Former ballplayer served as mentor in a varied career
By Mark Zaloudek
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Joe Lutz, who coached for the Cleveland Indians in the early 1970s, later ran the Boys Club of Sarasota.Whether he was coaching professional baseball players, helping high school and college athletes hone their skills or running the Boys Club of Sarasota for more than a decade, Joe Lutz had the same mission.
He wanted youths and young adults to develop self-confidence and the social skills that would help them succeed.
"What we try to do here is teach a child how to stand on his or her own two feet and make wise decisions in life," Lutz said in 1986 after 10 years as executive director of the Boys Club. "We also teach them manners and to respect the rights of others."
He died Monday at 83 after being in declining health in recent years from a stroke and diabetes.
After playing in baseball's minor leagues for several years after World War II, he briefly joined the majors with the St. Louis Browns in 1951. He was also a coach for the Cleveland Indians from 1971 to 1973 and was the first Caucasian manager of a major league baseball team in Japan.
A high school baseball standout, Lutz was 16 when he signed his first contract to play professionally, but World War II postponed his baseball career.
He enlisted in the Marine Corps after graduating from high school in 1942 and served in the South Pacific during the war.
After returning home, he played in the minor leagues in Elmira, N.Y., and San Antonio, Texas, while earning his bachelor's and master's degrees in science.
He played with the Browns in the spring of 1951 before being traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers, where he played on its minor league team.
He ended his baseball career to coach high school baseball, football and basketball in Argyle and Davenport, Iowa, and led his baseball team in Davenport to the state title.
He was also an instructor and athletic coach at Parsons College in Iowa and Southern Illinois University. While at Southern Illinois, he was named the National Coach of the Year in 1968 by the American Association of College Coaches.
"He was always concerned about young people and dedicated his life in that direction," said his wife, Jane.
Joe Lutz became a first-base coach for the Cleveland Indians in 1971 after coordinating its minor league teams.
He went overseas in 1974 as a batting instructor for the Hiroshima Carp major league team in Japan and was promoted to manager the following year.
Born Feb. 18, 1925, in Keokuk, Iowa, Rollin Joseph "Joe" Lutz moved to Sarasota with his family in 1969 while he worked with the Indians.
He was the executive director of the Boys Club for 12 years before being forced out in 1988 amid concerns of the cash-strapped organization's financial management.
During the 1970s, Lutz also chaired a government advisory committee that helped create the county's bus system.
In addition to his wife of 60 years, he is survived by three sons: Joe Jr. of Miami, Larry of Swisher, Iowa, and Jay of Reston, Va.; a daughter, Jan, of Cape Coral; two sisters, Edie Harmeyer of Fort Madison, Iowa, and Kay Calvert of Seattle; and four grandchildren.
A private memorial service will take place in November.