BILL HAVARD: THAT ‘LONG BLUE LINE’ LASTED 46 YEARS

Forty-six years in coaching came to a fitting geographical conclusion for Bill Havard last week.

It was a battle for second place between Redlands East Valley against Havard’s Redlands High squad.

The buzz surrounding this baseball duel — Terriers against the Wildcats — was only part of the story.

Harvard’s run as a longtime assistant coach was coming to an end.

“This is it,” said Havard, who has probably logged more coaching hours than any other coach in the Terriers’ self-proclaimed “Long Blue Line” history of the 129-year-old campus. “I’m done after this season.”

You figure: A couple dozen baseball players each year. Throw in 50-plus football players annually. Over, say, 46 years, it amounts to hundreds.

“The thank-you’s and gratitude from hundreds of former players,” Havard says, “is what makes it all worthwhile.”

Game site was at the University of Redlands, which is where Havard showed up to play football and baseball, study and launch a coaching career from his hometown digs — graduated in 1968 from Edgewood High in West Covina — way back in the 1970s.

From that long-ago era, you could still hear his shrill voice from that third base coaching box at his college stop.

“Hey, you!”

“Bat on ball right here!”

“Nice pitch!”

It’s the kind of chatter that hit home.

He was a career assistant for the likes of football’s Paul Womack, Jim Evans, Mike Churchill and Jim Walker.

Throw in his springtime baseball work alongside head coaches Don DeWees, Bob Ramirez and Estevan Valencia.

During his UofR days, Havard, a 1972 graduate, was associated with plenty of coaching forces — tennis’ Jim Verdieck, football’s Frank Serrao, plus longtime athletic director Ted Runner.

Throw in the brotherhood guys — basketball’s Randy Genung, football’s Chuck Baker and Miguel Olmedo. There are loads of others.

CAREER ASSISTANT?

He was probably more in charge than anyone might admit.

Onetime Redlands High principal Tom Davis said years ago that Havard could be Terriers’ head coach, either in football or baseball.

“All he’d have to do is wiggle his little finger if he wanted to be a head coach,” said Davis, Havard’s principal from the mid-1980s through 1997, “and he’s got it.”

At the time, Davis made it clear that meant either sport, though the more likely assignment would’ve on the diamond.

That head coaching gig came at UofR when veteran coach Paul Taylor retired. Bulldog officials went for the former Bulldog shortstop. Havard had been offered the head coaching job at San Gorgonio High, but declined — no full-time teaching job.

Coaching college — recruiting, scheduling, meetings, administrative duties, field maintenance, plus all that travel and extra duty — was probably too much for a young family. Havard, his wife Claudia and their sons Rich, John and Tim, were holed up over on Pacific Street.

Teaching math, first at Clement Junior High and eventually at Redlands High, was his main calling. Coaching X’s and O’s after school was as much a full-time gig as teaching those x’s and y’s during the day.

“I did,” he said, “want to be a head coach.”

Better to just coach. Head coaching was for someone else.

Not your typical assistant, either.

“A father figure to us all,” says Valencia, adding words like “mentor” and “teacher” and “icon.”

WHAT DID HE COACH?

A better question, said Walker, is what DIDN’T he coach?

Receivers. Some defensive backs. Freshman ball? Maybe some special teams. Worked like crazy, said Walker, “getting special teams ready.

“Every year,” said Walker, “in a big situation, we would hit a big return (on special teams).”

On the diamond, Havard coached catchers, helped with hitters, worked with base-runners, in charge of pickoff plays.

“Stopping the running game,” said Valencia.

Isn’t it curious that, in the 1980s, Havard, the ex-shortstop, had a hand in coaching MLB draft picks — all shortstops — David Renteria (Marlins), Ronnie Warner (Cardinals) and Ervan Wingate, Jr. (Dodgers) in successive years?

It’s probably not fair to try and list every player that Havard has had a hand in coaching. That list might stretch for awhile.

Current pro catcher Jacob Nottingham (Milwaukee Brewers) is a current ex-Terrier prize on display.

There aren’t many of those prizes. Redlands coaches, probably any sport, are better known for developing high school athletes. If a pro or college prospect comes out of it, so much the better.

A more-likely scenario would be a Terrier product getting a college opportunity via Redlands’ “Long Blue Line” process, be it Havard or anyone else’s project.

