According to multiple releases, Bancroft, Iowa native Denis Menke passed away at his home in Tarpon Springs, FL, on December 1.
Menke was born in Bancroft in 1940 and played for baseball powerhouse Bancroft St. John’s in high school. St. John’s made 35 state baseball appearances from 1943-1988, including nine state baseball champions; their last was in 1986. Menke was a 1958 graduate of St. John’s, who won the 1957 spring baseball championship and the 1958 fall baseball title.
He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Milwaukee Braves on May 27, 1958. He continued to play with the Braves — who moved to Atlanta in 1966 –until he was traded to the Houston Astros on October 8, 1967. He and Denny Lemaster went to Houston in exchange for Sonny Jackson and Chuck Harrison. He was later traded to the Cincinnati Reds, where he played in the 1972 and 1973 seasons. His final trade came in February 1974 when he was traded back to Houston to play his last season in 1974. In 1972, he started all seven games for the “Big Red Machine” at third base. Cincinnati fell in the ’72 World Series to Oakland. He was an All-Star in 1969 and 1970 with Houston, hitting a career-high .304 in 1970 for the Astros. He retired with a .250 career batting average and 1,270 hits.
His coaching career started in 1977 as the Burlington Bees of the Midwest League manager — at that time a farm team of the Milwaukee Brewers — and won the league championship that season. In the 1978 and 1979 seasons, Menke was the manager of the Dunedin Blue Jays. He spent the 1980 and 81 seasons as the first base coach for the Toronto Blue Jays before returning to Houston as the hitting coach in 1983. In 1988 the Astros moved Menke to third base, where Menke spent one season. He then joined the Philadelphia Phillies organization from 1989-1996 as their hitting coach. Menke returned to the World Series in ’93 with the Phillies, but again, came up short to the Blue Jays. His coaching career concluded with returning to Cincinnati as the bench coach from 1997-2000 when he retired.
According to the Oakcrest Funeral Service website, Denis is survived by his wife of 57 years, Jean, their three children, Debra Menke, Scott Menke and Kristina Menke, and nine grandchildren, Ryan, Cori Lynn, Kyle, Jacob, Jonathan, Nicholas, Alexis, Riley, and Shawn.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Walter Menke and Mary (Rahe) Menke, and his brother, Alan Menke.
Private family services will be held in his hometown of Bancroft, IA.