REDLANDS’ ED VANDE BERG SPENT SEVEN SEASONS ON MLB MOUNDS

This is part of a series of mini-Redlands Connections. This is Part 3 of the series, Quick Visits. Magic Johnson and John Wooden showed up at the University of Redlands as part of a Convocation Series. This piece on Tom Flores was another one. Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, former NBA player John Block, legendary high school coach Willie West showed up. There are others. Cazzie Russell, for instance, came to Redlands with an NCAA Division III basketball team from Savannah, Ga. Russell, out of Michigan, was the NBA’s overall No. 1 draft pick by the New York Knicks in 1966.

I saw Ed Vande Berg. In Texas. Pitching. He hurled 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief in a 6-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. I was one of 26,526 fans that Thursday night. Arlington Stadium. Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Robin Yount were in Milwaukee’s lineup. It was July 14, a Thursday night, in the summer of 1988.

Vande Berg, a Redlands baseball-playing product, was playing for enigmatic Bobby Valentine, the Rangers’ manager. It was one of the last appearances of Vande Berg’s seven-year MLB career.

Attended legendary Arizona State, where Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Jim Palmer – not to mention Barry Bonds – played collegiately, among others.

Rarely did Vande Berg ever throw an important pitch in a meaningful game during his MLB career. Who cares? He was a major league pitcher — with promise. It should be noted, however, that Vande Berg’s 1982-88 career span did not include playing for a team that finished at .500.

Ed Vande Berg
Redlands’ Ed Vande Berg spent seven seasons in major league baseball.

He was a left-handed specialist, a long reliever and, at one point, a starter.

Managers like Rene Lachemann, Del Crandall, Chuck Cottier, Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda, Pat Corrales or Bobby Valentine might summon him to pitch against the likes of Fred Lynn or Eddie Murray, Don Mattingly or Lou Whitaker, maybe a Tim Raines, Darryl Strawberry or Keith Hernandez.

He had surrendered Reggie Jackson’s final career hit. Vande Berg, then with the Rangers, watched a broken bat single off the bat of the Hall of Famer.

Reggie Jackson
Reggie Jackson’s final MLB hit came on a broken back single off Ed Vande Berg in 1987 (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

BASEBALL CARDS APLENTY ON THIS REDLANDS KID

Check out the website on Ed Vande Berg some time. Click on images. When you do, your entire computer screen should light up with baseball cards – Vande Berg with the Seattle Mariners. Or the Los Angeles Dodgers. Or the Cleveland Indians. Or the Rangers.

He was an Alaska Goldpanner.

An Arizona State Sun Devil. Appeared in the College World Series.

Not to mention that Vande Berg was a Redlands Terrier.

Here was the background on Vande Berg, said by plenty of Redlands baseballers not to be much of a prospect while playing for Terrier coach Joe De Maggio.

When he showed up at San Bernardino Valley, Vande Berg took instruction well enough to burnish a slider. It was a new pitch.

The result was an 18-1 record. State Player of the Year.

Fascinating! Movement, plus zip on his fastball, earned his way to Arizona State — a hub for future MLB players.

That got him on the radar of MLB scouts, who drafted him no less than three times before he signed.

He was a Rookie Team All-Star in 1982, the year he finished 9-4 with the Mariners, who had drafted him out of Arizona State. A league-leading 78 games accompanied that 2.37 earned run average over 76 innings pitched.

SAN DIEGO, ST. LOUIS, FINALLY SEATTLE

Vande Berg’s draft history was pretty interesting.

San Diego took him in the third round (1978), but Vande Berg didn’t sign.

A year later, the St. Louis Cardinals took him in the fourth round. Again, he didn’t sign.

In 1980, Seattle waited until the 13th round. This time, he signed.

That ’82 rookie season, though, was something. Only 54 hits were allowed in those 76 innings pitched, including just five HRs. He was 23 when he made his MLB debut with the Mariners.

In 1984, the Mariners made Vande Berg, a 6-foot-2, 175-pounder, a starting pitcher. He logged an 8-12 record (4.76, 130 innings) for a 72-90 team on a pitching staff topped by Mark Langston. Alvin Davis (27 HR, 116 RBI, .284) was American League Rookie of the Year.

Ruben Sierra was clearly the Rangers’ best player. Vande Berg was part of a bullpen backed by closer Mitch Williams. The staff’s ace was likely ex-Dodger knuckleballer Charlie Hough.

It was one season before Nolan Ryan signed with Texas.

By then, Vande Berg was gone. Released. Final season of his career.

Who would remember the trade that sent Vande Berg from Seattle to the Dodgers in 1985? It was a straight-up deal on Dec. 11. Catcher Steve Yeager, who had played in three World Series with L.A., was the player sent back to Seattle.

The Dodgers paid Vande Berg $455,000.

That season, Vande Berg registered a 3.41 ERA over 60 games (71 1/3 innings).

Teammates included Cy Young Award winners Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser, both managed by Lasorda, a Hall of Fame manager. Vande Berg had relieved both pitchers during that 1987 season.

Tommy Lasorda
For one season, Dodger Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda summoned Redlands southpaw Ed Vande Berg into a major league game (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Granted free agency in each of the following two seasons, Vande Berg found homes in Cleveland and Arlington, Texas.

Among Vande Berg’s Cleveland teammates was Joe Carter, who hit the game-winning World Series homer for Toronto a few years later. Another teammate was the ageless Julio Franco, who made Cleveland just one of his stops on a seven-team, 23-year career.

For a season and a half, incredibly enough, Vande Berg was teammates with another Redlands product, Julio Cruz. The two spent the entire 1982 season in M’s uniforms, but in 1983 Cruz was sent to the Chicago White Sox in a trade deadline deal.

His final game came at age 29 against, of all teams, the Seattle Mariners – the team he spent four of his seven-year MLB pitching for in the northwest.

The end result was a 25-28 lifetime mark … 413 games … surrendered 52 HRs … 3.92 earned run average … 22 saves … not a bad career.

WINDING DOWN A SEVEN-YEAR MLB CAREER

A couple months after I watched Vande Berg pitch against Milwaukee in Texas, the Redlands product pitched his final game. Against his old team, the Mariners.

