Following a doubleheader at the stadium named for him, Englewood High School baseball legend Harry Wise will be honored with a celebration of life ceremony. The games on May 6 are meant to honor and remember Wise’s legacy as a teacher and multi-sport coach who was an inspiration to multiple generations of players. Wise passed away at age 95 in December, but word of his death has only recently come to light publicly.
By the accounts of colleagues who also call themselves friends, Wise had a spectacular life filled with countless accolades, Hall of Fame ceremonies, and lots of winning on the diamond. He was also a military veteran who served during World War II, and a standout ball player in college who turned pro. But according to Jeff Jones, who played for, coached with, and employed Wise, the celebration will be simple, just as Wise would have wanted it.
The Englewood High School varsity baseball team will host back-to-back games at 10 a.m. and noon, followed by a tribute to him at 3800 S. Logan St. Jones is one of the organizers of the event.
“Harry loved the community,” said Jones, who coached with Wise for three years following his college baseball career in the 80s. Jones also spent nearly 30 years at the Englewood Recreation Center with the city.
“He actually prepared fields for us,” Jones added. “He prepared and lined fields for us for many, many years. Anybody that grew up in Englewood would have seen him on the fields. He’s always down there taking care of it during the day, mowing the infield on his own. The attention to detail and his work ethic, it was second-to-none.”
Younger players and audiences wouldn’t recognize Wise for his own stardom on the diamond. That’s what happens when a legend becomes a servant of the community he loves.
Below is a loose timeline of Wise’s career accolades and milestones, as detailed by Ken Summers, who played for Wise in the 70s and coached junior varsity baseball and volleyball at Englewood with Wise for two years.
Early life and college:
Wise was born on Nov. 18, 1927 and raised on the family farm in Platteville, south of Greeley, graduating from Platteville High School in 1944. He played football, basketball and track because there was no baseball team. After high school, he was recruited to attend Colorado State College (now the University of Northern Colorado) to play basketball and baseball for Coach Peter Butler.
His college days were interrupted by serving in the military during World War II. After that, he returned to college playing football, basketball, and baseball. He was outstanding in basketball earning first team all-conference honors and leading the league in scoring. He was also an honorable mention All-American.
In baseball he was a dominating pitcher. He only lost one game in his college career. In 1949, he pitched a three-hit complete game of University of Southern California to earn the CSC Bears a trip to the College World Series. He also had a batting average over .500. He was the first All-American in the history of the college.
After college, he was signed by the Chicago Cubs and played minor league baseball. He was with several teams, including the Topeka Cubs. In his best year, he pitched 24 complete games for a 19-5 record and a 0.89 ERA, leading the team to a league championship and earning MVP honors. However, an arm injury derailed his major league dream.
The Basin League in South Dakota was the place in the 1950s and 1960s that served as a recruiting and training ground for promising professional baseball players. He was a player and then player-coach in the league. As a pitcher, Wise holds the earned run average record (ERA) with 0.89 in 1955.
After a year away from the league, he returned to coach the Winner Pheasants. He also served as a scout for the Baltimore Orioles. He coached a young Jim Palmer, a star pitcher, and future hall of famer to a contract with the Baltimore Orioles. Wise would coach 15 future professional players during his years in the league. While at Englewood he signed one of his star pitchers, Mike Wegener, to a pro contract.
Teaching & coaching, later years:
Wise’s first coaching and teaching positions were at Cheyenne Wells High School and Trinidad Junior College in southern Colorado. At Cheyenne Wells, he coached basketball and led the team to a state championship. In 1959, Wise moved to Englewood. He would teach and coach at Englewood High School for over 30 years.
In his first season as baseball coach, his 1960 Pirates team won the Northern League Conference and played South High School in the state championship game.
At Englewood High School, in addition to baseball, he was the head girls’ volleyball coach for 20 years. Wise also was a football and basketball referee. He was an adviser and developer of coaches and had a widespread impact on baseball in Colorado. Throughout his years he was involved with three semi-pro teams, the Englewood Redbirds, The Arvada Dons and the Littleton Pioneers.
Wise is a two-time inductee to the University of Northern Colorado Hall of Fame. Once as a player individually and then as part of the 1949 baseball team. He is also a member of the Colorado Coaches Hall of Fame.
“One time I mentioned to him, I said, ‘Harry, I want to get you in the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame,’” Summers said. “And he said, ‘Well, really the [Colorado] Coaches Hall of Fame means the most to me.’”
In the 1990s, Wise, known for his meticulously-groomed baseball field, continued to work on the baseball and softball fields for the Englewood Recreation Department. During this time, he also served as a scout for the Yakama Hawks.
As much as Wise is known for his commitment to baseball and sports, he was a dedicated family man. He was married to his college sweetheart Lois for over 60 years. They had three children: Deborah, Mike and Lori, and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“He definitely dedicated his life to not only baseball, but the Englewood community. He was the epitome of a player’s coach and none of us even knew his baseball history,” Jones said. “What he accomplished, personally, he never shared any of that. I think visiting him as he aged, you could just see his commitment to family. His wife, Lois, had passed, and that’s all he wanted to talk about at that point in time.”
Wise is currently a nominee for a lifetime award from the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. As a longstanding, but humble, titan in the Englewood sports arena, he stands tall, even among mountain views that decorate the Front Range where he raised a family and followed his passion.
“In a nomination for the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, I made the comment, ‘Everyone who knew Harry Wise, has a Harry Wise story,’” Summers said. “I recall a former student saying he told them his initials ‘HG’ stood for ‘Highly Gifted.’ That was certainly true, along with being highly unique and leaving his mark on a game and the lives of many.”
On May 6, the community will celebrate Wise and Englewood baseball around a baseball diamond. First pitch of the doubleheader is at 10 a.m.Wise’s son, Michael, expressed how grateful he is for the celebration, and said it is well-deserved for his father.
“It’s just who he was. He helped anybody. It’s nice that they appreciate that and remember him for that,” Michael Wise said. “I’m definitely grateful, but I really do feel like he deserves to be honored that way.”