James H. Mugele, 82, recreation league coach


James H. Mugele, a former Lutherville recreation coach and umpire who taught valuable lessons on and off the playing field, died of a stroke Sunday at St. Joseph Medical Center. He was 82.

Mr. Mugele -- a lifelong sports fan -- was born and raised in Pittsburgh, where he played tailback on his high school football team and sandlot baseball.

During World War II, he enlisted in the Army and served in Panama. After his discharge, he attended the University of Pittsburgh on the GI Bill of Rights and earned his bachelor's degree in accounting.

He began his career with Mine Safety Appliances in Pittsburgh in the late 1940s, working in the accounting department. He was transferred in the 1950s to the company's subsidiary, Catalyst Research Corp. in Baltimore County, where he retired as treasurer in 1987.

Mr. Mugele combined his love of sports with coaching children, and joined the Lutherville-Timonium Recreation Council, where he coached during the 1960s. During the 1970s and 1980s, he was head coach of the Towson American Legion baseball team.

"He was a good coach and knew how to handle kids. He knew not to push them too hard, and when to push them. He just wanted to see them improve themselves," said his son, James L. Mugele of Cockeysville.

"He was a very soft-spoken, lighthearted and considerate guy who never really got overly flustered when things were going badly," said James T. Van Horn, a Bel Air insurance executive who played center field during the 1970s for Mr. Mugele's American Legion team. "He was always more interested in teaching the game to kids and was always a gentleman about it."

"When other coaches were losing their heads because of bad calls or whatever, he never did that. It wasn't part of him," Mr. Van Horn said. "He always saw the bigger picture. He was a decent man whose actions spoke louder than words. He was a very good example for young people."

He recalled how Mr. Mugele would throw balls for hours to those who were interested in extra practice. "Because he had a high level of involvement, he never looked on this as drudgery. He loved it. And we loved it," he said.

"He definitely expected us to behave, and as a manager and umpire had a big influence on me," said Kevin C. Albright, another former athlete guided as a teen-ager by Mr. Mugele and now a Navy captain at the Pentagon. "I was always impressed with him. Even though he coached his son, he never treated him any differently than anyone else. There was absolutely no favoritism."

Mr. Mugele returned to coaching in the 1990s, when his grandson played baseball for the Lutherville-Timonium Recreation Council. "He may have been the oldest coach out there, but he was certainly glad to be getting back into it," Mr. Mugele's son said.

Mr. Mugele enjoyed attending Orioles games with his son and some of the players he had coached years ago. He also was an avid grower of flowers and tomatoes, which he gave to family and friends.

Services were held Sunday, at his arrangement.

Survivors also include his wife of 55 years, the former Trudy Ann Bennett; two daughters, Christine L. Alrich of Timonium and Ann C. Roberts of Lutherville; a sister, Mary Lou Kegg of Sarasota, Fla.; and five grandchildren.

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