Year in Review 2011: Venerable Granny Smith turns 90
Sixty-five years after Granville Smith took a job teaching and coaching basketball and baseball at St. Paul Park High School he has grown to be one of the most beloved members of the community and a local legend.
On Monday, July 18, of last year, over 150 friends and family members threw Smith a surprise party at Mississippi Dunes Golf Links in Cottage Grove to celebrate his 90th birthday.
"It's very, very touching," Smith said at the time. "A lot of them aren't too far behind me, though. They all have the same color hair at least. The girls, of course, they always look good. But, this is great. We never expected this at all. How can you visualize something like this? This is unbelievable. I cannot believe this."
In the history of Park baseball, there have been only four head coaches -- Smith, Bill Kroschel, Reid Tschumperlin and Kerry Ligtenberg. Kroschel played for Smith at Park and led Park to nine conference and three section championships over 24 years as Park's coach. Tschumperlin was Kroschel's assistant coach for 14 of those years and head coach for nine years. Ligtenberg played for Kroschel. All of them were on hand to pay homage to the venerable Smith.
Smith worked for the school district for 45 years. He retired from teaching in 1983, but was a substitute teacher until 1990. His last year as a coach was 1977. Smith finished his 32-year coaching career with a 328-133 overall record (a .711 winning percentage) and won 14 conference championships. Out of his 32 years as Park's coach, Smith had 25 first- or second-place conference finishing teams. He was a charter member of the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame and was voted into Park High School's inaugural athletic Hall of Fame. In 1978, Smith was named Minnesota High School Baseball Coach of the Year and was a finalist for the National Baseball Coach of the Year. He is also a recipient of the Dick Siebert Award, named for the legendary baseball coach at the University of Minnesota.
"(When I took the job) I didn't really know where St. Paul Park was," Smith said. "But, It was a nice town. I figured I'd spend a couple years there and then look around. But, we won the conference championship the first five years and took second the next four years, so I said I wasn't moving."