In my years of athletics, I have never worked with a finer man or coach than Jack Cook. He was also a heckuva baseball coach, winning three state titles at Huntington High and then taking Marshall to two NCAA tournaments. His 1978 team was one win away from advancing to the College World Series but lost to Miami (Fla).
Whenever he had to cut a player during a pre-season tryout, Cook would always say, "We didn't get rid of him, we just sent him down to the salt and pepper league for a little more seasoning." I always loved that.
Our state was very much behind the times with much of the country when we began playing girls high school basketball in the 1970s. Initially many in our state scoffed at the girls game, made fun of it, and the ladies were forced to play in the fall.
Just as Billie Jean King did for women's tennis, Ostrowski began to change some of that perception in our state. She and local star Valetta "Wee Wee" Johnson of Stonewall Jackson began to develop followings. Mary O was a bigger-than-life national superstar type of player who handled herself with class and dignity. She then went on to Tennessee and helped Pat Head Summit develop the most successful program in the history of the sport.
Ostrowski was a true pioneer, not just in our state, but also nationally. She paved the way in our state for future college All-Americans Vicky Bullett (Maryland), Susan Robinson (Penn State), Alexis Hornbuckle (Tennessee), Renee Mongtomery (Connecticut) and others.
Our state's sports history owes a great deal of gratitude to Mary O.
Reach Frank Giardina at fl...@hotmail.com.