“I learned things about coaching, about how to play shortstop,” said ex-Terrier Kadyn Glass, who played both sports, “even everyday stuff that I use to this day.

“He has a way of getting his point across.”

Former Bulldog catcher Don Parnell calls Havard “the single most influential person in my baseball career.”

Parnell has spent a lifetime coaching mostly collegiate baseball.

MAKING THE GRADE

There have been plenty of high points, Havard said, from “the many successes the vast majority of young men have achieved during and after the seasons we spent together.”

Yes, he said, there were “a lot of low points also.”

If someone’s kid didn’t make the grade — either in class or on the field — chances are good that Havard made a bold attempt to educate, anyway.

“I’ve known him before I even got to high school,” said Glass, now coaching college baseball in Nebraska. “He’s a legend.”

“I could write a full page on his positive effect on young men,” said Parnell.

“A heck of a coach,” said Walker, “but a better person. No BS. He did it all and he did it well.”

There was one final chance to educate. On his former UofR field where he played and coached, Havard watched current Terrier catcher Martin Sanchez gun down enemy baserunner Robert Mattei in a key game against REV.

Afterward, Sanchez looked over toward the dugout, toward Havard. Their eyes met.

“Nice play,” said Havard.

Try asking him about a single game highlight. Or a play. Or a season.

Havard deferred. “I can’t single out a game or a play or a season.”

That win over REV bought an extra game, or more, in the playoffs. Just add it to those 46 years.

 

T-BALL HAD ITS PLACE IN USA – REDLANDS USA, THAT IS

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

596px-Tee_ball_player_swinging_at_ball_on_tee_2010
A little baseball player hitting off a tee. The origin of Tee ball is difficult to trace, but onetime Redlands resident Art Till claimed to have invented the process in his Hawaii workshop. (Photo by Skoch3)

Art Till, inventor of T-Ball? In the military, stationed in Hawaii during the 1970s, Till went to work in his workshop one day and developed a stand on which a baseball could be placed, then hit off. It worked out.

“There’ll be people that will tell you,” said Till, “that someone else invented tee ball. I’m quite certain it was me.”

As youth leagues in both baseball and softball get ready to tee off in 2018, including a barrage of tee ball-based leagues, Till’s invention bears some attention.

It may seem strange to an outsider. T-Ball may have changed the plight of youth baseball forever. In a sport that requires a great deal of hand-eye coordination, placing a ball on a tee for a five- or six-year-old instead of pitching it seemed like a stroke of genius.

Eventually, Till moved to Redlands where the sport caught on in the 1970s. “It was such a simple idea,” he said.

Youth baseball in Redlands used to begin for kids when they were about eight-years-old. But as youth soccer players began surfacing in that sport at age five, baseball needed a gimmick to bring youths into its sport at an earlier age.

“This,” said Till, referring to T-Ball, “did the trick.”

Till says he was the one. There were others who made the claim.

It could have been St. Petersburg, Florida’s John Zareas, who claimed he developed tee ball at Seymour Johnson AFB in North Carolina back in 1960.

During the 1990s, a physician Zareas knows challenged the retired Air Force lieutenant colonel’s claim to the game. Browsing the Internet, the doctor found the name of another man credited with developing tee ball, Zareas said.

Zareas had published a copyrighted tee ball rules book for youngsters in 1965. A copy resides in the Baseball Hall of Fame library in Cooperstown, N.Y., reference librarian Claudette Burke said.

Copies of Zareas’ service records reflect his effort. The governor of New Hampshire nominated him for a presidential Point of Light award during former President George H.W. Bush’s administration. Newspaper articles and television reports have discussed his role in the development of a game now played by an estimated 2.2-million youngsters nationwide.

A Milton, Fla., Reverend, Dayton Hobbs, said he began a local tee ball program in 1960.

The Hall of Fame also has a newspaper article saying an Albion, Mich. man began the game there in 1956.

Bing Broido is president of Tee Ball USA, a non-profit support group for youth organizations. Broido said Branch Rickey, owner of the old Brooklyn Dodgers, had his players use a tee in the 1940s. Later, Broido said, some Canadian players put a ball atop a cow-milking device on a flexible tube.

Who should get credit for inventing the game is a tough call, he said.

Zareas continued to promote tee ball when the Air Force assigned him to Japan, which was where he wrote down rules.

