Pat Reilly – Tribute – July 11, 2021
I would say it took less than five minutes into my first meeting with Francis Gorst to know this
was a man of principles with a heart of gold. In the next five minutes I knew Francis had a
tremendous respect for the game of baseball and a tremendous love for the kids who played. I
think Francis saw some of the same respect for the game and the dream of offering it to kids
of all different abilities in me, so he asked me to help out with the league.
Every year I would listen to his speech about this being his last year and I would tell him
nothing doing. He was Babe Ruth baseball and if that organization was to be strong in
southwest Wisconsin, he would have to stay with it. Thank God he had an understanding wife
in Pat who went on most of the Babe Ruth League trips with him.
Babe Ruth in the State of Wisconsin has had its struggles. The organization often turned in
Francis’s direction where they could make use of his expertise and wisdom. He served as state
commissioner, district commissioner, Dane County League president and treasurer.
Francis and I became very close friends during our travels to state meetings in Wisconsin
Rapids and later Stevens Point. That would give us four or five hours to discuss the state of
Babe Ruth Baseball and what we could do to make it better. When we would do introductions
around the table, I would introduce myself as Francis’s bodyguard which was far from the
truth as I really felt all that time that Francis was looking out for me.
We would also talk about kids who were performing well in other sports and frequently
Francis would say he played ball with someone’s father or umpired a game when that person
played or provided some little insight into someone’s long line of athleticism that ran through
I have met a lot of people through baseball and most of them knew who Francis Gorst was
either knowing him in person or knowing about him through his involvement in youth
baseball. We all have our Francis Gorst stories to tell but not one of them was about anything
except what a remarkable person he was.
I know my life is better with having Francis in it. There is a quote that goes like this:
“When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure.”
Francis Gorst was a treasure to me, and I know all of you feel the same way. I miss
him every day.
July 11, 2021
Good afternoon baseball fans and welcome to Gorst Memorial Field for today’s home talent baseball
game. My name is Doug Brunner, and I am honored to say a few words about Fran and Pat Gorst and
their lifetime commitment to Cross Plains and Baseball. After I speak, Jim Nonn and Pat Reilly will
share a few remarks before the first pitch.
Fran Gorst was a lifelong baseball player, coach, mentor, and administrator. He contributed
thousands of hours of volunteer time to give ballplayers in Cross Plains the opportunity to learn the
lessons of baseball and teamwork. His wife Pat also was dedicated to the baseball and Cross Plains
Community. Francis started the Babe Ruth program in 1963. I was born in 1970 and lived across the
street from the ball field. Francis was a fixture coaching from the earliest time I can remember. I was
truly fortunate to play, Babe Ruth, Senior Babe Ruth, and Home Talent baseball in Cross Plains for
Fran. We called his brand of baseball; Franny Ball and it was all inclusive. If you were part of the team,
you had a role to help the team win. Only 9 could play at a time, but we needed bench strength and
depth at pitching to compete for championships. Fran knew this and coached to the whole team
concept where each player knew their role and contributed.
My earliest memories of Fran were watching him coach. Even at a young age I respected Fran’s
energy and enthusiasm for the game and his players. As I played and learned from him, I also got to
know his wife, Pat. She was polite and asked about my parents and siblings and was nurturing
towards me and my teammates. She was competitive and engaged in the games and spent countless
hours on the ball fields, in the car, and helping Fran with administration. Francis and Pat are the
founding parents of Cross Plains baseball and did a great job growing their passion.
Here is a little trip down memory lane for his former ballplayers.
Come on Kid. You got this kid. How are ya kid? Good to see you kid. Everyone was kid to Fran.
Even at 50 years old, I was Kid to Fran, and I was always Dougy to Pat.
Fran did not always pronounce names perfectly. Middleton was usually Milton. Rob Kadaravek
was Cataract. Players with a challenging name always ended up with a great nickname.
Amazingly he pitched thousands of hours of batting practice without an L screen. I remember
many times while taking batting practice as a youngster, I would knock him over and he would
always get up, dust himself off, and say nice job kid. He is the reason I could hit a curveball and
a changeup. Drive it hard where it is pitched, kid. Good hitters use the whole field.
His suicide sign. We all knew it, and so did the other team. It was often the highlight of the pre-
game talk. Did I forget anything boys, oh yeah, the old suicide. We would complain that the
other team knew the signs. So, what, get the bunt down and execute!
He teased a little about girls in a fun uncle’s way. His smile and laughter at the good-natured
ribbing was contagious and helped build a team. You could see the sparkle in his eye when he
got a good zinger in on a player or an assistant coach.
A couple things Francis hated. Missed signs, Missing the cut off man, Complaining about the
Umps, or Being a selfish teammate. He knew and coached to win the game. Score more runs
than the other team and he used his bench and pitchers and strategy to win the game. He was
not about looking pretty, and he did not care who got the most hits or individual accolades. He
coached to represent Cross Plains with sportsmanship and effort.
When he would coach 3 rd Base, he was very vocal and engaging. My favorite lines were “ Be
Aggressive “ if you take a strike and then, “Be Patient” when you swing at a bad pitch. Often in
the same at bat. He would wave his hands and was incredibly fun and animated. I would love
to take a step back in time and have him coach me another game or 2.
