SAN BERNARDINO KIWANIS: MADE FOR REDLANDS

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, plus NCAA Final Four connections, 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

A few nuggets about a Redlands Connection:

Both Redlands High School and, eventually, city rival Redlands East Valley became connected to the San Bernardino Kiwanis Tournament as 100-percenters – but in different ways.

Ever since the tournament started in 1958, the Terriers have been rabid entries to a tournament that was once considered the prime time of prep basketball, perhaps, in two counties.

REV, meanwhile, joined the fray in 1997, when the school opened for the first time. Ever since, the Wildcats – their only coach, Bill Berich – have taken the floor against any and all opponents at the Kiwanis.

As for Kiwanis tournament dedication, look no further than Randy Genung. He coached the Terriers in the Kiwanis for a staggering total of 25 years, 1977 through 2001. After that, Brad Scott took over as head coach while Genung assisted through 2010. That’s 33 straight years at the Kiwanis.

Randy-Danny-Profile photo by Harr Travel
As a coach, longtime Redlands High coach Randy Genung, left, watched the Terriers in a staggering 33 times from the bench while his son, Danny, right, is a one-time San Bernardino Kiwanis Tournament selection. Photo by Harr Travel.

Redlands, now under current coach Ted Berry for the past few seasons, just completed play in the 60th San Bernardino Kiwanis Tournament. The Terriers reached the finals, but lost to Barstow.

Incidentally, the Terriers have played in every single Kiwanis Tournament event since the first one in 1958.

As for the Kiwanis tourney, it’s still standing amid a remarkable stretch of history.

SOME KEY NAMES FROM KIWANIS HISTORY

Greg Bunch?

Fred Lynn?

Greg Hyder?

John Masi, Scott Kay and Ty Stockham?

Those are a few of the past players who have shown up to play in San Bernardino.

While we awaited the outcome of the 60th annual San Bernardino Kiwanis Tournament, we’re reminded of the spectacular past performances of those high schoolers that came looking for tournament hardware, either a team title or all-tournament recognition.

Bunch, for instance, was the 34th player selected in the 1978 NBA draft by the New York Knicks. Out of Cal State Fullerton. He was a 6-foot-6 forward who made the all-tournament team in 1973 for Pacific.

Lynn, of course, was remembered for a brilliant baseball career. The El Monte High player was a 1968 Kiwanis all-tournament selection.

Hyder’s high school career at Victor Valley, coached by prep legend Ollie Butler, eventually led him to becoming the 39th pick in the 1970 NBA draft by the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings).

Kay, meanwhile, was tournament MVP in 1969. Years later, he coached San Bernardino High School to tournament titles with players like Bryon Russell – the Utah Jazz forward who was guarding against Michael Jordan’s game-winner in the 1997 NBA championship.

Russell, incidentally, was two-time Kiwanis tournament MVP in 1987 and 1988.

Masi, of course, turned up as UC Riverside coach during some brilliant days when the Highlanders dominated NCAA Division 2.

Stockham, the son of San Gorgonio coaching legend Doug Stockham, was another all-tournament player that also wound up leading his team to a tourney championship as a coach.

Part of the past includes Ken Hubbs, an original all-tourney selection in 1958.

Hubbs’ legacy, of course, is that he played major league baseball for the Chicago Cubs – winning 1962 National League Rookie of the Year honors – and was killed in an airplane crash shortly before spring training began in 1964.

Eventually, the Ken Hubbs Award was established. Such Kiwanis stars – San Bernardino’s Kyle Kopp and Shelton Diggs, Redlands’ Chad Roghair and Eisenhower’s Ronnie Lott, among others – won the Hubbs honors.

It’s left the Kiwanis with plenty of tradition, history and quite a continuing legacy.

NOBODY BIGGER THAN TARK

More tradition: Jerry Tarkanian, whose coaching legend started after leaving Redlands High School in 1961, brought his Terrier team into the mix at the 1960 Kiwanis. Danny Wolthers was picked on the five-player all-tourney team.