On Friday night, Sept. 30. At the Kingdome that night, 7,870 fans watched.

He pitched a full inning. With home plate umpire Rich Garcia calling balls and strikes, Vande Berg surrendered three hits, including a Rey Quinones double.

In Seattle’s lineup that night was Davis, not to mention future MLB Network broadcaster Harold Reynolds. Darnell Coles, from Vande Berg’s former Citrus Belt League rival Rialto Eisenhower, was also in the lineup.

A lowly Rangers’ squad beat the lowly Mariners, 11-6.

Exactly one month earlier, Vande Berg picked up his final career victory In an 8-6 win over Minnesota, Cecil Espy’s bottom-of-the-ninth, two-run HR cracked a 6-6 tie. Vande Berg, who had pitched a scoreless ninth inning in relief of starter Bobby Witt, logged the win.

It was career victory No. 25.

 

A SEARCH WAS ON FOR REDLANDS GOLFER PHILLIPS FINLAY

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

The 2018 U.S. Amateur Golf Championship, now 102 years old this year, is scheduled this year for Pebble Beach, beginning August 13. Eighty-eight years ago, a Redlands golfer took on a legend at this course in the same event.

It’s not really known when Phillips Finlay learned how to play golf – or from whom.

Phillips Finlay, 1929
Phillips Finlay, whose golfer career started in Redlands, made a name for himself, both at Harvard University and in major amateur championships while playing against the likes of Bobby Jones and Francis Ouimet. He’s shown here at the Chevy Chase Club in 1929 (photo credit, Shorpy Historic Picture Archive).

Maybe it was George Lawson, who served as Redlands Country Club’s head professional from 1901-1937, that taught him. That Finlay, from Redlands, was a student at famed Harvard University was one thing. That he was a contestant for some of golf’s grandest prizes is yet another.

Finlay seemed to have disappeared after showing up prominently, not only on Harvard’s golf team, but also as a stalwart challenger to some of golf’s major tournaments in his day. After a stretch from 1927 through 1930, the older brother of Redlands’ Madison Finlay was nowhere to be found.

A motivated sports writer from the Redlands area was searching.

Following the 1930 U.S. Amateur, Finlay was seemingly nowhere to be found – at least in major tournaments. Only adding to the curiosity is that Finlay had become a prominent golfer.

Amateur golf raged during the 1920s. Professional golf had yet to catch on.

There was no Masters Championship yet.

The PGA Championship, which would eventually become one of golf’s greatest prizes, was a tournament without much tradition.

Bobby Jones won the 1927 United States Amateur, which was played at the Minikaha Club of Minneapolis.

Finlay, who made his presence felt, traveled from Harvard University, engaging in medal play for the qualifying round of that year’s Amateur Championship.

A New Jersey golfer, Eugene V. Romans shot 71, making headlines as the low medalist.

The youthful Finlay, who had just passed his Harvard entrance examinations, was one shot behind.

It’s eerie to think how close Finlay came to such prominence. At the time, he lived on Long Island. Jones, Francis Ouimet and Chick Evans – three of the 1927 semifinalists – began with rounds of 75.

On the second day, Jones got rolling, shooting a course record 67, winning the medalist (that’s low stroke score) trophy for the tournament with 142. George Von Elm, who beat Jones in 1926, barely qualified with 79-75-154.

Onetime champions who qualified included Evans, Ouimet, plus Max R. Marston.

A Minneapolis insurance man, Harry G. Legg, a Minneapolis resident that graduated from Yale, knocked off Von Elm, 1-up, on his home course.

Third day: Jones, trailing Maurice McCarthy, Jr. of Long Island, by a hole at the turn, had three holes remaining. McCarthy missed a short putt, squaring the match; overshot the 17th green, losing the lead; overshot the 18th green, losing the match two down.

Ouimet beat Max R. Marston, 3 & 2.

Finlay kept battling, perhaps in the manner that Ouimet had done, depicted years later in the motion picture, “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”

But Finlay was cut down by Ouimet, who had written a favorable article about the Redlands product, even displaying some of the matches between the two in a book called “A Game of Golf,” which was published in 1932.

IVY LEAGUE ATHLETES WERE PROMINENT

Was this truly A Redlands Connection? Jones? Ouimet? Both were impressed with the youthful Finlay, whose long driving skills were attributed to the unusual length of his swing.

(During the Roaring ’20s, Ivy League schools – baseball’s Lou Gehrig and, earlier, Eddie Collins, both from Columbia; Penn dropout Bill Tilden, a tennis legend; football’s John Heisman for both Penn and Brown, to name a few – produced prominent athletes that were the kingpins of sports.)

A year later, 1928, Finlay would rise again at the U.S. Amateur, played at Brae Burn Country Club in West Newton, Mass. It wasn’t far from his Harvard digs.

Bobby_Jones_1930_winnaar_US_Amateur
Legendary amateur golf champion Bobby Jones had his hands full with Harvard’s Phillips Finlay during the Roaring 20s when the Redlands golfer squared off against some of golf’s greatest players (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Jones knocked off J.W. Brown, 4 & 3 in the opening round.

Ray Gorton took Jones to the 19th hole in the second round before tumbling.

Jones had his way with John B. Beck, 14 & 13, before coming up against Finlay in the semifinals.

Finlay, a long-hitting Harvard sophomore, got quite a whipping. He lost decisively to Jones, 13 & 12.

On the other hand, A Redlands Connection had struck early. An 18-year-old from Redlands had played the legendary Bobby Jones in the 1928 U.S. Amateur semifinals?

This was news!

Jones claimed his fourth U.S. Amateur title, 10 & 9, over reigning British Amateur champion T. Philip Perkins. Two weeks earlier, Jones beaten Perkins, 13 & 12 at the Walker Cup.

Jones, for his part, had been national champion – winning either the U.S. Open or Amateur championship – for six straight years. During that span, Jones won four U.S. Amateurs, two U.S. Opens, two British Opens.

Jones tied for first two other U.S. Opens, those he subsequently lost in 36-hole playoffs, each by just one stroke. Jones had forever established himself as one of the greatest golfers. Without a doubt, he was the world’s greatest amateur player.

Finlay was chasing a legend.

