Photo by Cal Athletics

Longtime Trainer Bob Orr Passes Away

October 12, 2019

Bob Orr (second from right above), the former Cal athletic trainer who treated generations of Golden Bear athletes during his 30 years on campus, died on Wednesday of multiple myeloma. A member of the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame, he was 80.

Undoubtedly expressing the sentiments of hundreds of Cal athletes, former football player and assistant coach Bill Laveroni wrote on Facebook, “When former Cal football players talked about our experiences playing at Berkeley the person whose name always came up was Bob Orr. Bob Orr was THE GOLDEN BEAR. As the Cal athletic trainer, he took care of us and was one of the best mentors a young student-athlete could have. When you were hurt he took care of you. When you needed to talk he was there for you. We loved Bob and will miss him dearly. RIP GOLDEN BEAR, and GO BEARS!”

The fact that Orr was regarded as more than just a trainer was a familiar theme during interviews. “He was really good, just a terrific trainer, but he was more than that,” said former athletic director and track coach Dave Maggard in a phone interview. “You have doctors who are doctors, but at the same time, they are more than doctors.

“He was a psychiatrist to these guys, he was their friend but he was even more than a friend. He was in their corner and they knew they could trust him. In every game or event, he wanted Cal to win and his goal was to get guys back on the field as soon as possible. But the welfare of the athlete always came first.”

Former sports information director John McCasey, who was one of Orr’s closest friends, had a similar perspective.

“It was tough love,” McCasey said. “When they first came in as freshmen he’d scare the living bejeezus out of them. And in a short time, he befriended them as kind of a father, big brother type. I remember him having lengthy conversations with them almost like a shrink.”

Besides tending to the athletes, Orr also rooted for them enthusiastically. “He loved the Bears,” Maggard said. “He bled blue and gold.”

Bear Insider
Bob Orr hard at work

Orr was not born with that Berkeley passion. He was a native of the east Texas town of Longview, and his family moved to Odessa in the central part of the state when he was a youngster. It was at Odessa High, where football was king, that Orr began his love affair with athletic training, helping the high school training staff as a 15-year-old. 

He pursued his field as a college student at Texas Western (now UTEP) and then, after transferring, at the University of Wyoming. He graduated in 1962 and returned to Texas as a high school trainer for two years. In 1964 he came to Cal as an assistant to the legendary trainer Jack Williamson, another member of the Cal Hall of Fame. 

In 1970 he took over as head athletic trainer when Williamson retired and held the post until his own retirement in 1994. While at Cal he was a pioneer in a number of sports medicine practices including the use of ice for post-performance treatment and recovery, hydration, and building custom pads and braces.

And, of course, there were his dealings with the athletes. "He was not only our trainer but a person the players looked to for guidance and help with all aspects of their lives," said former Cal linebacker David Ortega in a release from the athletic department.

After his retirement he stayed busy in the field, working at Alta Bates Medical Center and at Paynton and Paynton Chiropractic in Walnut Creek. He also volunteered at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Two years ago he was inducted into the Cal Hall of Fame.

He had been battling cancer for the last five years, and his health gradually deteriorated. “When I heard the news I was really saddened but I can’t say I was surprised given his health issues,” Maggard said. “Those of us who knew him will miss him, will miss his friendship. Who he is, who he was. There is not much more that I can say about Bob OIr, other than the fact he was a great Golden Bear and a great friend.”

Donations can be made in his name to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation or to the Cal Athletics Fund.

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