The years 1959-62 found the Whitworth Pirates winning four Eastern Division titles and conference titles in 1959 and 1960. The achievements of the 1960 baseball team set a high point in the college’s athletics history: under Coach Paul Merkel, also an alumnus, the team won the NAIA National Baseball Tournament, the only time a Whitworth athletics team has won a national title. The team was led by pitcher Ray Washburn, ’60; Walter “Spike” Grosvenor, ’63, was also one of the team’s pitchers. Grosvenor would go on to become a professor of art at Whitworth.
The 1960 team lost its first two games of the season, to the University of Washington, but finished with a 16-7 record and the Evergreen Conference and NAIA district titles. In the national tournament, the Pirates won four of five games, defeating Georgia Southern 4-0 for the championship. A police escort met the team on their return to Spokane for a celebration parade downtown before throngs of students and loyal supporters. The 1960 championship was the highlight of Coach Merkel’s career at Whitworth. An athlete at the college during the ’40s, Merkel returned to Whitworth in 1954 to coach. An inductee into three separate sports halls of fame, the coach had a positive influence on hundreds of Whitworth student-athletes over the course of more than 30 years.