At age 87, coach Bob Hage, of Hector (also known as “Colonel Bob”), is a legend in time. Hage was a veteran of WWII and served in the Honor Guard for General MacArthur in 1947, taught and coached in Minnesota for 23 years and recently was named to the Minnesota High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame.
Bob graduated from Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis in 1946. He was an outstanding football, hockey and baseball player in high school and college. He tried out for the St. Paul Saints in 1948 but didn’t make the team (he still has a Saints jersey given to him by his coach, Walter Alston, who also coached the L.A. Dodgers). He is best known for his athletic achievements in hockey. Hage was one of the last players cut from the 1952 Olympic hockey team.
Bob Hage with his wife Donna. Photo by Tom Hauer
He met Donna in Lamberton in 1950, proposed to her on Christmas day and married her on his birthday, March 24 in 1951, when he was on spring break from college. They have been married for 64 years and have three sons, Steve, Rich and Bob Jr., and two grandsons Connor and Matthew. Bob and his wife, Donna, still live in Hector.
Bob enlisted in the military following high school and served in the Honor Guard for General MacArthur in Japan from Jan. 6, 1947, to Dec. 26, 1947. The Honor Guard, comprised of men hand-picked for the assignment, was one of the most important and visible parts of the general’s official family during the closing months of World War II and throughout the occupation of Japan. Members of this elite unit were selected based on their military bearing, intelligence and physical stature. They were the best of the best.
The unit maintained a strength of about 200 officers and men. Half of that number guarded the general’s headquarters, the other half guarded the MacArthur family residence at the United States embassy compound. Because of their proximity to MacArthur, the men of the Honor Guard were not only witnesses to major events in history, but in some instances were themselves actually a part of those historical events. The Honor Guard was disbanded in 1957.
When General MacArthur was removed from command during the Korean War by President Harry Truman, one of his final acts before boarding the plane that would take him from Japan was a review of the Honor Guard. The general told the Honor Guard commander that the unit had never looked finer than they did that day.
Hage finished his service time as a corporal. Photo contributed.
When he returned from military duty, Hage took advantage of the GI Bill to fund his college education. He attended Augsburg College and participated in football, hockey and baseball while completing his physical education, health and science degree in 1952.
Bob’s first teaching job was at Alden Public Schools in 1952. He taught physical education, health and science while coaching football and track. In two years at Alden, his football record was 10-4. He also played amateur town team hockey as well as baseball for Albert Lea.
In 1954, Bob was hired at Butterfield to teach biology, general science and physical education. He also coached football and baseball.
He joined the faculty at Hector High School in the fall of 1956, replacing the legendary Wayne Dietz. After a short time at Alden and Butterfield high schools, Hage became the head football and baseball coach at HHS. Colonel Bob coached all three of his sons in either football, baseball or golf at Hector. They all played quarterback for HHS. One of Hage’s fondest memories was coaching his eldest son, Steve. He was ambidextrous and could throw footballs and baseballs well with either hand. Steve holds several football records for Hector High School: most passing yards, 299, in one game against Cosmos in 1970; most passing yards in one season, 1,425 in 1970; and most passing yards in one career, 2,320 from 1970 to 1971.
From 1956 through 1973, coach Hage compiled a 117-33-2 record in football with nine titles. In baseball his teams won district and conference titles five times. His career record was 136-38-3. He retired from teaching and coaching in 1975.
“I always thought of football as a necessary part of the educational system. The benefits of the sport are many, and the rewards to the dedicated are great. One of the greatest qualities developed on the field is leadership. We had a lot of dedicated athletes who were great leaders on the field,” Bob said.
He got the nickname of “Colonel” because when he taught physical education class at HHS he would march the students like they were in the Marines. They marched the entire hour of class time. He taught them respect and discipline.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, he was an outstanding pitcher on the Hector Flyer amateur baseball team. Later in his career he became one of the outstanding golfers in the Hector area. He was the summer league baseball coach, summer recreational director, president of the District 12 Coaches Association, member of the Hector Civic & Commerce Association and was a Luther League leader. Besides all that he authored Football Innovations Results in the Minnesota Football Journal.
Hage was inducted at the 43rd annual Minnesota High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame on April 21, 2007. Keith Klawitter, a former Hector Bulldog, nominated him for the Coaches Hall of Fame. Also voted into the high school division were Con Natvig, of Swanville, Dan Kostich, of Moorhead, and Dave Brooke, of Granite Falls. Tom Witschem of WDGT radio was inducted into the citation division.
He enjoys playing golf, hunting and fishing throughout his retirement.
Brad Edgar, a student and teammate of Hage, recalled a couple of incidents about him. “We (Hector Flyers baseball team) were playing Redwood Falls, and we were ahead 19-15 in a championship game. It was the bottom of the ninth, and Bob was pitching. He loaded the bases then threw a gopher ball to Bobby Thompson, and Thompson hit a grand slam home run to tie the game. We won in the 10th inning. I give Bob a hard time about that game.”
“I was a sophomore in Hector High School,” Edgar recalled, “and we were playing Hutchinson for the district championship. We were down by one run, and there were two outs with the bases loaded. Lowell Grimm was up to bat. Lowell stepped outs of the box to get a signal from Hage who was coaching third base. Hage gave him the bunt sign. Grimm didn’t think it was smart to bunt with two outs so he stepped out of the batter’s box to get another signal from Hage. It was a bunt sign again. Grimm followed Hage’s orders and bunted down the third base line, and the third baseman overthrew home plate, and we won the game. Hage claims he never gave Grimm the bunt sign.”
Hector’s undefeated 1963 football team was led by all conference players, #26 Jim (Todd) Macik, #11 Larry Radloff and #60 Eugene Buboltz. Don Lund was the assistant coach. Coach Hage is on the far right. Photo contributed
“It was an honor being coached by him, taught by him and playing with him. Very nice man. Very fair. Treated you fair. Enjoyed playing with him,” said Edgar.
Hage is still often referred to as the “colonel” or “coach” in Hector.