For many, legendary head coach Larry Turner epitomizes Owasso baseball.
But for Turner himself, Melvin Spencer epitomizes Owasso baseball.
Spencer was head coach for 12 seasons (1971-82) and guided the program to its first state titles in 1973 and 1975.
He took Turner under his wing when the latter was a Rams sophomore in 1971, became a father figure to him and “made me what I am today,” Turner said.
In his 39th season as head coach, Turner has guided the Rams to 1,182 wins and 11 state championships.
Spencer, 75, died Wednesday morning after battling myeloma, a cancer disease of blood plasma cells, for some time.
An inaugural member of Owasso’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010, Spencer guided the baseball team to 303 wins.
He also coached softball, girls basketball and was a football assistant for a time and taught history and driver’s education for the Owasso Public Schools in a career lasting more than 40 years.
Funeral services are set for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at First Baptist Church Owasso.
“Melvin Spencer was the kind of person you want everybody to be like,” said Steve Mowery, owner and director of Mowery Funeral Home and a Rams’ radio voice. “He was a man of faith and he lived it every day. Owasso’s gonna miss him.”
Regent Prep athletic director Kerwin Dees coached basketball at Owasso and worked in the same athletic department with Spencer for 17 years.
“He was a man of integrity … he was a great coach and teacher at Owasso, but his life was so much more to so many people for so many years,” Dees said. “He and his family are beloved in Owasso.”
A 1964 Owasso graduate, Spencer started three years in basketball and baseball and also played football. His basketball coach was future Hall of Famer J.V. Haney.
Spencer went on to play college baseball at Oklahoma Military Academy in Claremore (which morphed into Rogers State College) and then at Northeastern State University.
He returned to his alma mater in 1969 and became head baseball coach for the 1971 season. Both catchers, Turner and Spencer quickly bonded.
“He took me under his wing and really took care of me,” Turner said. “I watched coach Spencer’s mannerisms and still find myself doing some of the very same things. We had a tremendous relationship.”
Turner helped the Rams win the 1973 Class 3A state championship and became the school’s first baseball All-Stater. He made a key defensive play in a 4-2 state semifinal win over Ardmore, receiving a throw at the plate and making the tag as a runner barreled into him.
Turner was awed to succeed Spencer as head coach in the 1982-83 school year.
“(Spencer) won 303 games and that number was so far out there that I thought I would never, ever get near it,” he said.
“His standard was that you had to win 20 games. If you did that, you’d had a good year. My first year, we didn’t win 20 and I thought I was gonna get fired.”
Turner said he patterned the program after things Spencer had done and still does many of them today. “Our kids have to be clean shaven and you can’t wear jewelry,” Turner said. “You have to look like a ballplayer.”
Spencer is survived by his wife, Patsy; daughter Kim Parker, son-in-law Steve Parker, Owasso’s girls and boys track coach; and one grandchild.