It cost $20 to copyright them. From Japan, the game gradually spread among service families to Hawaii, Southern California, across the southern United States, then to New York and New England, he said.

Hawaii was where Till was stationed. And the onetime Redlander, whose wife Norma was librarian for years at Mentone Elemengary, disputed all of these claims.

Tee Ball USA, a national organization to which Till was not a member, doesn’t charge to belong and sponsors no leagues.

Hobbs, who trademarked tee ball in the 1970s, had been pastor at Milton’s Grace Bible Church for well over 50 years. He said he got the idea to use a tee while reading about college coaching techniques in California. He first used a tee to help a teen team practice its hitting, then started using the tee for the youngest players as a safety measure.

He said he registered a tee ball trademark with the federal government in the early 1970s. “It’s become general because we couldn’t make any claims to tee ball,” he said, crediting the Navy with spreading the game.

Till was sure of himself. “I’m not out to make a big deal out of this. I built the tee and we organized T-Ball games back in Hawaii. I brought it to Redlands when we moved here.”

It was only a possible Redlands Connection.

FROM ART TILL’S DAUGHTER, KELLIE O’CONNOR, March 13:

Please allow me to correct the record on a few of your statements about my father, Art Till and his connection to T-ball in Redlands. You quote Art Till as if you recently spoke to him about this subject. Art Till passed away in June of 1996, almost 22 years ago. Your article makes it sound like Art is very braggadocios with statements such as: “There’ll be people that will tell you,” said Till, “that someone else invented t-ball. I’m quite certain it was me.” My father never made this claim. My father’s claim was that he introduced t-ball to Redlands Baseball for Boys, as it was known then. My father was introduced to t-ball when he was stationed in Hawaii in the 1960s. After we moved to Redlands in 1967 (your article said Art Till was stationed in Hawaii in the 1970s), my father was coaching a farm team that had probably two dozen players. He proposed the idea that the younger players participate in t-ball games on Sundays, so they would not interfere with the Redlands Baseball for Boys regular games and the younger kids would get a positive first exposure to baseball. After confirmation that coaches and parents were on board with the idea, my father went to the hobby shop at Norton Air Force Base to make the first tees. My father, Art Till, never claimed to be the inventor of t-ball but was proud to acknowledge his connection to t-ball in Redlands and was an active coach for many years in town for both his sons and grandsons. May I suggest you refer back to the Redlands Daily Facts article you wrote that was published August 25, 1996, to refresh your memory of the facts.

Hello, Kellie,

First of all, GREAT to hear from you. I’m a little fuzzy on the dates – you write that Art passed away in June 1996, then refer to an article that I wrote in Aug. 1996 about him. Are you sure that article came out two months after he passed away? My recollections, especially since I kept my notes, were that he actually did claim to be the inventor of T-Ball. I kept trying to zero in on that, especially since it’s a relatively spectacular fact (I believed him, incidentally — still do). As for the your assertion that I make it sound like Art is “very braggacodios with statements” … the fact is, he said it exactly that way. He made the claim. I didn’t. I simply wrote it up. I love the additional information about playing T-Ball games on Sunday so not to interfere with Farm games, plus his devotion to his sons and grandsons. Typical good Dad, always willing to pitch in.

EX-TERRIER COULD BE ON ROAD TO MAJOR COLLEGE HEAD COACHING SLOT

Keep your eyes on Louisiana State University. The Tigers’ win last weekend kind of underscored something taking place in Baton Rouge.

LSU, once the softball home of former Redlands East Valley softball stud Sahvanna Jaquish, is also the home of another local product.

David Aranda, whose brother, Mike, has long been a key basketball assistant coach at REV, always seemed to be injured during his playing days at Redlands. Longtime Terrier defensive coach Miguel Olmeda loved this guy during his prep days.

Technique. Attitude. Warrior mentality. All grade-A.

David Aranda is LSU’s high-achieving defensive coordinator.

DAVID ARANDA (photo by LSU)
David Aranda, a Redlands High School football player, once roomed with current Texas head coach Tom Herman at Cal Lutheran. These days, Aranda is defensive coordinator at Louisiana State University (photo by LSU).

When LSU fired a highly-regarded head coach Les Miles a couple years back, they kept Aranda. He’s paid dividends at whichever campus he’s been — Utah State, Hawaii, Southern Utah, Texas Tech, Wisconsin — in a typical life of a career college coach.

