George Love, 92, is remembered as a successful baseball coach who wanted youngsters to develop into good citizens, not just good ballplayers

Share story

George Love of Des Moines, who died Friday at 92, knew people in all walks of life: teachers, businessmen, restaurant owners, laborers, lawyers, cops.

That can happen when you devote decades of your life to coaching young baseball players.

“He would get pulled over by the State Patrol and then the trooper would remember him from baseball and say, ‘It’s great to see you. How are you doing?’ ” said Mr. Love’s son, Eric Love, of Custer, Whatcom County.

The energy Mr. Love showed as a volunteer coach on the baseball diamond was also evident in his work life, said Carol Love, with whom he had just celebrated a 49th wedding anniversary.

He owned a gas station by the age of 16 and over the years operated a taxi service, a grocery wholesale business and grocery stores in West Seattle and White Center.

In fact, he continued working until the day he died, selling firewood along Des Moines Memorial Way South.

His widow said Mr. Love, who had previously suffered two small strokes, had stacked some firewood Friday and then collapsed when he went to use a phone, never regaining consciousness.

Those who knew Mr. Love as a coach — whether in Little League, Babe Ruth, Connie Mack or semipro leagues — are likely to remember two things: His phenomenal success, and how he sought to develop his players not just as athletes, but as responsible young men, ones he’d call “a credit to the community.”

“You could tell he cared about each guy and wanted to help him,” said Bo Colello, of SeaTac, a retired produce-market owner, who played on a Little League team Mr. Love coached in the 1950s.

“If a guy made a mistake in some play, he would make them practice and practice until they could do it right every time,” Colello said. “It was a great way to learn.”

Mr. Love was a lifelong resident of South King County and 1937 graduate of Highline High School.

Statistics from his coaching days, which stretched from the 1940s to the 1960s, are astounding: One Little League team, Sunnydale Oil, compiled a record of 100 wins and two losses under him over a six-year period. After that, he coached another team, Brumbaugh Construction, to a perfect 24-0 season.

League championships were commonplace, and he took several teams to state and national competition.

Stellar performers on his teams included the late Ron Santo, who went on to play for the Chicago Cubs and is in baseball’s Hall of Fame, and Bob Houbregs, who became an All-American basketball player at the University of Washington, played in the NBA and is in basketball’s Hall of Fame.

“He was always very competitive. That was a big part of him,” Carol Love said. “Even if it was just a game of Monopoly at home with the kids, he wanted to win.”

The couple met on a Burien baseball diamond, when her son turned out for Little League.

A stepdaughter, Rhonda Nelsen, of Shoreline, said rather than retire, Mr. Love kept busy with odd jobs, including some at apartments she and her husband owned. “He was a painter, and he could do woodworking and other things,” she said. “He just always had to have a project going.”

In addition to his wife, Mr. Love is survived by a sister, Betty Tollefsen, of Olympia; sons Eric Love, Mike and Pat Love, both of Burien; a daughter, Alyssa Love, of Des Moines; stepdaughter Rhonda Nelsen; stepson Ralph Mill, of Renton, and two grandchildren.

A memorial is planned for 2 p.m. March 4 at the Community of Christ Highland Park Church, 8611 11th Ave. S.W. in Seattle.

Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or jbroom@seattletimes.com