PART 4: HALL OF FAME CONNECTIONS INFILTRATES FAMILIES

Check out the earlier parts first if you haven’t yet!

After getting his college degree at Humboldt  State (Calif.) – Giants and A’s country, incidentally – my baseball-loving son Danny moved away to Tallahassee, Florida. Master’s degree. Marriage to Sara. Job. Career. A son, Elliott. While he claimed that his baseball interests died a little because he had no one around to share it, I’d long suspected that baseball’s PED controversies chipped away at how he viewed baseball.

“I don’t think it’s fair, Dad, that those guys are kept out of the Hall of Fame.”

I blame the unfairness and ineptitude of the media for killing Danny’s baseball love. I think he does, too.

Danny, plus my youngest son, Chet, aren’t advocating PED use. All they see is a widespread dose of unequal justice. They see media corruption. In other words, the players didn’t do any more wrong than the media did in failing to properly cover the corruption. How can they be allowed into the selection process when they failed at their own reporting assignments?

By voting those same players – Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, et al – as MVP or Cy Young winners, that fraternity of media was also part of the problem. It’s some of the more disgusting acts of hypocrisy. Many held out their votes for the Hall of Fame.

Many of those media types show up on TV, or as columnists, or on blogs, nodding, saying, “See? See? We told ya.”

They watched Verducci, “Game of Shadows” and Jose Canseco break the stories, or write their books. In effect, they got scooped. They piggy-backed on their research to stand up against PED users.

Jose Canseco (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)
Maybe Jose Canseco was as much of a hero off the field as he was on the field – using PED, then later confessing to the process. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)

Where were they when it counted? As sports editor of a small-city newspaper, I relied on their expertise and frontline coverage to properly present readers with stories. I wasn’t in MLB clubhouses like they were.

They’re not guardians of the Hall of Fame gates as they proclaim themselves. In fact, it wasn’t until after all of those golden on-field moments took place when they took action. Too late.

It’s a simple fact for Danny: Baseball’s over, at least in his mind. The sport has lost a fan.

Chet continues to surge ahead. His love for the game continues. His disgust for the Hall of Fame criteria, however, has increased. For the media. For the Hall voters, he’s spewing out total acrimony. Each January for the past few years, Chet seethes over the perceived injustice.

Brown_Chet
My son, Chet, doesn’t like the current Hall of Fame practices, but he still loves the game.

He questions Selig’s own 2017 induction, claiming that it was under his watch that baseball’s PED involvement had surged to unforeseen heights.

How dare Selig be allowed in while Bonds, among others, has been kept out. If the media, Commissioner’s office, not to mention each team had done its respective jobs, PED usage would’ve been exposed early enough and, perhaps, stamped out.

I don’t think Chet’s the only one that feels this way.

Previous Hall inductees Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre should’ve and could have known. La Russa fronted for McGwire with the media. He took up on McGwire’s side, pushing away media that dared to assault the single season HR record holder. For years, too.

Until McGwire confessed.

Torre and Cox, too, had guys in their clubhouses – Sheffield, Canseco, Man-Ram, A-Rod, plus others – that enhanced their playing efforts by using PED. World Series championships were claimed with “dirty” players on their rosters.

Weren’t those managers also part of the problem? Let’s give them benefit of the doubt.

Perhaps they didn’t encourage PEDs. But it was happening under their very noses. In their clubhouses. Did nothing to help clean up their sport.

Somehow, they all got a Hall pass to Cooperstown.

You almost get tired of hearing the refrain from voters, or the observers that don’t have a vote but want to interfere.

“Bonds was on his way to the Hall of Fame until 1998. But …”

There is no “but.”

What’s left is a mess. Millions like Danny and Chet continue to, perhaps, fret at the notion that suspected PED users Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez have been inducted. Meanwhile, some of baseball’s brightest stars have been left out.

It’s a deeply personal conclusion to a saga that won’t go away.

PART 3: HALL OF FAME CONNECTIONS INFILTRATES FAMILIES

If you haven’t yet, check out parts 1 and 2 first!

Like baseball fans throughout the world, the Hall of Fame means something in my household. When one of your own gets inducted, there’s an almost electric feeling of pride connected to that honor.

Every time a Yankee – Yogi, Mickey, Joe D., Whitey, the Babe and Lou, among others – goes into Cooperstown, an entire legion of fans springs into emotionally-charged action. Right? Fans from each MLB team have a connection to every Hall of Famer.

Despite its many “connections,” no one from Redlands has ever been inducted into baseball’s sacred Hall.

From my own memories, the only Hall of Famers to show up in Redlands – I know, there has to be more – were pitcher Ferguson Jenkins and hitting star Duke Snider.

