American River College baseball manager Grant Price Donnelly, with his family by his side, passed away from liver disease on June 20, 2011. He was 80.
His family held a memorial service July 9 at Arcade Church, where family, friends, colleagues, and past players honored him with stories and memories of how he touched their lives.
Donnelly was hired in 1956 as the first baseball manager at American River College. There he met his wife of 52 years, ARC tennis coach Rosemary Buck. From 1956 to 1961 his overall record was 67-27, making him the winningest coach at ARC for decades. He was also the assistant football coach to Lou Quaint and Ralph Olsen during those years.
Born in San Francisco in 1930, Donnelly grew up in Cloverdale. He played sports at San Rafael Academy and Santa Rosa Junior College. He then earned his master’s degree in education at San Jose State University.
In 1951, he started coaching at Modesto High School. Twin brothers Lloyd and Floyd Reynolds were his starting outfielders during their freshman year. “We used to switch batting positions to mess with Grant,” Floyd Reynolds said. He remembered how Donnelly would take some of the team to his favorite fishing hole after practice.
“All the guys who played for him really liked him,” Floyd said. “He treated everyone the same. He was a great guy.”
Ray McCreary, who played football and baseball at the old ARC campus for Donnelly in 1956 and 1957, said, “Of all the coaches I played for, Grant was the most respected by his players.” After joining the Army in 1958, while stationed in Germany, McCreary said, “I got a hold of Grant and he wrote a letter to my base commander and got me released three months early.”
McCreary came back to play baseball for Donnelly until 1961. “Grant was straight up, always cool, he had no ego … (and) he made you want to play ball. There was nothing negative about the guy,” McCreary said.
Bruce Swinehart, a new faculty member in the science department in 1958, spoke about Donnelly at the service. “Grant always had a smile and a story to tell.”
From 1958 to 1961, led by Donnelly, the beaver baseball team took first place in the Golden Valley League championships for four straight seasons.
He left ARC in 1961 to become a scout for the Philadelphia Phillies. Donnelly also worked at Cordova High School as assistant coach under Jim Hanafin, who later went on to manage the St. Louis Cardinals.
After taking a break to spend some quality family time with wife Rosemary and their two daughters, Mary Kay and Laurie, he worked as an assistant football coach and taught U.S. History at Marshall High School in West Sacramento.
After retiring from coaching, Donnelly went to work for Downtown Ford in Sacramento. He is survived by his wife Rosemary, their daughters Mary Kay Shafer and Laurie Peterson, and grandchildren Lauren and Katie Shafer and Jetty Peterson.