Tarkanian, of course, left Redlands for Riverside City College, departing for Pasadena City College – coaching five State titles for the Tigers and Lancers – before landing at Long Beach State (122-20 from 1968-73).

Ultimately, his travels took him to Nevada-Las Vegas (509-105 from 1974-92), leading the Runnin’ Rebels to the 1990 national championship.

Final coaching record – 784-202.

Footnote: It was during his Redlands days that Tark began his well-known history for chomping on wet towels during games.

Redlands and San Bernardino Kiwanis Tournament connections are seemingly endless.

Kim-Aiken poto by Redlands Rotary Club
Two-time San Bernardino Kiwanis all-tournament selection Kim Aiken is now playing at Eastern Washington University. Photo by Redlands Rotary Club.

Sixty Years of Redlands Tournament Players

Here is a list of the all-tournament players from Redlands High School and Redlands East Valley (all players through 2003 represented RHS; afterward the school is indicated):

  • 1958 – Tom Fox
  • 1960 – Danny Wolthers
  • 1963 – Tom McCutcheon, Jim Gardner
  • 1967 – Randy Orwig
  • 1977 – Don Smith, Pat Keogh
  • 1978 – Tom McCluskey
  • 1980 – Mark Tappan
  • 1981 – James Sakaguchi
  • 1982 – Jon Hansen
  • 1983 – Jon Hansen (MVP), Mark Smith
  • 1986 – Jared Hansen
  • 1987 – Chad Roghair
  • 1989 – Fritz Bomke
  • 1990 – Marcus Rogers
  • 1991 – Ledel Smith
  • 1992 – Eddie Lucas
  • 1993 – Mike Allen
  • 1994 – Nick Day
  • 1985 – Jon Allen, Chris Harvey
  • 1996 – Johnny Avila
  • 1997 – Eric Siess
  • 1998 – Eric Siess
  • 1999 – Danny Genung
  • 2003 – Richard Vazquez, Michael Estrada, Matt Mirau
  • RHS 2004 – Mychal Estrada
  • REV 2004 – Brandon Dowdy, Jacob Letson, Lance Evbuomwan (MVP)
  • RHS 2005 – Mike Solimon
  • REV 2005 – Lance Evbuomwan, Darnell Ferguson, Brandon Dowdy
  • RHS 2006 – Tristan Kirk, Alex Wolpe, Josh Green
  • RHS 2007 – Josh Green (MVP), Tristan Kirk, Ricky Peetz, Nate Futz
  • REV 2007 – Robert Ellis, Jamell Simmons
  • RHS 2008 – Tristan Kirk, Ricky Peetz, Matt Green
  • REV 2008 – Ryan Griggs
  • RHS 2009 – Matt Green, Hinsta Kifle
  • RHS 2010 – Ashton Robinson
  • REV 2010 – Greg Dishman, Terrell Todd, Paulin Mpawe
  • REV 2011 – Jamal Ellis
  • REV 2012 – Eli Chuha
  • RHS 2013 – Brad Motylewski, Kamren Sims
  • REV 2013 – Eli Chuha
  • RHS 2014 – Brad Motylewski
  • REV 2014 – Chris Harper (MVP), Julian Sinegal, Alex Ziska
  • RHS 2015 – Samer Yeyha, Davonte Carrier
  • REV 2015 – Kim Aiken, Brett Vansant
  • RHS 2016 – Olivier Uzabakiriho
  • REV 2016 – Kim Aiken
  • RHS 2017 – Brian Landon
  • REV 2017 – Sebastian Zerpa, Mykale Williams

PART 2 – ROYAL, REGAL AND REDLANDS CONNECTIONS

To get the full story, read Part 1 here. 

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, plus NCAA Final Four connections, 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

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.

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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.

PART 1 – A REAL REDLANDS CONNECTION

Tiger Woods
Image credit: Tour Pro Golf Clubs

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, plus NCAA Final Four connections, 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

There seemed to be no master plan. Redlands has produced athletes. Coaches. Dramatic moments. Memorable moments. Historical moments. Connections beyond belief. Tennis & golf. Baseball & soccer. World Cup & the Olympics. Football & basketball. Bowling & auto racing. You name it. Children born to Redlands parents launched careers in various sports.

