Danny Talbott, a UNC Tar Heel legend

“Danny was one of the greatest Tar Heels to come through Chapel Hill having starred in both football and baseball, as well as playing basketball on the freshman team. . . . He was respected and loved by many and will be missed. On behalf of the Carolina Football Family, we send our deepest condolences to Danny’s family and friends.”

UNC Head Football Coach Mack Brown, January 19, 2020

Danny Talbott
Danny Talbott takes a break at the portable water fountain during UNC’s upset victory over Michigan State on September 26, 1964. Cropped by the editor from a 35mm slide photographed by Hugh Morton.

The Tar Heel nation has lost a legend. In the early morning hours of January 19, 2020, Danny Talbott lost his nine-year battle with cancer. Hugh Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard has a look at the life and times of Joseph Daniel Talbott III . . . who everyone called Danny.

It was Wednesday November 26, 2014, the day before Thanksgiving. UNC football great Danny Talbott was in his third year of battling multiple myeloma, a cancer that attacks plasma blood cells. He was being treated at the Outpatient Infusion Center of the North Carolina Cancer Hospital in Chapel Hill. He talked about his condition: “If I die, then I go to heaven. If I beat this, then I get to stick around and give my friends a hard time. It’s a win-win.”

Danny Talbott was noted for his sense of humor and is one of the most revered athletes in UNC history, having played football, baseball, and freshman basketball during his time in Chapel Hill from 1963 to 1967.  Over the years, when books have been written about sports at UNC, Danny Talbott is included as an important part of that history. Author Ken Rappoport, in his 1976 book Tar Heel: North Carolina Football, describes Talbott as one of head coach Jim Hickey’s “most electrifying players.” Phil Ben, in his 1988 book Tar Heel Tradition: 100 Years of Sports at Carolina, calls Talbott “a brilliant all-round athlete.” And when Woody Durham compiled the book Tar Heels Cooking for Ronald’s Kids also in ’88, he included Danny’s recipe for peanut butter fudge.

In addition to the photograph above (not previously scanned before this blog post) during the second game of the season versus Michigan State, photographer Hugh Morton caught up with starting quarterback Talbott on opening day after the North Carolina State game . . .

Danny Talbott after NCSU game
Hugh Morton photographed Danny Talbott, probably during an interview, after North Carolina State upset the Tar Heels at Kenan Memorial Stadium on September 19, 1964. (Photograph cropped by the editor.)

and along the sideline during Carolina’s contest against Wake Forest the following Saturday on October 3.

Danny Talbott engages with the action on the playing field from the sideline during UNC’s 23 to 0 victory over Wake Forest on October 3, 1964.

In the second game of the ’64 season, on September 26th, Talbott led the Tar Heels to a 21 to 15 win over Michigan State in Kenan, making the morning headline in the Sunday Daily Tar Heel.

Danny was the ACC football player of the year in 1965 with 1,477 yards of total offense, and was 11 of 16 for 127 passing yards to lead Carolina to a 14 to 3 upset win at Ohio State under their head coach Woody Hayes in the second game of the season.

On October 30, 1965, Georgia came into Chapel Hill for a game in Kenan. On that Saturday afternoon, Danny Talbott ran and passed for 318 total yards, eclipsing Charlie Justice’s single game offensive record (also set against Georgia back in 1948), by 14 yards. Talbott called it one of his greatest thrills.

When Carolina went into Duke Stadium on November 20, 1965, for the 52nd meeting between the two rivals, the Blue Devils dominated the game; but for a brief moment near the end of the first quarter, the Tar Heels took the lead thanks to Talbott. Author Bill Cromartie, in his 1992 book Battle of the Blues describes the moment: trailing 6 to 0 and “facing a fourth-and-one at the seven, Danny Talbott swung wide, broke a couple of tackles, leaped over defensive back Art Vann, and scored. Talbott also converted, giving his team a 7 to 6 lead.”