JONES WRITES OF FINLAY IN HIS BOOK

There were 162 entries in the 1929 U.S. Amateur field. Finlay, for his part, tried the event at Pebble Beach. It was the first time the tournament had been played west of the Mississippi.

In a major upset, Jones fell to John Goodman, a caddy from Omaha, Neb., in the first round.

A documented quote, however, was lifted from “Pebble Beach: The Official Golf History,” had the youthful Finlay going up to Jones with an apology. “I’m so very sorry you lost this morning, Mr. Jones. I was looking forward to beating you this afternoon.”

Finlay lost to 18-year-old Lawson Little, a Northern Californian who won the U.S. Amateur in 1933 and 1934. It was Little who eliminated Jones-killer, Goodman.

Harrison R. “Jimmy” Johnston won the 1929 title.

Prior to the event taking place, Jones spoke of playing with Finlay at Pebble Beach in his book, “Bobby Jones on Golf.”

“There had been so much talk about Phil’s long driving ability,” Jones wrote, “that the publicity given that part of his game must have affected the boy’s play.”

Critics may have affected Finlay’s approach, said Jones.

“Whether Phil was aware of it or not,” said Jones, “this sort of thing had an effect upon his game … so that he immediately eased up on his stroke in an effort to hit the ball straight.”

Jones, in his book, had referred to Finlay in Chapter 8, “Hitting Hard.” Jones held up Finlay’s style of long driving as an example.

“On this day we played, he had quite a bit of trouble on the front nine, getting a little farther from his normal stride at each tee shot as he held himself back more and more.”

After losing his ball on a duck-hook on the ninth hole, Finlay sought Jones’ advice. The four-time U.S. Open champion told him straight out that he thought he was holding back, “that I thought he would do better if he would take a good healthy wallop instead.”

On the tenth hole, Finlay blasted a drive, losing it into the Monterey Bay.

After that, said Jones, “He drove very well, indeed.”

Check out this Pebble Beach foursome:

British Amateur Champion Cyril Tolley and Francis Brown of Honolulu. Jones shot two-under par, 70, while Tolley, Finlay and Brown shot rounds of 79, 80 and 82.

JONES, OUIMET: LONG DRIVING WAS KEY TO SUCCESS

Then there was Ouimet, the upset U.S. Open champion of 1913 that inspired the Disney movie, “The Greatest Game Ever Played” (portrayed by Shia LeBeouf), and after regaining his amateur status that had removed controversially from him by the USGA, he won two U.S. Amateur titles

Ouimet knew of Finlay, having authored an article, “The Art of Long Driving.”

FrancisOuimet1913
Frances Ouimet, the unexpected winner of the 1913 U.S. Open, was one of golf’s top players in the late 1920s when a youthful Redlands-based golfer, Phillips Finlay, was bursting onto the amateur golf scene. Ouimet even wrote about Finlay in his book (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

The first words of that piece were right to the point: “One cannot watch Phillips Finlay hit a tee shot without becoming just a bit envious, for this capable young man makes the game seem simple.”

It seemed a far cry from the troubles Finlay – whose photograph featured a knickers-clad youth, hair combed neatly, while following through on a tee shot – was having during his Pebble Beach round with Jones.

Wrote Ouimet: “Finlay is not yet 20 years of age, and when he reaches his full growth there is no telling how far he will drive a ball.”

Long hitting, concluded Ouimet, was an advantage.

“I am wondering what will happen if a standardized ball is introduced. Perhaps it will bring these boys back on earth, for I must confess on some holes Finlay can miss a shot and arrive on the green as quickly as I do.”

At a match played at Wollaston Country Club in Milton, Mass., Ouimet caught a prime example of Finlay’s lengthy drives.

“I was driving well for me, but (I was) yards and yards in back of my young friend, who was having a field day.”

At Wollaston’s 17th hole, a 500-yard hole against the wind, “my tee shot was a good one, but at least 60 yards in back of his prodigious knock. A perfectly hit brassie (No. 2 wood) gave me a look at the green.”

Finlay smashed a two-iron, his shot carrying a big sand bunker guarding the green.

Said Ouimet: “It seemed a bit too much to expect of his number two iron, but that is the club he used and his ball landed on the green. I threw up my hands. He could have missed that shot and gotten to the green in the same number of shots I required.”

Ouimet, noting a round played by Finlay at North Carolina’s famed Pinehurst Country Club, felt there was no limit for the Harvard golfer. He had read an account of Finlay’s 290-yard average drives on 14 of the 18 holes.

“When he was attending Exeter (Academy in New Hampshire, Finlay’s college prep school), one of his professors wrote a friend of mine saying Phillips Finlay was the longest driver in the game.

“Apart from Finlay’s long driving ability, he has other excellent qualifications to make him a leading golfer.”

Ouimet had predicted quite a future for Finlay – A Redlands Connection.

FINLAY’S CRIMSON CAREER WAS TOPS

A Harvard golfer, as Finlay was at the time, meant he was among the nation’s elite — that’s both student and golfer. If there was ever a pre-eminent sport on that Boston-based campus, it was golf. He was a three-time letter winner (1929-31).

In case it’s escaped anyone’s attention, consider that Finlay was battling the likes of Jones, Quimet & Co. before he became a Crimson letterman.

Finlay would captain the Crimson’s team in 1930 and 1931. During his junior season (1930), Harvard won 11 of its 13 matches convincingly, losing only to Princeton, 8-1, on May 10, then a season-ending loss to Yale, 5-4, at Myopia Hunt Club.

By 1931, his senior year, Harvard had returned to beat Yale, 6 ½ to 2 ½. The Crimson split back-to-back matches against Princeton, losing 6-3 and trouncing the Tigers, 9-0. There was a 5-4 loss to Dartmouth at Belmont Springs Country Club on May 9, 1930.

Finlay, a 1931 Harvard graduate, kept charging. The long-driving hitter, the captain of Harvard’s golf team, was beaten in the opening round of the 1930 U.S. Amateur at historic Merion (Pa). A narrow 2 & 1 loss to 1926 British Amateur champion Jess Sweetser didn’t quite reflect Finlay’s early round lead.

Sweetser birdied the 16th and 17th holes to take control of the match.

