By STEVE KRAH
I can still seem him.
Leaning on a fungo bat on a crisp South Bend day and grinning from the ear to ear.
Jim Reinebold was in his element — on a baseball field.
I asked him more than once over the years, how many grounders and fly balls he had launched with his trusty club.
He didn’t know the answer, but you were sure each was delivered with a purpose.
Reienbold, who died Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 87, insisted on doing things the way he thought was right.
Very quiet most of the time, but very intense when things were being done incorrectly or he thought the game was being disrespected.
J.R. was not going to stand for that.
Players wore their uniforms just so and they didn’t wear their caps backward — not in Reienbold’s dugout.
Reinebold was one of the first inducted into the first Hall of Fame class of Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association in 1979, an organization he helped found in 1971.
That makes sense because No. 4 was an original.
Generally credited with starting the tradition of presenting a “dinosaur” T-shirt to 20-year veterans of the IHSBCA, Reinebold did not shy away from the prehistoric description when it was attached to him.
A “dinosaur” in Reinebold’s gleaming eyes meant “you’ve been around a long time.”
But that’s not all.
“They believe in discipline and respect for the game,” Reinebold once said of old-schoolers like himself.
Young men who wore the uniform at Greene Township and South Bend Clay high schools when South Bend native was on the bench knew his passion and his drive.
Those “Hot Dog Classic” classes between Reienbold’s Clay Colonials and Ken Schreiber’s LaPorte Slicers were doozies.
Reinebold’s teams won 646 games — at the time of his retirement from high school baseball the most in state history — with an Indiana High School Athletic Association state title in 1970.
Then came a long stint in professional baseball, which included coaching in the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics organizations.
One the stories he liked to tell was set in 1971 when he working for the A’s and managing at short-season Coos Bay-North Bend — the latter a remote seaside town in Oregon. This club was far down the chain and got hand-me-downs from he parent club in Oakland.
“They’d turn the pants inside-out and re-sew them,” recalled Reinebold.
One day, the team ran out of baseballs so J.R. got on the phone to Oakland and who answers the phone but owner Charles O. Finley himself.
When Reinebold told him about his baseball shortage, there was no shipment on the way from Oakland. Charlie O. just told him to go to the local sporting goods store.
Reinebold was a fixture around Coveleski Stadium (now known as Four Winds Field), a place where son Joel has the distinction of clubbing the first home run and being the groundskeeper for many years. Jim was a long-time coach for the South Bend White Sox and South Bend Silver Hawks.
All that wisdom was shared in a new setting when Jim and Joel (who is now the head coach at Clay) started the Jim Reinebold Fall Baseball Camp in 1993. Instruction was — and still is — the hallmark of the annual gathering of players from around northern Indiana and southern Michigan.
Games were often stopped in the middle when J.R. saw something that needed to be addressed on the spot and the there was some yelling involved.
Reinebold was tough. Just ask wife Evelyn and the rest of his family. He was a fighter. Doctors and nurses who attended to him in frequent hospital visits in recent years.
But this is also the guy who could be soft-spoken and talk with you for hours about any subject. Catch him at the ballpark and would insist on getting a hot dog for himself and for you.
Yes, they don’t make them like No. 4 anymore.
Jim Reinebold works one of his fall baseball camp sessions. The Indiana baseball legend dies Feb. 8 at 87.