Aranda, meanwhile, might be among the hottest coaches in college football.

LSU’s head coach is Ed Orgeron, the same guy that slotted in as USC’s head man a few years back. In order to keep Aranda at LSU instead of going with Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M, he got a 4-year, $10 million deal (the highest among assistant coaches) to stay in Baton Rouge.

QB Joe Burrow transferred from Ohio State. LSU also picked up a strong placekicker, Cole Tracy, from NCAA Division 2 ranks.

TIGERS GETTING A-PLUS DEFENSE

Here’s what LSU has gotten ever since Aranda came down from Wisconsin in 2016:

On Sept. 1, LSU’s defense stood off No. 8 Miami, an offensive powder keg, 33-17, holding the ‘’Canes to 342 total yards, picking off two passes, including a 45-yard interception return for a TD, four QB sacks. It was 33-3 entering the final quarter.

In five seasons of Aranda-coached defenses, including three seasons at Wisconsin, his teams have been ninth twice, second, fifth and 12th overall in the nation for total defense.

There were a handful of 2017 NFL draft picks, including two first-rounders, plucked from Aranda’s LSU defense from 2016. Linebacker Duke Riley, who was spotted in last Thursday’s NFL opener for Atlanta, was one.

It might say something that when Aranda’s Wisconsin defense was second in the country in 2015, there wasn’t a single Badger taken in the following spring’s 7-round NFL draft.

Yes, there some underclassmen in ’15, but there were no superstar leaders — just a sound defensive system under Aranda’s watch.

All it takes is one quick glance at the Southeastern Conference. You’d note that it’s split into two divisions, Eastern and Western. The West includes No. 9 LSU, not to mention Top 10 teams Alabama and Auburn.

Talk about being in the fire pit of a red-hot fireplace inferno.

By the way, Fisher’s Texas A&M plays in that same division.

Lost for the season in that Miami win was a promising pass rusher, K’Lavon Chaisson. Aranda countered with a trio of replacements in last Saturday’s win over Southwestern Louisiana.

ESPN TALK CENTERS AROUND ARANDA

During ESPN’s televised coverage, announcers gave Aranda thumbs up.

“Highest paid coordinator in college football … sharp guy … he lit the room up … he’s got the air of a guy who could run a program. … just a joy to talk to.”

After Redlands, Aranda played at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. The Kingsmen play in the same conference as the University of Redlands. In a sense, they got him from under the noses of the Bulldogs’ hierarchy. It’s more complex than that, of course, but he wore purple instead of maroon.

While at CLU, he roomed with a guy named Tom Herman. If you google Herman’s name, you might discover he’s head coach at Texas. That’s Univ. of Texas, the famed Longhorns of Earl Campbell, Darrell Royal, Vince Young, a ton of college football legends.

Wait a minute: Aranda and Herman in one dorm room?

 

 

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.

 

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!

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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.

ALDAMA: HUGE PART OF REDLANDS IN SUMMER OF ’01

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

It couldn’t have been a better summer in 2001. At least it was for a local sports editor seeking sports news for a reading public that rejoiced over such information.

Heather Aldama was playing pro soccer for the Boston Breakers.

Landon Donovan was up in San Jose, playing for the Earthquakes.

Donovan, for his part, would eventually become arguably Team USA’s greatest player.

Heather Aldama
Redlands’ Heather Aldama (photo by Santa Clara University).

Aldama had been a stud scorer at Redlands High just as Landon was arriving at Redlands High in 1995-1996. The Lady Terriers, built around Aldama’s goal-scoring and goal-producing passes, won four league championships.

In one season alone, she racked up a phenomenal 38 goals and 22 assists.

Over four seasons at Redlands, Aldama was All-CIF Southern Section each year. Her Lady Terrier teams reached the CIF quarterfinals twice and the semifinals once. The play was usually in the top tier of Division 1.

She was surrounded by terrific talent, plus coach Rolando Uribe who had been a scoring phenom for RHS’ boys side a few years earlier.

Part of a Southern California Blues side that won a state Under-19 title is, most likely, what landed Aldama in the collegiate spotlight; and, evetually, the pros.

That summer of 2001 was great for a small-town daily sports editor.

SUMMER PERKS OF ALDAMA, DONOVAN

The way it works on a small daily is simple. You’re obligated to produce as much local copy as possible.