Ferguson Jenkins (Photo by Commons)
Ferguson Jenkins, a baseball Hall of Famer, was one of two known such inductees to show up in Redlands – for a youth baseball clinic. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)

Jenkins showed up at Redlands Community Field – white stretch limousine and all – in the mid 1990s. He was part of a youth baseball camp. Along with Redlands’ own Julio Cruz and former MLB outfielder Rudy Law, that trio gave a free clinic to dozens of local ball-playing youth.

Then hung around for an autograph session later. Danny, my oldest, was one of those kids who got autographs. Jenkins, Law and Cruz couldn’t have been nicer. In fact, a newspaper photo published the day after showed Danny next to Jenkins, a Cy Young Award winner.

Memorable.

As for Snider, the one-time legendary center fielder for the Dodgers – both in Brooklyn and Los Angeles – he showed up at the University of Redlands to watch his grandson play. Multiple times, in fact.

After one game, Bulldog coach Scott Laverty came up to me just outside Redlands’ dugout.

“I saw you sitting next to Duke,” he said.

Duke?

I had no idea what he was talking about, or who he was talking about. I’d just been talking to some guy. I had no idea I was sitting next to a Hall of Famer.

“Duke Snider,” Laverty said. “I thought I saw you talking to him.”

Duke Snider (Photo by Wikipidia Commons)
Duke Snider, whose legendary batting helped lead the Brooklyn Dodgers into five World Series, showed up in Redlands to watch his grandson play. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)

Duke Snider? Are you kidding? THE Duke Snider?

“That’s his grandson playing for us in center.”

Jordan Snider, an all-conference outfielder in 2007, had played center field for Redlands that day. From nearby Temecula. The Duke lived just south of there, in Escondido, perhaps – San Diego County.

Neither Jenkins nor Snider were ever caught up in the PED nonsense that plagued the sport as we turned into this century. Their places in the Hall are safe and secure.

Not quite, though, for other significant ballplayers.

I interviewed both men for stories in local media. Both were fabulous.

They came from a different era, long before the sport was affected by PED use. Suddenly, guys like Jenkins and Snider were overshadowed by known PED users like Clemens and Bonds.

“It’s like they stamped out the guys I used to root for,” said my oldest son, Danny, who at one time was a rabid baseball fan. Hey, there are some guys that made it clean. Cal Ripken, Jr., Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Tony Gwynn were in his card collection.

Check out part 4 here!

PART 2: HALL OF FAME CONNECTIONS INFILTRATES FAMILIES

If you haven’t yet, check out part 1 first.

Baseball fans love their hometown players.

It’s complete acceptance. Much like, perhaps, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, or Astros fans whenever Roger Clemens took the mound. Or a Cubs fan when Sammy Sosa stepped into the batter’s box. Oakland and Cardinals’ fans had Mark McGwire. Gary Sheffield showed up in L.A., Miami, Atlanta and New York. The Red Sox and Dodgers, plus the Indians, watched Manny Ramirez skyrocket dozens of balls over fences. Alex Rodriguez was magnificent during his days in Seattle, Texas and New York.

You think those fans aren’t affected by Hall of Fame corruption? That corruption was media-driven.

Barry Bonds, reviled by rival fans, was beloved in San Francisco.

My son, Chet, saw Bonds strike home runs in San Francisco, at Dodger Stadium, plus both ballparks in San Diego, Jack Murphy Stadium and Petco Park. Throw in a significant bomb at Anaheim. Game 6, 2002 World Series.

When Bonds showed up in BALCO reports, law enforcement investigations, plus various other significant bodies – including a Federal government trial – Chet’s view was that his baseball achievements should remain intact.

Chet is furious that Bonds – he wasn’t necessarily a fan of Roger Clemens – wasn’t elected to the Hall of Fame.

He’s heard me say it for years.

That the same fraternity of media that voted MVP and Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove honors had also voted to keep significant players out of Cooperstown, the New York-based site of the Hall of Fame.

It was right under the media’s corrupt noses that PED usage was taking place.

Corrupt …

… in that all major teams, from its ownership and management to its medical staffs and dugout personnel, had to know.

… the stain and stench reaches all the way up to the Commissioner’s office – Peter Uebberoth, Bart Giamatti, Faye Vincent and Bud Selig. If they didn’t know, they’re ignorant. If they did know, they did nothing.

… baseball’s player union, which deflected away testing procedures that would’ve kept the sport clean.

Tom Verducci (Photo by Wikpidia Commons)
Tom Verducci wrote an eye-opening article for Sports Illustrated in May 2002, perhaps one of the first big breaks in reporting PED use among MLB players. For years, deep and insightful reporting was missing from the PED story. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)

Sports Illustrated Tom Verducci gets a huge “Hall” pass for a significant article he wrote in 2002. San Diego Padres’ third baseman Ken Caminiti, an admitted PED user and one-time National League MVP (voted on by the media, incidentally), was quoted by Verducci saying 50 percent of baseball players were using enhancements.

