First Family of Sports Award-Detail

Supporting youth & sports since 1942.

First Family of Sports Award-Detail
First Family of Sports Award-Detail

The Heinrick Family - John, Irene, Jack, Patricia, Margaret, Dennis, and Kathleen
2020
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    The Heinrick Family-John, Irene, Jack, Patricia, Margaret, Dennis and Kathleen

    By TODD MILLES

    John David Heinrick prayed he finally had an extraordinary athlete in his immediate family.

    And he would brag to anybody who came into his barber shop in downtown Tacoma - one of the city's true sports-talk hubs at the turn of the 20th century - that his son would end up being a multi-sport marvel.

    What John Patrick Heinrick became was Tacoma's first true all-inclusive sports icon.

    Heinrick was a high-school and college three-sport standout. He coached many sports at the city-league, high-school and collegiate level - for the better part of five decades. He was an athletic director. He officiated locally - and as prominently in the Pacific Coast Conference (later to become the Pac-12). He even helped design the city's most visible basketball facility. - Memorial Fieldhouse on the University of Puget Sound campus.

    Equally important to his lifetime mission, Heinrick was a public servant. He was an educator. He ran for local government positions. And socially, there were few like him.

    "Everything just came naturally to him," said Kathleen (Heinrick) Coleman, Heinrick's youngest daughter - and last living child at 79 years old. "He was just real. He was a great man."

    A man headed for a life full of adventures.

    Heinrick was born in 1904, the second child to JD and Effie (Bayless) Heinrick.

    As a youth, Heinrick would spend countless hours in the backyard of the family's north-end home swinging a baseball bat, or throwing a football.

    His mother told Dick Lyall, of the Tacoma Times in a 1949 article that she used to always ask her son why he constantly did that.

    "And always (it was) the same answer - 'I'm just exercising so I can make my arms strong so I will be a good athlete.'" Effie Heinrick recalled.

    Heinrick often walked up to Tacoma Stadium to shag fly balls during city-league baseball tryouts. And he and his buddies jogged through the woods from his house to the old YMCA grounds - which later became the site of the UPS campus - to play sandlot football and baseball.

    In 1918, after spending a summer working a job in the shipyards, he entered Stadium High School. Because of his diminutive size (6-0, 135 pounds), he started out as a center on the school's midget football team. He also was a guard on the boys basketball squad, and a do-everything utility player on the varsity baseball club.

    After graduating in 1922, Heinrick went on to play one season of football at St. Martin's before a serious illness forced him to miss basketball and baseball.

    He transferred to Central Washington University (known as "Ellensburg Normal" back in the day) the next fall, and was a starting defensive end in football, a shooting guard in basketball and played shortstop in baseball.

    Injuries ravaged the CWU football team so badly during his junior year in 1925, then-coach B.A. Leonard took a vote among his players on whether to cancel the final two games or not.

    Heinrick not only voted to continue the season, he was appointed a captain - and led the team to victory playing quarterback against his former school, St. Martin's.

    It was after that season when Heinrick wed his college sweetheart, Irene Peterson, who grew up in Auburn.

    A year after finishing up his undergraduate degree at the University of Washington, he returned to Tacoma with a burgeoning family (first child, John R., or "Jack" was born in 1926) in tow to become the full-time supervisor of Central Playground.

    Every youth team he coached in his short stint won a city championship, which led to high-school football and basketball coaching jobs at St. Leo's High School (1927-28)/Bellarmine Prep (1929-34) and his alma mater, Stadium (won nine city league football titles, and two state titles from 1935-46).

    While all of this was going on, Heinrick embarked on another side career - officiating.

    It happened by accident, he later recalled, as all he really wanted to do was help out by working UPS scrimmages. But one night, when a referee for the Loggers-St. Marin's game did not show up, Heinrick got a call to fill in - and his officiating days in football, basketball, baseball and softball were officially underway.

    Heinrick had developed such an artful reputation as an official, he eventually began working Pacific Coast football (1938) and basketball games (1939-45).

    What else did he do during "summer vacations"? Well, one of his unheralded accomplishments was coaching the Johnson Paint semi-pro baseball team to a fifth-place finish at the 1937 National Baseball Congress tournament in Kansas. That team included future big-leaguers Freddie Hutchinson and Earl Johnson.

    But Heinrick's most notable influence in Tacoma sports came when he started his coaching and administrative careers at UPS (then-called the College of Puget Sound) in 1945.

    By then, his household was full with all five of his children - Jack, Pat (born in 1929), Maggie (1932), Dennis (1933) and Kathleen (1941).

    He started out as the part-time basketball coach in 1945, winning 187 games in 14 seasons while leading the Loggers to a pair of NAIA national tournament appearances in Kansas City.

    Arguably his most momentous coaching moment came in basketball in 1948 when he led UPS to an upset over the UW, 48-41, at the sold-out Tacoma Armory.

    Doug McArthur, one of the city's all-time greats in sports promotion, was in the stands that night as a Lincoln High School student. He called that win "one of the greatest moments in Tacoma sports history."

    Heinrick, also the school's athletic director, had even more success with UPS football, winning 89 games and five Evergreen Conference championships in his 17 seasons from 1948-64.

    Former Washington state senator and Pierce County executive Joe Stortini remembers Heinrick taking a chance on an "average player" out of Lincoln High School, and guiding him into becoming a Loggers hall-of-famer in two sports, including as a quarterback from 1951-55.