Sometimes, even outside legends came to the local area.

Think of Tiger Woods playing golf at Redlands.

Or these “connections”:

  • Pete Sampras played in a junior satellite tournament in Redlands.
  • Muhammad Ali never boxed here. But did he come to Redlands?
  • Former World Boxing Council welterweight champion Carlos Palomino did show up.
  • A couple of area second basemen – one from Redlands and the other from Colton – played against each other in the 1983 American League playoffs.
  • A Hall of Fame bowler once showed up once to roll a few practice frames en route to a PBA Arizona tournament.
  • Former NBA players John Block and Cazzie Russell, basketball’s overall No. 1 draft pick by the New York Knicks in 1966, brought in small college teams to coach against the University of Redlands.
  • Two years before Villanova won the NCAA Division 1 men’s college basketball championship, the Wildcats played on the same court at Redlands.
  • Landon Donovan, pro men’s soccer. A homegrown.
  • Heather Aldama, pro women’s soccer. Another homegrown.
  • A future NBA coach brought a horrible Pomona-Pitzer College team to beat Redlands, then launched a Hall of Fame career in San Antonio.
  • A former baseball Hall of Famer watched his grandson play center field at the University of Redlands.
  • One of college basketball’s greatest coaches spent two seasons in Redlands.
  • The original “Lucky Louie” learned to drive in Redlands around 1919 – then won three times at the Indianapolis 500.
  • Redlands produced a track & field Olympian in 1920. Eighty years later, there was a men’s soccer Olympian, a female high jumper, plus a male cyclist.
  • For a dozen years, a professional football team launched its season from the local university. The nostalgia was surreal. Names like Ollie Matson, Les Richter, Norm Van Brocklin, ElRoy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, Tom Fears, plus Jane Russell’s husband, Bob Waterfield, were among those that showed up on local turf. The numbers of Hall of Famers attached to that group, which includes Pete Rozelle, Tex Schramm and Joe Stydahar, is off the charts.
  • A veteran baseball player scouted Oakland so effectively that the scouting report he turned over to 1973 New York Mets’ manager Yogi Berra nearly helped topple the A’s dynasty in the World Series.
  • Wimbledon entries. Golf’s U.S. Open. PGA Championship. A Harlem Globetrotter? An area tennis coach once tended to a world-ranked star. Local photographers that shot Ben Hogan and Wayne Gretzky.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/slgc/21462832908/in/photolist-yGACtf-21QZTjP-am2XuR-am2ThR-am5AsJ-am2Ubz-am5FA7-am5TMu-am2UZa-am5Bfh-am5WXf-am5NoL-am2QEM-am2DpK-am5qTS-am5JSu-am38Ga-am5M5G-am5w3U-am5urq-am3842-am37mg-am2WCR-am2RWc-am5t8G-am38W4-am339p-am5LLG-am2Qz6-am2EDt-am5TvW-am2YUV-am2VVH-am2SGz-am33HV-am2YAr-am5qm3-am5P5A-am2VPM-am5EU5-am5CP9-am2LoH-am5x2G-am2YnH-am5Lg3-am2LPg-am5rvJ-am32Dz-am5HTq-am2M2k
Image credit: “Yogi Berra at Shea Stadium Closing Ceremonies” by slgckgc licensed, CC BY 2.0.

Heaven forbid, there’s so much more.

There is a good chance that most Redlands athletes aren’t included in this book. In fact, count on it.

There’s a Hall of Fame at Redlands High and another one at the University of Redlands. That’s good enough for multiple all-league, all-conference, All-CIF or NCAA Division 3 All-Americans in any sport.

There are great soccer midfielders, tremendous water polo goalies, ball hawking safeties on a football field, along with some catchers and pitchers, hurdlers and pole vaulters, hitters from both the gridiron and diamond, rebounders, shooters and great glove men, plus swimmers and tennis stars who won’t make it into these blogs.