That routine wasn’t necessarily so simple.

Due to shrinking budgets, the Associated Press wire services were all but unavailable to produce a sports section. Local copy was becoming even more mandatory.

During summer months at a small local daily newspaper, it’s tough to crank out local copy, particularly because schools are shut down between June and September.

You’d have to make up for it with all-star baseball, country club golf results, bowling scores from the local House, maybe some Junior Olympic swimming results courtesy of Redlands Swim Team, while we followed the exploits of that year’s Redlands Bicycle Classic entries throughout their summer seasons.

But when that pair of soccer-playing, midfield scorers put on their professional uniforms, they attracted plenty of attention.

That summer, though, was great. For me. For readers. You rarely read much in the county or regional newspapers about either player. Each time Aldama, or even Donovan, took the field for their respective sides, it was an opportunity for local coverage.

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This is an example of a photo that was available to the local sports desk in Redlands during summer play in WUSA. While Redlands’ Heather Aldama walks off the field in disappointment, the Washington Freedom is celebrating a playoff semifinals triumph (photo by Women’s United Soccer Association).

It almost defied the odds when AP would staff many of those matches with a photographer. A handful of photos from their matches would come across the wire on game nights. Both players, Aldama and Donovan, showed up in photos on local sports pages in their hometowns.

In a way, it almost defied the odds. At any point on a soccer pitch, there are 22 players. One photographer. It seemed like every match included a shot of the Redlanders. It’s not hard to really imagine. Aldama and Donovan were playmakers. Photographers like action. Their lenses are usually aimed toward those making plays.

Photos filled at least one-third of the page.

It’s one way to fill a local sports section.

SANTA CLARA WAS COLLEGE CHOICE

Unlike Donovan, who skipped college to play the European pro leagues at age 16, Aldama chose NCAA powerhouse Santa Clara University as her collegiate stop. Four seasons of Varsity play as a Lady Terrier attacker, plus her club-playing roots, had left her as a prime target for most of the top colleges.

There were some highlights for the Lady Bronco.

As a freshman in 1997, Aldama nailed a game-winning goal against West Coast Conference rival Loyola-Marymount.

She played against No. 3 Florida in the 1998 NCAA semifinals, against No. 19 Brigham Young University, playing in virtually every big Santa Clara match during her 1997-2000 collegiate career.

Aldama netted a 16-yarder against third-ranked Nebraska in a 2-1 win over the Lady Huskers on Sept. 19, 1999.

In an NCAA playoff match against UCLA that same season, she scored in the 23rd minute, assisting on another goal in a crucial win.

Against Connecticut in the NCAA quarterfinals one match later, Aldama assisted on a pair of Aly Wagner goals, helping produce a 3-0 triumph.

In other words, Aldama always seemed to find herself in the mix – scoring, setting up goals and other plays, streaking downfield to work her way open.

Once college was over, though, what next?

REPLACING TEAM USA

Aldama was part of a replacement Team USA side at a Jan. 13, 2000 match in Adelaide, Australia. In an event called the Australia Cup, Aldama surfaced as a substitute in the championship match, 3-1, over the Matildas.

Team USA’s main side had boycotted the match.

Sherrill Kester, Danielle Slaton and Wagner, Aldama’s college teammate, scored in front of 3,500 at Hindmarsch Stadium.

Playing against a more experienced Matildas’ squad, the U.S. held a 20-6 shots advantage, plus a 10-5 edge in corner kicks. It was in the 82nd minute that Aldama fed Wagner for Team USA’s final goal.

Mandy Clemens was part of the team, plus Jenn Mascaro (Streiffer), Michelle French and Veronica Zepeda with Lakeyshia Beene in goal.

Team USA, 2-0-1 in the four-nation tournament, had the same record as Sweden (playing to a 0-0 draw), winning on goal differential, holding a plus-nine to Sweden’s plus-four. The Czech Republic and host Australia made up the remaining tournament qualifiers.

It was that 8-1 win over the Czech Republic that did it for Team USA.

Considering that Sydney, Australia would be the host of that year’s 2000 Olympics, it had to occur that Aldama could see action when the Summer Games started.

Team USA’s co-coach Lauren Gregg noted the team’s approach.

She told Associated Press that Team USA achieved its objectives.

“First, we won by playing some exciting, attacking soccer.

