coach dies in Florida
The two-time MIAA coach of the year guided Southeast baseball into the Division I ranks.
Truman Smith thinks Palmer Muench doesn't get the credit he deserves for helping lead Southeast Missouri State's baseball program into Division I.
"Going Division I is not easy, but he did a good job and handled it really well," Smith said. "I don't think people give him nearly enough credit."
Muench, Southeast's baseball coach for 10 seasons from 1985 through 1994, died Thursday in Bradenton, Fla., where he had been living the past 15 years. He was 70.
"It was sad news," said Smith, a longtime Cape Girardeau resident who was Muench's assistant coach for his tenure at Southeast. "He was a good man, no doubt about that. We're going to miss him."
Muench, a Perryville native and one of only four coaches in the 51-year history of Southeast baseball, compiled a 235-206-3 record at Southeast.
Muench took over the program after the legendary Joe Uhls retired in 1984. Mark Hogan, Southeast's winningest baseball coach who recently completed his 15th season, succeeded Muench in 1995.
Muench, whose final three Southeast seasons were the program's first three in Division I, had his most success on the Division II level.
Six of Muench's first seven Southeast teams had winning records. He was MIAA coach of the year in 1985 and 1987 after leading Southeast to that conference's title both years.
"We had some real good teams with some great players," Smith said.
Smith pointed out that, even facing the difficulties of making the move from Division II, Southeast's first Division I squad in 1992 qualified for the Ohio Valley Conference tournament.
"It was a tough situation, but we did fine," Smith said. "You've got to remember, he came [to Southeast] at a time when the talk was we might go Division I, and we played at Capaha Park when it wasn't in very good shape, not like it is now."
According to Muench's wife of 50 years, Gloria, he appeared to be in good health until recently, when he began having complications from diabetes.
"We stayed in touch and he never said anything about his health being a problem," Smith said. "We'd been on vacation, and I just found out about it Saturday. It was a shock to me."
Muench, who had four coaching stops before coming to Southeast, moved to Bradenton after leaving Cape Girardeau. He spent 10 years working as an instructor at The IMG Baseball Academy and also coached baseball at Bradenton Prep.
In recent years, Muench had been involved heavily with Hope Seeds, a Christian charitable organization in Bradenton that provides seeds and agricultural support to missionaries and mission teams.
"He was a good Christian man," Smith said. "He helped a lot of people and touched a lot of people's lives."
Muench is survived by Gloria; their two sons, Gregg and Doug; three grandchildren; six brothers and one sister.
Gregg is a former baseball coach at Notre Dame High School who now coaches in the St. Louis area. Doug, who played for Muench at Southeast, is a teacher in Seoul, Korea.