ISHPEMING - When he was very young, Bill Emblom heard his grandfather tell stories about some of baseball's great players as though they were almost mythical figures in history. Emblom said that those childhood stories would play a role in some of the biggest decisions he made over the course of his life.
"Little did he know at the time what a seed he was planting," he said. "That's where I got my interest in baseball."
After completing high school, Emblom went on to earn his bachelor's degree in social work. However, while he was working toward his degree, he began coaching a Little League team that would alter his path in life.
A young Bill Emblom shows off the latest set of Topps baseball cards in 1956, when he was 12 years old. Today, Emblom still has an extensive collection of cards and memorabilia. (Photo courtesy of Bill Emblom)
Emblom stands in front of his collection of books about baseball Monday at his home in Ishpeming. (Journal photo by Justin Marietti)
"I was all set to go and work at the hospital in Newberry," he said. "But then I thought, 'I can't take my little league team down there,' so I switched to teaching."
He went on to earn his certificate in elementary education and spent the next 32 years teaching fourth grade while also acting as a coach for the National Mine school's Little League team.
"I was connected with the league for 40 years," he said. "I started when Kennedy was president. Even after I got through with the league, we would still play at the field down the street."
When he gave up coaching, he continued to work with kids in the area three days a week throughout the summer, teaching them the fundamentals of the game right up until last summer.
"I'm thankful God has given me the health to be able to do this all these years," he said.
Emblom, who turned 70 in August, still works as a volunteer in the Ishpeming school system. He said that he would tell his kids that some of them will end up being coaches themselves one day, and they should be careful how they treat the kids they are coaching, because they are going to carry on a memory of them.
"And trophies are nice," he said, "but they are just a piece of metal or plastic, and they are dust collectors. The best trophies are the memories you have of the kids that you coached. I've got living memories scattered all over town, and all over the country."
In addition to coaching, Emblom used to organize field trips that were focused around baseball and history. They went to Boston and New York twice, Washington D.C., Montreal, as well as out west.
"We did those trips for 20 years," he said. "We only stopped because the cost got to be too much."
His passion for the sport also led him to some interesting conversations. Over the years, Emblom has exchanged letters with JG Taylor Spink, who was the long-time editor of The Sporting News, as well as famous Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray, authors Lawrence Ritter, Red Barber, Bill Veeck, and more.
Justin Marietti can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 245.