Gus Zernial, former valley Major Leaguer dies

FRESNO, Calif.

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Gus Zernial is credited for bringing Chukchansi Park to Downtown Fresno. He played professional baseball for 11 years and spent most of his life sharing that passion with others.

In the baseball world, fans referred to Gus Zernial as /*Ozark Ike*/. The nickname was in homage to an old comic strip slugger some thought he resembled. Beyond the resemblance, Zernial also shared the same talent of that made-up character. He hit 237 homers in his 11 year career.

People who knew Zernial say he was one of a kind.

"I don't think anybody will ever replace him."

John Carbray visited Zernial this past Saturday at his Fresno hospice. The two baseball lovers had been friends for twenty years. Carbray is the former Diamond Group president and Grizzlies owner. He was instrumental in building Chukchansi Park, but credits Zernial for getting the project off the ground.

Carbray said, "He was like the guy going around giving the seal of approval and if we didn't have Gus, we wouldn't have had that stadium."

Carbray says Zernial fell in love with the valley after leaving the majors in 1959 and settling in Clovis.

During his retirement, Zernial kept busy with TV commercials, radio, and even worked as a sports anchor for ABC30 - known then as Channel 30. But, it was his love of baseball that made him a fixture in the valley sports community.

Action News Anchor Nancy Osborne interviewed Zernial back in 2008 about his baseball career.

"I hit seven homeruns in 4 consecutive games. That was quite a feat and it's a record today."

That pride and passion for the game is how Zernial lived his life.

After hearing about his death, current Grizzlies president, Chris Cummings, released a statement saying in part, quote, "We will truly miss his vitality and his humor, both of which made this world a better place."

Up until he was too sick to do so, Zernial attended several events on the Grizzlies behalf.

Funeral arrangements are pending.


Former Major Leaguer Served As Team Ambassador For Grizzlies

FRESNO, CA – Fresno Grizzlies President Chris Cummings issued the following statement regarding the passing this afternoon of longtime Grizzlies Ambassador and former Major Leaguer Gus Zernial:

"Gus has been a part of the Grizzlies' family dating back to its very beginning. Following his 11-year Major League career, he spent his retired life promoting his joy for and love of the game throughout the Central Valley. His spirit and energy helped bring baseball back to Fresno, and we are eternally grateful for everything he has meant to this community. His positive impact cannot be understated.

We will truly miss his vitality and his humor, both of which made this world a better place. The thoughts and prayers of everyone in the Grizzlies family go out to Gus' family, friends and colleagues."

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