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Fortunate' describes Jirschele
Brothers stricken with muscular dystrophy

Bob Hersom Published: June 15, 2005

Mike Jirschele sometimes wonders with regret and relief, Why not me?

The former Oklahoma City 89er infielder's three brothers have all had muscular dystrophy. Oldest brother Doug died last October. Younger brother Pete died three years ago. Youngest brother Jim, 37, is Jirschele's only remaining male sibling.

"It's made me realize how fortunate I am to be able to just get up and tie my shoes in the morning by myself, said Jirschele, 46, in Oklahoma City this week as the Omaha Royals' manager.

"When you have three brothers that you have to put their clothes on for them, and if they had to go to the restroom you had to take them in there, you had to put them to bed at night. They really couldn't do anything.

The Jirschele (Jir'-shuh-lee) brothers and their four sisters grew up in the northeast Wisconsin community of Clintonville (population 4,736), where Mike and Jim, a radio broadcaster, still live, along with their parents.

"Doug and I were real close. It was almost like I was playing for him, Mike said. "And he felt like he was me out there. He mentioned that.

Mike Jirschele is a legendary sports figure in Clintonville, making first-team All-State in baseball, basketball and football. He scored six touchdowns in a football game, set state tournament scoring records in basketball and was a fifth-round draft choice in baseball.

But oldest brother Doug has also been a big deal in Clintonville sports; every year, the school holds the Doug Jirschele Sports Award banquet.

"I was so-so, Mike Jirschele modestly said of his storied high school sports career. "I felt like I was all right, but I never really felt like I was good.

"Just being around my brothers and everything, I never took anything for granted. I always tried to go out of my way to do things with them and make sure they were taken care of and make sure nobody ever picked on them.

On one side, Jirschele comes from a family stricken by an awful disease that takes away even the ability to roll over in bed. On the other side, he comes from an extremely athletic family.

Father, like son, is a sports legend in Clintonville. Mike's dad, Don Jirschele, scored seven touchdowns in a high school game. He played for Bear Bryant at Kentucky and signed a Green Bay Packers contract. He could have been a pro baseball player, too.

Mike Jirschele's father-in-law, Carl Bruggink, was the Clintonville High School basketball coach for 41 years. He won nearly 600 games, coached eight state tournament teams and won two state titles.

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