COLUMBIA — George Hayes had three main passions in life: baseball, gambling and family.
The Huntington Park, Calif., native died Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, in Rocheport. He was 88.
Mr. Hayes lived a classic American tale, serving in the Navy at the end of World War II and returning to play minor league baseball for the Amarillo Gold Sox. He played against baseball greats such as Mickey Mantle and Satchel Paige. His brother, James Hayes, went on to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Mr. Hayes loved horse racing and was a witness to horse-racing history — he watched Secretariat win all three Triple Crown races in 1973.
His niece, Tracy Johnmeyer, said that some of her fondest memories with Mr. Hayes, who she refers to simply as “Uncle,” are going to the race track in Santa Anita, Calif.
“I remember going to the racetrack and him teaching me to read the books and bet the horses,” she said. “I was about 10 years old, and it was an addiction ever since.”
The track at Santa Anita was one of Mr. Hayes’ favorites, located close to his residence on the Golden Coast.
Gambling was one of Hayes’ greatest loves. According to Johnmeyer, there was never a football game on which Hayes did not have a bet. He did not have a favorite team but rather rotated his preference based on the game.
“His favorite team was whoever his money was on,” Johnmeyer said. “And even then it relied on the point spread.”
Later in his life, Mr. Hayes switched his attention from betting on football to playing poker. He also played golf as he aged, and it became one of his biggest hobbies.
After his baseball career ended, Mr. Hayes worked laying tile, part of a group of carpenters who assisted in building Angel Stadium, the home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It was a fitting accomplishment for Hayes, who passed on his love of baseball to his nephews.
“He was a very involved family man, never did miss one of my daughter’s barrel races or one of my son’s baseball games,” Johnmeyer said, speaking about her daughter's stint in the rodeo and her son’s youth baseball career.
After retiring from carpentry work, Mr. Hayes remained in California to take care of his aging parents. He then moved to Rocheport to live with a brother.
Mr. Hayes was a family man, giving up a large portion of his life to taking care of his aging parents. He never married, but he was close to his niece and her family.
“We never stick any member of our family in a nursing home,” Johnmeyer said. “Our family takes care of each other.”
Mr. Hayes is survived by his brother, Jim Hayes Sr. of Rocheport; a nephew, Jim Hayes and his wife, Karyn, of Rocheport; a great-niece, Tracy Johnmeyer and her husband, Justin, of Fayette; a great-great-niece, Amee Riley of Boonville; and a great-great-nephew, Jerrod Riley of Fayette.
His parents and a great-nephew died earlier.
Graveside service will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday in Memorial Park Cemetery, 1217 Business Loop 70 W.
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