The Obit For Dutch Fehring

William P. “Dutch” Fehring, 93


Longtime Menlo Park resident, William Paul “Dutch” Fehring, a beloved, iconic figure in the Stanford athletics community, passed away at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration hospital on Thursday, April 13, 2006.

Fehring was born on May 31, 1912 in Columbus, Indiana, where his parents Lynn and Ivy Rae Fehring owned a buggy business before acquiring Terre Haute Heavy Hardware (later renamed the Hardware Supply Co.). Fehring attended Lutheran schools with brothers Ray and Ted and became a star athlete for the Columbus (Central) High Bull Dogs, gaining All-State honors in football as a senior in 1930.

It was during his freshman year in high school, however, that he earned the nickname “Dutch,” which may at first seem a bit odd for a young man of German descent. After Fehring returned a kickoff 60 yards for a touchdown, a local sportswriter tabbed him “The Flying Dutchman” and the nickname stuck.

In 1939 Fehring married Edna Rose Suverkrup, whom he had known since the first grade. Later, the couple would live together in the same house in Menlo Park from 1951 until Mrs. Fehring's passing in March of 2005. Their 66-year marriage was blessed with three daughters (Susan Fehring Hanson, Ann Fehring Larkin and Carol Fehring Irvin), eight grandchildren (Mark Hanson, Michael Taylor, Kelly Lang, Kristen Larkin, Lauren Irvin, Matthew Larkin, Ashley Irvin, and Daniel Irvin) and two great-grandchildren (Elizabeth Hull-Taylor and Colby Dutch Taylor). He is survived by his brother, Ted Fehring of Carmel, Calif. Fehring was a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (ELS).

He earned his Bachelor of Science (1934) and Master's Degree (1936), both in Physical Education from Purdue University, attended New York University, and later obtained a Doctor of Education from Stanford University in 1952.

In the 1930s, Fehring was unquestionably one of the most accomplished collegiate athletes of the era. A three-sport star at Purdue University, he excelled in football, baseball, and basketball, gaining honorable mention All-American honors in football in 1933. He is one of only two athletes in Purdue history to letter nine times, a feat that ensured his induction as part of the inaugural class of the Purdue University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994. Remarkably, he is a member of six additional athletic halls of fame including the Stanford University Athletic Hall of Fame, the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame and the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame.

A three-year starter at left tackle for Noble Kizer's Boilermaker football team from 1931-33, Fehring was the captain of the ‘33 football team, and played on Big Ten title teams in ‘31 and '32. In baseball, the 6'0”, 195-lb Fehring was a three-year letterman as Purdue's switch-hitting starting catcher, hitting .297 for his career, always batting fifth in the line-up.

In basketball, Fehring helped lead the Boilermakers to two Big Ten titles. He was a teammate and travel roommate of Purdue's legendary Johnny Wooden, and the two would enjoy a life-long close friendship. With sophomore Fehring at center and senior Wooden at guard, the Boilermakers won the 1932 national championship, although they didn't know it at the time. Tournament play was not instituted until 1939, and it wasn't until 1943 that the team was voted the official 1932 national champion by the Helms Foundation.

The Great Depression was on, so in addition to sports, studies, and membership in the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, Fehring somehow found time to sell advertising for the football program and work in the athletic training room in order to meet the steep $65 per semester tuition bill.

After captaining the 1933 Purdue football team and being named the Big Ten's baseball MVP in 1934 after hitting .317, the three-sport star was awarded the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 1934 “for combined athletic and scholastic prowess”.

After declining several opportunities to play professional football, Fehring followed his favorite sport, baseball, and was signed by the Chicago White Sox after final exams in the spring of his senior year in 1934. His career in major league baseball consisted of just two and a half innings during a game played at Yankee Stadium on June 25, 1934, just two weeks after he joined the club. After entering as a substitute catcher in the seventh inning. Fehring came up with a truly memorable moment, tagging out famed New York Yankee Lou Gehrig at the plate as “the Iron Horse” unwisely attempted an inside-the-park home run.

As Fehring applied the tag on Gehrig, he made a small but important mark in the baseball record book. When a batter is thrown out at the plate trying for a home run, he is still given credit for a triple. Gehrig's three-bagger meant that he had hit for the cycle that day, the first and only time Gehring would accomplish that feat in his storied career.