“Second, these players invested in their development every minute they were on the field and took every advantage of this opportunity.

“Finally,” she said, “these games gave us a chance to evaluate our young personalities against much more experienced players, which gives us extremely valuable information as we go forward toward the Olympics.”

Team USA, Olympic gold medalists in 1996, 2004, 2008 and 2012, took silver in the 2000 Sydney Games. That team was largely built around the same group of historic women that won World Cup in Pasadena a couple years earlier.

China and Team USA played to a 1-1 draw, but the American women made it to the championship match, won by Sweden, 3-1.

Aldama was not part of the side.

SETTING STAGE FOR WUSA

While USA’s women were forming a global powerhouse at the international stage, Aldama was on the bubble to crack onto a formidable national team that included the likes of Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Carla Overbeck, Kristine Lilly, Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow, Tiffeny Milbrett, Clemens, Tisha Venturini, Joy Fawcett, Shannon MacMillan, Julie Foudy and goalkeeper Brianna Scurry, among other well-known American players.

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Brandi Chastain, a 1999 World Cup hero, was a Heather Aldama rival during their days in the Women’s United Soccer Association (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

In its most famous triumph in 1999 came in a 5-4 shootout win over China after a 0-0 draw through extended time. Chastain’s famous goal-winning shot was celebrated, dropping to her knees, whipping off her jersey and photographed in her sports bra.

That match was played at the Rose Bowl in front of nearly a packed house while shown on live international TV.

It had to affect an up-and-coming player like Aldama, who was still playing at Santa Clara – Chastain’s collegiate stop, incidentally.

The U.S., who knocked off North Korea, Nigeria and Denmark in pool play, had beaten Germany, Brazil and China, all world soccer powers. By contrast, Team USA’s men had never been able to produce a winning equation during international play.

Aldama had a few national team appearances. The timing of her departure from Santa Clara, however, was met with the formation of a new pro women’s soccer league.

SQUARING OFF AGAINST ’99 CUP SQUAD

In 2001, the Women’s United Soccer Association, or WUSA, was created. One of the founding eight teams was the Boston Breakers. The league lasted three seasons.

Aldama was part of a side that included Lilly, plus Kate Sobrero and Tracy Ducar. International players came over from Germany, Maren Meinhart and Bettina Wiegmann, plus Norway’s Dagny Mellgren and Ragnhild Gulbrandsen.

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Kristine Lilly, another of the 1999 USA World Cup heroes, was a Boston Breakers teammate of Redlands’ Heather Aldama (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Aldama showed up in Boston, courtesy of being the 28th player selected in the 2001 draft, a fourth-round pick by the Breakers. They played her on defense.

It was tough beginnings for Boston, which played to an 8-10-3 mark in its inaugural season, following that up with a 6-8-7 mark in 2002 – but no playoffs.

Matches were played at Nickerson Field in Boston. The team was owned by Amos Hostetter, Jr., who had served as chairman of C-SPAN.

That third and final season, though, under coach Pia Sundhage, former Norwegian scoring playmaker, was a little different. Boston finished 10-4-7 and reached the semifinals before a shootout against the Washington Freedom ended the Breakers’ season.

Aldama, wearing jersey No. 12, missed a shot in the penalty kick phase.

Eventually, when WUSA suspended operations, that was about it for the 25-year-old Aldama.

The Breakers reappeared, however – twice.

In 2007, they showed up as part of the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), folding in 2012. After that, the Breakers became part of the Women’s Pro Soccer League Elite.

Who was Aldama playing against in WUSA?

It was that same core group of 1999 World Cup players.

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Mia Hamm took her celebrated career into the WUSA ranks, where she competed against the likes of Redlands’ Heather Aldama (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Instead of watching them or dreaming of being their place, Aldama was attacking the likes of Scurry, plus defending against the all-star talents of Fawcett, MacMillan, Akers, Parlow, Milbrett, Venturini, Foudy, Hamm, Chastain and Clemens, among others – America’s best players.

In a July 3, 2003 match between Aldama’s Breakers and the Washington Freedom, Aldama notched her first professional goal in the 66th minute. There were 8,105 fans at Boston’s Nickerson Field to witness the two sides play to a 1-1 draw.

The shot was a curving, 25-yarder into the upper right hand corner of the net.

That shot might have originated in Redlands.