Over a decade earlier, Canseco was besieged by Red Sox fans during the playoffs against Oakland. In Boston. “Sterrrrroids. Sterrrrroids. Sterrrrroids.” They all chanted.

Canseco, for his part, struck a Greek god-like posture, flexing for them, kiddingly posing for those Fenway Park fans.

That was 1990, or ’91. Where was baseball’s media? You’d think they’d pick up on a story like that. It took over a decade before the story broke. When it did break, Canseco’s first book created the eventual storm.

The media got scooped.

Hundreds of news outlets – print, TV, radio, you name it – were planted in each major league city. Coast to coast. ABC. CBS. NBC. ESPN. CNN. Where were these journalists? Didn’t you guys remember Woodward and Bernstein, the two Washington reporters who broke Watergate a generation earlier?

The media could’ve headed off the PED era right away. It wasn’t enough to simply offer speculation. Or blind rage. Or ask questions, that players denied using.

They didn’t dig for stories.

Eventually, Canseco wrote two books, naming names.

Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams wrote “Game of Shadows,” detailing the BALCO raids and subsequent legal connections.

I once wrote a column about that, noting significant names of those media personalities that didn’t properly do its job. Amazingly, one of those names I’d mentioned, Bob Costas, contacted me.

“I don’t want to you to think I surf the net, looking for my name,” said Costas in one of two communications I had with the longtime NBC sportscaster. “A friend of mine in California sent me a copy of your article.”

I promised Costas our conversation would be off the record. To this day, I won’t reveal anything we discussed further. I will share this, however: He told me that he called the MLB All-Star game, I think back in 2002, and spent the entire game bemoaning the state of baseball with all its PED usage. He was, in effect, calling them out.

Bob_Costas (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)
Longtime NBC sportscaster Bob Costas called to talk with me about the state of steroids after a column I wrote about what the media had missed all those years. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)

Costas said he received plenty of blowback from the players and its union.

My own complaint was that kind of unspecific coverage meant nothing until evidence was produced, such as Verducci’s SI piece.

“Howard Cosell,” I said, mentioning ABC’s legendary tough-as-nails broadcaster a couple decades earlier, “would’ve gotten to the bottom of this.”

It was great talking with Costas, but he only underscored the problem. Media was largely responsible for the outbreak of PED use. By not rooting out its issues, exposing the sinners and shutting down the freakage use of PEDs in its early stages, all talk was cheap.

Part 2 – ROYAL, REGAL AND REDLANDS CONNECTIONS

To get the full story, read Part 1 here. 

A year or so after that volleyball banquet, I wrote an article about Redlands High’s boys soccer team. At the time, the Terriers were among the most successful soccer side in Southern California. Even on their own campus, they were more significant than any other team.

It was no contest.

Back-to-back CIF championships, five trips to the CIF semifinals and a record run of 23 straight seasons of playoff appearances had left a high standard unmatched by any other program on that campus, before or since.

Every kid that made varsity soccer teams at Redlands during that era was cutting edge. Cream of the crop. Best this city had to offer. Kids cut from those teams would have made teams at other schools very strong.

That’s how strong Redlands was in those years.

LUDIKHUIZE’S FIST PUMP SIGNALS

TERRIER GREATNESS

My by-line appeared about a soccer playoff preview for their match in Orange County. Among other facts listed were the team’s top three scoring attackers. Jeannie Ludikhuize, mother of Chris Ludikhuize, read that day’s edition and called my publisher to lobby a complaint.

She was peeved that her son’s name had been left out. He was fourth in scoring. It must have been intentional, she felt. Or maybe it was that the team’s coach, Tony Murtaugh, failed to report this information. Neither of which was accurate.

Toebe Bush, our publisher, asked me to call Jeannie.

“Jeannie,” I asked her, “what grade is your son in right now?”

Chris was a senior. Time was running out on his high school career. In fact, this would be his final match. Jeannie was, apparently, not enjoying those moments as fully as she could have.

“All I know,” I told her, “is that if I had a son on a team like this, I’d take my lawn chair, plant it in some good location, watch the game and watch every move my son made – and enjoy everything. Maybe even take some pictures.

“Savor each moment,” I said.

No one was leaving Chris out intentionally. “Forget what’s written in the newspaper, or what’s not written. Just enjoy your son.”

Jeannie, in fact, did calm down and recognized that her son didn’t necessarily need media recognition. Parents want their children’s achievements recorded. You know, for their scrapbook. For the scholarship opportunities. Good press never hurts. Her son was a good player, regardless.

