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Baer and Blanchard head into the WFCA Hall of Fame together

Former area grid coaches honored

March 19, 2013

You can tell a retiree's degree of satisfaction by how engaged they are in their post-work passions.

Former Whitefish Bay football coach Dick Baer and former Brown Deer grid coach George Blanchard are reasonably satisfied men.

Baer raises Tennessee Walking Horses on his property in his old hometown of Mansfield, Ohio, something he and his late wife Nancy did for many years together, while Blanchard has recently become a sought-after speaker to area groups about his fabled and well-chronicled days as a batboy for the 1957 World Series champion Milwaukee Braves.

"I'm all spoken out," Blanchard chuckled.

Baer shows horses at events in Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio and Indiana. He has three active horses and two older animals he keeps on his 25-acre farm.

"It's a good hobby," he said, "not a moneymaker, but I have three good horses and they do well."

But the two will get to chat some more Saturday, when they are inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches' Association in ceremonies at the Marriott West in Middleton.

The pair are part of a 19-person class that will be inducted as part of WFCA's spring clinic.

Heyday in the 60s and 70s

Both men are of their time, having come up the coaching ranks in the 1960s and 1970s.

Baer came from the football heartland of Mansfield, Ohio, where in the 1950s he played on high school teams that traveled 75 to 100 miles to get good games.

Baer was a starting center and defensive guard for the University of Wisconsin in 1960 and 1961 and earned honorable mention All-Big 10 on defense as a senior.

"Those were in the one-platoon days," he said.

He landed in Bay in 1964 and stayed until his retirement in 1997 as a physical education teacher and football and wrestling coach. He started out as backfield coach and defensive coordinator for Bay legend Marsh Reiboldt and then became a line coach and defensive coordinator for his friend Bob Albrightson, who succeeded Reiboldt.

Baer landed the Bay head job in 1986 and kept it until his retirement. His teams tied for the North Shore Conference title in 1989 with Nicolet and tied again in 1993 with Port Washington. He kept a good perspective on what his job was supposed to be.

"Basically, I tried to get the kids to be the best they could be," he said. "Try to use it as a steppingstone for other things in life. I wasn't a win at all costs kind of guy, because the primary thing over at Bay has always been the education you got. The goal was always to turn out good student-athletes."

Bob Sorgent, a longtime, now retired teacher and track coach from Bay, was highly valued by Baer as an assistant as was Gordie Boeck. Baer really likes the work that current Bay football coach Jim Tietjen is doing. The Blue Dukes won the North Shore Conference title and advanced to the WIAA State D2 semifinals this past season.

Baer also spent 14 years as wrestling coach, also working with Boeck.

He and his wife retired back to Ohio after his days at Bay. She passed away from pancreatic and liver cancer two years ago, so he stays busy with his horses.

Baer is looking forward to his time with his old coaching pals in Madison this weekend. He will stay with his nephew, Geoff Baer, who is an orthopedic surgeon for the University of Wisconsin.

"It should be fun," he said.

Leading conference champs

Blanchard, a former all-state player himself in the late 1950s at Pius XI went on to become an NAIA All-American linebacker at UW-Oshkosh. He started coaching at Algoma in 1966 and stayed their through 1971 before arriving at Brown Deer in 1972 where he stayed until his retirement in 1998.

His Falcons won the Braveland Conference title in 1975 and Parkland Conference titles in 1986 and 1991. He also served as Brown Deer's athletic director from 1982 to 1998 and his final football coach record was 172-132.

He feels a bit unworthy of the honor that will be bestowed on him.

"Dan Brunner (the coach at Hartford) and I go a long ways back and we were fierce competitors," Blanchard said, "and he was the one who nominated me. That made it really special.

"This somehow doesn't feel right because I had great players and great assistants, especially my line coach (at Brown Deer) Gary Petersen. He was much better than me. He could develop any kid. We won a lot of games, but I never once thought it was about me.

"You just have to have good coaches and players, but as far as this is concerned (the Hall of Fame), it's just nice that someone remembers you."

He is remembered well at Brown Deer, as current swim coach Bob Van Lieshout recalls.

"Just a great AD," Van Lieshout said. "I remember him having a can of 'Anti-BS' spray on his desk (laughs)."

Blanchard is very happy with the job that current football coach Rob Green is doing and he's pleased just to watch and stay out of the way. He currently spends a lot of the fall and winter watching his grandchildren perform at Kettle Moraine High School.

He and his wife, Sharon, have been married for 47 years and they have two daughters and four grandchildren. They live in Germantown where he meets his former assistants for breakfast every Wednesday.

A former player got him back on the speaking tour to talk about his Milwaukee Braves days. Blanchard couldn't believe how in demand he was for a time.

"I tell you, the phone rings off the hook," he said with a laugh.

He, too, is looking forward to catching up with old friends this weekend to tell them how happy he is with his life right now.

"I tell them, I don't know what I'm doing with my retirement, but I'm going to keep doing it," he said.

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