On My Mind: Curt Mueller, 1934-2019
A few days after I had learned that he had died, I woke up at 5 a.m. thinking about Curt Mueller. That’s usually not how you want to start a day. But it is testament to the impact and influence the man and his personality had on a trade magazine editor for the past 25 years.
Because Curt, who passed away in his sleep at the age of 85 on October 19, was perhaps the last true sporting goods industry Personality, with a capital P. His official obituary tells only a small part of the Curt Mueller story, but it did clue me in a lot about the man and the myth.
But there were a few things not covered in the official Curt Mueller story, but tales – some apocryphal, some wildly inappropriate, but all true to Curt -- that have been told over time.
Like the time he allegedly rode his horse around the upper Midwest visiting team dealer customers. Or when he wore his high school baseball uniform to the golf outing at the NSGA Management Conference and Team Dealer Summit to honor a past coach. Or the time he went up to my publisher at an old team trade magazine and told her, as only Curt could get away with, “I bet you would look good on a horse.” His induction speech into the Sporting Goods Hall of Fame back in 2002 was one for the ages.
Curt’s passing certainly marks the continuing end of era in the world of team sports — a time when a family’s name was on the sign in the front of the building and on the packaging on store shelves. The McDavids and the Cramers are no longer involved in the sports medicine companies that battled Mueller for the past generation-plus, but thankfully the Mueller family connection continues with Brett as the head of the company his father started back in the 1960s.
Even so, I can’t help thinking a little piece of the business will never be the same.
Curt Mueller is survived by his sister Barbara (Gerald) Erickson; three children, Jeff (Michele) Mueller of Wilmington, NC; Brett (Dawn) Mueller, of Middleton, WI, and Ginger Mueller-Mann of Porter Ranch, CA; as well as his grandchildren, Steve Mueller, Stephanie (Shawn) Mullery, Kelly Mueller, Kristopher Mueller, Jesse Mueller, Bryan Mann, Blake Mann and Sean Mann; and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents and sister, Beverly Kohlman.
A private service was held on October 25 and a celebration of Life will be held November 30 at the Sauk Prairie Arts Center in Prairie du Sac, WI. Memories of Curt (and there will be plenty) will be shared.
In lieu of flowers, tributes in Curt’s memory can be made to the University of Wisconsin Athletic Training Scholarship Fund – www.supportuw.org/giveto/atpscholarship