at UO dies at 80
Taking a cue from Krause's positive attitude throughout his battle with leukemia, his friends told stories that were upbeat and filled with respect -- not to mention a certain candor they called "Mel being Mel."
"A lot of people couldn't handle Mel's stories because they could be a little off-color," said Mike Bubalo, who played on Krause's first Oregon team in 1971 and coached under him in 1974 and 1975. "But that was Mel. He had such a big heart and was so special."
Krause, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in November, died from complications of the illness Friday morning at age 80.
Jan Krause, who said her husband died at their Wilsonville home "very happy," was inundated with well-wishers Friday.
"It's amazing how many lives he touched," she said. "He was loved by so many, and they demonstrated their love to him right up to the end. He was an amazing man."
Even though Mel Krause was given two to six months to live, his friends and family held out hope that he would be able to witness the first game of the Ducks' reinstated baseball program next year.
After all, it was Krause who spearheaded the effort to bring back the sport that he coached at the university from 1971 until the program was eliminated in 1981.
"He kept the little flicker of flame alive for 27 years, when many times it could have been just put out," said Joe Giansante, UO's director of community relations and special projects. "Those kids (on the team) next year have to understand that without Mel, they wouldn't have the opportunity to play baseball here."
Krause left a profound
mark on baseball history in Oregon at the high school and college level.
He was a three-sport athlete at Commerce (now Cleveland) High School in
Southeast Portland and earned varsity letters in basketball and baseball
at the University of Oregon from 1948 to 1951. He won two Northern Division
co-championships as the Ducks' head baseball coach.
More than wins and titles, though, the way Krause dealt with his players had the biggest impact.
"He was just magical about saying just the right things at just the right time," said Madison baseball coach Mike Keller, who played for Krause in 1977 before injuries cut short his career. "He understood people and had an instinct to know what a person needed. He was tough on me, but he also showed a tremendous amount of compassion."
Mel Krause used to joke with Jan, his wife of 20 years, that she was lucky she didn't know him during his playing and coaching days because of his hard-nosed nature. It's a rough exterior that Jan Krause saw her husband -- and his former players -- shed over the past few months.
"It was amazing to watch all of these macho men tell him how much they loved him," Jan Krause said.
That was especially the case in April at an event titled "9 innings with Mel Krause." The ceremony, before an audience of about 1,000 in Eugene, served as a tribute to Krause's life in lieu of a service after his death.
"This is a fun afternoon," Krause said then, "not a sad day."
Krause also was able to mingle with former UO players in Eugene before the Kevin Costner benefit concert May 31. Rob Closs, who played for Krause from 1975 to 1977, drove Krause and his wife to the event and will never forget how proud his former coach was that night.
"He had a dream to see this happen," Closs said of Oregon's reinstating baseball. "And he got the chance to see that dream fulfilled. I hope his legacy will live on."
Giansante, who said the main entry to the team's new ballpark will be called "The Mel Krause Entrance," said Krause was actively involved in the plans for the baseball program during the past year. Krause was instrumental in fundraising and enjoyed discussing potential players with coach George Horton.
"I always felt an obligation to run things through Mel for his approval," Giansante said. "I wanted to him to know that this was going to be in good hands."
Krause was a member of the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, the University of Oregon Athletic Hall of Fame and the Portland Interscholastic League Sports Hall of Fame. In February, Krause attended the dedication of the Mel Krause Sports Hall of Fame at Cleveland High School.
Krause played professionally for the Salem Senators (1954-56) and Eugene Emeralds (1957-61) in the Northwest League and later served as a major league baseball scout.
Even though Krause will miss the moment when college baseball returns to Eugene, his presence will be felt by many when the first pitch is thrown.
"You bet I'll be there, couldn't keep me away from it," Jan Krause said. "I learned so much about baseball from Mel, and I heard a lot of the same stories over and over again. He just loved Oregon baseball so much. He didn't really think it'd ever come back.
"It's a sad thing that he won't be there for opening day, but his family will be represented. It'll be pretty awesome."
Along with Jan, Mel Krause is survived by his son, Guy, and daughters, Gail Gaboriault, Jill Daniken and Kay Krause.
The family requests that any contributions in Krause's honor be made to the University of Oregon Baseball Equity Fund at 2727 Leo Harris Parkway, Eugene, OR 97401, or to the Commerce/Cleveland High School Alumni Association at 3400 S.E. 26th Ave. Portland, OR 97202.
Jeff Smith: 503-221-8546; email@example.com