Schmoldt: Kraus leaves legacy as coach, announcer, supporter
If you played organized sports in Janesville sometime in the last four decades or so, there’s a fairly good chance Jim Kraus saw you play.
You might have also heard his famous rallying cry, even if you didn’t know it. (More on that in a minute).
From Riverside Park and Dawson Field to the city’s youth sports facilities and high school gymnasiums, local sports facilities were a second home to Kraus and his wife, Irene, who celebrated 58 years together earlier this month.
Jim Kraus had a student-athlete award named after him at St. John Vianney Catholic Church, boasted a three-decade-long run as a volunteer baseball announcer and scorekeeper and had attended every WIAA boys basketball state tournament since 1969.
Janesville lost a mainstay on the local sports scene Friday. Kraus died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 77. Services are today at St. John Vianney, where he started a basketball program and also played for and managed a church-league softball team.
“He was the announcer for probably my first 10 years as a coach … and we had some pretty tough seasons early on,” Parker baseball coach Brian Martin said. “But he was always a guy pointing to something positive and didn’t let you forget that kind of stuff.”
Kraus spent 31 years as an announcer and scorekeeper for Parker, Craig and American Legion baseball games.
Most recently, you could still find him at nearly every Craig game at Veterans Field, keeping tabs on his grandson, Austin, who graduated this year and earned honorable mention all-state baseball accolades as a senior.
Cougars coach Victor Herbst agreed with Martin about Jim’s positivity but also said some of his favorite memories came at Craig basketball games.
Jim and Irene were a fixture there, too, sitting just a couple rows above the scorer’s table, where Herbst runs the clock. Before most games, Jim would write down his prediction for the final score of the game, tap Herbst on the shoulder and show it to him. When the clock expired, if Jim’s prediction was close, he’d tap the shoulder again with a smile and a point of the finger toward his prediction.
That’s how I came to know Jim, as well, over the past five years, because he and Irene always sat next to the press table. I can vouch that more often than not, Jim’s pregame predictions were pretty darn close.
I can also tell you that he had an old-school mentality after watching a lifetime of sports. He almost certainly wouldn’t have been in favor of the WIAA’s recent decision to add a shot clock to high school basketball. Rather, Kraus would have preferred a shift in the other direction, often telling me the addition of the 3-point line marred the game of basketball.
And in an era where more and more young players are unfortunately hampered by injuries, he often hypothesized it was because young players weren’t drinking enough milk.
Beyond the predictions and theories, though, Jim spent much of his time beaming about his family. Born in Marshfield, he was one of 16 children. Jim and Irene kept the big family going with eight kids of their own. And he is also survived by 22 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Jim especially liked to brag about summer vacations where the whole crew would get together. And on at least one occasion, each family donned a different color shirt—perhaps so everyone knew who belonged to whom!
It’ll be on them now to carry on Jim’s signature rallying cry.
Several of his kids admitted Monday they didn’t know where his trademark call came from, just that he started it back in the 1970s and that it’s impossible to spell in a way that people understand.
After a memorable play or good game, Jim would let out a “Boo Boo Boo Booooop!” that can best be described as one part robot noise and one part the trumpet sound that plays at ballparks before all the fans chime in, “Charge!”
If you’ve heard it, you know exactly what I mean.
And if you’re into Janesville youth and high school sports, you probably heard it.
Rest in peace, Jim. And for all your years of commitment to area sports, a hearty BOO BOO BOO BOOOOOOP!