Bronco Basketball Loses A Great Friend

Dec. 20, 2003

By David Kiefer
San Jose Mercury News

While sitting courtside at a recent Santa Clara University basketball game, Dick O'Connor told friend Art Santo Domingo that he expected to recover from scheduled heart surgery in time for the school's Cable Car Classic men's tournament, which begins Dec. 29.

Mr. O'Connor, a longtime local sports writer, had created an award for the tournament's most inspirational player in memory of his son, Kevin, who died in 1982 from complications of juvenile diabetes.

But Mr. O'Connor's heart-valve replacement procedure grew more serious by the discovery of calcification. He died Thursday at Sequoia Hospital during a 12-hour operation. He was 73.

``He took a lot of pride in that award,'' said Santo Domingo, the Cable Car Classic's (founder and) tournament director. ``We're going to continue it, but it will really be in memory of both of them.''

Mr. O'Connor's involvement in the tournament was only a small part of his life in sports. He was a sportswriter for the Palo Alto Times and its successor, the Peninsula Times Tribune, from 1956 through 1983, covering the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Raiders.

Upon retirement, he often worked as the official scorer for the Oakland A's and the Giants, including the recent National League playoff series against Florida.

``Worked'' is a relative term.

``A day watching baseball was the best day for my dad,'' said his daughter, Kerry O'Connor. ``Baseball, next to his family, was his absolute love -- the beauty of the game, the rules, the intricacy. If anybody said baseball is slow, that would set him off. He would score a game even when he was watching TV.''

Mr. O'Connor had attended every Giants home opener since the team moved to San Francisco from New York in 1958. After he retired from writing, he and his wife, Joyce, who was the women's page editor at the Times when they met, continued to visit Arizona every year for spring training.

During his career, Mr. O'Connor befriended many Giants greats, including Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Bobby Bonds. All participated in Mr. O'Connor's annual golf tournament at Aptos Seascape.

An avid golfer, he took frequent trips to play some of the world's best courses, including St. Andrews in Scotland. The day before he was admitted to the hospital, Mr. O'Connor played a round at Monterey Peninsula Country Club.

Dick O'Connor
Born: Nov. 14, 1930, in Utica, N.Y.
Died: Dec. 18, 2003, in Redwood City
Survived by: Wife, Joyce P. O'Connor of Aptos; daughters, Kerry O'Connor of Redwood City and Erin O'Connor of Van Nuys.
Services: A memorial celebration will be held at Stanford Memorial Chapel in mid-January. Date is unconfirmed.