5 — Fanning lives on in baseball community despite his death

Bill Fanning is synonymous with baseball in the Grand Valley, compiling a record of 467-172 in 35 years as the Grand Junction High School baseball coach. Fanning died in February at the age of 91, but those he influenced still remember him as “Coach.”

A few names come to mind when anyone talks about baseball in Grand Junction.

Bill Fanning is one of those.

The Hall of Fame baseball coach at Grand Junction High School died on Feb. 8 at the age of 91.

The summer of 2011, hundreds of former players and friends gathered at the Blue Moon Bar and Grille to help Fanning celebrate his 90th birthday, and he regaled the crowd with stories of his 35-year coaching career.

Fanning led the Tigers to state championships in 1961, 1962 and 1976 and had a career record of 467-172, coaching from 1954 to 1990. The field at Grand Junction is named for him, as is an annual high school baseball tournament, the Bill Fanning Classic.

Those who played for Fanning praised him not only for his baseball acumen, but how he treated his players.

“He was honest and fair, and it really didn’t matter what family you came from or how old you were or what background you had or however a kid came to us,” said Walt Bergman, who was one of Fanning’s assistant coaches and remained close to the coach after his retirement.

Among Fanning’s honors are being selected the Colorado baseball coach of the year in each of his championship seasons and the national high school baseball coach of the year in 1984.

He is a member of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, the Colorado High School Coaches Hall of Fame, the CHSAA Hall of Fame, National High School Sports Hall of Fame, Home Run Alley Heroes, University of Colorado Living Legends and the Colorado Dugout Club Hall of Fame.


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