    "He was a players' coach," Stortini said. "A lot of the guys knew him on a personal basis. He'd have them come over to his house for chats and talk about everything."

    On the field? Well, Stortini chuckled about all the days that were "Heinrick birthdays."

    "That's the thing I remember most," Stortini said. "We played PLU eight times in my career, and regardless of when we played them, it was always his 'birthday' - even though it wasn't his real birthday. We just wanted to win those games for him. And we did - we were 7-1 against them."

    Jim Mancuso, a standout from Franklin Pierce High School who started out playing football for Jim Owens at the UW, transferred to UPS to play wide receiver and placekicker for the Loggers - and eventually serve as one of Heinrick's assistant coaches.

    "Heinrick did it all. He was a coach. He was an AD. He taught classes. He knew the game," Mancuso said. "He was kind of that all-around guy. You wouldn't find somebody doing that now."

    Mancuso recalls going to a coaches' clinic with Heinrick at the UW in the mid-1960s, and realizing what made the Tacoma legend such a tremendous mentor.

    "I was exposed to a large group of coaches, so I took out a notebook with me to write everything down," Mancuso said. "What impressed me the most was when I sat down next to Heinrick, he was doing the same thing.

    "He had been around the game a long time, and yet he was still a student of the game."

    As enormously-popular as he was around campus - everybody referred to him as just "Coach" - Heinrick was larger than life at home.

    Shannon Heinrick, the oldest grand-daughter (and Jack's daughter), remembers going to family dinners on Sunday nights, and wandering up to her grandfather's office upstairs.

    "It was sacred," she said.

    On one of those nights before a Loggers game, John Heinrick invited Shannon, then 6 years old, to go up to his desk, pull out a piece paper and design a play he said he would run against Whitworth.

    "He came upstairs, looked at all the Xs and Os I drew up and told me, 'That will work,'" Shannon said. "He said, 'Come up to the game, and I will tip my hat to tell you I just ran the play.'"

    Shannon stood near the fence anxious waiting. When the Loggers finally scored a touchdown, she looked in her grandfather's direction.

    "He tipped his hat," she said. "I knew then it was my play."

    Of course, he had a heavy sports-related influence over future family generations.

    John "Jack" Heinrick was a football standout at Stadium, and came back from Washington State University to play for his dad.

    Jack was best known for leading Stadium High School to the 1959 state boys basketball title with future ABA/NBA guard Charlie Williams leading the way.

    He later became the first men's basketball coach at Tacoma Community College in the mid-1960s. He also officiated high school football and basketball.

    "He was tough and fair, and he learned that from John," said Martha (Heinrick) Konicek, Jack's youngest daughter. "Whereas Papa liked all the attention, my dad did not. He just loved the game ... and he was very humble."

    While Pat (Heinrick) Koester was a diving champion in years at Stadium, it was her younger sister - Maggie Heinrick - who many have deemed as the family's best athlete.

    At 12, Maggie was a starting catcher for a women's all-state traveling softball team out of Fort Lewis. And while at Stadium, she played on a number of local all-star softball squads, including the Hollywood Boat and Motor team that starred in the Northwest Women's Major League.

    "She could do anything," said Joyce Jones Wolf, a teammate of Maggie's. "We'd have her in the outfield. She pitched. She caught. She was a wonderful athlete. And it was just natural, not learned."

    Maggie bowled, and later played women's basketball and field hockey at UPS. Former Loggers' All-American wide receiver Joe Peyton would remark that, after watching Maggie casually catch passes during football practice, that she could be a starter on the football team.

    She would then go on to officiate basketball and softball at the collegiate level, and coach girls sports at Curtis High School.

    Looking to blaze his own trail, Dennis Heinrick - who was a ballboy for Tacoma's only professional basketball team, the Mountaineers (1947-48) - migrated to Blaine after playing tight end at Stadium, UPS and for the U.S. Army team while serving in the Korean War.

    He coached the Blaine High School boys basketball teams for seven seasons. Ironically enough, he took the Borderites the state tournament held at the UPS Fieldhouse in the mid-1960s.

    Dennis also coached girls basketball, and was an assistant football coach at the high school. He also did some local basketball officiating.

    "He wanted to get away from the Tacoma deal," said Don Heinrick, Dennis' son. "He was the second son, so he knew he wasn't the favorite son."

    Kathleen (Heinrick) Coleman dabbled in sports, but was known around the house as the fastest sprinter - and best dancer (like her mother).

    Some of the grand-children had standout athletic careers as well: John Robert Heinrick (son of Jack) played basketball at Tacoma CC for his father, and was a longtime volleyball official in Arizona; Shannon Heinrick played basketball and field hockey at UPS, and was a longtime area high school coach and referee (and represented the USA in the World Dragon Boat Championships); Martha Konicek was a swimmer and tennis player at Stadium High School; and Don and Teri Heinrick played basketball at Blaine High School.

    The Heinrick family, indeed, is one of the authentic sports-royalty families of Tacoma, led by the patriarchal Hall-of-Famer John Patrick Heinrick, who chose to stay home rather than chase bigger jobs.

    "I felt there was a job to be done - whether I was coaching in junior high in Tacoma, or high school or college," Heinrick said in a 1977 interview - 18 years before his death. "And if I gave it everything I had, I was contributing to the welfare of many, many people."

    First Family of Sports Award-Detail