Born in Tacoma in 1934 and a 1952 graduate of Lincoln high, Merle Hagbo established himself in his hometown as a baseball coach and football official.
As a high school and amateur ballplayer, Hagbo played second base, third base and outfield on numerous city and Pierce County teams, including the American Legion Post 138 team in 1950 and 1950. As a high school athlete, Merle played baseball for Bill Mullen but he made his biggest mark as a football player under coach Norm Mayer, and went on to play quarterback at Humboldt State in 1954 and 1955.
Merle also played for the South End Boys Club under Don Danielson and in the 60's played on the Pee Wee Tavern slowpitch team coached by Jack Johnson and the 2121 Pub coached by Foister Amburgy.
Merle came back to the area to teach and in 1963 started a successful career coaching baseball at Clover Park High School. He retired in 1996 but not before his teams won three South Puget Sound League championships. His 1973 squad, featuring Ron Gee, placed second at the state tournament. Hagbo was named District 8 Coach of the Year in 1972 and 1973 and the Washington State High School Coach of the Year in 1973.
Hagbo also coached the Lakewood Rotary Connie Mack team from 1971-74 and the Lakewood Legion team from 1974-77. His 1972 and 1973 teams were the Northwest Connie Mack Champions and played in the West Coast Championships each season, finishing second in 1973.
Former players under Hagbo's guidance that played professionally include Mason Elvrom (Oakland A's), Randy Peterson (New York Mets), Phil Westendorf (Kansas City Royals), Joe Keller (Los Angeles Dodgers), Rick Austin (Cleveland Indians), Dan Gordon (Toronto Bluejays), and Wayne and Richard Lee (both with Kansas City Royals). Other top players included Jim Pelander, Barry Crust, Ron Staples, Ron Gee, Buddy Bear, Bill Kirkwood, Bill Wiggins, Dave Tate, Brian Hagbo, Harold Adams, Steve Anderson, and Jackie Kellogg.
With an affinity for always being involved in the Lakewood community, Merle ran the Lakewod Little League program from 1962-1983, schedule games and assigning umpires. It also gave him a chance to maintain a watchful over his players by having them prep the fields and some of those include Barry Crust, Jim Pelander, Rick Austin, Pete Pilkey, Brian Hagbo, Randy Mauk and Bill and Bob Wiggins.
Merle also has a long history as a football official, wearing the striped shirt on the gridiron for 50 years, including 27 at the Division II, II and NAIA college level. He was selected to work in 15 high school state championship games, in addition to numerous semifinal contests, and in 10 college playoffs, including the 1995 NAIA title contest at the Tacoma Dome when Central Washington University and Findlay University of Ohio battled to a 21-21 tie.
Merle received the Outstanding Official Award for District 8 from the National Federation of Interscholastic Officials Association in 1998. He was inducted into the Washington State High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1988 and is also a member of the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Hall of Fame
1973 LAKEWOOD ROTARYNorthwest Connie Mack Champions
Played Long Beach, CA for the West Coast Championship
Back row l. to r.: Coach Merle Hagbo, Joe Keller, Tom Schaler, Phil Westendorf, Randy Peterson, Rich Wholey and Dave Tate.
Front row l. to r.: Harold Adams, Buddy Bear, Rich Martin, Ron Gee, and Bill Kirkwood.
CLOVER PARK WARRIORS
Back row l. to r.: Coach Merle Hagbo, Joe Keller, Kevin Isaac, Randy Peterson, Phil Westendorf, Mike Evers, Larry Longrie, Tom Schaler, Steve Weber, Duane Fromhart, and Bill Wiggins.
Front row l. to r.: Buddy Bear, Bill Kirkwood, Claude Jameson, Ron Gee, Mark Norrie, Dave Tate, and Greg Alyea.