Baseball’s O’Gorman connected with “Stan the Man”
In the wake of the recent deaths of two pro baseball greats – Earl Weaver, manager of the Baltimore Orioles; and Stan Musial, hitter extraordinaire of the St. Louis Cardinals – I got an email from one of the Valley’s top baseball people, who, being a player, coach and fan connected with both men, especially with “Stan the Man.”
Competitive in nature, and seriously dedicated to his favorite sport, Bob O’Gorman was a standout youth, prep and college player; and then an outstanding coach, highlighted by his success as head coach at Sonoma Valley High School, where he guided the Dragons to multiple-title seasons and a state-best 27-game winning streak.
With the recent loss of famed Hall of Famer Musial – one of the greatest of the great hitters in the history of baseball – at age 92, O’Gorman shared some of his thoughts and memories about Musial with me.
“To so many of us old enough to remember, Stan Musial was the epitome of a great ball player and human being. Last summer, Steve Page, the GM of Sonoma Raceway, honored me by seating me next to Tony LaRussa at the annual NASCAR banquet, where Tony was the guest of honor,” wrote O’Gorman. “I got to talk baseball, one-on-one, with the three-time World Series winning manager for the better part of two hours. As he was signing a baseball for me, I told him that I had only a few pieces of baseball memorabilia and that one of my most prized possessions was a baseball signed by Stan Musial.
“Upon the mention of Musial’s name, a glow came to Tony's eyes and a warm smile to his face. He said Musial was the closest thing to a ‘living deity’ they have in St. Louis and that he was so honored to know him and call him his friend. I told him that I saw Musial play at Candlestick Park in his last series against the Giants in 1963 and that I heard him play ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ on his harmonica in Cooperstown, at the Hall of Fame induction of Rickey Henderson in 2009.
“I also told him that throughout my baseball career, from Little League beginning in 1959, through college ball, to the completion of my time as Sonoma Valley High’s baseball coach, I wore No. 6 in honor of Stan Musial. My final uniform from Sonoma High, No. 6, is framed and hangs in my den where I can look at it every day.
“While most of us can never duplicate the exploits of Stan Musial on the baseball diamond, we all can strive to emulate the human traits that he displayed as a ball-player and beyond. We will miss Stan Musial,” O’Gorman said.
Knowing Bob and his competitive nature, and love and passion for baseball, which I also possess (along with the same feelings for other sports), having been a “Stan the Man” fan since I discovered the sport – Musial was up there in “diamond greats stratosphere” with my all-time favorite player, Willie Mays.
And I also loved the fact that Musial played the harmonica – a cool fact that I fondly shared with a good friend of mine, who was one of the greatest-ever masters of the instrument, as well as a baseball fan, the late Norton Buffalo.