After that, not much showed up in the golf world on Finlay.

His family continued on.

His brother, Madison, in 2007, was “still riding around on his cart every night with his dog,” said C.L. Simmons, the longtime Redlands Country Club golf professional.

Madison died later that year at age 94, long having outlived his older brother.

The Finlays came to Redlands in 1918, bought a home at the corner of South and Fountain.

When it came time for high school, it was back east to the private academy for the both of them – Phillips, who was five years older than Madison (who wound up at USC). Neither brother showed up at Redlands High School, which was about a quarter-century old during their high school days.

FINALLY LOCATING PHILLIPS FINLAY

Phillips Finlay was a Navy man, eventually serving in the South Pacific. In fact, that had been my guess as to his disappearance. The military. Killed in the war? Would’ve been a sad fact. Imagine a budding golf career coming to an end like that. But it was not true.

“He gave up playing serious golf,” said his niece, Joanne Craig, of Redlands, “after he got back from the war.”

Settling in Pasadena with his wife, Elizabeth, Craig described that Phillips only occasionally played golf. His niece had one settling recollection about the sport. His length off the tee never failed.

“The 17th tee is not at the same place it is now,” she said, referring to Redlands Country Club, “but my uncle drove the green. That was almost unbelievable to me at the time.”

Joanne and her cousin, Fredrica, Phillips’ daughter, both attended Stanford. Eventually, her cousin’s family left Southern California.

“They moved,” recalled Craig, “to 17 Mile Drive.”

That’s up by Spyglass Hill Golf Club – near Pebble Beach.

 

PRO GOLFER DAVE STOCKTON GAVE A LESSON OF A LIFETIME

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Here it is, August 16, 2018. On this date in 1976, another major golf championship was awarded. On Aug. 13, 1970, a previous major title had been awarded.

Pro golfer Dave Stockton taught me a lesson about sports I never forgot.

I’d never met the San Bernardino native. I’d interviewed him a couple times – years ago – by telephone. A onetime Pacific High School star, who won the 1959 CIF-Southern Section championship, had a stalwart golfing career.

Dave StocktonJACQUELIN DUVOISIN SI
Dave Stockton, a San Bernardino native now living in Redlands, holds the Wanamaker Trophy, symbolizing victory in one of professional golf’s grandest prizes — the PGA Championship (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

He’s won the PGA Championship twice, in 1970 and 1976. He’s a Senior U.S. Open champion. There have been other championships, including the Los Angeles Open and a few other prominent tournament titles. Around these parts, Stockton’s considered a General among those who’ve achieved at the highest levels in any sport.

The seeds of my life’s lesson were planted in August 1970. That’s when  Stockton, who was in contention at the 1970 PGA Championship at Southern Hills Golf Club in Tulsa, Okla. was taking on a rather large challenge.

Arnold Palmer – not to mention Arnie’s Army – was the hurdle standing in Stockton’s pathway.

(A curious note, perhaps: About 15 miles from Redlands, the city of Beaumont includes a housing complex dubbed Tournament Hills. Street names include Trevino Trail, Woods Way, Casper Cove, Hogan Drive, Nicklaus Nook, Palmer Ave.

Other streets are named Crenshaw, Bean, Miller, Mickelson, Runyan, Irwin, Bean, Venturi, Shore (as in Dinah) and Pepper (Dottie), among others, plus parks named for Trevino, Palmer and Nicklaus.

Get it?

I happen to live on the corner at Stockton Street.)

At age 15, I’d only caught a minor glimpse on how formative Arnie’s supportive fans could be. I also had no idea how rugged they could get against a player who was challenging Palmer’s run to a memorable golf championship.

The PGA Championship is the fourth major golf tournament, following the Masters, U.S. and British Opens. I believe only Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and, eventually, Tiger Woods have won the Grand Slam of Golf.

Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus, who is receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom (photo by Wikipedia Commons), was very close to Dave Stockton in both of his PGA Championship victories, which came in 1970 and 1976.

Nicklaus and Woods are multiple ’Slam winners.

My Dad, Neal Brown, and I watched Palmer go after that elusive fourth major in 1970, a title he’s never won despite an otherwise illustrious career. Dad was such a fan of Palmer’s that he actually fashioned his own golf swing after Arnie’s, whose swing was often a source of discussion among the sport’s purists during his days.

In August 1970, Dad and I sat and watched, rooting for Arnie. We were definitely part of Arnie’s Army, TV-style.

Stockton stood up under the heat and the pressure.

Pressures of a major golf championship are immense. It included the likely possibility that gallery members – Arnie’s Army supporters – were doing things to irritate him.

Like Dad, I was disappointed that Arnie didn’t win.

INSIGHT INTO THAT 1970 PGA TITLE

Fast forward a decade, or so.

I was now working for the Redlands daily sports section.

The Stockton family had moved back to Mentone, a neighboring community next to Redlands. I got the telephone number where Stockton was staying while he was playing at a tournament in Canada.

He was obliging, honest and frank in his answers. I could hardly wait to hit him up with my remembrance on how he knocked off Arnold Palmer at the 1970 PGA Championship.

I was certain he could fill in some of the gaps from that experience.

It was likely the highlight of his career. When the subject came up, the onetime Pacific High and University of Southern California golf star was ready.

Arnold Palmer? The missing link in his trophy case? The destiny with history? Golf’s Grand Slam?

Arnold_Palmer_(cropped)
Arnold Palmer’s chances of winning golf’s Grand Slam was cut off by Dave Stockton at the 1970 PGA Championship in Tulsa, Okla. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons).

“My family,” said a serious Stockton, without missing a beat, “needed it more.”

Palmer, who was a remarkable golfer for decades, had won four Masters titles, two British Opens and the 1960 U.S. Open. He tied for second at the PGA Championship on three occasions — including 1970.

For the record, veteran golfer Bob Murphy tied for second with Palmer at one-over par. Stockton was two-under.

Jack Nicklaus was four shots back.

Johnny Miller held the first-round lead.

Stockton shared the second-round lead with Larry Hinson.

After three rounds, Stockton held a three-shot lead over Raymond Floyd heading into the final 18 holes. Palmer trailed by five.

