Dusting off his record-holding pitch, Pi Kappa Phi alumnus Billie Roy Cook threw out the Opening Day first pitch for the Washington Nationals on Thursday.
The 82-year-old graduate of Northwestern State University fired the ball across home plate, right into the mitt of catcher Kurt Suzuki, before a sell-out crowd of 42,263 fans erupted into applause.
An announcer introduced Cook, who turned down offers to play in the major leagues in order to join the Army as an officer. Cook served two tours of duty in the Vietnam War with the 101st Airborne Division, earning the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, Presidential Citation, two Bronze Stars and seven Battle Stars.
Cook, nicknamed the ‘Iron Man’ by NSU’s Current Sauce newspaper, played semi-pro ball for the Homer Oilers and previously received offers to play in the majors for the Giants, Tigers, Athletics, Yankees and Cardinals.
A three-time all-conference pitcher for NSU, Cook posted an 8-1 record in 1956 and led the nation in wins in 1957 after compiling a 10-1 record and earning most valuable player honors in the conference. His 29 victories from 1956-1959 remain a record at Northwestern State, where his number 10 is retired on the outfield wall of Brown-Stroud Field.
Cook joined the Beta Omicron Chapter in 1956 prior to the chapter’s official chartering, but was unable to initiate due to outside responsibilities. Though he maintained contact with other members of the Founders’ Generation Group later in life, he officially initiated into Pi Kappa Phi at NSU in 2003. At that time, Pi Kappa Phi’s ‘Star and Lamp’ Magazine said Cook’s nearly 50 year pledgeship may be among the longest in the fraternity’s history.
Cook married his high school sweetheart from Natchitoches, Mary Ellen LaCaze Cook. They have four sons and more than a half-dozen grandchildren living near them in Smithfield, Virginia.