By the way, in Chris’ final high school match, he couldn’t have played better. He saved a remarkable scoring attack by Anaheim Esperanza High, taking a shot that whizzed past a drawn-out Redlands goalkeeper, clearing the ball just off the line, saving a sure-fire goal. In the rain. Chris shot a triumphant fist into the air in jubilation.

That fist pump, to me, signifies that Redlands has long made its mark in all sports, at every level, creating A Redlands Connection that can never be stripped away. One of Chris’ teammates, by the way, was Landon Donovan.

Redlands ended up losing that semifinals match.

Chris represents hundreds of Redlands sports products that will not be in any of these blog posts – good but not good enough. These blog posts are, in a sense, dedicated to them. Thanks to Chris’ mom, Jeannie, it’s a reflection of a splendid athlete, pushy parent, a professional writer and limited newspaper space.

REDLANDS CONNECTION ROUNDUP

There are at least three Redlands products that share a total of four Super Bowl rings.

A three-time Indianapolis 500 champion actually learned to drive in Redlands.

Soccer’s World Cup has connections to Redlands in both men’s and women’s lore.

There’s a World Series ring in there, 1984.

The man who personally thwarted Arnold Palmer’s chance to complete golf’s Grand Slam in 1970 later moved back to the area, thus connecting Redlands to the sport’s royalty.

Olympic gold medalist Misty May, a superstar at Long Beach State and eventual beach volleyball megastar, led her college to a national volleyball championship. The legendary setter graduated, replaced by Redlands’ Keri Nishimoto, who had a few notable achievements on her own athletic ledger.

v9n8-nishimoto
Redlands setter Keri Nishimoto took over for legendary Misty May at Long Beach State. Photo credit: Cara Garcia

Those are the people we’re after.

This is a bond between Redlands and the major sports world beyond. And what a world it has been! And what bonds they have built up!

Redlands has been connected to the likes of coaching and managing legends such as Lombardi, Landry, Jerry Tarkanian, Tony LaRussa, John McKay, George “Papa Bear” Halas, Abe Saperstein, Tommy Lasorda, very nearly John Wooden and Knute Rockne and, quite possibly, Connie Mack.

For instance, did John Wooden recruit Redlands’ Danny Wolthers to play at UCLA in 1961?

That’s a breathless collection in this connection.

JOHN WOODEN UCLA
Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden may have tried to recruit Redlands’ Danny Wolthers to play in Westwood in 1961. Whatever the story, Wolthers chose to play at Cal-Berkeley. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello/ALLSPORT

Redlanders were teammates of Bart Starr, Carlton Fisk, Gaylord Perry, Misty May, Joe Namath, Orel Hershiser, Kristine Lilly, Darrell Waltrip, Fernando Valenzuela, Jennie Finch, Mark Spitz, Charles Paddock, race car dynamo Jimmie Johnson, David Beckham, Cy Young Award winners, baseball Rookies of the Year, Heisman Trophy winners, World Cup heroes, No. 1 draft choices and various Hall of Famers from different sports.

Jennie_Finch_vs._China
Jennie Finch, a teammate of Redlands East Valley’s Ally Von Liechtenstein at Arizona State, is shown pitching against China in 2008. Photo by C5813

(Photo source.)

It’s a connection to sports’ very best.

Strong and historical opposition to Redlands connections has come from the likes of Bobby Jones, Amanda Beard, Ronnie Lott, Richard Petty, George Allen, Spitz, Arnold Palmer, Carl Lewis, Jack Nicklaus, plus an endless supply of baseball, basketball and football all-stars, golf and tennis legends.

In some cases, Redlanders came out on top. In many cases, they lost out to the greats.

For over a decade, Redlands caught an up-close glance of football All-Pros, NFL Hall of Fame players, MVP types, Super Bowl and NFL championships and legendary football players, coaches and executives when the Los Angeles Rams trained at the local university.

Beginning in 1985, the Redlands Bicycle Classic began a connection to a sport that led to the appearance of national and international champions, Tour de France competitors and a link to a world that continues to connect.

Redlands has been connected to Super Bowls, World Cups, World Series, Olympics, Indianapolis 500s, Kentucky Derbys, baseball division winners, NFC championship contenders, Daytona, national collegiate championships, college bowl games, NASCAR at Daytona and Talladega, major tennis and golf championships, not to mention one of the world’s greatest showtime basketball teams, the Harlem Globetrotters – and the World Series.

Bill Buster owned a five-point share in Captain Bodgit, the colt that ran a close second to Silver Charm in the 1997 Kentucky Derby.

Those are the people these blogs are about. Connections from Redlands to the outside world of sports success at the highest possible level. It doesn’t make sense that such a smallish community has become so prominent in virtually every major sport in the USA – and beyond.

It, thus, becomes A Redlands Connection.