Stockton, who shot a final round 73, shared the experience of holing out a 125-yard wedge shot.

He’d also shared that the media referred to him as an “unknown.”

After he notched the victory, he was no longer that unknown.

“I hit a tee shot into the trees,” he recalled, “and I heard (an Arnie Army reserve) holler, ‘go get ’em, Arnie.’ That made me hot.”

Said Stockton: “I had some work to do. That (final round) wasn’t easy.”

That was the lesson, folks. Who cares if there was a blank spot in Palmer’s trophy case? Palmer needed that championship about as much as the Yankees needed another World Series trophy.

The esteemed Palmer seemed to do quite well, I noticed, never having won that fourth major. It might be a blank space on his trophy case in 1970, but no matter. His bank account probably didn’t suffer all that much in 1970.

Neither did his career.

ONE MORE WANAMAKER TROPHY ADDITION

Stockton, however, added a jewel to his trophy case, which also included the L.A. Open. At Riviera Golf Club, Stockton outdueled another golf legend, Sam Snead a few years earlier.

Since learning that lesson from Stockton, I don’t necessarily root against the Yankees. Or against Notre Dame’s football machine. Or against the Lakers or the Celtics pulling out another NBA title.

I love the Final Four when a mid-major like Gonzaga or Marquette or George Mason or Butler, challenges for that elusive prize ahead of North Carolina or UCLA or Duke or Kentucky.

What I do love are the good stories coming from unexpected winners.

That lesson came via Stockton.

“My family needed it more,” keeps shooting through my mind.

The Wanamaker Trophy, symbolizing the PGA Championship, found its way back into the Stockton family six years later.

On the 72nd hole in 1976 at Congressional Golf Club, Stockton connected on a 15-foot par putt to beat Floyd and Don January by a single shot.

The ever-dangerous Nicklaus, defending champion and looming closely to the top, was beaten by two strokes.

Let’s not overlook Stockton’s other top finishes at major championships.

He tied for second place at the 1974 Masters, trailing Gary Player by two shots alongside Tom Weiskopf.

In the 1978 U.S. Open, he tied for second place with J.C. Snead, one shot behind Andy North at, of all places, Cherry Hills (Colo.) Country Club – the site where Palmer notched his only U.S. Open victory.

Stockton’s best finish at the British Open, a tie for 11th place, came one year after winning the 1970 PGA Championship. Lee Trevino won at Royal Birkdale.

As for the San Bernardino native, Stockton moved to Mentone in the 1980s. A couple decades later, his family moved again — this time to Redlands, near the traditional country club.

Gerald Ford
President Gerald Ford is one of a handful of honorary members at Redlands Country Club (photo by Wikipedia Commons) that also includes golfer Dave Stockton.

Along with comedian Bob Hope, President Gerald Ford and Dodger owner Walter O’Malley, Stockton was presented as an honorary member at Redlands Country Club.

He told me, again by telephone, “I had no idea there were honorary members at Redlands.” Stockton seemed moved. This wasn’t an Arnie’s Army remembrance party.

It was part of that Redlands Connection.

 

 

 

PART 3: WILLIE … ALMOST MICKEY … AND THE DUKE

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

That was Jordan Snider out in center field, wearing jersey No. 44. The site was The Yard, which is the home field for the University of Redlands. Snider was a senior Bulldog.

Temecula Chaparral High, located about an hour’s drive from the University of Redlands, was where this right-handed ballplayer had come from only a few years earlier.

Batted .295 in 2008, .361 as a sophomore in 2007, .252 in his frosh season right out of the Pumas’ Varsity program, where he’d hit .305 with two HRs in Temecula.

Starting all 36 games as a Bulldog senior in 2009, he’d played four straight seasons with winning teams, hitting .321 with 4 HRs.

His grandfather watched him play a plus number of games.

I’d shown up to chat with University of Redlands baseball coach Scott Laverty. Game still taking place. I’d have to wait. Sitting on the first base side of the bleachers, I took a seat near an older gentleman, wearing a hat to keep the sun off his head.

Seemed to be a nice guy. You run into that occasionally at ball games. Nice guys. Friendly. Talkative. It’s always fun to talk a little baseball, right?

After the game, I approached Laverty for a little post-game chat.

We talked a little about the game. At one point, he said, “I saw you out there talking to Duke.”

Duke?

There was no need to explain. The second he said that, I knew he’d meant Duke Snider. Something told me. I was a little tongue-tied, though. I’d been talking to a baseball Hall of Famer and didn’t even know it. I was a little ashamed.

Duke Snider (Photo by Wikipidia Commons)
Duke Snider, from his Brooklyn Dodgers days, wound up in Fallbrook, where he drove from to watch his grandson play at the University of Redlands.

“That’s his grandson out there in center field,” said Laverty.

Well, that adds up, doesn’t it?

It was a Snider from Temecula.

Edwin “Duke” Snider, the Duke of Flatbush, lived a little south of there. The kid was all-conference one year. A good fly-chaser out in center – just like his grandpa.

There might’ve been something symbolic about Jordan wearing No. 44, especially since his grandfather wore No. 4 in Brooklyn for the Dodgers. A tribute, most likely.

DUKE OF FLATBUSH ORIGINALLY FROM COMPTON

The Duke of Flatbush really came from Compton, Calif. At the end of his life, he lived near Temecula in the San Diego County city of Fallbrook – a nice retirement area.

A couple games later, I showed up … looking for Duke. Sure enough, he was there.

“Do you have a minute?” I asked him.

You always hesitate when asking someone – a Hall of Famer, celebrity, well-known, you know – if they’d mind an interview. He was there to watch his grandson who, at that moment, was playing in the same part of the field he’d played in 45 years earlier.

“For crying out loud,” I could just hear anyone say, “I’m here to watch my grandson play. Maybe later.”

But he didn’t say that.

Brooklyn, L.A., New York Mets and, finally, the Giants in San Francisco.

I’ve got to say it. There was nothing all that special about the interview. My questions would’ve been stale and useless. What do you ask a guy like that? Nothing that hasn’t been asked a hundred times before, right?

I settled on an angle about how he finished his career in a Giants’ uniform, 1964. Sold to San Francisco by the Mets. I tried to have a conversation rather than an interview.

