John Milroy was born on August 6, 1915 in Renton and graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1934. His father passed away while John was a young boy and his mother raised the three boys and two girls by herself. One of his brothers, Walt Milroy, became one of the most successful high school basketball coaches in the state, having won a state championship in the 1960's.
John attended the College of Puget Sound with high school teammate Larry Ragan and Milroy served as captain all three years that he played-1936, 1937, and 1938. In their sophomore season under first-year coach Jimmy Ennis, a graduate student at the time, the Loggers won the Northwest League Conference championship in baseball, the first such crown ever for C.P.S. Their opponents consisted of Pacific University, Willamette University, Linfield College, Albany College, Whitman College, and Western Washington College of Education.
Members of that championship club included Mel Miller (catcher-Lincoln HS, Tacoma), Erling Tollefson (1B-Lincoln HS, Tacoma), Milroy (2B-Roosevelt HS), Frank Plouf (SS-Ballard HS), Bill Pate (3B-Lincoln HS, Seattle), Dan Mullan (Lincoln HS, Tacoma), Ed Burkland (LF-Mt. Vernon HS), John Van Etten (CF-Lincoln HS, Seattle), Les Briggs (RF-Broadway HS), Lou Staples (P-Lincoln, Tacoma), Larry Ragan (Roosevelt HS), and "Red" Underwood (Yakima HS), and Bob Ramsey (Lincoln HS, Seattle).
"Our team was very young the year we won the conference title," said Milroy recently. We had five freshmen, five sophomores, two juniors and no seniors and nine of us were from out of town. Seattle played baseball in school at the time but Tacoma only had a summer American Legion program so that's why we didn't have as many local players as you would think," remarked John. During his college career CPS had the distinction of beating both the University of Washington and Washington State College in single games during one season.
"When I got to CPS I had $ .50 to my name and so I got a National Youth Corps (NYC) job and worked for two years as an athletic equipment repair person under football coach Roy Sandberg. I made $ .30 per hour and got free room and board with a local family so I was set. Then I took a one-day crash course in how to operate a sewing machine so I could make repairs to the football pants and shoulder pads. Four years later I had a car and some nice clothes", commented Milroy.
While still at CPS Milroy worked with Jimmy Ennis operating elevators in the Washington Building. His next job was thanks to Jack Harrington, a real baseball fan who was a foreman at Oregon-Washington Plywood. Harrington hired Art Berg, Joey Peterson, and Hal Haughland as well and John earned $ .50 per hour as the person in charge of maintenance-loading box cars, running belt sanders, and keeping busy any way he could.
Summers one could find John playing baseball. In 1935 he was a member of the City League champion Superior Dairy team coached by Ocky Haughland. Jimmy Ennis, Cy Greenlaw and Les Bishop were some of his teammates. In 1938, right from the CPS campus, Milroy jumped into Class B professional ball as a member of the Tacoma Tigers of the Western International League. That year the team finished at the bottom of the standings and John played in 58 of the team's 135 game season and he finished with a .232 average. Among his teammates were Marv Rickert, Bishop and Lefty Isekite.
"In 1938 the Tacoma Tigers were said to have three teams-one coming, one on the field, and one going! As a farm team for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League they brought in many young rookies for testing, among them Ernie Raimondi, Skip Evart, Pat Ambrose, George Mandish, Harvey Storey and others. There was a real feeling of insecurity in the clubhouse."
"The Tigers ownership wanted to give a local player a try-thus my signing in May of 1938. I had a clause in my contract where I would get a bonus if I lasted the season. In a very unspectacular fashion I did manage to get the bonus. The bonus? A month's salary of $125.00. It paid for my CPS tuition the 1938-39 school year." Roger Peck, a banker who also owned the Tigers also made the player decisions. He and I both agreed that my limitations were such that I should think about coaching rather than playing baseball," recalled Milroy.
"Our manager at the start of the season was "Hack" Wilson but he had a tendency to nurse the "bottle" a little too much so he was replaced by Hal Rhyne for the rest of the season. I remember some good conversations with Dave Goodman because he had a business in the off-season and Larry Powell was a real nice guy," remarked John.
"I enjoyed playing in the City League because it was a little more relaxed. Of course a lot of the guys played in a Sunday semi-pro league as well because they made $5-$20 to play with pitchers getting even more. I remember Phil Goldwater. We called him "Goldie" and he did everything in the City League-kept stats, organized the schedules, did the PA sometimes. He was very efficient. And Roy Archer, the president of the league, would always come to every game. That was when we played the games at Lincoln Bowl. Most of us dressed at home but occasionally for those who couldn't or when barnstorming teams came to town there were allowed to dress and shower in the basement of a tavern over on 38th & Yakima," said Milroy.
