By Merlin R. "Boody" Gilbertson Special to The Herald
Having known Marv Harshman probably longer than any of his living friends, I feel compelled to write something about this great man. I was born July 3, 1922, and met Marv in May of 1937 when I was 14 and he was 19.
My story about Marv Harshman begins sometime in April 1937, when I was leaving the baseball diamond at Bagshaw Field in Everett and a stranger stopped me.
“Boody,” the man said, “you don’t know me but my name is George Bourcier and I manage the Lundeen baseball team every summer in Lake Stevens. I am just now putting the team together for this summer and we need a first baseman. Would you like to come and play first base for us?”
Of course, I said “Yes!” Bourcier told me there was no money in playing ball — just a lot of fun, some snacks, pop and some of our manager’s personally made “home brew” after the games. We played before crowds of 300 to 500 people every Sunday, all summer long. There was no television back then and the fans paid to get in.
I think almost everyone in Snohomish County knew about Lundeen’s Park in Lake Stevens. The recreation facility sprawled over 20 acres, had dozens of cabins and hundreds of wooden picnic tables. The large fenced-in swimming area could hold 500 kids. There was a boat rental, a tavern and a fenced baseball field with a covered grandstand.
At my first Lundeen team tournament, I met the rest of the squad, which included catcher Gar Bourcier, George’s 40-year-old brother; third baseman Bernie Maltsberger; second baseman Jack, who used an anonymous last name because he was a local pastor who preferred playing baseball on Sunday afternoons to staying around the church; left fielder Joe Hebert; center fielder/manager George Bourcier; right-fielder Harry Bourcier, Gar’s son; and a 19-year-old shortstop named Marv Harshman.
That’s when I met the man who would become a lifetime friend. What a thrill that was. Marv had been my athletic idol from his days at Lake Stevens High School, where he was a star in all four major sports. After graduation, Marv went to the University of Washington and played fullback on the freshman team, then dropped out for a couple of years to work. After the summer of 1939, he enrolled at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.
Marv was a wonderful guy to play ball with — always bright and smiling and having a good time. As a young athlete, I learned a lot from him. Marv seemed to have been born with a teacher’s instincts. Many times over his long coaching career he said: “Remember, I am first a teacher and then a coach.” Maybe he was practicing on me. If so, he did a great job. I ended up playing shortstop for the balance of my baseball career, starting in 1938 and ending when I was 32 years old in 1954. I played basketball for UW in 1942, 1943, and 1947, and baseball in 1942 and 1947.
I worked in Everett all my life and I lived in Lake Stevens for 40 years. During that time I watched hundreds of football, basketball and baseball games and only recommended one player I thought worthy of playing for Marv. As it turned out, Marv and I watched one of the player’s games together and attended a social with friends at our house afterward. Unfortunately, the local player I brought Marv to see had a bad night, so the social turned out to be the highlight of the evening. Marv made a lot of new friends. A memorable time it was for my wife, Beverly, and myself.
Over the years, I followed Marv’s athletic exploits from his outstanding high school career to the UW freshman football team, to PLU, where he collected many honors as a player — Little All American, member of a national champion football team, all-league in basketball, etc. He then launched a successful coaching career that took him to PLU (13 years), Washington State (13 years) and finally Washington (14 years). The honors and awards he earned as a Hall-of-Fame basketball coach are too numerous to mention, so I won’t repeat them here.
I had the pleasure of seeing Marv more often the past 20 years, after he retired. Since we were both past presidents of the Old Timer’s Basketball Association, we saw each other at the annual board meetings and functions. One time after a board meeting, Marv needed a ride so I was fortunate to be able to take him to see his wife, Dorothy, who was in the hospital, and then home. We had a nice chat about the good old days.
For the past three years, each time I went to a Husky athletic alumni function, the first question that came up was “How is Marv?” I’m sorry to say that the last time I asked that question, I had to say goodbye to my dear friend.
Sadly, I never again played with or for Marv after those early days at Lundeen Park, but I loved to read about his accomplishments and loved following his career. How blessed I was to be able to call him my friend.
So long, old pal.
With love from your enduring friend,