Baseball legend remembered

Gerry Gooding

Herman Gibbs

The local baseball and softball fraternity have reacted with sadness to the passing of Gerald Gooding, aged 84, last week.

Gerry, as he was fondly known, was one of baseball’s great characters during a career which started in the 60s when he made his debut for St Andrews Dodgers as a 16-year-old.

He was born in Mowbray on 26 November 1936. He attended Mowbray Methodist Primary School and later Livingstone High.

When Dodgers club was formed in 1949, Gerry became the club’s batboy – as family members, we always teased him that he will always be remembered as the club’s most famous batboy ever!

Growing up in Mowbray, Gerry, like most kids in the vicinity would have learnt about baseball at the nearby Oval, home of UCT baseball.

By the time Dodgers came into being, the neighbourhood in Mowbray and the adjacent area known as ‘Mowbray Valley’ was teeming with youths who could play the game. After the formation of Dodgers other clubs like Mowbraves and later Dynamos came into being.

Dodgers attracted mostly Mowbray born-and-bred players who would later become legends of the game. I am thinking of Donny Hermans and the Mitchell brothers Edward and Norman. There were also players like Eddie Henderson who was not from Mowbray but many of the players had ties with St Andrews Church in Newlands.

Gerry made his Dodgers debut as a 16-year-old on a day when the regular pitcher Era Mitchell was absent because of work commitments.

He started a powerful battery combination with Donny (they were cousins, their mothers were sisters) – Gerry nicknamed Donny ‘Baldy’ and they became lifelong friends.

Gerry made his WP debut four years later playing against Cape District. Gerry played centre field. The District pitcher was another famous Mowbray born-and-bred player, Paul Wilson.

After several years playing in the Western Province Baseball Union (first in Maitland, and then City Park, Crawford) Gerry and Donny decided to continue their careers with Battswood in Wynberg’s Cape District league. They also represented Cape District in the ‘Board’ games – for the uninitiated, the WP versus Cape District matches were commonly referred to as ‘Board’ games.

After two years there, Gerry and Donny returned to Dodgers at City Park only to find that another member of famous Fredericks clan, their ‘ougat’ cousin, Dennis Fredericks was the driving force there (Dennis’ father was a brother of Gerry and Donny’s mothers).

All the uncles and aunts used to refer to Dennis as the ‘ougat’ one because he had such cute looks as a kid.

During his playing career, Gerry always helped with coaching and amongst others, he mentored the Dodgers’ Women’s team. After he retired, he coached the WP baseball and softball teams. He umpired baseball and softball matches.

Gerry also played rugby as a centre for Perseverance. Like his younger brother Richard, he was ferocious tackler in midfield!

In 1969, I saw Gerald in action playing for Persies third team in an early curtain-raiser against Golden Arrows (the bus company’s team) at City Park.

At scrumhalf for Golden Arrows was Gerry’s cousin Rossie (Donny’s brother and who also at one time played for Dodgers). During the first half, they collided and one was carried off unconscious and the other ended in hospital with several stitches on the head – I can’t recall which one ended up with stitches.

Incidentally, at the time of the clash, I was sitting in the stand with the Cities under-19 team and we were playing the main curtain-raiser against a Northern’s XV ahead of the main match of the day, Cities vs WP (Green Track team). I recall I was shaken seeing two members of the family involved in the accident.

Apart from Gerry’s ability as a player, he will be remembered as a master chirper – on any day he was a motor mouth extraordinaire and could rattle opposition teams.

And then there was Gerald who offered so much to his family, extended family, and friends.

Being a member of the family (my grandmother and Gerry’s mother were sisters) I learnt that whenever someone in the family needed work they would turn to ‘Cousin Gerald’. Gerald had a long association with Plate Glass and later PG Timber.

Many will remember Gerald as a first-class caterer too.

After his playing and coaching days came to an end, Gerald became a huge soccer fan – and a fervent one too – of Cape Town City. I remember Gerald and some friends driving up to Joburg for a Cup final in which City played.

Three years ago, Gerry was inducted into the Sport Legends Hall of Fame at a function in Claremont. As Gerry was ill at the time, I accepted the award on his behalf. However, his lifelong friends Cecil Lategan and Graham Petersen presented him with the award at his Kenilworth home.

Gerald is survived by his wife Beata, children Chantel, Robyn, Miles and Ashley, brothers Richard and Alvin and sister Vivian.

I am indebted to Miles, Alvin and Dennis ‘The Lip’ for their input for this tribute.

Having chatted with Alvin in Australia of late, I know how much the Goodings are grieving.

In baseball terms, the family have suffered a strike-out – that is three strikes in a row following the deaths of Jenny (six months ago), Jasmine (Jean just over 9 days ago) and now Gerry.