In September 1966, five years before he became “The Voice of the Tar Heels,” the late Woody Durham produced a Charlie Justice documentary at WFMY-TV in Greensboro titled “Choo Choo: Yesterday and Today.” I had the honor of being a production assistant for that program. In the program, Woody said:

Since the glorious days of the Justice era in the late 40s Carolina has searched in vain for Choo Choo’s replacement—the one player who might possibly possess his unique triple-threat ability. Every few years some outstanding Tar Heel player is compared with the legendary Justice, and this fall that comparison will be made of quarterback Danny Talbott. After outstanding seasons as both a sophomore and junior, the 6-foot, 185-pound Rocky Mount native stands on the threshold of what could well be a magnificent senior year…” [Danny was chosen] “as both the ‘Football Player and Athlete of the Year’ in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season.

Talbott was Co-Captain in ‘66 as well as cover boy for the UNC 1966 football Media Guide and the 1966 NCAA Record Book. In the third game of that season, Talbott led the Tar Heels to a 21 to 7 upset win over eighth-ranked Michigan in Ann Arbor. The Daily Tar Heel banner headline from October 2, 1966 says it all:

Daily Tar Heel front page October 2 1966
Front page of The Daily Tar Heel, October 2 1966.

In a later-life-interview Talbott would say, “that was sure fun . . . it’s a great thrill to think back on going to a place like Michigan and turning a crowd of 88,000 into total silence.”

Earlier in that year, Talbott had led the 1966 Tar Heels to the College World Series of baseball.  He made first-team ACC three years in a row with a career batting average of .357. In 1967, Talbott was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers but he decided to play professional baseball. He played one season of minor-league ball with the Baltimore Orioles’ farm team in Miami.

In ’68, he was back in the NFL, this time with the Washington Redskins as backup quarterback to Duke legend Sonny Jurgensen. After three seasons in DC, Talbott returned home to Rocky Mount and for the next thirty-three years he was a sales representative for Johnson & Johnson.

In the fall of 1999, UNC’s General Alumni Association presented a special series titled: “The History of Sports at Carolina: Football.” For six Monday nights, Woody Durham moderated a panel of Tar Heel greats talking about their time on the Carolina gridiron. On October 4, Danny Talbott joined Don Stallings and Junior Edge for a session titled “Moments to Remember.”

Talbott’s famous #10 football jersey is one of twenty-seven honored in Kenan Stadium, and the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame inducted him in its class of 2003.  Eight years later he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of cancer that attacks plasma blood cells.

Health administrators at Nash UNC Health Care in Rocky Mount had planned for several years to build a multi-disciplinary cancer treatment center that could serve northeastern North Carolina. Early in 2017, they were brainstorming ideas to raise funds and target potential benefactors when the name Danny Talbott came up for discussion and one of the steering committee members said, “Why don’t we just name the center for Danny?” The idea took off from there for construction of a 16,100-square-foot cancer treatment facility.

On Thursday, February 1, 2018, UNC Cancer Care at Nash cut the ribbon that opened the doors to the Danny Talbott Cancer Center.  “It’s the greatest honor I’ve ever received,” said Talbott. “I’ve never been so surprised in my life. It’s too hard to believe they would think enough of me and want to name a cancer center after me. It’s hard to put into words, it’s just amazing. I look forward to what the center will do in this part of North Carolina and maybe even Virginia. I can’t express enough what I think it’s going to do for this part of North Carolina.”

Twelve days short of the center’s second anniversary, Danny Talbott lost his nine-year cancer battle—a battle that he fought with courage, dignity, and a bit of humor. The UNC Tar Heel legend had given us seventy amazing years.  North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said on January 20, 2020: “We mourn the loss of Rocky Mount native, UNC great and NC Sports Hall of Famer Danny Talbott. Great athlete and fine man who finally lost a courageous battle with cancer.”

It's over

It ain’t over til it’s over.