Fran also had unique ways of treating injuries during practices and games. Humor was a big
part of his emergency response and it helped comfort the injured player.
Winning a game on a Friday Night at Black Earth, 36 – 32 in July of 1999. You had to see that,
or be a part of that game, to believe it. Both teams had 10 run leads at different points in the
game. One of the craziest games I had ever been a part of, and we had to rob a home run for
the final out.
My first 4 seasons of Home Talent baseball were not a lot of fun. We were 3 and 15 each year on
Sunday’s. We would typically split with Poynette and sweep Rio. It was challenging for us hometown
boys that wanted to turn this thing around and win. I recall hearing in town that they should change
our team’s name to Cross Plains, No Talent. Francis took over the team and the culture was
immediately changed with the additions of discipline, direction, coaching, pitching and
communication. That first year he coached we went to Waunakee and won a great 1 run game with a
sacrifice bunt and an RBI single in the top of the 9th. I knew we had taken a huge step in the right
direction. That same year we reached the play-offs as the 3 rd seed and upset Ashton at their place.
Then a disappointing championship game against Sauk ended that season but it was clear there was a
new contender in the Home Talent League. Our teams gave effort and had many memorable come
from behind wins with Fran leading the way. He built a team that believed in each other and would
pick up a teammate after a mistake.
We had a lot of success with Fran as coach and he truly laid a championship foundation. This current
Cross Plains team has a nice mix of older and younger players, quieter kids, and some characters.
They come together to win the game and represent Cross Plains. Francis was a left-handed hitting
catcher when he played Home Talent. He also helped coach and shared stories of not only baseball
games, but also, once in a while, having to go wake up a pitcher or two after a rough night partying to
get them to the ball field. Even in his playing days he was an amazing leader.
The impact Fran and Pat had on my life is profound and goes well beyond the ball field. Baseball
teaches real life lessons around teamwork and maximizing different strengths and leadership. Francis
and Pat taught those lessons for 50 years. They made Cross Plains a better baseball community and
many players’ better people. Their legacy is all around us in the park today and I look forward to
celebrating that with a beer and a hot dog or brat after the CP win today. I hope many will stick
around and join and share this honor with the Gorst family. Thank you.
Now I would like to introduce Jim Nonn, who took over the Cross Plains Babe Ruth program from
Francis and has done an amazing job continuing that strong tradition.
Today is a great day in Cross Plains Baseball, as we honor and thank the Gorst family for the
hard work and dedication of their parents, Francis and Pat Gorst. Their commitment to the
youth of Cross Plains for over 57 years is the reason we are here today; Francis, as a State
Commissioner of Babe Ruth, an umpire, and a coach. And, Pat, well you all know the story that
behind every good man there is a great woman.
Five minutes doesn’t do justice for all they did in 57 years in the community and the many
baseball games they attended. The Babe Ruth Program in our community was started in 1963
by Francis. My first interaction with Francis was as a 13-years old player back in 1967. Francis
had a way of making you feel important as a player, regardless of your age; and that is
something I just never forgot.
In 1983, Francis talked to me about taking over as coach for the 13 to 15 year-old program so
he could start a 16 to 18 year-old program. In 1984, with my brother Stan, we took over the
program and Francis stared to build the 16 to 18 year-old program. Francis’s reasoning was to
give players a place to play; before eventually playing home talent.
In 2003, Francis received one of the highest awards in Babe Ruth which was the Lefty Gomez
Award. This is given as Volunteer of the Year for the entire Babe Ruth organization.
We have seen much success in our program; 10 state champs, one Ohio Valley Regional
Championship, and one trip to the World Series. ALL has happened because of the great
foundation that Francis and Pat built here in Cross Plains.
I remember calling Francis after Coaches Randy Meinholz and Mike Diebold won the Ohio
Valley Regional and telling him they were headed to the World Series. I think he must have
been watching a St. Louis Cardinal game when I called him; because he seemed to be in shock
and disbelief when I told him that the 16 to 18 year-old team was headed to the World Series. I
think it took him a moment to realize what he had built and I could tell he was having a tough
time holding the tears of joy back. After I hung up, I think Francis probably called Pat Reilly to
see if I was telling the truth.
In hockey we all remember The Miracle on Ice; well, in Cross Plains it’s the Miracle of the
Baseball Gods. To think our little town with 17 of the 18 players from right here in Cross Plains
would go on to win two games in the World Series was unbelievable. Without Francis starting
the Babe Ruth Program back in 1963, none of this may have ever happened.
It is an honor today to see Baer Park give a permanent name to this field; Gorst Memorial Field.
There is no one more deserving of this honor than Francis and Pat Gorst for all they did over 57
years for the youth in our community. Today nearly 100 players participate in our summer
baseball program here in Cross Plains every year; thanks to the Gorst family.
The only thing that could have been better today; would be if they would have been alive to see
that all the work they put in over the last 57 years did not go unnoticed. Their hard work stared
the program and now it will live long into the future of Cross Plains Baseball.
Finally, I would like to thank the Village of Cross Plains for working with us to dedicate this field
in the name of The Gorst Family, and everyone else that helped to make this day happen.