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
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.
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.
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.
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.