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

Today, August 28, 2018, is the 45th anniversary of an Olympic moment.

So much history was locked with in the 1972 Olympic Games.

Held in Munich, West Germany, who could forget the slaughter of Israeli athletes by Palestinians in one of the world’s greatest divides?

The U.S. men’s basketball team lost a gold medal that led to an international incident.

Meanwhile, American sprinters Rey Robinson and Eddie Hart, nowhere to be found in the 100 and 200 finals, missed their preliminary heats when they received the wrong starting times.

On the plus side, there was wrestler Dan Gable, marathoner Frank Shorter and half-miler Dave Wottle, who came from behind to win the 800.

At Schwimmhalle, the Olympic swim center at the Munich Olympic Park, an American swimmer was re-writing the record books.

A Redlands swimmer was hot on his trail.

Mark Spitz. Seven gold medals. An American legend.

An Australian teen, Shane Gould, made his own mark with three golds, plus a silver and bronze at age 15.

There was another teenage swimmer at The Games.

That teen, Robin Backhaus, was attending Redlands High School.

Robin Backhaus, a 17-year-old swimmer at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, won a bronze medal in the butterfly (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Born in Nebraska. Attended Redlands High. His swim club was in Riverside. Wound up in Hawaii. Alabama. In Washington, the U.S. Northwest.

On Aug. 28, 1972, Backhaus won a bronze medal for his third-place performance in the men’s 200-meter butterfly. His time, 2:03.23, finished behind Spitz’s world record 2:00.70, with Gary Hall, Sr. (2:02.86) and Backhaus completing an American sweep.

Imagine that for a Redlands Connection!

A Redlands swimmer beaten only by a world record.

In that 200-fly finale, Backhaus outlasted Jose Delgado, Jr., of Ecuador, by over a second to grab that bronze medal.

Even the pathway to the championship race is littered with challenges.

Backhaus posted the fastest time in the heats leading up to the finals, beating West Germany’s Folkert Meeuw in 2:03.11. By heat four, Spitz won his race and stole away, however briefly, Backhaus’ Olympic record swim.

Spitz, who surpassed Backhaus’ 2:03.11 clocking with a 2:02.11 of his own, claimed the record in that semifinal heat.

The top two finishers from each heat qualified for the finals.

It took that world record swim from Spitz, his 2:00.70 outdueling Hall and Backhaus.

From left to right, Gary Hall, Sr., Mark Spitz and Robin Backhaus, who swept the 200-meter butterfly event at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Spitz, who won seven gold medals, set a world record in the race (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Delgado, West Germany’s Hans Fassnacht, Hungary’s Andras Hargitay, East Germany’s Hartmut Flockner and Meeuw took fourth through eighth place in the overall outcome. Even Meeuw’s last place clocking, 2:05.57, was world class.

Backhaus was surrounded by superior talent on his U.S. Olympic team:

  • Jerry Heidenreich, two relay gold medals, part of six world records
  • John Murphy, a relay gold and bronze in the 100-back
  • Mike Stamm, silver medals in two backstroke events, plus a relay gold
  • Tom Bruce, former world record holder in 4 x 100 free
  • Steve Furniss, bronze, 100-individual medley
  • Gary Hall, Sr. – Two years before Munich, Hall set a world record in 200-fly
  • Mike Burton (3-time Olympic champion, former world record holder)
  • Steve Genter, gold medalist (silver in 100-free)
  • John Hencken, 13 world records, 21 American records
  • Doug Northway, like Backhaus, was 17, capturing bronze in the 1500-free
  • Tim McKee (3-time silver medalist)

A footnote to McKee: Swimming observers will recall a close finish – losing to Sweden’s Gunnar Larsson by two one-thousandths of a second in the 400-IM – in which the scoreboard reflected a dead heat at 4:31.98. In a controversial decision, event judges named Larsson the winner with a 4:31.981 to McKee’s 4:31.983.

Under new federation rules, timing to the thousandths of a second are now prohibited. It was that race which led to the change in rules.

The U.S. copped 43 medals, seven of its 17 gold medals won by Spitz, two shared in pair of relays.

Spitz, meanwhile, might’ve been caught up in the explosive nature of The Games. As a Jewish American, Spitz was asked to leave Germany before the closing ceremonies. The deaths of those Israeli athletes had left a trickle-down effect for the remainder of The Games.


Domestically, Backhaus won three Amateur Athletic Union titles, at the indoor 200-yard butterfly in 1974, plus the 100-fly in 1973.

He also won NCAA title in the 200-fly in 1975.

His club was based in Riverside. One of his coaches was Chuck Riggs, who would help develop several future champions, including Cynthia “Sippy” Woodhead. Riggs was voted into the Swim Coaches Hall of Fame in 2018.

Chuck Riggs, who was coaching for the Riverside Aquatics Association in the early 1970s, had a hand in coaching Robin Backhaus’ climb to the Olympics in 1972.

Backhaus’ college choice was Washington, later transferring to Alabama, which is where he graduated.

Backhaus, a teacher and swimming coach at Konawaena (Hawaii) High School, eventually surfaced as a swimming trainer in Texas and California for over 20 years.

A year after his Olympic exploits, Backhaus won a pair of gold medals, plus a bronze medal at the 1973 World Aquatics Championships in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

There was a win in his specialty, the 200-fly, plus his part in the 4 x 200 freestyle relay. In the 100-fly, Backhaus stroked home in third place.