Let’s not forget the golfers.

In over 100 years at Redlands High School and over a century of athletic tradition at the University of Redlands, some of sports’ most cherished and respected names have touched the lives of local spectators. Played memorable games. Won league or conference championships. Or barely missed. Many of those accounts made the local daily newspapers.

These blogs aren’t intended to list each All-American, every all-leaguer, local all-star, league MVPs, conference players of the year, or even the kids that had All-Pro or All-Star aspirations, only to hit a bump in the road. It’s not even to pay tribute to the mainstream coaches that have conceived, trained, managed, and inspired teams to impressive championship seasons.

The exceptions, of course, are these: If they reached the pro ranks, or major colleges, Olympics, World Cup, an All-Star game, a professional draft, or something of note beyond just their local community, well … They’re in! Hopefully. We’ve researched a ton.

It’s a long, arduous task to corral all the Redlands greats. We’ve got most of them.  I think.

MOTOR RACING, FOOTBALL, SOCCER,

AND SCARY VOLLEYBALL BANQUET

Would it occur to anyone that Redlands High product named Jim Weatherwax could count himself as one having been coached by both Vince Lombardi and Jerry Tarkanian?

Or that Redlands High’s Brian Billick can claim as onetime employers Bill Walsh, Tom Landry and Lavell Edwards?

Gary Nelson, a classic grease monkey, got his start in auto racing working for a local legend, Ivan Baldwin, later serving as crew chief for NASCAR legends Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison.

That’s noteworthy.

As a Sports Editor whose time measured from 1981-2002, one of my biggest pet peeves was against pushy parents. Throughout the life and times of area news media, parents of even the top athletes fought for respect given to their much-decorated sons or daughters in print.

A classic example: Hours before the season-ending banquet for a CIF-Southern Section championship volleyball team, no less than three parents of athletes from that team contacted me by telephone at the local newspaper office.

They were upset about the way their daughters were “coached” by the author of this championship team. Their feelings was that he had been unfair. This coach, Gene Melcher, substituted their daughters in and out of matches, replacing their daughters with someone else’s daughter.

These telephone calls were made to reflect the fact that “something” might happen at the banquet, if not an actual boycott, casting a gray cloud over this championship banquet.

Wow! These parents waited until banquet night to settle a score with a coach? Settle a score with a coach who guided their team to the championship?

Talk about pushy parents. See? This is what you deal with on the sports desk of any newspaper – small, mid-size or major daily publication.

Since I was invited to attend, and speak, at the banquet, I could hardly wait to see what would take place. There could be an actual story for the newspaper. Imagine the headlines: “Parents disrupt team banquet!” I couldn’t wait to see if these parents had the bitterness to pull it off. It would have been off the charts for sheer gall. Imagine undermining an event at which they were celebrating the ultimate goal – a championship.

More than one observer has uttered the now-cliché phrase: “These parents wouldn’t be happy if God were coaching their team.”

During each of those phone calls, I gently tried calling out these parents, making a game attempt to talk them out of their funk. Believe me, there’s nothing worse than a parent who thinks their kid has been wronged.

Thankfully nothing out of the ordinary occurred. During my remarks, I was nervous over the fact that something might take place. In fact, the banquet went perfectly fine. Parents of these high school-aged athletes sat in complete celebration about the achievements of their daughters’ team.

Pushy parents can’t get their kids’ names into these blogs.

I can just hear some of those parents: “We’ll see about that.”

Read Part 2 here.

A REDLANDS MINI-WORLD CUP CONNECTION: DONOVAN V BOCANEGRA

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Landon Donovan on the move. Image Credit: Jason Wojciechowski “USA vs. Algeria World Cup match. Licensed under CC BY (2.0)

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, plus NCAA Final Four connections, 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

Landon Donovan, an Olympian and World Cup soccer player, not to mention a multiple-winning Honda Player of the Year in Major Soccer League play, was on the field during an unforgettable CIF-Southern Section high school playoff match back in 1996.

