Upon arriving in Princeton over 30 years ago to begin a career of covering local sports, one of the first people I crossed paths with was George O’Gorman.
A veteran at the local daily, running into George at that early stage of my career made all the difference in the world. Like every other young sportswriter in Mercer County, George became a mentor who showed that covering local sports was a passion where you could make a difference.
George O’Gorman passed away on Tuesday at the much too young age of 73. A local sportswriting legend who spent a bulk of his career at the Trentonian, he had been off the high school beat, or in George’s case beats, for a while after suffering a stroke. But even just a month ago, sitting around the table at the weekly Friday morning breakfast with his peers, his mind hadn’t missed a beat.
When the discussion turned all-time top athletes in Mercer County, George rattled off the names of the top performers from Princeton, Hamilton, Trenton and anywhere else in the Trentonian coverage area. No need to access a computer when you needed to know anything about local sports in Mercer County, just ask George.
While many young writers aspired to cover professional sports or big-time college athletics, George was living proof that the biggest impact you could make was covering local sports. Instead of being one of dozens of reporters covering an NFL game, George knew how important it was to be the one there to chronicle the achievements of the cross country runner who just won a big race or the soccer player who helped win a county tournament game.
It wasn’t long into my career that I saw George at his best. It was a Friday afternoon and we were covering a girls soccer game together. Instead of packing it in the for the day, George was off to cover a football game that night. As far as Saturday was concerned, covering two high school football games wasn’t enough, he’d always manage to squeeze in a soccer game or two in the day as well.
George was most known for covering football, soccer and cross country during the fall athletic season. One year, while covering the finals of the Mercer County Girls Tennis Tournament, who should appear but George. What was he doing there? Well, no one else planned to cover it for his paper and he knew it was important to the girls who were playing so George was there, making sure an important event was covered.
No one worked harder and he became a mentor for myself and so many other sports reporters over the last 30 years. He instilled in us the importance of knowing that the event you were covering that day was the most important thing to the players and coaches on the field. George never thought he was bigger than the event and he never thought another event was bigger than the one he was covering.
I doubt there was a sport that George didn’t cover over the course of his career. I remember teaching him how tennis was scored that day at the MCT tournament. It only seemed right that I help him once after all the lessons he taught me over the years.
George earned many accolades over his career. He’s a member of the Mercer County Soccer, Basketball and Softball Hall of Fames. He’s been the New Jersey Sportswriter of the Year as well as a member of the New Jersey Soccer Hall of Fame. He’s been honored by the Delaware Valley Football Foundation and the Trenton Select Committee.
But even with all the honors you’d never hear him talk about himself. It was always about the players and the coaches he covered. He was an encyclopedia of knowledge when it came to the local high schools. He’d talk about former Princeton High greats like Paul Miles, Marv Trotman, Saskia Webber and Ailey Penningroth like he has just seen them compete last week. He could also pull out the name of some of the most obscure athletes off the top of his head.
George meant to a lot to myself and so many others not just for what he did professionally, but because he was a Hall of Famer as a person as well.
George O’Gorman is gone much too soon and I’ll miss my friend.