March 2021 ~
A lifetime in professional baseball? Including the opportunity to manage two major league teams?
Looking back, you can still pinch 73-year-old Tom Trebelhorn (Cleveland High, 1966).
“I never imagined doing anything in the big leagues, even taking tickets,” Trebelhorn says by phone from his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he still is on call with the San Francisco Giants. “I’ve been phenomenally lucky.”
Many would argue that last point, but there is no arguing that Trebelhorn carved out his career, on the field, in the dugout and in the front office, with plenty of brainpower, personality and baseball savvy.
“A lot of things broke the right way, and players played well for me most of the time,” he says.
He got to manage or coach outstanding players such as Rickey Henderson, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Ryne Sandberg, Eddie Murray, Greg Maddux, and Rollie Fingers, to name a few.
It all began for the Portland native growing up near Southeast 26th Avenue and Holgate Street. He and his older brother converted a big open space behind the family home into a field for baseball and football. He’d pay 25 cents for a bleacher seat at Portland Beavers games. He played nine years of South Powell Little League, then Cleveland Babe Ruth and then competed for coach Jack Dunn at Cleveland and on the Cleveland American Legion team. Then it was on to Portland State to play five positions for coach Roy Love. His primary spot was behind the plate.
While earning his degree in history at Portland State, Trebelhorn says he “felt like what I wanted to do was coach.”
First, though, he was a 1970 sixth-round draft choice of the Bend Rainbows, who were owned by the Pacific Coast League’s Hawaii Islanders. He spent five seasons in minor league baseball, making the Northwest League All-Star team in 1971 and donning uniforms also for Walla Walla, Washington; Birmingham, Alabama; Burlington, Iowa; and Lewiston, Idaho, where he wound up as player-coach and even pitched for that NWL team.
In 1975, he became manager of the Boise A’s, and he played a key role in the development of a rookie named Henderson with rare base-stealing ability.
From 1977-82, he taught U.S. history and personal finance at Jefferson High, where he also was activities director in charge of dances, graduation ceremonies and more.
He managed and coached the Triple-A Portland Beavers and in 1985 guided the Vancouver Canadians to the PCL title.
Then it was up to the Milwaukee Brewers as third-base coach. He became manager there late in the 1986 season, and in 1987 he was MLB Manager of the Year for leading the club to a 91-71 record.
He managed Milwaukee through 1991, then went to the Chicago Cubs, managing them in 1994. The following year, he managed the Tri-City Posse to the Western Baseball League finals, then spent 12 years with the Baltimore Orioles in different coaching and organizational capacities.
From 2008-12, he was the manager of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes of the NWL, the launch of a 13-year run serving with the Giants.
The 1988 PIL Hall of Fame inductee, who also ran cross country and played basketball for Cleveland High, describes his managerial style as “organized, hard-working, supportive.”
“I didn’t have too many problems with players,” he says. “I liked to have fun playing the game. I wasn’t smarter than anyone else, but I was able to speak clearly and coherently, with reasonable and organized material. Being college-educated played into that.”
Today, he still plays senior baseball in Arizona, competing in a 70s-and-over league. He spends some time each year at his beach house in Seal Rock, Oregon. And he plays a little golf, though “it takes so much time” that he is more inclined to just hit balls into a net in his backyard, where he also can practice his putting on the synthetic green.