In the classic 1993 movie “The Sandlot,” the ghost of Babe Ruth has a great line.

“Remember kid,” the Bambino says to Benny The Jet, “there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”

Butte native Sonny Holland was both.

Coach Holland passed away Saturday night after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 84.

Holland was named the Bobcat of the Century late in the 20th Century. As head coach, he led his alma mater Montana State to the 1976 NCAA Division II national championship.

That team, by the way, included a bunch of Butte guys who adore their former head coach more than words could ever say.

He was enshrined in the second class of the Butte Sports Hall of Fame in 1989. Three years earlier, he was inducted as a charter member in the MSU Hall of Fame.

More than anything, Holland was a beloved figure because he just might have been the nicest man to ever live.

I have never heard of a person more beloved by everyone he touched the lives of than Coach Holland, whose likeness stands in a statue outside Bobcat Stadium.

The impact Coach Holland made will live on forever. Sonny Holland was a hero and a legend.

He was a Hall of Famer of a human being.

Following is a column that I wrote after I finally got the chance to meet Coach Holland in January of 2017. Click here for the podcast version of the column.

A tip of the cap to the greatest Bobcat of them all

About 20 years ago, I had the honor of introducing my grandpa to legendary University of Montana women’s basketball coach Robin Selvig.

My grandpa, who was surprised by the opportunity to meet the coach whose career he followed closely, literally tipped his cap and said, “It is an honor to meet you.”

As we walked away, my grandpa compared meeting Selvig, a remarkably humble man, to my grandma meeting Bobby Kennedy.

Last Wednesday night at the Metals Sports Bar and Grill, I got to know just how my grandpa felt that day in Missoula. That is when I had the amazing honor of meeting Sonny Holland, the Greatest Bobcat of all time.

Holland was in town for a public forum for the Butte Sports Hall of Fame. He came from Bozeman to make a pitch for one of his former players, Mark DeVore.

Dan or Don Ueland — I can never tell the twins apart unless they are with their wives — introduced me to the legendary coach, who was sitting down at a table.

I didn’t tip my cap, but I did sound a lot like my grandpa meeting Selvig.

“Coach,” I said, “it is an honor to meet you, sir. You are a legend.”

He truly is a legend, and he always will be in the land of the Montana State Bobcats.

Last September, Montana State unveiled a 9-foot statute of the coach outside of the school’s football stadium, and it is glorious.

MSU players and fans will have the honor of walking past the statue of Holland before every Bobcat home game for decades to come.

The idea for the statue formed out of a conversation at the Butte Sports Hall of Fame banquet in 2015. Some Ueland brothers and other former Montana State players, who would still lay down on the street for their coach nearly 40 years after he led the Bobcats to the 1976 NCAA Division II national championship, got to talking.

They wanted to honor their coach, and the group of former players raised about $90,000 for the project. They hired well-known artist Ken Bjorge of Bigfork to create the statue, which weighs about 3,500 pounds.

Fast forward 15 months, and the statue was placed between the football stadium and the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.

“He has been the perfect conduit between Montana State and the people of Montana,” 2015 Butte Sports Hall of Fame inductee and former Holland Bobcat Bert Markovich said of Holland as the statue was unveiled. “He truly is the most significant person in the history of MSU football.”

MSU president Waded Cruzado called Holland “the greatest Bobcat of them all.” That is a title Bobcats and their fans settled on many years ago.

Holland, who started at center at Butte High in 1954 and 55, went on to become a three-time All-American for the Bobcats. As a center and linebacker, Holland was a star on the Bobcats’ 1956 national championship team.

Holland, who represented the Bobcats in the 1959 East-West Game, never lost to the Montana Grizzlies as a player.

That playing career was so impressive that today Bobcat players strive to win the team’s prestigious Sonny Holland Offensive MVP Award.

After coaching stints at Bozeman High School, Montana State, Great Falls Russell, Washington State, Western Montana College and Montana State again, Holland took over as the head coach of the Bobcats in 1971.

In seven seasons, Holland compiled a record of 47-24-1 at MSU, which ranks behind only Rob Ash in the team’s all-time wins list. That record includes three playoff wins during the 1976 championship run that was littered with Butte players, including the Ueland twins.

One coach who Holland mentored was fellow Butte native Sonny Lubick. The football team at Colorado State University now plays on Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium.

A long-time coach under Lubick, by the way, was Mick Delaney, the man who saved football at the University of Montana a few years ago. As Holland addressed the Butte Sports Hall of Fame selection committee, Delaney sat a few feet away as a member of that committee.

Delaney went 2-1 against MSU in his three seasons as head coach of the Grizzlies, but he never had to face Holland.

In his seven seasons at the helm of the Bobcats, Holland’s teams beat the Grizzlies six times.

Many former Grizzlies still check for Sonny Holland under their beds before they turn out the lights.

In 1986, Holland was inducted as a charter member of the MSU Hall of Fame. Three years later, he was a member of the second class of the Butte Sports Hall of Fame.

Of course, his wins and losses as a player and a coach only tell part of the story of Holland.

John Thatcher, who played receiver for Holland during his one season as head coach at Western, says the statue of the legendary Bobcat was not based on the coach’s winning percentage. It has more to do with the person who has had a lasting impact on the life of every player he ever coached.

Thatcher lost his father during that 1969 season at Western. Holland took time out of his busy schedule to head to Butte and take care of the Thatcher family.

“It was pretty special how he was with me after my dad died,” Thatcher says. “He treated my mother like gold.

“Why do you think they built that statue for him?” Thatcher adds. “It wasn’t because he won the national championship. It was the way he presented himself. I respect him more than any human being on Earth. I can’t say enough about that guy.”

The soft-spoken Holland people see now that he is in his late 70s is the same soft-spoken man the 1976 national championship team saw on the sidelines.

“The only time he ever raised his voice was when I got in a fight downtown after a football game,” Thatcher says.

Every one of Holland’s former players will tell you the same thing. As far as former players go, Sonny Holland might be the most beloved coach there ever was.

“I love him. I put him on a pedestal above just about everybody,” Thatcher says. “I wouldn’t take a bullet for a lot of people. I would stand in front of a gun for that guy.”

So, you have to excuse me for being a little nervous when I finally got the chance to meet him.

I’ve been fortunate enough to shake hands with Ken Griffey Jr., William “The Refrigerator” Perry and Joe Frazier.

Meeting the legendary Sonny Holland tops them all.

I just wish I would have remembered to tip my cap.

— Bill Foley can be reached at him at to the ButteCast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.