Forest Grove Hall of Famer fostered a passion for teaching

Bill Racine’s first attempt to get Arnold “Tug” Thogerson into the Forest Grove High School Athletic Hall of Fame was a failure.

It was not that Thogerson, who coached the Forest Grove baseball team for 29 years, did not deserve to enter the Hall of Fame. Racine just was not able to prove it.

“I nominated him the first year they started the Hall of Fame,” Racine says. “But, I didn’t have statistics and stuff and that’s a lot of the information they want.”

Racine began unearthing Thogerson’s record and accomplishments. He discovered that Thogerson, who taught physical education at Forest Grove, was a member of the Pacific University Hall of Fame as a football player. He also found out that Thogerson finished his baseball coaching career at Forest Grove with a record of 297-248.

Under Thogerson the Vikings were league champions in 1958 and 1972, co-league champions in 1957 and West Division champs in 1960, 1961 and 1963.

With Thogerson’s stats in hand, Racine took a petition around to many of the players who had played under Thogerson and asked them to endorse Thogerson’s entry into the Athletic Hall of Fame.

“They all said, ‘Hey what a great idea, let’s get him in there,’” Racine says.

Racine’s mission was accomplished. Thogerson will enter the Forest Grove Athletic Hall of Fame as a member of the 2012 class. Although Thogerson, who passed away on Dec. 18, 2011, won’t know all the work Racine did to get him into the Hall of Fame, Racine had finally paid back an old debt.

Racine, 69, played for Thogerson when Forest Grove won the West Division championship in 1960 and 1961.

Thogerson’s coaching philosophy was based on fundamentals.

“We knew the fundamentals,” Racine says. “He stressed running and hitting and bunting along with throwing and catching. Everybody knew how to bunt.”

With the team’s ability to bunt, Thogerson’s Vikings didn’t have to rely on big bats to make runs.

“He believed in small ball,” Racine says. “We would get somebody on base and he would have them steal or we would bunt them down and we’d eventually get them to third and then he’d squeeze them home. We didn’t depend on a whole lot of power hitting.”

Thogerson’s lasting impression for many who played under him was the ability to understand and appreciate the intricacies of baseball.

“He took a lot of time with people,” Racine said. “He nurtured a lot of kids and exposed a lot of them to a good way to play baseball by working hard, knowing the fundamentals, knowing defense as well as offense. We spent a lot of time on that and it paid off.”

Thogerson did even more for Racine, though.

During Racine’s senior year at Forest Grove, Thogerson found out that Racine was interested in becoming a physical education teacher. Thogerson allowed Racine to basically become the teacher for a freshman class.

“He supervised me, but he pretty well let me run the class,” Racine says.

Thogerson’s mentorship of Racine fostered the interest Racine had in teaching physical education and turned it into a passion. Racine earned a degree in physical education and went on to teach in the Beaverton school district for 30 years, as well as being a ninth grade baseball coach.

Racine wishes that Thogerson could have been around to see himself enter the Forest Grove Athletic Hall of Fame. But, he is happy that he was able to repay Thogerson for changing his life.

“Tug got me started on my career path,” Racine says. “I just thought, what he’s done for me, this is the least I could do for him.”

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