The father of Minnesota Twins legend Joe Mauer and two other sons who made their mark in professional baseball after years of sandlot nurturing in St. Paul, has died.
Donald “Jake” Mauer Jr. died Tuesday at his retirement home about an hour north of St. Paul in Braham, Minn. He was 66. Mauer’s death was attributed to lung cancer and Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome, affecting the body’s nerves and muscles, according to his online obituary.
Mauer and his wife, Teresa, raised three sports-playing sons who for decades helped make the Mauer name synonymous in St. Paul with athletic excellence and hometown devotion.
“His family will remember him as a father who never made excuses, and could always be counted on for being there, present in each and every moment of their growing up,” his obituary read. He often coached the boys’ youth teams and later on a St. Paul-based men’s baseball team.
“His fatherly influence and mentorship was felt by many,” the obituary continued. “Jake instilled his values in his sons as well as the importance of being kind and fair to all.”
Those qualities contributed to the athletic successes of sons Joe, Jake and Billy, all while at Cretin-Derham High School in St. Paul and continuing as professionals.
Joe was a three-sport all-star in high school and built a career with the Twins that could earn him Hall of Fame enshrinement. Jake was a longtime minor league player and also manager in the Twins farm system and Billy played in the Twins system as well.
Joe Mauer’s father is credited with creating a baseball swing that helped the longtime Twins win three batting titles and earn six All-Star Game berths.
Jake Mauer built a device of connected pipes that would drop a ball into the hitting zone, forcing Mauer to have a compact swing and no excess movement. The invention later became known as the “Mauer Quickswing.”
Jim O’Neill, who coached all three Mauer sons at Cretin-Derham Hall, said Sunday that the Mauer boys’ father “took his kids from a young age and was kind of the local coach in the neighborhood. He mobilized them into good baseball players and good people.”
O’Neill recalled that the Mauer boys and their friends “used to play in tournaments on weekends, and during the week it was playing with a Wiffle ball or with a tennis ball. They didn’t go to camps or anything like that. They couldn’t afford it.”
The Mauer father was most commonly referred to as “Big Jake,” and not only for his filled-out 6-foot-3 frame. “He had a big laugh, and he had a big presence,” O’Neill recalled. “You knew he was there, when he was there.”
After graduating from St. Agnes High School in St. Paul, Jake Mauer made his career working for Awards by Hammond, maker of plaques, trophies and ribbons. In retirement, he and his wife Teresa moved to Braham, where they lived together for 15 years.
Along with his wife of 45 years and their sons, Jake Mauer is survived by 10 grandchildren and Marlene Wardell, the long-time companion of his father, Donald “Jake” Mauer Sr.
Visitation for Jake Mauer is scheduled for 4 pm to 8 pm Tuesday at Mueller-Bies Funeral Home, N. 2130 Dale St., Roseville. Funeral mass is scheduled for 11 am Wednesday at St. Odilia Catholic Church, N. 3495 Victoria St., Shoreview, with a one-hour visitation preceding.
Memorials are encouraged to the Catholic school of the donor’s choice, the Catholic Athletic Association, 1079 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, or the Mayo Clinic.
Staff writer Patrick Reusse contributed to this report.