Forsaking pro ball in favor of coaching, Fehring returned to West Lafayette. He served as the Purdue baseball coach for seven years (1936-42) and worked as an assistant football coach at the same time. During World War II, he entered the U.S. Navy, serving his country from 1943-46 and coaching the U.S. Navy's Iowa Pre-Flight team among others. He was an admiral's staff officer in the 14th Naval District, eventually receiving an honorable discharge with the rank of Senior Grade Lieutenant. After the war, he coached the offensive line at the University of Oklahoma under Bud Wilkinson for two years and at UCLA for one year in 1948, where he famously recommended to the Bruin athletic director his old college buddy John Wooden for the head basketball coaching position. Wooden was offered the job, and the rest is college basketball history.

The next year, in 1949, Fehring was brought up to Palo Alto by Stanford athletic director and head baseball coach Everett Dean. Dean, a native of Salem, Indiana who had previously served as both baseball and basketball coach at Indiana University, hired Fehring as an assistant baseball coach. True to his multi-sport roots, Fehring would do double duty as chief scout and key assistant to Stanford's head football coach at the time, former Notre Dame All-American Marchie Schwartz.

Fehring would eventually succeed Dean as head baseball coach in 1956, a position he would hold until 1967. Aided by his longtime assistant coach and friend William G. “Billy” Alhouse, he is credited with putting the Cardinal on the path to becoming a national baseball power, leading Stanford to 11 winning seasons during his 12-year tenure as head baseball coach. He guided Stanford to the College World Series in 1967, setting school records for most wins in a season (36) and for highest season winning percentage (.849, 36-6-1). By the time he retired from coaching in 1967 (after guiding the `67 squad to a third-place finish at the CWS), Fehring had amassed 290 wins and was the winningest baseball coach in Stanford history.

His outstanding 1967 team, led by captain Dick Swan, Frank Duffy, Mike Schomaker, pitchers “Sandy” Vance, Don Rose, and Rod Poteete, and First Team All-American first baseman Mark Marquess (Stanford's head coach of the past three decades), finished the regular season ranked #1 in the country and lost a 4-3, 14-inning heartbreaker to Arizona State on a freak hit in the championship semi-final game of the College World Series. The highly respected Stanford skipper was named NCAA, Pacific 8, and District 8 Coach of the Year and received the Lefty Gomez Silver Star Award for contributions to amateur baseball in the United States.

Fehring holds the unique distinction of being the only person in Stanford history to coach a team in both the Rose Bowl and the College World Series.

Fehring's Stanford glory was not limited to the school's famed baseball field, Sunken Diamond. As an assistant football coach for 17 years from 1949 to 1966, he was on hand for some of the most memorable moments at the old Stanford Stadium as well. After an exciting 27-20 victory by undefeated Stanford over undefeated and favored USC in 1951, a contest considered by Stanford fans at the time to be “The Game of the Century,” Fehring and head coach Charles A. “Chuck” Taylor were carried off the field on the shoulders of their jubilant Stanford players, celebrating Stanford's right to the Rose Bowl, a once-in-a-lifetime moment described by one local sportswriter “as the alpha and the omega of grid thrills!”

He retired from coaching baseball after the 1967 season to move up to a position as Stanford's Director of Intramurals and Club Sports, eventually retiring from Stanford in 1977. Fehring then became known to hundreds of Stanford fans through his work organizing sports travel tours with close friend and business partner Paul Cardoza.

One of the most dedicated and active advocates for amateur baseball, Fehring was a past president of the World Amateur Baseball Federation, the United States Baseball Federation, and the American Baseball Coaches Association [ABCA]. A 49-year member of the ABCA, he is a member of the ABCA Hall of Fame and served on the organization's Veterans Committee for many years. The U.S. Baseball Federation annually awards The W.P. "Dutch" Fehring Award of Merit “for outstanding service to baseball.”

Fehring was also chairman of the United States Olympic Games Baseball Committee, helping select and coach the 1964 Tokyo Olympic exhibition team and was instrumental in helping field American teams at the 1967 Pan-American Games and at many other international events. He also served on the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee. Locally, he served as Commissioner of Little League of Menlo Park, Calif. and on the board of the Little League of Palo Alto, Calif.

He was a member of the Rotary International.

A special service will be held at Stanford's Memorial Church on Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 2:00pm. Immediately following the service, a reception will be held at Dallmar Court in The Arrillaga Family Sports Center.