Born on Feb. 12, 1955, Backhaus never swam competitively for Redlands High. He’s a Terrier Hall of Famer, though, in the school’s growing history of top-level athletes that includes that likes of NFL’s Brian Billick, Greg Horton, Patrick Johnson and Jim Weatherwax, track & field’s Karol Damon, soccer’s Heather Aldama, baseball’s Julio Cruz and volleyball’s Keri Nishimoto.

En route to the ’72 Olympics, swimmers had to qualify at the U.S. Trials at Portage Park in Chicago.

In the 200-fly, Spitz’s 2:01.53 outgunned Backhaus’ 2:03.39.

Backhaus’ only other hope for another Olympic event came in the 100-fly, but he was unable to qualify at the Trials.

Think of it this way: For a brief time, Backhaus held the Olympic record for that 200-meter butterfly. It took a world record swim, from Spitz of all people, to edge the Redlands teenager for the gold medal.

There would no Olympic Games for Backhaus in Montreal 1976.


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

When I got hold of him around the summer of 1993, Richard Lane was living in Detroit, where he’d once worked for the Lions and, eventually, with city youth programs.

“Whew,” said Lane, who died in 2002, 28 years after he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Red-lands! You’re talking about a long time ago. All I can remember about Redlands was that I needed a ride to get out there. I didn’t know how to get there.”

Dick “Night Train” Lane knew what to do when he arrived. Redlands was the spot he had to prove his value to Rams’ coaches. He wasn’t yet known by his nickname, “Night Train.”

Dick_Lane_1962 (wikipedia)
Dick “Night Train” Lane remembered trying to make the Los Angeles Rams at his first NFL training camp in Redlands, 1952 (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

My job was to track as many “Redlands” Rams as I could. For a 12-year period, the Los Angeles Rams trained at the University of Redlands. This was historical. Imagine such an event taking place today.

Years later, Lane remembered the tiny little city.

“I got out of the service,” said Lane, who was 6-feet-2, 210 pounds. “My first connection, my first real connection with the Rams was in Redlands. I had to make the team there.”

Not drafted. Not scouted. Just signed. In Redlands.

Lane attracted the attention of Rams’ coaches. He played receiver. Split end? Not with the Tom Fears and “Crazy Legs” Hirsch tandem still operating as the NFL’s top pass-catching duo in what was considered one of the most potent attacks in league history.

“You know,” Lane said, “I hate to say this, but I think I could’ve been a little better (receiver) than what they had there” – referring to Fears and Hirsch.

“I covered them in practice. That’s how they noticed me on defense. That’s their thinking then: If I could cover Tom and ElRoy, then I deserved a place on the team.”

In one of Joe Stydahar’s final moves as Rams’ coach, one perhaps aided by defensive coach Hampton Pool, Lane was switched to defensive back. It was in that season that Lane picked off a record 14 passes over what was then a 12-game NFL schedule.

“Joe quit a game into the season,” said Lane. “I didn’t really get to know him that well. Both guys … I give credit to for my making the team.”

Which enemy QBs did he fleece?

“I intercepted Johnny Unitas,” said Lane. “Otto Graham was another guy. Uh, Bobby Layne … (Y.A.) Tittle … got a long (return) against (Babe) Parilli when he was with the Packers … (Charlie) Conerly. A lot guys.”

By 1954, Lane, who came up with 68 career interceptions, was traded by the Rams to the Chicago Cardinals. “I don’t know why I was traded. It’s hard to have the kind of season like I had that first year. I’m pretty sure they felt I slacked off somewhat.”

While Lane’s career was just beginning, another was concluding.

Coming off a National Football League championship one season earlier (1951), the Rams seemed to be the hot team. It would be the final season for quarterback Bob Waterfield. Norm Van Brocklin, another Hall of Fame QB, had been drafted out of Oregon.

Lane, the incoming wide receiver, had little chance of making this team. By 1952, Hirsch and Fears were the best tandem of split ends in the NFL.

“Don’t ask me to pick between them,” said Lane, referring to the QB tandem. “Bob retired after my rookie season, though. Both men were great. Both were great quarterbacks. I couldn’t pick between them.”

It was all taking place right in Redlands; the scheming of Lane, who kept his split end jersey No. 81 when he went to cornerback. History was being set on the old field at the University of Redlands.

“I was only with the Rams for a couple years,” he said. “I moved on.”

These were just a portion of the stories engaged at the Rams’ pre-season training camp.

“Night Train,” he said, referring to his nickname. “Ah, man. It was that song (by Buddy Morrow). No, not Buddy Morrow. It was Jimmy Lester. Tom (Fears) gave it to me. Started calling me that.

“No one called me Dick or Richard,” he said. “I had the Necktie nickname, too. I got guys by their necktie. They outlawed that kind of tackle, the clothesline.”

Night Train Lane, however, stuck – all the way to the Hall of Fame.

Night Train was the hot song.

There were plenty of hot nights in the Redlands dorms, Lane recalled.

“I swear, if they’d invented air conditioning back then,” he said, “they wouldn’t have given it to us. They wanted us to sweat.

“Ha-haaaaa,” he said. “That’s what I remember about Redlands. Sweating a lot.”









I met Julio Cruz exactly three times – once in the clubhouse at Anaheim Stadium when he was a member of the Seattle Mariners.

The other times came years later. He had long since retired. His onetime home city, which had been Redlands, was near Seattle. