Mailbag: Gordon left huge legacy with sports in Claysburg
Bob Gordon of Claysburg passed away last week at the ripe old age of 88.
If he was not the best athlete produced by Greenfield-Kimmel High School (later Claysburg-Kimmel HS), he is among the top 10, and he was a civic leader who worked for the betterment of his community.
I first laid eyes on Gordon at Dysart Park in Hollidaysburg during the summer of 1947. He was only 15 years old but had gained a formidable reputation as a baseball pitcher for the Claysburg entry in the Blair County Baseball League.
He was being subjected to some unfriendly razzing by some County Seat fans near the grandstand. It was unusual for a young high school teenager to compete, and prevail, against the seasoned and tested adults that formed the rosters of the five opposing community league teams.
The Altoona Mirror and Altoona Tribune featured his prowess in some flattering articles. It was this celebrity that generated the verbal abuse he endured that day.
Showing maturity beyond his years, he shook off the comments and pitched a complete nine-inning game.
His obituary listed all the work and effort he contributed to the various civic and religious organizations around Claysburg. If there was a job to be done, and he was nearby, he pitched in.
But it was in athletics, especially baseball, that he excelled. After graduating from high school in 1950 he embarked on a professional career in the Pittsburgh Pirate farm system. His best year was 1952 at Bartlesville, Oklahoma, where he had a record of 16-5.
Gordon recalled that in the scalding summer heat of the Midwest, he once pitched a 17-inning game in which he lost 15 pounds to dehydration.
Gordon was drafted into the army in 1953 and pitched for Fort Meade, Maryland, against other service teams, and even professionals.
He remembered pitching against Pirate star Ralph Kiner, and getting the future Hall of Famer to fly out in their only contested at-bat.
He developed a sore arm at Fort Meade that ended his pro prospects.
Bob Gordon was a giant in local lore during the 20th century. His was a life well lived.
(The writer is a Cove historian.)