The Denver Forum
A man of surpassing intellect, opinions, passions and pursuits, including but hardly limited to the vagaries of politics, civics and, of course, baseball, George Sherman Mitrovich was an immutable force in San Diego’s civic fabric for more than a half-century and perhaps longer.
Mr. Mitrovich died July 24, 2019 at age 83, days before he was to turn 84.
A native San Diegan, George was a proud graduate of Helix High, where he competed in baseball and basketball. He earned his undergraduate degree from Pasadena College, which later became Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. In 2007, the institution awarded him an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters
Among countless civic-minded credentials, achievements and accolades, many self-proclaimed in his endearing style of talking about himself, George might have been most proud of his own lengthy career as a ballplayer.
Indeed, unwilling as he was to willingly yield to time’s inexorable toll, he played and often served as a player/manager for several decades with the Marston Mets of the San Diego Adult Baseball League (SDABL), 45 and over division.
Let the record show: The Mets won league titles in 2004, 2010, 2012, and 2013.
Aside from baseball, which George rightly viewed as analogous to life itself, he was a whirlwind of interests and expertise on innumerable topics that freely entered his every-day conversations at the slightest provocation.
His was a world without limits on whatever he deemed intellectually stimulating and worthy of impassioned dialogue and further discussion, his sharp wit and high-pitched laugh never far behind.
A life-long Democrat who prided himself on his reasoned outlook and who valued respectful give-and-take with friends who might inexplicably hold opposing views, George earned his political stripes with several national figures, led by his role as press aide to the presidential campaign of 1968 of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
He subsequently served as press secretary to Senator Charles E. Goodell (R-NY), whose son Roger went on to become NFL Commissioner; and Senator Harold E. Hughes, Democrat of Iowa. In addition, he worked for two members of the United States House of Representatives.
His close connections in Washington and elsewhere were legendary, extending from political to sports to literature and beyond. It seemed as if he knew everyone who was anyone, not only in San Diego but everywhere else his travels took him.
When our friend George said he “knew” someone, it was doubtless true, despite his forgivable tendency to drop more than a few names along the way.
Recently, he was fond of pointing out that two of the current Democratic presidential candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden and former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, were personal friends of long standing. Indeed, they were.
His close connections in Washington and elsewhere were legendary, extending from politics, civics, baseball, religious history, literature and beyond. It seemed as if he knew everyone who was anyone, not only in San Diego but everywhere else his travels took him.
Above all, he was a crusader for the enduring tenets of democracy, civility and kindness, given freely to all those he met along the way.
His self-selected slogan for the City Club, the San Diego-based forum he founded in 1975 that over the decades attracted hundreds, perhaps thousands of prominent speakers, was “Dedicated to the Dialogue of Democracy.”
He also served as the driving force for three other similar non-profit public forums that he personally founded and hosted, in Denver (since 1985), the Great Washington D.C. Writers Series, and also the Great Fenway Park Writers Series in Boston, where he was designated as a national ambassador for the Boston Red Sox, World Series champions in 2018. The forum stands as the only on-going literary program ever sponsored by a professional sports team.
George also chaired the Red Sox’s annual birthday tribute to Jackie Robinson, and played a pivotal role in Robinson being posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2005. Over more than 40 years, he presented more than 2,000 public forums, an average of some 50 every year.
It was in his Red Sox role that he proudly showed off his diamond-laded 2018 World Series ring to dozens of Alaska Airlines flight attendants, who then were treated to a personal VIP walking tour, and even a game if schedules permitted, at fabled Fenway Park.
A United Methodist layman, he preached in some of America’s leading churches, including Washington’s National Cathedral and Highland Park United Methodist in Dallas.
In addition to public speaking, George wrote extensively for numerous major publications, including The New York Times, Boston Globe, Toronto Globe and Mail, Baltimore Sun, San Diego Union Tribune, Denver Post, and Los Angeles Times, as well as faith-based magazines.
His almost-daily Facebook posts, written under the unfettered title “Baseball Notes,” drew a national following in the thousands, including many of the game’s top executives and media members.
Throughout his life, George served on dozens of public boards and commissions that helped re-shape San Diego, most notably as chairman of the Committee on Charter Reform, whose proposal for changing city government from council manager to mayor council was adopted by voters in 2004.
In addition, he chaired the Committee of 2000, a citizens group that successfully supported the building of Petco Park, the city’s downtown ballpark. The measure passed with nearly 60 percent of the vote.
Despite medical issues that entered his recent years, George continued at his indefatigable pace, hardly slowing down until his final weeks and days.
As if offering up printed evidence of that life force could fully capture his essence, so familiar to his many friends for so many years, consider what George wrote about himself a year ago:
“I am 83. I dare anyone, anyone, to tell me I’m too old to be running four public forums in four different American cities; too old to write, on average, 1,500 words a day; too old to grocery shop and plan dinners most nights; too old to be as active as I am — which is mostly the same degree of activity I had twenty or forty years ago.”
George Mitrovich leaves behind his wife La Verle; their three children, Carolyn, Mark and Tim; and three grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the George Mitrovich Memorial Journalism Scholarship at Point Loma Nazarene University, attn. Dean Nelson, PLNU, 3900 Lomaland Drive, San Diego, CA 92106 or online at www.pointloma.edu/mitrovich
A public memorial service is set for Saturday, August 24, at 10 am, at First United Methodist Church in Mission Valley.