O'Connell's Legendary Baseball
Coach 'Jake' Jacobs Dies
Marshall "Jake" Jacobs, a baseball coach at Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington for more than 30 years, died Aug. 15 at his home in Falls Church. He was 84 and had battled prostate cancer, diabetes and congestive heart failure in recent years.
Jacobs is considered a baseball legend by many in the Washington area. He had an impact on thousands of young men during his coaching career, which started in 1938 and spanned eight decades.
He was among the first group of inductees into the O'Connell Athletic Hall of Fame in May 1991. The school dedicated its baseball field in his memory that same year.
Jacobs' energy and enthusiasm for baseball never diminished, even after he had triple-bypass surgery. He missed 16 days of practice due to the surgery but otherwise he never missed a beat.
Born in 1919, Jacobs was raised two blocks from RFK Stadium, former home of the Washington Redskins. He played both football and baseball at Eastern High School and was the clubhouse boy for the old Washington Senators from 1933-35 where he met baseball legends such as Babe Ruth and Connie Mack.
He had a brief stint in the minor leagues as an outfielder. He made $25 per week playing "D" League ball in Shelby, N.C., but opted for a more secure job as an apprentice machinist at the Navy Yard to help support his mother and four sisters.
He spent two years in the Navy during World War II, then worked for Washington Gas and Light for 38 years. During this time he played on the company baseball team. He retired in 1984.
Jacobs converted to Catholicism during his freshman year in high school and ushered for many years at St. Philip Church in Falls Church.
He began his coaching career at Bunker Hill in Washington (now Eastern High School), as well as American Legion Ball. He was the junior varsity coach at St. John?s High School in Washington in 1962 before accepting an invitation from O?Connell Head Coach Al Burch to join his staff in 1965.
Jacobs took over the head coaching duties at O?Connell in 1977 when Burch was named the school?s principal. He "retired" in 1989, but still assisted with the varsity and junior varsity pitchers well into the 1990s.
Jacobs also was associated with the Arlington Senators for many years as a coach and motivator. The team won the All American Amateur Baseball Association Tournament in 2002 in Johnstown, Pa. Earlier this month he was inducted into the AAABA Hall of Fame.
"I know a little bit (about baseball), but I'm no expert," Jacobs once told the HERALD. His expertise came from having played and coached the game for so many years, not by reading baseball books. "Experience makes mental toughness," he said.
Jacobs always tried to teach his players "the basics" in pitching, such as how to use their legs and waist to improve their velocity and protect their arms.
"Even at 80-something years old, that guy was sprinting out to first base and back," Dan Raley, the Arlington Senators? third-base coach, recently told the City Paper. "There?s so much more to Jake?s teaching, but you have no idea how strong a message that sends out to a team. He is one of those guys kids never forget."
Burch, who managed O?Connell to three consecutive undefeated seasons in the mid-1960s, once called Jacobs "one of the two greatest baseball coaches" he ever knew, the other being Joe Branzel, former coach at the D.C. Boys Club and Georgetown University, who is now a scout for the Texas Rangers.
Burch said he used to show his baseball players instructional videos from major league stars such as Ted Williams, Bobby Doer and Tom Seaver. But there was no need to continue that tradition once Jacobs joined the staff.
"Jake was better than any video," said Burch. "He?s the finest fundamental teacher of the game I?ve ever seen."
The viewing was scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 20, at Murphy Funeral Home in Falls Church from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. A funeral Mass was to be offered on Thursday, Aug. 21, at 11 a.m. at St. Philip Church. Father Michael Dobbins, parochial vicar, was to be the celebrant. Msgr. John T. Cilinski, former pastor at St. Philip Parish, was to be the concelebrant.
Msgr. Cilinski is expected to read a letter from Msgr. James W. McMurtrie, former O?Connell principal and now pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Arlington.
Interment was scheduled for National Memorial Park in Falls Church. Jacobs is survived by his wife, Betty; son, Joseph; daughter, Patricia Jacobs Kadel; sister, Tammy Ricucci; and two grandchildren, Ryan and David Kadel.