“I can’t say I was all that upset at the trade,” he said at Redlands’ The Yard with a few people listening to the chat. “I was friends with a lot of those guys, anyway, Willie (Mays), Al Dark (Giants’ manager), Don Larsen …”

Besides, he said, “I lived out here on the West Coast.”

Oh, man – Don Larsen! The guy who’d pitched a perfect game against the Dodgers in the 1956 World Series?

How many times must he’d have been asked about Larsen?

I skipped the topic.

Did he remember his last home run?

“I do,” he said. “Candlestick Park. San Francisco. Jim Bunning, a very good pitcher. Yeah, that was my last one. Only hit four that year. Fourth of July game, I think, pretty sure. I never hit another one.”

That was his 407th.

You play much center field?

Duke laughed. “For the Giants? Not quite. Somebody named Willie Mays was already playing there.”

Though he was mostly a pinch-hitter, he said, “I played either left or right.

“I remember being in the lineup one day … can’t remember where we were playing, though. Dark had me leading off. Mays was second. McCovey was third and Cepeda was hitting clean-up. What’s that? A couple thousand home runs between us, or something like that?”

Mays at 660, McCovey’s 521, Duke’s 407 and Cepeda’s 379 equals 1,967 lifetime bombs. There may not have ever been another quartet in major league baseball hitting back-to-back like that with those kinds of impressive numbers.

Said Snider: “I can’t remember anything about the game, though – who won, nothing.”

Upon reflection, I should’ve asked him about Jackie Robinson.

Or Leo Durocher. Roy Campanella. Gil Hodges. Don Newcombe. Sandy Koufax, mystery man.

That would’ve been a nice tack. What was it like to have Koufax on the Dodgers for those six or seven years before he started blazing away?

Never got another chance, either.

A couple years later, the Duke died in Escondido.

We’d talked baseball in Redlands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART 2: WILLIE … ALMOST MICKEY … AND THE DUKE

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Subbing for the Cashman part of the song, “Willie, Almost Mickey and the Duke.”

I never came close to chatting with The Mick. I’d only seen him play in person a couple times. That came in 1968, his final season, but only because the Oakland A’s had moved to the Bay Area. It meant the Yankees had a few stops to make out there.

About a decade later, during the 1977 season in Oakland, I got myself a press pass to a mid-week afternoon game with the visiting Yankees, a team managed by Billy Martin. These were the Reggie Jackson Yankees who, incidentally, wasn’t in the lineup against his old team.

Billymartin1
For some reason, Billy Martin, one of baseball’s fiercest managers, showed up in Redlands sometime in the early 1980s (Photo by Wikipedia Commons).

It was Vida Blue against Ron Guidry.

The world champion A’s had long since been disbanded – trades, free agency, you name it. The Yankees, meanwhile, had picked up Jackson and Catfish Hunter from those old A’s teams.

Guidry, leading 2-0, had tamed the A’s for 8 1/3 innings before he gave up ninth inning home runs to Manny Sanguillan and Dick Allen to knot the score at 2-2. Martin replaced Guidry with Sparkly Lyle, who was the Cy Young Award winner the season before.

The game went 15 innings. Blue lasted 13. Finally, in the 15th, the Yankees broke through for three runs, winning, 5-2. There weren’t even 10,000 fans in the stands that day.

I couldn’t wait for the post-game chat in the clubhouse. I wasn’t really working for anyone. I’d gotten a media credential through my college, Chabot. There was no difficulty getting a pass – not like it is today.

As a budding reporter, I wanted to watch the New York reporters talk about the game with Martin. I wanted to experience the give and take between media and manager. I’ll never forget that as long as I live. I figured that was part of my “education.”

With Martin, the media discussed Guidry’s brilliant game, despite giving up the ninth inning HRs. There was the expected second-guessing: Why didn’t you bring Lyle in to start the ninth. Martin, a little annoyed, told them he felt Guidry had “enough gas left.”

There was some discussion of Jackson not being in the lineup on his return to Oakland. He’d played the day before and struck out three times. Martin said, “We just wanted to give him a day off.”

Vida Blue, he told reporters, looked sharp and strong.

The chat lasted, maybe, 20 to 30 minutes. It started to break up. Guys had deadlines. Martin probably had plans, too, especially since he was a Bay Area guy. I was one of about a dozen guys that circulated in the visitor’s office.

I won’t ever forget how he looked right at me, saying, “Something I can do for you, son?”

In all honesty, I had a couple questions for him. I’d hesitated to ask. After all, I was a nobody.

“That play (Graig) Nettles made on a double play,” I said, “was unbelievable. Went to his left. Sort of a semi dive. That bailed Lyle out of a tough spot.”

It came in the ninth. Sanguillan and Allen had homered. Wayne Gross drew a one-out walk off Lyle. Earl Williams, a home-run hitting catcher, was looking to drive one out, too. But he cracked a shot into the hole toward left field. Nettles, reacting quickly, got the ball to Willie Randolph at second in a hurry.

Double play, ending the threat.

I also asked him about a couple of steal attempts that catcher Thurman Munson had shut down. A’s speedster Bill North was one of those. There was some dispute on the call at second by North, but he was called out.

There were a couple other plays I wanted to ask about, but I didn’t want to press my luck.

Martin took those questions on with a full head of steam. Those N.Y. reporters ready to depart instead hung around. On Nettles and Munson, Martin rhapsodized about how “this game wouldn’t have been won without those plays. Big keys to the game.”

Was I done? He wanted to know. Yeah, I said.

“You know, we’ve got a lot of high-priced talent here from New York that didn’t even pick up on those plays,” said Martin. “You keep asking questions like that, young man, you’re going to go a long way in this business.”

Where was my Mom? My friends? A tape recorder?

I couldn’t believe this.

Billy Martin said that to me? In later years, I wondered if he was just picking away at his regular press corps.

SHOWING UP AT A REDLANDS AMERICAN LEGION

No more than seven or eight years later, I was sitting in my Redlands newsroom office. I got a call from an area baseball-lover, Fred Long. Guy had been a scout for Montreal, maybe Kansas City or Milwaukee. Can’t remember.

“O.B.,” he said, “Billy Martin’s here.”

