Friday, November 16

A Man of His Word


To remember former UCLA baseball coach Art Reichle is to understand the meaning of loyalty

By Pauline Vu

Daily Bruin Senior Staff

The UCLA record books mention that Art Reichle served as the
Bruin head baseball coach for 30 years; that he led the Bruins to
their first College World Series appearance in 1969; that he
compiled a 747-582-12 overall record; that he was inducted into the
UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998.

But there was a lot more to Art Reichle than just stats.

He was a man whose word was his bond. A friend who gave as much
loyalty as he inspired. A father who passed these values to his
children.

And though Arthur Eugene Reichle Jr., 86, died May 23 of heart
failure, those who showed up at The Church of the Way in Van Nuys
the day before Father’s Day did not come to mourn his death
so much as to honor his life.

“It’s not within my vocabulary to adequately express
how I feel about him,” former UCLA men’s basketball
coach John Wooden said. “Art, we love you, we miss you,
we’ll never forget you.”

Denny Crum, the head men’s basketball coach in Louisville
and a former UCLA assistant coach, was another speaker at the
memorial. “You couldn’t have a better friend than Art
Reichle,” he said. “And while we all certainly will
miss Art, he could not be in better hands.”

An earlier memorial was held in Florida, where Reichle moved in
1989. The Van Nuys memorial was held by Reichle’s son Richard
and daughter Denise, who live in the Los Angeles area. Most of the
approximately 75 people present were UCLA-related. They included
Wooden, Crum, current baseball coach Gary Adams, former men’s
swimming and water polo coach Bob Horn (1963-1990), and a host of
former players.

Those present remembered the good times with Reichle. Wooden
recalled his kindness toward him when Wooden first moved to
California from the Midwest.

“The big city frightened me. Art was one of two people to
begin with who really befriended me,” he said.

Wooden recounted that when he and his wife Nellie bought their
house in Los Angeles, it cost them everything they had and they did
not have enough money left to have someone set up their sprinkler
system. Then one day out of the blue, Reichle showed up with
several players to install the system for Wooden.

A similar incident occurred later. Telling Wooden, “You
ought to get a basketball court,” Reichle showed up one day
and together, Wooden and Reichle built a concrete court for
Wooden’s kids.

“He was a very giving person, and he had a heart as big as
his body,” Wooden said. “He’d help anyone, give
anything.”

Others also recalled Reichle’s loyalty.

Ross Hoffman, a Bruin first baseman from 1967 to 1968,
remembered the first time he spoke to Reichle. Hoffman was then a
freshman phenom at the College of the Sequoias, and when his school
and UCLA faced off, Hoffman almost single-handedly destroyed the
Bruins. After the game Reichle came up to him and said, “I
want you to play for our team.”

Play for UCLA? It was Hoffman’s dream come true. Just one
problem.

“I told him, “˜I would love to play for UCLA ““
but I promised the coach here I would stay for two
years,’” Hoffman said.

Reichle was silent for a moment, and then said, “Son,
I’m gonna save your scholarship.”

When Hoffman came to UCLA one year later, he found a scholarship
waiting for him. “Art would always stand by you,” he
said.

Reichle was tough as well. For many years he owned ranches and
ran summer camps for city kids to learn how to live in the forest
and care for horses. Gary Anglen, a former pitcher and ranch
worker, recalled one time when Reichle turned around on his horse
to take a picture of those behind him when the horse bucked and
threw him off ““ hard.

“Art didn’t say a word, though we knew he was
hurting. He just got back on his horse and rode on,” Anglen
said. “It turned out he broke three ribs. He spent two weeks
in bed, even though it was supposed to be six, and ran his ranch
from there.”

He was strong to the end. When Wooden heard Reichle was ill he
gave him a phone call.

“They told me he was too weak to talk. Then I heard a
voice say, “˜Who is that?’ When they told him it was me,
he said, “˜I’ll talk. I want to talk to
Johnny,’” Wooden said. “I got to share a few
words with him before he left to go to a more wonderful
place.”

And to his kids, Reichle was just the best father.

“We’ve heard about the privilege of Art Reichle as a
friend. Well, guess what. I get to talk about having him as a
father,” a tearful Richard Reichle said. “I bet you he
was a better father than a friend. Actually, there’s no bet.
Decision’s been made. God knows he was an awesome
father.”

That day, 75 people gathered and remembered the things that made
Art Reichle memorable: his penchant for giving out nicknames; his
desire to help children grow into good people; his habit of giving
so much that he was known for trying to out-give others.

And they remembered what Reichle believed in ““ loyalty to
friends and honoring your word. They were values he both lived and
taught, and his lessons are ones those he loved will never forget.
But maybe that’s because Reichle never let them forget that
he’d always be there for them.

At the memorial, Anglen finished his tribute to his former coach
and mentor by recalling something Reichle said to him before he
died:

“There’ll always be a saddle, there’ll always
be a horse, and when you get to heaven, we’ll finish that
ride.”

. . .

Reichle is survived by his wife, Ruth, 82; son Art Sr., 54;
daughter Denise Margarit, 49; son Richard, 47; and granddaughter
Chanel Rachel, 2.

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