Grosse Pointe South baseball coach joins exclusive 800-win club

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
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Holiday weekends are for fun in the sun, and maybe a dip in the pool.

Dan Griesbaum got his fun in the sun, but on the other front, he settled for an ice bath.

With a 12-2 victory over Plymouth in the opener of Saturday's Grosse Pointe Invitational, Griesbaum, the longtime baseball coach at Grosse Pointe South, earned his 800th career victory.

He became the seventh baseball coach history to reach that plateau.

The ice bath assured he'd have to manage Game 2 all wet, and that was just fine with him.

"It was a little shocking at the beginning, but it felt good after," Griesbaum said early Saturday evening, after South went 2-1 in the one-day tournament. "It was good, it felt cool.

"And I didn't change any clothing!"

After a 9-0 loss to Northville in Game 2, Griesbaum picked up win No. 801 with an 11-3 victory over rival Grosse Pointe North.

Along with the ice bath, Griesbaum was presented an "800" banner that will hang in the outfield at the school's baseball stadium, presumably right near the "700" banner that’s been hanging since spring 2014.

For as long as he continues to coach — he's in Year 35, and has no plans to hang it up — he will stare at that banner and think back on some darn great memories.

"I'll tell ya ..." Griesbaum said, his voice trailing off, "excuse me ... it was tough looking at it today without getting emotional. It's been a great 35 years.

"What I am proud of is what the program has accomplished in the time I have been there. I share this with all my assistants, all the great players over the years, the parents, the community. It's a community accomplishment. My name is on the banner, but it's still a community accomplishment. I told the kids, 'I never pitched, I never hit, I never ran the bases. You guys did. I'm just here to lead.'"

In reaching 800 victories, Griesbaum joins the following: Pat O'Keefe (Grand Ledge), Larry Tuttle (Blissfield), Frank Sumbera (Grosse Pointe North), Bob Andrezejewski (Bridgeport, Saginaw Heritage), Tom Noland (Lincoln Park), Mark Carrow (Brighton) and Gary Cook (Jenison). O'Keefe, Tuttle, Sumbera and Andrezejewski also are still active.

Griesbaum played collegiately at Central Michigan, then stayed up there to be a grad assistant, while his wife, Paulette, finished up her degree. Griesbaum, meanwhile, took advantage of his job to complete a master's degree for free.

His career then took him to Metro Detroit, where he joined Sumbera's staff as an assistant. After four years there, he landed the Grosse Pointe South head coaching job in 1984.

"Like a lot of players, I thought I might have the ability to play professionally, but that didn't happen," Griesbaum said.

"I know why. This is what I was meant to do."

It's unfair to ask Griesbaum to pick out just a few of his favorite memories over the years, so we'll start with the obvious.

Grosse Pointe South made its first Final Four in 1987, then added six more, in 1996, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2014 and 2015. The seven Final Fours trail only Saline among public schools.

Grosse Pointe South won the Division 1 state championship in 2001.

He's coached four players who were taken in the Major League Baseball Draft, including Adam Abraham, Carmen Benedetti, Chris Getz (who had a 10-year major-league career) and Cam Gibson (a Tigers prospect), to say nothing of the dozens and dozens he's sent on to the college level.

Griesbaum wanted to thank one person in particular, Paulette, his wife of 45 years.

"I've had a lot of support, and my No. 1 supporter is my wife Paulette," said Griesbaum, whose big day Saturday was attended by loads of family and friends, including his five grandchildren. "You don't do this for this long, for 35 years, without the support of your spouse.

"I appreciate her tremendously being able to put up with this."

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