He was drinking beer at a local American Legion Post.

What the hell was Billy Martin doing in Redlands?

I dropped everything. Rushed over to the legion post. Sure enough, there was Billy Martin, a beer in front of him, four guys sitting around. Talking baseball. I snuck myself into the mix, listening, hearing the chat back and forth.

For nearly three hours, I watched him down one beer after another. He never cracked. Kept talking baseball. There was talk of Mickey Mantle, his good buddy. “No one,” said Martin, “could come close to his power … or speed.”

How he shouldn’t have lost his jobs in Minnesota or Texas or even the Yankees. He’d just gotten finished managing in Oakland, of all places – Billy Ball!

He was in the Redlands area because he’d married a gal who had Yucaipa connections. Yucaipa was the city just east of Redlands. While she was visiting, Billy visited the legion post. He’d had a little military in his background. He felt comfortable in such a place.

Finally, when I felt comfortable enough, I mentioned that Yankees-A’s game in Oakland from a few years earlier. How he’d been real classy to me in the clubhouse after the game. I asked him, despite all the beer he’d downed, if he’d remembered.

He stared right at me. Took a swig of beer. He even grabbed a pretzel and stuck it into his mouth, kind of smiling as he thought. I figured he was getting ready to say he’d remembered.

“No,” he finally said, “I can’t quite remember anything like that. It’s been a few years, right?”

Oh, yeah.

Said Martin: “A lot’s happened since then.”

To this day, I still wonder if he remembered me.

Part 3 of Willie, Almost Mickey and The Duke next week.

PART 1: “WILLIE … ALMOST MICKEY … AND THE DUKE”

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Talkin’ baseball. Terry Cashman. His song, released in 1981, seemed to summarize a special part of baseball. A musical contribution to baseball history. It surrounded the great center fielders in three New York boroughs – the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Cashman wrote about … “Willlieeeeee … Mickey … and The Duke.”

Duke Snider came to Redlands.

Mickey Mantle came to … well, as far as anyone knows, he didn’t come to Redlands. But his longtime friend, Billy Martin, showed up here at least once.

Then there was Willie Mays. I can’t honestly say that the “Say Hey Kid” ever set foot on Redlands soil. But the sports editor from Redlands took part in a rare discussion that probably never came up in baseball circles.

It would’ve made a nice little change in Cashman’s song, “Willie … Almost Mickey … and the Duke …”

Say, hey!

Say, hey!

Say, hey!

Willie_Mays_cropped
Willie Mays talked about a “trade” that could’ve happened regarding a Dodger pitcher named Koufax? (Wikipedia Commons photo)

It was in the early 1980s. Bob Hope Desert Classic. Coachella Valley. Willie Mays, a golf lover, was playing in the celebrity Pro-Am, along with plenty of others from music, film and sports.

There we were in the VIP tent. Food was being served. It was the middle of the day. Willie had played his round. I was talking a break. Other than the serving staff, no one else seemed to be around.

Sitting at a table near him, I could just feel the opportunity. I grew up in the Bay Area watching this guy play in the twilight of his career in the late 1960s.

What should I ask him?

“Willie,” I said, “tell me something about your career that didn’t get much attention.”

He responded crudely, which shouldn’t have come as a complete shock. In sports, you often run into replies like that. In the clubhouse. In a locker room. On a field or court. Willie had probably been approached by thousands of media guys looking for something – stories, opinions, recollections, you name it.

He wouldn’t be talking – at least to me. It’s okay. I tried. No big deal.

Suddenly, out of the blue, he blurted, “We almost got Koufax.”

Huh? What? Say that again!

Yeah, he said. A year, or two, before Dodger southpaw Sandy Koufax really hit his Hall of Fame stride, the fireballing southpaw was stewing about how the Dodgers were using him.

Translation: Or not using him.

Apparently in Willie’s presence in San Francisco – likely at Seals Stadium – Koufax approached team general manager Buzzie Bavasi to request a trade.

Said Willie: “He told Bavasi, ‘you’re not using me. Why even keep me? It’s better to let me go. Trade me somewhere so I can pitch.’ ”

Willie said he jumped right into the discussion. “Trade him to the Giants,” he remembers telling Bavasi. “Trade him to us.”

There was some discussion. Wow! The Giants’ star player was discussing a trade with the GM of their chief rival, the Dodgers.

Willie was told by Bavasi to tell Horace Stoneham, the Giants’ owner who made all deals for the San Francisco-based team.

“Did you do it?” I asked him.

He nodded. “I talked to Mr. Stoneham. Didn’t hear much about it for awhile.”

Willie was chewing his food. Some guys were entering the VIP tent. Hoping that it wasn’t people looking for Willie – which would interrupt our chat – I prodded him a little.

“Any discussions take place about Koufax going to the Giants?”

Willie Mays nodded again. He was chewing. Swallowing. Didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to answer.

“They wanted Cepeda.”

Orlando Cepeda, one of baseball’s younger star sluggers, was a San Francisco favorite. He was an established star.

Koufax had yet to reach that portion of his career that would get everyone’s attention. At that time, Cepeda-for- Koufax might not have seemed logical for San Francisco.

(Funny thing, though, was in 1966, the Giants sent Cepeda to St. Louis for southpaw Ray Sadecki – not quite the same caliber of pitcher that Koufax had been. At least Sadecki had won 20 games a couple years earlier.)

Koufax had a little success in his early years, but had yet to really hit his consistently great stride. In his mind, apparently, the Dodgers weren’t treating him respectfully.

Between 1961 and his final season, 1966, Koufax was unhittable, unforgettable and, evidently, untradeable.

I summarized this for Willie Mays.

“Are you telling me that you guys almost had Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry on the same pitching staff?” It would have been a couple of years before Perry joined the Giants’ staff.

Wow!

Willie didn’t answer. Just kept chewing. I wasn’t all that much of an interest to him. At the moment, though, I was the only one sitting near him to chat about this remarkable trade possibility.

“How close do you think this came to happening?”

I should mention this: During this entire chat, Willie Mays never looked at me. Not once. Didn’t have to, though. This was more than I’d bargained for. I don’t even know if he had even heard that last question.

