We've made it into the semifinal round here in the CGB Hall of Fame bracket! Our first matchup of the weekend comes out of the Brick Mueller Region and features everyone's favorite Jorge Gutierrez taking on baseball great (on and off the field) Stu Gordon. Jorge got here by taking down Pete Cutino while Stu barely took out Brian Treggs. We'll take a closer look at both of them and then you can cast your vote to decide who moves on. You can take a look at the whole bracket here and voting will end Friday at noon. GO BEARS!
I'm pretty sure I speak for more than just myself when I say that Jorge is one of my favorite Cal athletes to watch, not only in the past few years, but also in my lifetime. I always felt like no matter whom we were playing or how the game was going, as long as Jorge was there we had a chance. I knew that he would never quit and would be right there to take a charge, dive on the floor for a loose ball, or hit a huge shot at the buzzer. Simply put, he was an exciting player and one that embodied everything that Cal athletics represents. It was a privilege to watch him play and I'm glad he was a Golden Bear.
When we first watched Gutierrez, it was hard not to love him. Jorge was just a high energy bundle that wasn't terribly focused, but it always seemed to spark the team when he was really able to get into it. Here was a guy who struggled to dribble, struggled to pass, struggled to shoot, and there he was locking down James Harden, spearheading a double digit comeback against the Furd, dunking and throwing an and-one layup high in the air to clinch a Pac-10 title.
Love does funny things to you. It makes you forget about turnover rates and field goal percentage and free throw rate because numbers be damned, watching Jorge was a joy. You discard those things because you like to imagine you can play with that sort of wild desperation, put that much effort into something you love that much. With that type of effort, that type of confidence, and just enough skill, anything is possible.
I've watched Cal basketball seriously for four years, and having Jorge be part of those experiences made it not just worthwhile, but meaningful. Watching almost every big momentum-changing steal, every forced turnover; every grimace; every sell of a call, every race he made toward a basketball regardless of what might be in the way, every time he went to the ground and we held our breath, until we realized it was Jorge and he'd be up in thirty seconds because that's who he was, every little inch he refused to give to his opponent, every chestbump from an inspired teammate, every spontaneous standing ovation we gave him for some random Jorge thing he'd do, every little thing he did do that we thought he couldn't do--those moments added up.
The first recruit signed by head coach Mike Montgomery at Cal (mid-May 2008), Gutierrez is a versatile guard who can play several positions on the court ... proved to be an invaluable reserve coming off the bench ... consistently one of the hardest-working players whenever he's on the court ... named the team's Defensive Player of the Year last season.
Senior guard Jorge Gutierrez, the heart and soul of a Cal team that chased the conference championship until the final day of the season, became the first player named Pac-12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year on Monday.
"Jorge just wins, and he has done that for us for four years," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "Coaches appreciate that part of it, without getting stuck on numbers or the spectacular athleticism. I'm not trading Jorge for anybody."
Gordon arrived in Berkeley for the fall of 1958 and joined the freshman baseball and basketball teams hot on the heels of varsity baseball's 1957 College World Series championship and on the precipice of varsity basketball's 1959 NCAA title. For good measure, Cal's 1958 football season ended with the Pacific Coast championship and a trip to the '59 Rose Bowl. The superlatives spill out when Gordon describes the coaches he had the privilege to play for at Cal. "George Wolfman was just a lovely man, Pete Newell was an institution, and Rene Herrerias, our freshman basketball coach, was a wonderful guy," Gordon said.
After struggling with his grades as a freshman while playing both basketball and baseball, Gordon left the hardwood to devote more time to his studies and a more focused effort on baseball. The choice paid off, as he logged 18 credits in the classroom and a 7-0 record on the mound with a low ERA to complement his higher GPA in his junior year. One of Gordon's fans in the stands happened to be the dean of admissions at Boalt Hall, who urged him to consider law school. Gordon, determined to ensure options beyond his Major League dreams, took his advice and was accepted to Boalt, becoming president of his first-year class and eventually, the student body.
After his graduation Gordon continued to be an ardent supporter of the Bears, but one that most people probably had not heard off until last year when Cal Baseball was slated to be eliminated from the university's sports program. Stu Gordon stepped up to the plate and not only donated a substantial amount of money, but also became the face of the Save Cal Baseball effort. In mid-April, that dream was realized.
On April 9, 2011, Cal baseball, a tradition that dates back to 1892, was saved from elimination caused by financial constraints at the University of California-Berkeley. For seven months, players, supporters and alumni struggled to contemplate life without Cal baseball. In February, Gordon & Rees Founding Partner and former Cal baseball pitcher Stu Gordon took control of the Save Cal Baseball campaign. In less than six weeks, donations and pledges jumped from $1.5 million to over $9 million, reinstating Cal baseball in 2012 and crediting Stu with saving the program. As Chancellor Robert Birgeneau told the San Francisco Chronicle, "It would not have happened without him."
More than 1,000 people contributed to the campaign and 40 people contributed more than $50,000, including more than $100,000 from former Major League MVP Jeff Kent, $50,000 from agent Scott Boras, and $550,000 from Stu Gordon that gave the fundraising effort inspiration and momentum. Chancellor Birgeneau described Stu’s efforts as "phenomenal" but, as Stu explained to BerkeleySide.com, "It’s still our goal to get up to a $20 million endowment so Cal baseball can be self-supporting."
Twice in recent years, Stu has been named the Carl Van Heuit Cal Baseball Alumnus of the Year and currently serves in an appointed position on the Athletic Director’s Advisory Board. His donations to the University have helped make possible the new Cal baseball field and outdoor multipurpose complex. He is also one of the founders of the Bear Backers, an organization which raises more than $8 million each year to support athletic programs at the University. If baseball had been lost, said Stu, "it would have been such a bitter disappointment…I was amazed at how emotional people were."
The Bears went on to make the College World Series and continue to play today and in the future thanks to Stu Gordon. A true Golden Bear on and off the field.
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