HANCOCK – Everyone who has ever played sports against the late Merv Klemett knew one thing for sure: He always played to win.
The longtime baseball opponent Harold Filpus from Tapiola remembered competing against him.
“It did not matter what sport Merv played against you, he was looking to beat you,” Sa Filpus.
Klemett, a native of Hancock, was involved in sports in the area for seven decades.
It included baseball in the summer and setting up hockey rentals and leagues in the winter.
And as he got older, he helped organize softball leagues for older players.
“Merv was one of those guys who was always involved in something,” said one of Klemett’s former teammates, Joe Geborkoff from Hancock. “He wanted to be busy.”
But it was mainly in baseball that Klemett’s play was noticed.
Klemett won five Twilight League battles, including one season in which he hit .425.
He started his career with the Hancock Merchants in 1956 and was on the team that played a child storming group with major leagues in 1957.
The group included players such as Hall of Famer George Kell and Johnny Groth and Charlie Maxwell of the Detroit Tigers.
“Maxwell hit two home runs that day,” Said Klemett in an interview from 1995. “I played in the right field, and they looked like peas going over the fence.”
He eventually formed the Bancroft Dairy team in the Twilight League in the early 1960s with a group of young players.
One of them was Mark Halkola, a somewhat wild left-handed pitcher.
Halkola said that Klemett taught him how to become a complete pitcher.
“Merv (Klemett) was a teacher above all,” Halkola remembered. “He emphasized the basics in every aspect of the game.”
With jugs like Halkola and veteran Ed Kokkila. Bancroft dominated the league for several years.
This dominance was stopped by a young Superior National Bank group led by the late Rick Miller in the mid-1970s.
Miller said most of the children growing up in Hancock were influenced by Klemett.
“You could not play baseball without getting a lot from him,” Miller remarked a few years ago. “He really knew the game.”
Klemett, who died in 2011, later played in the softball leagues 35 and over and over 50. He was also a longtime referee.
He, along with Paul Hill from Wolverine, also helped kick-start the annual Wolverine-Portage Lake Oldtimers baseball game. It has been played for more than 30 years.
In his spare time, Klemett served as an officer in the Copper Country Junior Hockey Association and the Portage Lake Little League Association.
The City of Hancock Recreation Committee named the hardball court in his honor in 2020.