At that point, more people started entering the tent. Food was being served. Willie Mays acknowledged some of the people he’d played golf with that day. My time with him was apparently over.

It was exciting, to say the least. I was practically finished with my sandwich and potato salad. I was nursing my drink when Willie Mays got up to leave. My heart kind of sank. I’d have really liked to get more conversation with him.

I watched him shake hands with a few guys.

“Nice to see you again, Willie.”

“Thanks, Willie.”

“Let’s get together soon, Willie.”

You know, typical sendoff lines.

Willie Mays was leaving. He’d walk right behind where I was sitting. When he walked past me, he said into my good ear (I only hear out of one ear), “Stoneham would’ve never traded Cepeda.”

One-third of the Cashman song – done.

Part 2 of Willie … Almost Mickey … and The Duke next week.

A 1952 LETDOWN: KAYAKING OLYMPIC SPOT ELUDED RUTH DEFOREST-COLLEY

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

She taught at Mentone Elementary School for decades, but Ruth Colley was probably never known by any of her students as an Olympian.

The year, 1952.

It was that year when Colley, qualified and trained, setting herself up for being that rare individual – a U.S. Olympian.

Rare? Ruth DeForest would’ve been the first female Olympian in her sport.

She was Redlands’ Mrs. Tennis – the first woman ever to win that distinction in a city of revered participants – in a sport she was totally devoted to during her years. Throw golf into that mix.

Colley, who married Joe Colley, was a lively gal. Athletically-minded and gifted, she has quite a resume.

One of the original organizers of the Redlands Racquet Club, a tennis-based spotlight that sailed high on the local radar for years.

Tennis, golf, track & field, figure skating, basketball, hockey, but kayaking?

It’s not the first sport that comes to mind when discussing Olympics.

That was Colley’s sport of choice when she, apparently, reached her ultimate goal – qualifying for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Ruth DeForest was a canoe-racing specialist who attended Newark State College in the 1950s.

She even had a nickname – Woody. She bowled. Played basketball. She shot as a member of the school’s rifle club.

Kayaking shouldn’t seem all that outlandish. It’s been an Olympic sport since the beginning. Older than other Olympic sports, like basketball.

Training was off campus – there were no facilities at Newark State – so she trekked up to the American Canoe Association Camp. When she entered the National Canoe Races, held in the summer of 1951 on the Charles River in Boston, DeForest took second with her team.

There were 75 entries. Four-boat races. She was the lone female.

She took first in a national Ladies Kayak Race in Washington, D.C. in 1951.

Anyone out there believe that kayaking isn’t a sport? Guess again.

It’s beyond challenging. Those things go from 1,000 to 10,000 meters. In women’s, it’s a 500-meter sprint.

The sport is as old as it is traditional – dating back to the 1870s.

You start thinking: Male dominated.

RDF-L-LAWNBOWLING-0215.TLPa.jpg 2-14-2018
A tennis player, golfer, rifle shooter, bowler and basketball player, Ruth DeForest-Colley might’ve been an Olympic medalist in kayaking if there had been a favorable reception to women on the U.S. squad (photo by permission of the Redlands Daily Facts).

Chatting her up was a blast. I could interview Ruth Colley for a week – and still not finish the conversation. She had plenty to say, all entertaining, pertinent and valued. The Colley name, Joe and Ruth, appeared in the local paper numerous times, perhaps an Olympic record number of times. Golf, tennis and plenty of other items.

By 2007, she was perhaps finally being recognized. That December, she was named “Living Legend” by the Alliance for Aging Research in Washington, D.C. Plenty of influential people, including Colin Powell, were nominated for that award, according to a local newspaper article.

Colley was living longer and loving it. There was enthusiasm attached to her golf and tennis-playing lifestyle.

She’s an honorary lifetime member of the Washington Canoe Club. There’s a trophy that’s given each year – named the Ruth DeForest-Colley Award.

In 1988, when she could’ve been playing tennis or golf in Redlands, she won four gold and four silver medals in kayaking at the Nike World Masters Games.

But that 1952 Olympic kayak spot was questionable.

She beat all the odds – time requirements, all the rigorous training, winning the qualifying events – to make the trip across the Atlantic.

Michael Budrock (1,000 meters) got to go. So did William Schuette. And Thomas Horton. And John Eiseman, plus John Anderson and Paul Bochnewich, John Haas and Frank Krick.

Footnote: None of those guys won medals.

DeForest could’ve competed in the lone women’s event, a 500-meter sprint, won by Finland’s Sylvi Saimo. Austrian and Russian kayakers took the silver and bronze medals.

By contrast, there were eight men’s events.

Talk about needing a MeToo movement.

Gender equity? There was no such thing.

In a word, DeForest wasn’t allowed to compete. She was a woman. It was a world of, perhaps, chauvinistic men. There were rules. A chaperone was required for a single woman headed to Europe. That was, at least, the excuse given. You get the feeling that, perhaps, the U.S. men didn’t want to be upstaged by a U.S. woman.

No accommodations were made for DeForest in a male-dominated sport.

Frank Havens, the 1948 London Games silver medalist, won the gold medal in 1952. DeForest had trained with Havens, a four-time Olympian.

frank_havens-72
Frank Havens, said to be Ruth DeForest’s training ally in preparation for the Helsinki Games, won the 1952 gold medal in the 10,000-meter kayaking Olympic event (photo by canoemuseum.wordpress).

Some history: Havens’ father, Charles, missed the 1924 Paris Olympics – where he’d been favored to win a medal – to be home with his wife during Frank’s birth.

None of which should’ve meant anything to Ruth DeForest.

No Olympic trip? It was, perhaps, the disappointment of a lifetime. Train for 1956 in Melbourne?

DeForest instead graduated from Newark State in 1954. She got married, settled down with a family and taught elementary school in the Redlands school district. She didn’t stay away from athletics.

Colley taught tennis around Redlands for nearly two decades.

She goes down as the nation’s first female kayaker at a time when they had been shunned from the spotlight.

You get a strong sense that the men-at-the-club had quite a few conversations about keeping this kid from competing. They couldn’t keep her from graduating with a degree of Childhood Science.

Imagine the Redlands Connection if Ruth DeForest had won a gold medal.