—Yogi Berra (12 May 1925–22 September 2015)

New York Yankees coach Yogi Berra during an exhibition game against UNC-Chapel Hill baseball team in Boshamer Stadium, April 2, 1979. (Cropped by the editor from a 35mm slide by Hugh Morton.)
New York Yankees coach Yogi Berra during an exhibition game against UNC-Chapel Hill baseball team in Boshamer Stadium, April 2, 1979. (Cropped by the editor from a 35mm slide by Hugh Morton.)

Yesterday saw the passing of one of baseball’s all-time greats, Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra.  Like so many other notable people in American history, Berra was a subject of Hugh Morton cameras.  His sideline shot of Berra seen above comes from one of the Tar Heels-versus-Yankees exhibition baseball games played at Boshamer Stadium.
Morton may have made his first photograph of Berra from afar while seated in Yankee Stadium’s right field foul line seats during one of the 1960 World Series games versus the Pittsburgh Pirates.  There are a few surviving 35mm slides from the game along with others slides, one of which Morton labeled, “SCHOOL CHILDREN ON TRIP TO NEW YORK.”  Two of the slides made during the game show Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle at home plate, respectively, and there are a handful of wide-angle views showing of the stadium.  If the scene below is the singing of the National Anthem (which is likely because it’s a Kodachrome stamped “1” by Kodak on the slide mount), then Berra is likely standing behind home plate among the umpires.
Opening scene a 1960 World Series game between the New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates at Yankee Stadium. (Cropped from a 35mm color slide by the editor.)
Opening scene of a 1960 World Series game between the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates at Yankee Stadium. (Cropped from a 35mm color slide by the editor.)

The book Hugh Morton’s North Carolina includes a photograph made, according to the caption, in May 1999 of Yogi Berra posed with Richard Cole, then dean of UNC’s School of Journal and Mass Communications, and his granddaughter Lindsay Berra, who received her degree in journalism from the school in 1999.  In that photograph, as in all the photographic prints in the collection, Berra wears a “Fly Ball” tie.  Below is a portrait of Berra by Morton.  Look closely at the tie to get a sense of Berra’s famous sense of humor.
Yogi Berra donning a "Fly Ball" tie and a Tar Heel.
Yogi Berra donning a “Fly Ball” tie and a Tar Heel.

Limited time unfortunately does not permit an in-depth blog post, so below the closing photograph is an excerpt from the Morton collection finding aid for “Berra, Yogi.”  The folder of prints contains posed group shots that include the likes of legendary UNC head basketball coach Dean Smith, sportscaster Dick Vitale, John Swofford during his time as  UNC athletic director, and other unidentified people.  Perhaps some more research can lead to a longer post in the near future.  I’ll close today with a scan made from the first item in the excerpted list—the 120 color roll film negative.
Roll Film Box P081/120C-1
Envelope 2.6.46-4-1
Berra, Yogi, 1980s?
Color 120 roll film negatives
1 image
Roll Film Box P081/35BW-4
Envelope 2.6.46-5-1
Berra, Yogi and Dr. John Sanders, 17 February 1996
Black and white 35mm roll film negatives
3 images
Roll Film Box P081/35BW-4
Envelope 2.6.46-5-2
Berra, Yogi and granddaughter, 1990s?
Black and white 35mm roll film negatives
4 images
Print Box P081/8
Folder 2.6.46
Berra, Yogi, 1980s-1990s
Black and white and color prints
8 images

Who Am I? . . . Baseball Style

Portrait of UNC baseball player, most likely on campus in Chapel Hill, NC.

Portrait of UNC baseball player, most likely on campus in Chapel Hill, NC.

It has been a very busy week in the office—and a short one at that with a three-day weekend holiday . . . and the library closing thirty minutes from when I started today’s post.  So this will be a short-and-sweet “Who am I?” post in recognition of opening day of Major League Baseball.
Above is a portrait of an unidentified UNC baseball player from the 1940s.  Anyone able to put a name on his uniform?  For those who may be curious, he’s holding a Hillerich & Bradsby Co. Louisville Slugger—a 125 LG Lou Gehrig signature model bat.
Next week will feature another “Who am I?” post . . . and it won’t be sports!