Remembering coach Myrehn
Ralph Myrehn Sr. never was a man who liked the limelight. He was strictly old school, a blue collar worker who ate meat and potatoes - except for baseball games, where he always loved a good hot dog.
Most likely, he would have preferred to have this space devoted to someone else - preferably to the community's youth - rather than making mention that he passed away on Jan. 4 in Carson City at age 85.
It's a side of Ralph Myrehn that 20 years worth of students grew to know as an industrial arts teacher at El Modena High in Orange, Calif., and at Lake Tahoe, where he taught and coached at Whittell High School. Outside the gruff exterior and gravel-like voice, this Navy veteran who served in the Pacific during World War II was a mentor who loved kids and loved baseball.
That's why he took the initiative to start up baseball as a sport at Whittell in 1977. Myrehn had moved his family to Zephyr Cove from Southern California eight years earlier and felt the kids were missing out on the benefits of baseball. He knew all about the challenges of spring sports at Tahoe. He was well aware the Warriors would have to drive 30 minutes just practice and play home games at Lampe Park in Gardnerville, the alternative being practice inside the school's gym.
Weather was always an obstacle, but this Navy veteran managed to keep it all in perspective.
"Next year, I think we'll try to get an Astro Dome or maybe go to Florida for spring training," he joked in an interview at the end of that debut season.
He coached the Whittell program through five seasons before deciding to retire from coaching and education in 1981. The Warriors finished either first or second in what was then the Northern 1A conference four of those five seasons, highlighted by a perfect 10-0 season and 1A state championship in 1979.
Even in May, weather conditions were a consideration. On the Monday before the Warriors played their state championship series against Pahrump, their van slid off the road and got stuck in a snowbank on the drive coming back up Kingsbury Grade from Gardnerville. Myrehn would later laugh when he recalled that the team was about ready to stand out on the highway and hitchhike home when a teacher drove by in a pickup truck and took everyone home.
Myrehn was simple and to the point when he spoke to me about the championship series beforehand.
"We're going to have to out-score them," he said with a laugh. "I'd say if we out-score them, out-pitch them and out-field them, then we should win."
As it turned out, that's exactly what happened as Whittell swept the best-of-three state championship series by beating Pahrump 15-7 and 17-6. The Warriors won the opener thanks to a seven-run fourth inning and the complete game pitching of Gary Powell, who struck out 14 and walked one. Jeff Budd, who had pitched a no-hitter against Battle Mountain to wrap up the Northern 1A title one week before, came back and threw a six-hit gem and his teammates scored 12 runs in the last three innings as Whittell won the second game going away.
Winning was important, but it wasn't the only thing because Myrehn believed in the importance of firm rules and values. Even when one of Whittell's key starters broke one of those rules before the state finals, Myrehn didn't hesitate to sit that player on the bench. You see, he regarded the diamond as merely an extension of his classroom, and there were lessons to be learned.
After retiring from education, Myrehn kept busy in his later years working part-time for the U.S. Forest Service and eventually moved to Carson City in 1991. He never returned to coaching, but his enthusiasm for baseball and kids lives on. Not to mention a lot of memories.
Dave Price is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal