COLTON CLARK The Spokesman Review
SPOKANE, Wash. Ed Cheff, a Butte native who turned the baseball program at Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho into a national powerhouse, died Saturday at his home in Sequim, Washington, after a long illness. He was 78.
LCSC announced the news later that day.
“Ed Cheff’s legacy is felt every day by his former players, assistant coaches and colleagues,” former Warriors athletic director/baseball coach Gary Picone said in a school release. “His impact on LC baseball, the LC Valley and all collegiate baseball will live on forever, just as the man Ed Cheff will be missed but never forgotten.”
Cheff led the Warriors from 1977-2010, building the small school club into one of the most consistently dominant collegiate athletic teams in the nation, regardless of classification. LCSC went 1705-430-4 during his tenure at Lewiston and amassed 16 NAIA World Series titles.
Cheff, an American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer, has the fifth most wins among college baseball coaches at all levels, and by far the most national championships.
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He threw his recruiting net far and wide, but also developed many Lewiston-Clarkston Valley products into stars. In total, he sent 114 players to the professional ranks and 16 of them advanced to the Major Leagues.
“Ed Cheff left without a doubt one of the biggest impacts on me as an adult,” said Bucky Jacobsen, former Seattle Mariners/LCSC Warriors slugger in the summer of 2020. “Without him (my MLB career) would not have come to fruition. By coaching me like he did, almost all the credit goes to him.”
Cheff implemented a rigorous training regimen and was no-nonsense in his approach to the game. Former Warriors agree that playing for LCSC was extremely challenging, but looking back, they cherish their time learning under Cheff. “He turned boys into men” is a common phrase among LC baseball alums.
“As you get older and talk about that time, you understand that he was trying to take you to a different place,” said Brett Holley, an LCSC outfielder in the mid-1980s, in 2020. “When the pressure is on. “It’s second nature. He was a tough guy, and that’s how he coached, but he’s insanely smart. He could dig into your soul and take the player out.”
Alumni and fans love to share stories about Cheff’s unconventional methods. For example, if a performance didn’t meet his requirements, he would have the Warriors run up Lewiston Hill. Occasionally he organized boxing matches between players, which served to eliminate the nerves during games.
“I’ve always believed that you should try to make your money, whatever it is,” Cheff said during a telephone interview in the summer of 2020. Plenty of firewood to make that journey. The philosophy of our program was: Earn your way. I’ve always believed in that stuff. I think it helped the character of the kids.”
LCSC was rarely challenged by opponents at the NAIA level during the time Cheff was in charge. The Warriors’ schedules always include games against NCAA Division I leagues – sometimes 20 or more.
Cheff’s teams went 87-66 against coach Bobo Brayton’s Washington State Cougars, racking up multiple wins over highly regarded NCAA foes. LCSC defeated Wichita State, the eventual national champion, during the 1989 season. Under Cheff, the program claimed victories over power conference opponents such as Iowa, Minnesota, Texas Tech, Oregon State and Washington.
Cheff helped lead the campaign to bring the NAIA World Series to Lewiston in 1984. In 2017, LCSC changed the name of the national tournament venue and renamed it Ed Cheff Stadium.
Born in Butte and raised in Woodland, Washington, Cheff played baseball and football at Lewis & Clark College in Portland in the mid-1960s before starting his coaching career as a high school assistant football assistant in Tillamook, Oregon. He was hired as head baseball coach at Lower Columbia College (Longview, Washington) in 1973 and compiled a 120-30 record in four seasons, according to the Lewiston Tribune.
He became boss of the Warriors in 1977 after coach Ramon Hooker abruptly resigned after finishing second in the Series.
Outside of LCSC, Cheff held an assisting position on the coaching staff of Team USA in 1991 and again in 1994, when he served as a batter and coach at third base at the World Championships. He also spent seven summers mentoring players in the Alaska Collegiate League. Cheff spoke six times during clinics for the American Baseball Coaches Association.
Cheff leaves behind wife Karen and sons Trevor, Tyler and Toby.