BLUEFIELD, Va. — Click here for video
On Dec. 6, 2012, George McGonagle, president of the Bluefield Blue Jays, was named “2012 King of Baseball” at Baseball’s Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn. On Sunday night, McGonagle’s crown came home to roost — on his own Bobblehead that the club shared with fans.
“It’s kind of funny ... Something that you never expect,” McGonagle said prior to walking out to the Bowen Field pitcher’s mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Blue Jays game against the Pulaski Mariners.
As he waited to walk out on the field to be honored by both Pat O’Conner, president and chief executive officer of Minor League Baseball, and Lee Landers, president of the Appalachian League, McGonagle recalled coming to Bowen Field to watch baseball games from cracks in the outfield fence.
“I watched games from behind the scoreboard as they slid numbers in the slots back in the late 1940s and early ‘50s,” McGonagle said. “My parents had box seats, and after I got back from the service, I got box seats too.”
In addition to working on the board of the Bluefield Baseball Club, McGonagle pitched in to help former General Manager George Fanning in 1985 when Allen Coppinger was in bad health. He started working with Fanning full time in 1988 when he became club president and served as Bluefield’s general manager from 1995 to 2007, as well as interim GM three additional times. He was named Appalachian League executive of the year in 1990, ‘95 and 2007.
McGonagle thanked the crowd for the round of applause he received. “We work very hard,” McGonagle said to the fans. “We need your support. We need fans in the stands.”
O’Conner, a frequent visitor to the Appalachian Leagues expressed his thanks to McGonagle for his 50 years of service to the Bluefield Baseball Club. He said that when it was time to select Minor League Baseball’s 2012 King of Baseball, “It was an easy choice for me,” he said. “George, it’s good to be here.”
O’Conner is a native of Grove City, Ohio and an Ohio University graduate. He entered baseball as an intern with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, and has climbed through the ranks to his present position.
“The game has changed, but the 27 outs a side has not,” he said. “Right now, there is a broad-based consensus in baseball that enough is enough. It’s time to do something. The game is committed to keeping it as clean as possible. The competitors want to compete on a level playing field. I told these players here that you guys are the ones who are going to save the game.”
Landers was happy that McGonagle was being recognized locally for his success, and added that he is highly respected in baseball circles. “He received the Bob Freitas Award as the best administrator in baseball,” Landers said. He added that when McGonagle went to Congress to plead Minor League Baseball’s position on pending legislation, U.S. Senator John D. “Jay” Rockefeller IV, responded in support of McGonagle’s position.
Jeff Gray, general manager of the Bluefield Blue Jays, got the honor of going out on the field to introduce Landers, O’Conner and McGonagle, “The King of Baseball,” Gray said.
— Contact Bill Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org