It was not uncommon in the City League for sponsors to hire two or three players to work for them and then, coincidently have them play on the baseball team as well. This was the case when Ocky Haughland was a player-coach for Superior Dairy. In 1940 John Milroy was hired by owner Frank Johnson of Johnson Paint to coach and play for the Johnson Paint entry in the City League. For this he earned $15 per month on top of his regular wages. That same season the Painters faced the House of David club and enjoyed watching their trademark three-man pepper game. Milroy remembered vividly that Johnson liked to win, always. He also remembered that Frank Johnson was married eight times, and that Frank Gillihan was his best man seven of those times.
In July of 1941 Tacoma Truckers coach John Heinrick imported the famed Kansas City Monarchs to play an exhibition game against his squad. Heinrick bolstered his chances by inviting Jess Brooks, the former Tacoman and CPS star, to come down from playing with his Everett team to play against the Monarchs, a team he had played for several years earlier. Ray Spurgeon, the young catcher from Lincoln High School was also invited to participate by taking a break from his Olympia team. The starting lineup included outfielders Brooks, Rick Lewis, and Dave Minnitti; infielders Erling Tollefson at first, John Milroy at second, George Wise at short, and Marv Tommervik at third. Hal Schimling earned the catching duties and Billy Swell drew mound duty for the Truckers, opposing the great Satchel Paige of the Kansas City team.
Milroy remembers , "seeing that team drive up in an old broken down bus, but right behind them in an expensive car with a good looking girl sitting next to him came Satchel Paige. I was at bat and Paige threw a couple of questionable pitches that umpire Clarence Stave called balls. Paige called a timeout and wandered in to talk to Stave. I remember Satchel saying, "You know, I have to pitch every day and so I can't waste pitches. I need you to call these strikes because I can't afford to throw extra pitches. We can have a good time out here or not. I like to let these boys get a hit every now and then but if you aren't going to help me out them I will just strike every one of them out!"
"I already had a hit off of Paige earlier in the game," said Milroy, "so to hear this was a little deflating. He then proceeded to strike me out, although Billy Sewell pitched a great game and we beat Kansas City, 3-1."
John Milroy's education career started out in 1940 with a teaching position in Toledo followed by four years in the Navy. After a year at Stanwood High School he worked at Langley High School from 1948-50 where he served as principal and coach, taught PE and history, and coached the football, basketball, and baseball teams. After two years as head baseball and basketball coach at Everett Junior College he returned to Langley as their Superintendent of Schools. From 1960-67 he served as Superintendent of Schools for the Bethel School District and retired in 1978 after 11 years as an Administrative Assistant in the Tacoma School District.
As John Milroy neared his 89th birthday in August of 2004, he summed up his fondness for baseball by concluding, "Baseball is a finesse sport compared to football. Baseball was THE game. It did far more for me than I ever did for it."
JOHN MILROY John Milroy, born to Walter R. and Elsie G. Milroy August 6, 1915 in Renton, WA, passed away in Puyallup, WA November 9, 2007 at the age of 92. John attended Roosevelt HS, Seattle, WA; received degrees from College of Puget Sound (UPS) and Columbia University. He played baseball for the Tacoma Tigers, 1938; served as an Lt JG, US Naval Reserves during WWII. Beginning his career as a high school teacher in 1940, Toledo, WA John continued with the public school system for 34 years, including at Twin Cities HS, Stanwood, WA, where he met and married fellow teacher, Marian Patricia Ryan. Other positions included: coach, Everett Junior College, 1949-51; Superintendent, South Whidbey School District, 1951-60 and Bethel SD, 1960-67; Administrator of School Plant Planning, Tacoma SD, 1967-78. Preceded in death by his brother, Robert Milroy, John is survived by his wife of 60 years, Marian; daughters Peggy (Steve) VanKirk, Spanaway, WA, Shirley (Jim) Rave, Spanaway, Leah (John) Rave, Eatonville, WA, and Ruth Milroy, Olympia, WA; grandchildren Leah (Rick), Eric (Tracie), Daryl (Rebekah), Matt (Melanie), and Carla (Jay); 17 great-grandchildren; sisters Catherine King of Seattle, WA, Helen Gustafson of Portland, OR, and brother Walter (Virginia) Milroy, Edmonds, WA. A Memorial Service will be held Saturday, November 17, 2007,