Walter Podgurski was Gordon LeMatty’s standout second baseman, his senior year in 1975 helping lead the Union Farmers to their seventh Union County Tournament title and a program-record 28 victories. He was drafted by the Minnesota Twins that year.
When Podgurski stepped up to the podium as one of four new members of the Union County Baseball Association’s Hall of Fame, his speech did not include tails of clutch hits or fielding gems he produced.
Instead, the former University of Pennsylvania baseball standout spoke of a situation where he did not do the right thing. He also had his coach Gordon LeMatty’s back.
Here he explains: “on my own I decided to try and steal, attempting to move from second base to third.
“I went on my own, not getting a signal at all. I was thrown out at third base, much to the dismay of the fans of our team there that day.
“Mr. LeMatty was coaching third and he didn’t say anything, didn’t let me have it at all.
“He had my back and that is something I will always remember.”
Podgurski still holds LeMatty in high regard and was happy to be in his presence on Feb. 10 when he was honored at the 83rd annual Hot Stove League Dinner, held at the Gran Centurions in Clark for the fourth straight year.
With LeMatty was his longtime assistant coach James Jeskey and two Class of 1966 UHS baseball standouts Al Santorini and Jack Goldberg.
All four are also members of the UCBA’s Hall of Fame in addition to the Union High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
“Mr. LeMatty and Mr. Jeskey were instrumental in my growth as a player and a person,” Podgurski said.
Santorini, who was the dinner’s guest speaker two years ago, helped push Podgurski for the UCBA Hall of Fame honor.
Podgurski is a product of the Union youth sports programs and he is considered one of the greatest all-around athletes to come out of Union. At one point during his high school years he lettered in football, basketball, soccer and baseball.
Podgurski also coached in the Hamilton Youth Program for 12 years, leading his teams to two State Championships in the Cal Ripken Tournament.