Sunday, October 30, 2016

To Absent Friends - Sally O'Leary

Sally O'Leary died yesterday at the age of 82.  She was a long time member of the public relations department of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the personal baseball secretary to Bob Prince, and by the accounts of just about everyone who ever knew her, met her, or worked with her, she was one of a kind and was the "First Lady of the Pirates".  

I had the good fortune to meet Sally O'Leary back in 2013, and I can think of no better way to write this Absent Friends piece than to just cut-and-paste what I wrote in this blog back on June 23, 2013....

Meeting Sally O'Leary

If you grew up listening to Bob Prince broadcasting Pirates games, you will remember him often referring to his "Gal Friday, Sally O'Leary".  Over the years, in my involvement with the local SABR Chapter, I had occasion to correspond with Sally, and yesterday, I had the pleasure and honor of meeting Sally in person when she was the very Special Guest our monthly Breakfast Group.  Thanks to Dan and Len, long time acquaintances of Sally, for arranging this.

Sally began working for the Pirates in 1964 as an assistant to PR Director Jack Berger, and also served as the Baseball Secretary for Bob Prince.  She formally retired from the Pirates 14 years ago, but continues to serve the organization as the liaison for the Pirates Alumni Association.  We must have spent close to four hours with Sally yesterday, asking her questions, and hearing her stories about such folks as Bob Prince, Danny Murtaugh, Bill Mazersoki, Bing Crosby, Eddie Basinski, Vin Scully, Joe L. Brown, Fritz Ostermeuller, Leo Durocher,  Joe Torre, Curt Gowdy, Willie Stargell, Harry Walker, Kevin McClatchey, Wally Westlake, Dan Galbreath, Roberto Clemente, Frank Gustine, Dock Ellis, Harding Peterson, Ralph Kiner, Steve Blass, Bob Walk, Jim Woods, and on and on.  Are you getting the idea of what this must have been like for a bunch of life-long Pirates fans? 

To call Sally O'Leary a Treasure when it comes to the Pirates and the history of the team would not be overstating the case, and her love for and loyalty to the Pirates - even a Pirates Organization that is very, very different from the one she worked for - shone through.  

It was just a wonderful morning.  Thank you, Sally!

That is what I wrote three years ago, and I will take the liberty to add one more story that Sally told us that day.  Shortly after she began her career with the Pirates, Jack Berger walked up to her desk with several dozen  baseballs and told her "We need to get these baseballs autographed and sent out to people who have requested them."

"Well, who's going to autograph them?" Sally asked.  A reasonable question.

Berger's reply:  "You are.  Better learn how these guys sign things."

Thereby began a career of harmless forgery.  Sally then took a pen and a breakfast paper napkin and provided us some pretty neat facsimiles of the signatures of Roberto Clemente and Bob Prince, among others.  

So, I hate to burst your bubbles out there, but if among you prized possessions is a Roberto Clemente or Dick Stuart or Willie Stargell autographed baseball or photo that you got from the Pirates once upon a time, there is a good chance that it just might not be as authentic as you think it is.

Sally O'Leary was indeed one of a kind, and there will never be another like her.

RIP Sally O'Leary. It was an honor to have known you.

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