Donovan was a freshman midfield sensation who would eventually be named his league’s Most Valuable Player. On this March afternoon, in a match played on the school’s JV football field – corner of Citrus and University – Alta Loma High School was the visiting side.

The place was packed. People everywhere. Spectators lined up around the field six or seven deep. Parking was impossible. Assigned to cover the match, I could barely get a place to view the match myself. I needed a perfect viewing position. Unobstructed. When I did manage to find a spot, it was next to an Alta Loma player’s mother.

Her name was Kelly. Nice lady. Alta Loma had won the CIF Southern Section football championship a few months earlier. Plenty of the kids on the Braves’ soccer team played on that team. In Kelly’s mom, this match against Redlands would be no contest.

Kelly’s son was Carlos Bocanegra.

Imagine that!

Donovan and Bocanegra on the same field. Opposite sides. Two players who would eventually play together on the same U.S. Olympic and World Cup teams. Bocanegra, like Donovan, was a future big-time player in his own right.

That high school match itself was a classic. It was like a mini-World Cup match.

Redlands won, eventually, on penalty kicks. Terrier goalkeeper Jerad Bailey (who had a future great career at Loyola Marymount University) emerged a hero, having stopped some critical shot attempts by the visiting Braves, including during the penalty kick phase of the match.

The following year, Donovan had wound up at Redlands East Valley High School, its first year of existence. Midway through his sophomore season, though, the 16-year-old signed a professional contract to play in Europe.

A pro soccer career was underway.

BUSTERS FIND THAT WINNING DOESN’T ALWAYS PAY

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, plus NCAA Final Four connections, 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

Jeff Lane, the sports editor and my one-time classmate at Chabot Junior College up in Hayward, and I were on a mission.

Hollywood Park was our destination on July 21, 1979.

Jeff and I comprised the two-man sports staff of the small-city California daily in Redlands. We’d known each other since our junior college days at Chabot Community College in Hayward, a Bay Area city about 20 miles south of Oakland.

We were as sports-minded as they come – baseball, golf, football, basketball, college and pro, not to mention horse racing, you name it. The main Bay Area tracks were Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows, not to mention a handful of summer fair tracks in Pleasanton, Santa Rosa, Vallejo, Fresno, and Sacramento.

Looking for an angle to bring horse racing to the Redlands Daily Facts, we’d stumbled upon a thoroughbred that couldn’t defy such attention.

It was the only way you could sell such a story to local readership. Our owners, Frank and William Moore, plus its devoted editor, Richard West, had vested their faith in us to report on local events.

We were the second paper on people’s doorsteps. The Los Angeles Times, San Bernardino Sun and the Riverside Press Enterprise were regional papers. They’d cover the professionals, major colleges and, of course, they had a horse racing page.

For Jeff and I to make this work in a Redlands newspaper, there had to be a local angle. And we’d found one: The horse was called Old Redlands. There was another horse in that same barn, a filly called Milenka.

LOSING MILENKA IN A CLAIMER

On this particular day, the two of us were on a mission to watch Milenka, entered in the first race at Hollywood Park. Owned by a Redlands couple, William and Benita Marie Busters, we were curious to see the outcome of this race.

Milenka won in 1:10.2, ridden by the apprentice Patrick Valenzuela – who would go on to have a solid racing career – but just prior to the race, the Busters faced the news.

Since it was a claiming race, rival owner Patrice Bozick put in the claim for her, had beaten her own filly, Geeme, a few weeks earlier. The Busters, of Redlands, had just one runner in racing peddle left in their barn.

“It took us eleven months or a year to breed her,” said Buster. “Then another year, a year to train her, and then two and a half months of racing. And in one afternoon, she’s gone.”

Such were the perils of claiming races. You’ve got to sell at the claiming price. In this case, the claim was $20,000.

“We’re going to try to get her back,” said Buster.

After being posted at 4-to-1 in the morning line, Milenka was sent off as the 2-to-1 favorite, the filly held on to beat Hoisty Jen, ridden by Canadian jockey Sandy Hawley.

