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Richard 'Poz' Pozzi

Published: Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 4:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 4:35 p.m.

Richard L. Pozzi, a championship softball pitcher who went on to own a poplar Santa Rosa Avenue bar and later parlayed his love of sports into a career as a professional gambler, has died.

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Richard 'Poz' Pozzi.

He was 72.

The man known to friends simply as “Poz” pitched on the Santa Rosa-based Guanella Brothers team that won the American Softball Association's national title in 1974.

From 1975 to about 1984, he owned Player Vic's bar and card room, which attracted colorful characters including members of the Hells Angels and Oakland Raiders football players.

After closing the watering hole, he spent his remaining 37 years as a professional gambler, participating in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas from 2009-2011, said his daughter, Kathleen Pozzi of Santa Rosa.

“My dad had more friends than anyone I have ever met,” said Pozzi. “He was generous and sweet and never said a bad word about anybody.”

Richard Leo Pozzi was born in 1940 on the family's dairy ranch in the Bloomfield area of Petaluma.

The descendant of Swiss-Italian immigrants went to Tomales High, where he was a standout baseball and football player.

It was there that he met his future wife, Judy. They were married after graduation in 1958 and had three children. Kathleen Pozzi is Sonoma County's Public Defender.

The family moved to his parents' ranch but Pozzi remained focused on sports. He had been courted by a minor league baseball team and turned his attention to amateur fast-pitch softball.

“He was supposed to be milking cows but he played ball the entire time,” his daughter said.

He played for the Grayview Farms team before joining the Guanella Brothers team, which climbed to the top of state and national rankings.

“People followed his career. They said he had the fastest riser,” his daughter said. “It was world class.”

A shoulder injury in the 1975 off-season ended his softball days.

He got divorced the same year, moved to Santa Rosa and opened the bar. It wasn't a big money-maker, in part because Pozzi was so generous with his booze,

his daughter said.

“He ran out of money because he didn't charge anybody for drinks,” his daughter said. “People just hung out and poured their own.”

Despite being married two more times, he remained lifelong friends with the mother of his children. He took her on annual family vacations to places like Costa Rica and Mexico.

Through it all, he was a devoted fan of the San Francisco Giants and the 49ers, played in a number of fantasy leagues and pursued a love of gambling.

His daughter said he “could tell you everything about every player, where they went to college, where they played.”

“My father lived for sports,” she said. “We grew up at Giants games.”

About seven years ago he was diagnosed with Leukemia. He fell ill in November and died Dec. 8.

“His heart just gave out,” his daughter said.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by sons Rick and Bill, both of Santa Rosa, nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

He is also survived by his sister, Diane Bales of Vallejo.

A celebration of his life is planned for 1 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Valley Vista club house on West Gate Circle in Santa Rosa.

— Paul Payne

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