December 1, 2022
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Pleasanton Preps: Remembering ‘Dr. B’ George Baljevich, a legend in Tri-Valley local sports | News

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As I sat down to write this Saturday morning, I stared at my computer screen not knowing where to start.

George “Dr. B” Baljevich was such an iconic figure in Pleasanton that locally he was every bit as well-known as John Madden. So, writing about Dr. B, who passed away at the age of 84 on Thursday (May 12) was a daunting task.

Then it came to me — head to downtown Pleasanton, where Baljevich was often seen. And the location to start was obvious: Vic’s All Star Kitchen, a well-known breakfast and lunch spot where he had a menu item named after him.

As I enjoyed my “Dr. B” omelet — Linguisa and cheese — thoughts and memories came flooding back to me. I started telling stories to my wife, then to Vic’s owner Laura Castro, who stopped by to talk about Dr. B.

In so many ways, Dr. B, who used the nickname because his last name was too tough to pronounce for some, was Pleasanton. He was always around town and was quick to visit with anyone that approached, treating each person as a longtime friend.

You recognized George instantly when you walked into a local dining establishment or coffee shop. You also saw George driving that red Volkswagen around town.

He was so many different things to people (friend, mentor, former teacher and colleague) that if you talk to 10 people, you’ll likely get 10 different stories relating to 10 different topics.

Dr. B wasn’t just a sports personality. He was there to help others with life issues as well. There are many stories as to how he helped people through tough times. George was instrumental in so many people’s lives, and it has been awesome to hear some of these stories.

For me, it was friend, mentor and colleague, and being friends with George was easily the most important.

Here is one example of the type of person George was. When my dad was sick — he passed away in August 2021 — he spent some time in the Pleasanton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. George would regularly stop by to say hi. He didn’t know my dad, but they both knew of each other and when George was visiting other residents of the center, he would make a point of stopping by to check on my dad.

It meant a lot to both my parents and me.

I challenge anyone to find someone that has a bad opinion of George.

You won’t. It’s impossible.

You couldn’t run into George without getting a smile on your face.

Since his passing I have been thinking of all the great memories but have also cherished reading all the posts on social media recounting the memories of others.

There were stories about his teaching days, coaching and media personality, but mostly it was just about how great a person George was.

Outside of being a friend, my memories were founded by the time we spent as colleagues.

For a few years it was an honor to sit alongside George and Ian Bartholomew on “Tri-Valley Sports Final” on local TV 30. The fun we had filming the series about local sports — largely high school, with youth sports thrown in during the summer months — is something I will never forget.

If the outtakes ever surfaced from all the shows we taped, it would sell enough copies to finance the current version of the show. Every show drove us to tears while filming from laughing so hard.

Many a Friday afternoon I would walk out to the car with pains from laughing and I couldn’t wait to get back to the newspaper office to share the stories with my co-workers.

Every show we would try to intentionally make each other laugh while filming, and we would usually come up with a word we had to find a way to get into the show.

When that word was uttered, “cut” was usually called out by the director as the laughing got to be too much.

Several times my family and friends had viewing parties to watch the show so I could tell the behind the scenes stories of the taping.

It was the beginning of Sports Final and was easily the glory years of the program. Along with George’s baby, “Let’s Talk Sports,” those were the two go to shows for the local sports community. We started getting visitors that would show up just to watch the taping. I know the staff in the control room looked forward to the entertainment each week.

At times my kids would come down and each time they did, George would give them a sports trading card — one of his trademarks – along with a story about the athlete.

Initially I thought my kids came down to see their dad tape a TV show, but then realized they wanted to see George and get a card.

He meant that much to people, young and old.

I departed from the show a year after I left the daily newspaper business and much the same as newspaper coverage, local sports coverage took a hit.

After George was unbelievably shown the door by the station and “Let’s Talk Sports” was taken off the air, the personality of the station went with him.

That’s because George was the personality of Tri-Valley Community Television.

Those close to George knew how much losing the show meant. It devastated him.

While Bartholomew is probably the hardest working man I have known and has fought to keep high school and local sports in the news, you lose an asset like Dr. B, and you are going to lose a lot of life from the station.

Other than an occasional local high school football game, brilliantly announced by Bartholomew, I never watch Channel 30 anymore.

You can’t replace a personality like Dr. B.

People have mentioned to me several times that George’s legacy needs to be remembered by cementing a tribute to the man.

Some have suggested naming a street or a sports facility after him. I am working with the Alameda County Fair to have a race named in honor of George, as he often interviewed me at the track each year when the fair came to town.

But the one thought I had is one that will likely never come to fruition. I told my wife that they should name the Museum on Main after George. Simply, George was a museum when it came to sports knowledge, and he was regularly seen on Main Street. And he certainly is a treasured memory of Pleasanton.

A perfect match, but one that will never happen.

I would love to see one of the First Saturdays on Main Street declared “Dr. B Day,” including a banner hanging from the Pleasanton arch.

For those who had the privilege to have our lives enriched by knowing George, we don’t need a monument to remember Dr. B — our memories will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

But he deserves, and honestly is owed by the city of Pleasanton, a tribute.

And when our time on Earth ends, we will look forward to reconnecting with Dr. B and the regular laughs will return, instead of just the memories.

Godspeed George and until we meet again.

Services for Dr. B are set for Saturday, May 28 at 10 a.m. at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Pleasanton. For those that attend the service, there will be a celebration of life immediately following. Details will be released at the service.

Editor’s note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. To contact him about his Pleasanton Preps column, email [email protected]

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