The Obit For Curly Holtzapple

Curly Holtzapple, former Clerk of Courts and local baseball legend, dies

Daily Record/Sunday News
Updated: 07/17/2010 11:11:31 PM EDT

He was known so well, and by so many, for everything that he did in public.

Marlyn Holtzapple, known to all as Curly.

The West York boy who became Brooks Robinson's double-play partner. The townball legend as player and manager. The seven-term Clerk of Courts. The Democrat who kept winning elections in an ever more Republican county. The man who came back to work in the courthouse even after a challenger finally garnered more votes.

The man, in his 60s, who pulled a muscle sprinting from a dugout to argue with an umpire. The man who had a smile and kind word for most anyone he encountered.

But, James Holtzapple said, the true measure of his father's life was the 30 years he spent caring for his wife, Dorothy

Marlyn "Curly" Holtzapple (SUBMITTED)Ann, after multiple sclerosis confined her to a wheelchair. It was hard work, but he never tired of it.
"He had this passion and desire in baseball and politics," James Holtzapple said. "People knew his aggressive side. They didn't always see him like this."

Curly Holtzapple died Friday night. He was 77.

"He was a politician who was a genuine human being in my view," said District Attorney Tom Kearney, who knew Holtzapple for decades. "He loved people and he loved York County."

Holtzapple first rose to prominence as an athlete, drafted by the St. Louis Browns organization after graduating from West York Area High School in 1950.

He went on to spend two years with the York White Roses (1952 and 1955). His second stint with the Roses was one of his best in pro ball, and it coincided with the arrival of a rookie second baseman named Brooks Robinson.

With Holtzapple as the team's shortstop, the Holtzapple-Robinson duo was the double-play combination for the White Roses until Robinson was shifted over to third base - the position at which he made his major-league debut with the Baltimore Orioles in September 1955 and went on to a Hall of Fame career.

"It's everybody's dream to play for their own hometown team,"

Susquehanna and Central League All-Star manager Curly Holtzapple, center, shakes hands with York Revolution hitting coach Sam Snider after an exhibition game at Sovereign Bank Stadium in 2009. (DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - FILE)Holtzapple said in a 2003 interview. "When we had baseball in those days, people got so involved that they traveled . . . We had quite a following that went along. Then, the year that Brooks was here, I think we drew over 100,000 fans that year."
Holtzapple's professional baseball career ended the following year, in 1956, after he struggled in a stint with the Los Angeles' Dodgers' Double-A team in Fort Worth, Texas.

He came home after his playing career ended. He and Dorothy Ann had three children, Sharon, Linda and James. He served as Jury Commissioner, and was elected Clerk of Courts for the first time in 1975.

When he started at the courthouse, the Democrats were still the county's stronger party.

"As the years went by, York County became a Republican stronghold, but very few people on the Republican side thought they could beat Curly Holtzapple," former York County Commissioner George Trout said. "He was one of the unbeatable guys, because anyone who said hello, he said hello and had a pleasant personality."

Robinson even lent his voice to a few of Holtzapple's campaign ads.

"It wasn't glamorous," said Judge Michael Bortner, a friend of Holtzapple's for more than 30 years. "It was service. It was working with people and that's what he liked."

Still, baseball was never far from his mind.

Holtzapple was the longtime manager of Stoverstown's Central League baseball team, the Tigers.

Prior to Saturday night's Central League-Susquehanna League all-star game at Horn Field in Red Lion, Central League president Mark Skehan led a moment of silence for Holtzapple.

"I doubt there is a player here tonight not affected by Curly," Skehan said.

"I have always known him as 'Mr. Baseball,'" Glen Rock manager Kim McCullough said. "I got to play with him in '72, when Glen Rock didn't have a team. He was a guy I would call a mentor."

Holtzapple managed the Tigers until 2004 - the year after he was inducted into the York Area Sports Hall of Fame and lost his bid for an eighth term as Clerk of Courts.

Going into that 2003 election, he knew the odds weren't good, his son said, not with the Republicans' registration advantage. But he wanted to compete.

Not long after those election results were in, Bortner offered him a job as his tipstaff. Holtzapple could have retired. Instead, he said he was hoping Bortner would ask. He just loved coming to the courthouse every day. And he kept doing it, Bortner said, only calling out recently because he didn't feel well.

Until the end, on the ball field, in the courthouse and in his home, he made others feel at ease. He made them feel better.

"I never heard him say a negative word about anybody," Trout said, "unless they didn't lay down that squeeze bunt he called for."

Daily Record/Sunday News staff writer Steve Navaroli contributed to this report

The funeral service for Marlyn "Curly" Holtzapple will be 6 p.m. Tuesday at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Spring Grove. Viewings will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday at Irwin-Beck Funeral Home in Spring Grove and from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at St. Paul's.

In lieu of flowers, his family asks that donations be made to Stoverstown Athletic Association, c/o Sharon Slagel, 2261 Slagel Rd., Spring Grove, Pa. 17362 or St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Stoverstown, 4767 Lehman Road, Spring Grove, Pa. 17362.