion for Kentucky baseball that was impossible to deny. He helped pave the way for all who have passed through our program since he earned the distinction of being one of our first scholarship players.
“We were so thrilled to have him and his family come back to Cliff Hagan Stadium in its final season and throw out a first pitch, reminding us of our rich history. We extend our deepest sympathies and prayers to his family.”
Prior to his arrival at UK, Dawson starred at Manual and pitched the Crimsons to the state championship in 1955, where he was the winning pitcher in the title game.
Dawson is survived by his wife of 62 years, Carolyn Alexander Dawson; daughters Julie Marlow (Mike) and Carla Cravens (Paul); grandchildren, Bradley Marlow (Lauren), Jill Marlow, Adam Cravens (Savannah) and Casey Cravens; great granddaughter, Avery Marlow; and brothers, George (Joel) and Bruce (IJ) Dawson.
Visitation will be Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. at Embry-Bosse Funeral Home in Louisville. In lieu of flowers the family asks that a donation be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.