Remembering a coach named Babe
Appeal Staff Writer
For nearly 40 years, I’d only known him as Mr. Jensen. Or by his nickname – “Just call me Babe.”
That’s how all of his players knew him as – just Babe. That was good enough for a man who never sought out the spotlight.
He had a passion for the game of baseball and he enjoyed nothing more than to pass that passion on to young players. That was good enough for him.
Sadly, I found out that he was Lauritz “Babe” Jensen by reading the Appeal’s obituary column after his death April 24 in Carson City, where he had lived the last 15 years. He was 82.
I knew Babe Jensen during my teen years when he was a J.V. coach at South Tahoe High. He was a good coach – certainly good enough to have been at the varsity level – but he was happy to be where he was at. He enjoyed working with kids.
I still remember what Babe would say to kids when they considered quitting baseball to get a job: “You can carry a lunch pail around the rest of your life,” he’d say. “There’s plenty of time for that. Play baseball while you can.”
I remember Babe’s first J.V. team at South Tahoe. The group had struggled as freshmen the year before, but under his direction, came back missed winning a league championship by one game – on a squeeze bunt play.
Jensen played the game himself and played it well enough to reach Triple-A as an outfielder for the New York Yankees. He just had the misfortune of being in an organization that already had such stars as Joe DiMaggio, Tommy Heinrich, Hank Bauer and a young Mickey Mantle.
Babe and his brother, Bob Jensen, worked their way through the minors during the late 1940s – Bob (whose son, Kirk Jensen, now coaches in Virginia City) pitched his way into the Western International League record book with 295 strikeouts for a single season.
Players of that era had a special appreciation for baseball, having been tested by The Great Depression and World War II. They didn’t need notoriety. They played for the love of the game.
My hat’s off to them – and to Babe Jensen.