Elmer Kohorst was a standout high school baseball player when he was spotted by a major league baseball scout.
The scout, Cy Slapnicka, who had signed Baseball Hall of Famer Bob Feller, had a suggestion for Kohorst.
"The scout thought it might be better to see if I could get a college scholarship first," Kohorst told Senior Perspective, a monthly newspaper published in Glenwood, Minn., in 2019.
Slapnicka recommended Kohorst to the baseball coach at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. That, and Kohorst's talent, did the trick.
At Notre Dame, Kohorst became the first player in school history to earn All-America honors in baseball — in 1956 and 1957 — and led the Irish to their first berth in the College World Series (in 1957). At Notre Dame, he was a roommate of Heisman Trophy winner and future Green Bay Packer great Paul Hornung.
Kohorst died Dec. 4 at his home in his hometown of Albany, Minn. He was 87.
"He was such a pillar of the community here in so many ways and always a pleasure to visit with," Albany High School Athletics and Activities Director Scott Buntje wrote in an e-mail. "He was such a nice, positive, genuine and humble man — you would have never known he had so many accomplishments and brushes with fame in his life."
Kohorst was born on June 1, 1933, in Albany, the fourth of 12 children of Anna and Clem Kohorst.
After eighth grade, he paused his education and went to work on the family farm. Two years later, he returned to school and graduated from Albany High School in 1953.
After graduating from Notre Dame in 1957 with a degree in physical education, he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers and joined the St. Paul Saints. He got a hit in his first professional game — the Saints' 10-8 victory over Denver at Midway Stadium in St. Paul. But after he had played five games with the Saints, the Dodgers assigned him to Pueblo (Colo.) of the Western League.
He spent the rest of the season there. During spring training with the Dodgers in 1958, he caught for future Hall of Fame pitchers Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax.
He spent the 1958 and 1959 seasons in the minor leagues. After the 1959 season, he retired and accepted a teaching and coaching position at St. John's Preparatory School in Collegeville, Minn.
He coached the St. John's Prep basketball and baseball teams, as well as the St. John's University baseball team for three seasons. He also was an assistant St. John's University basketball coach for two seasons. For five years, he also coached teams in summer collegiate baseball leagues.
"While I still admire and respect his athletic accomplishments," grandson John Ghyzel, who is a pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds organization, wrote in an e-mail, "as I've gotten older, I've come to really appreciate and look up to the way he treated people."
In 1971, Kohorst left St. John's Prep and went into the insurance business in Albany. He retired from that in 2010.
Buntje wrote that Kohorst, who is a member of the Albany Huskies Hall of Fame, "always had such an interest in all of our teams and the athletes here at school right up until the end. With his background, his insights were always valuable to hear. Elmer will be missed by me and our community in many ways."
Kohorst is survived by his wife of 64 years, Aurelia; three sons, Kevin of Albany, Joseph of Cedar Park, Texas, and Gary of San Antonio, Texas; a daughter, Therese Ghyzel of Centreville, Va.; five brothers; three sisters; 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Services have been held.
Joel Rippel • 612-673-4719