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Klemett a throwback to past era/Paul Peterson

November 22, 2011
By Paul Peterson - For the Gazette , The Daily Mining Gazette

It's doubtful I have met few people who were as deeply involved in sports as much as the late Merv Klemett of Hancock.

Klemett, who passed away last week, had his hand in just about every sport available.

That was evident in the photo display before his funeral services at Zion Lutheran Church of teams that he had either coached or played with. There were baseball and softball teams and lots of hockey teams - the two sports that he was most associated with.

But there was even a picture of a girls' hockey team he helped to coach in the early 1960s. That totally surprised me because I had no idea that girls' hockey even existed around here until the late 1980s. And I thought I had dug as deeply into the newspaper files as possible.

Merv was brought up in an era when sports were played much differently than they are today. By that, I mean you seldom saw any of the pregame or postgame fraternization that is common among today's athletes at all levels.

In his time, the opposing team was the enemy. You asked no quarter ... and gave none ... as long as the game was going on.

Harold Filpus of Tapiola was a longtime foe, and later a teammate, to Klemett.

"Merv was a very intense competitor. When you played against him, he would do whatever was required to beat you," Filpus recalled last week. "But when you were on his team, he would help you out in any way to win a particular game."

I found that out when I played baseball and oldtimers softball against Merv in his later years. But I also had the chance to play on the same Portage Lake Oldtimers baseball team with him several times in their annual game against the Wolverine Oldtimers.

One of my lasting memories of Klemett came in what would be his final game as a player. Crippled by injuries and unable to move hardly at all, he came up to bat late in a tied game with a couple of runners on base.

Instead of looking to be a hero with a base hit, he laid down a perfect bunt to move the runners along. The next batter drove in what proved to be the winning run. To him, that sacrifice bunt was as important as any hit he ever had in a long and successful (he won five Twilight League batting titles) career.

He was also one of the last great sports organizers. By that, I mean the person who shows up before the game, works on the field and makes sure the teams and umpires arrive on time.

We've lost a lot of great local organizers way too soon over the last few years. People like Rick Miller of Hancock, Keith Karsama of Tapiola, Scurb Durocher of Stanton and Jack Giddings of Baraga just to name a few.

If local sports are just a faint memory of what they used to be, it's because we don't have enough of those kind of organizers around.

Like Klemett, these were people who were also bonafide mentors. They took the time to instruct young players on how to play the game correctly.

And that's what made him a throwback to a past era.



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