Later that day, legendary jockey Willie Shoemaker booted home his 7,700th career win aboard Parsec in the Hollywood Juvenile.

A few hours earlier, the Busters’ racing stable had been cut in half, having lost Milenka to the Bozick stable. Only Old Redlands remained in their barn.

“We’ve dreamed about having a stakes winner,” said Buster, noting that Milenka’s sire, Olympiad King, had been a stakes winner in the early 1960s.

Old Redlands, coming off a seventh-place finish in an allowance race at Hollywood Park, had been dropped into a claiming race. This colt was not in any danger of winding up in the Kentucky Derby or Hollywood Gold Cup. It won just once in his first 11 races. The win came at Bay Meadows, about 40 miles south of San Francisco in December 1979, his final race as a two-year-old.

Buster, whose father was in construction and also a horseman, had bred Old Redlands. The sire was Gummo, he was out of Judena. Gummo had been a pretty good sprinter in his years on the track.

A couple weeks before Milenka’s win and claim at Hollywood Park, the Busters watched Old Redlands win a 1 1/16-mile allowance race.

Over a month later, he won a starter allowance race at Del Mar. The Hollywood Park win had lifted the spirits of the Busters’ trainer, Clay Brinson, who called him a “useful horse.”

“He’ll win a lot of races if we put him in the right ones.”

The Busters had lost Milenka, but held on to Old Redlands. In their barn was a yearling filly – named for Buster’s wife, “Benita Marie.”

Milenka, whose lifetime earning were $59,600 in winning six times and taking second place on four occasions in 25 career races, tucked five victories and a second place finish over an eight-race span between that July 21 victory and early January 1980.

Old Redlands rarely saw Southern California tracks again. Shipped up to the Bay Area, where he raced at Golden Gate Fields, just outside of Oakland, and also at Bay Meadows, then into the Pacific Northwest tracks Yakima Meadows and Longacres – both in Washington.

The horse would race 47 times over a six-year stretch – winning ten times with earnings just over $52,000. At one point, the colt won four straight claiming races. By then, the horse had been claimed by another owner.

BUSTER’S DERBY HOPES DASHED IN 1997

As for Buster, he wound up as part of the Team Valor syndicate, owning shares in a pair of Kentucky Derby horses nearly two decades later.

Captain Bodgit, under Alex Solis, finished second to Silver Charm in the 1997 Derby. It should’ve won. Bodgit had won the Florida Derby at Gulfstream and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct (N.Y.), but trainer Bob Baffert’s colt could not be denied.

Silver Charm won by a head.

Buster was furious for another reason. He saw contact between Silver Charm and his colt. Derby history has only recorded one “foul.” It didn’t occur in 1997.

“An inquiry,” said Buster, who had lost his wife, remarried and moved to Yucaipa-based Oak Glen, “cost him the Derby. (Captain Bodgit) was going by (Silver Charm) when that thing happened.”

In the Preakness two weeks later, Captain Bodgit ran third – and never raced again.

For Buster, he had one Derby hope remaining in 2000.

The Deputy, an Irish foal, went to post as the favorite. He’d won the Hill Rise Handicap, Santa Anita Derby, ran second in the San Felipe – all at Santa Anita. At Churchill Downs on Derby Day, though, The Deputy failed to fire, finishing fourteenth.

Incidentally, the filly, Benita Marie, never made it to the track.

Old Redlands would have to serve as the honorable mention to Buster’s all-time stable of runners.

As for the July 23, 1979, story in the Redlands Daily Facts, the byline belonged to me. It was a horrible story, failing to focus on the Busters, their life in Redlands, Bill’s father as a horseman, not to mention the insights of the sport.

I’m embarrassed to admit it.

bustersfind

Jeff probably could’ve edited it better. He was probably trying to be nice to his reporter. At least he wrote a perfect headline:

“Busters find out winning doesn’t always pay.”


Feature image credit: “hollywood park” by Deidre Woolard licensed under CC BY 2.0.