MARSHALL HONORS MUCHLINSKI
MARSHALL-Jim Muchlinski’s baseball room is a time machine. As soon as he sits down on the plaid couch, below a framed sketch of baseball legend Ty Cobb, he begins to talk like he never left the dugout. He recites the games his 1976 Marshall High School team won en route to second place at the state championship. He remembers the players that got him there like Jim Brass and Tim Musser. He even remembers the play that lost him the tournament- an error on a throw to first base. However, it’s still a fond memory to him. “It was a nice trip up there,” he says while on the couch in his baseball room at his Marshall home.
Muchlinksi is part of the inaugural class of the Marshall Baseball Hall of Fame along with Legion Field groundskeeper Jimmy Verdeck, former Marshall A’s manager Jerry Krause, and umpire Larry Knigge. The Hall of Fame was created by the Marshall Baseball Association to honor and acknowledge individuals who who contributed to baseball in the Marshall community.
Many felt it was time to honor the individuals who have contributed to the baseball legacy of Marshall. “This is our start and we want to develop it into a yearly thing to recognize some of the folks that have been instrumental,” said Russ Sanow, the secretary of the Marshall Baseball Association. Every member elected will have their name engraved on a plank in the grandstand of Legion Field. There are plans in to honor the first class of inductees at an A’s game in 2015.
Muchlinski was a ubiquitous part of baseball in Marshall for over 30 years. He won 380 games as a high school coach for Central Catholic and Marshall High, while only losing 206 games. As a coach for the Marshall American Legion team, he won 242 games and lost 77. For his time in the dugout, he was inducted into the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2000 and into the Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009. He also taught in Marshall for 42 years and was inducted into the Pride in the Tiger Foundation in 2011.
Even though Muchlinski is honored to be a part of Marshall baseball history, he is quick to acknowledge others who contributed to Marshall baseball as well. “There’s some good people in Marshall baseball. I was surprised to even be included in that. A lot of people are deserving of the honor too,” he says.
Muchlinski’s favorite memory was making it to the finals of the state tournament in 1976, “I told my athletic director when I took the job,’If I could just get one good state tournament team.'” He got wish two years later. After the tournament, he received a letter from Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, which he keeps in one of his scrapbooks. He also remembered the welcome home party that was thrown for the team at the old high school when they got back from St. Cloud.
Jim’s son, who is also named Jim, said seeing that ’76 team make a run was one of his favorite memories as well. He loved seeing the support the community showed the team. “They were very proud of the team,” he says while sitting at a diner table at the Lyon County Historical Museum.
Doug Krogen, who was a sophomore on that ’76 team, remembers Muchlinski as being a smart, personable coach. “He knew who to play and where to play them,” he says via telephone. Krogen remembers the practices as being “simple.” “He really let the kids play,” he adds.
Muchlinski coached a lot of players and managed a lot of ball games during his career, but he has some simple advice for coaches today. “Make the game fun for the kids to play,” he says. However, he thinks that Marshall baseball is doing alright even though he’s not in the dugout. “They’re doing pretty well, they don’t need much advice these days. They know what they’re doing,” he adds.
Even though Muchlinski has a record that is one of the best in the state of Minnesota, he knows that you can’t expect to win every game. “Somedays you make a bad pitch and you get out of the inning and somedays you make a bad pitch and it goes over the fence,” he says from the couch.
Muchlinski still enjoys watching and discussing baseball, even though his body has been slowed by Parkinson’s Disease. It’s easy to while away the time talking about Bob Feller, the time he saw Ted Williams’s last hit on television at a furniture store in Ivanhoe, or looking over the book he kept of every team he ever coached. His wife, Mary helped document all of it.
“The last thing you’ll see is the Field of Dreams,” Muchlinski says as he gets up from the couch. Next to the doorframe, there is a framed photo of a younger Muchlinski wearing University of Minnesota gear, standing next to two baseball players dressed in Chicago Black Sox uniforms with the Field of Dreams and cornstalks in the background.
Field of Dreams is a movie about building a baseball legacy in an Iowa cornfield. While Kevin Costner accomplished just that in 107 minutes. Jim Muchlinski did the same thing right here in Marshall, for over 34 years.