Gus Zernial dead at 87, valley in mourning

FRESNO, Calif.

Gus Zernial's ability to pound the baseball earned him work pitching products. Gus also talked sports, having worked as a channel 30 sports anchor.

Tom Sommers was one of Gus' closest friends. Sommers said, "People loved /*Gus Zernial*/. He loved this town. He loved people, he really was an icon."

Zernial was known as "/*Ozark Ike*/." Nicknamed after a cartoon strip character, Gus did seem bigger than life. In March of 2008 Gus explained, "Well I hit 7 home runs in four consecutive games. That was quite a feat and it's still a record today."

Gus Zernial hit 237 home runs between 1949 and 1959. In the fifties, only Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra hit more in the American League. And only Willie Mays and Hank Aaron had more homers in the National League.

Gus Zernial was a battler. Sommers recalled, "The amazing thing to me was in 1992 he was a just a step from dying. He had cancer. They had given him the last rites. Miraculously he was brought back out of that hospital."

Gus was most proud of helping John Carbray bring triple-a baseball to Fresno. Zernial served as a Grizzlies ambassador. He told us his job was to, "Go around and tell them, hey this is your place, you paid for it - enjoy it."

Gus Zernial was 87. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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