‘Oats’ dies at 95 [UPDATED]Published 10:56am Wednesday, August 29, 2012 Updated 11:02am Wednesday, August 29, 2012
On Monday at 12:02 p.m. a legend in Fergus Falls sports passed away as Odis “Oats” LeGrand died at the age of 95 in Valley City, N.D. after his battle with Alzheimer’s.
LeGrand moved to Fergus Falls in 1952 and would change the landscape of athletics in the city. Holding roles in the community including radio sports announcer, physical education teacher and city recreation director, LeGrand left a permanent mark in athletics scene.
Although stern, LeGrand left a lasting impression on his players and students alike.
“Oats had a lot of enthusiasm,” said Dick Werner, a member of one of several VFW baseball team’s that LeGrand coached. “Whatever he did he bought into. He was very tough to play for, but you always came away better for doing it his way.”
In 1960, LeGrand led the Fergus Falls VFW team to a state title. “He would make you work on the fundamentals until you could make the play,” Warner added.
“Oats was the best coach I ever had,” said former player Danny Loomer.
That was high praise considering Loomer went on to play in the minors for the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals.
LeGrand was instrumental in not only coaching, but in putting together sporting events. He directed five state tournaments in Fergus Falls including the Governor’s Track Meet, VFW State Baseball Tourney, community college state wrestling tourney, and the community college state women’s basketball tourney.
LeGrand also had a familiar voice to residents of the area as he reported over 4,000 local sporting events in his 45 years behind the mike.
“Some of my favorite lines from his broadcasts were ‘It’s third down and a greyhound bus trip to get the first down’ and ‘He was so open he could have stopped for a hamburger,’” nephew and Fergus Falls sports broadcaster Craig Olson said.
Olson would take over for his uncle after he stepped away from his broadcasting duties in 1981, but LeGrand would continue to announce local sporting events for another 17 years.
LeGrand received several accolades throughout his work in the community including an induction into the Minnesota Coaches Hall of Fame in 1974, Fergus Falls Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Fame (1986, charter member) and District 544 Hall of Fame (2003, distinguished service category), while also being named Minnesota broadcaster of the year, twice.
In 1985, LeGrand was given another accolade as Sports Illustrated recognized him as the voice of small town America after his years of radio broadcasting.
“Oats was truly unique,” Craig Olson said. “He touched many lives through teaching, coaching, broadcasting and public service. He has received many honors throughout the years, however, his passion was covering the small town sports and bringing some notoriety to the kids who played the games and the communities they represented.”
LeGrand would have turned 96 on Sept. 2 and is survived by his wife, Eunice, son, Steve, two granddaughters and several great grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday at the Nazarene Church in Valley City, North Dakota.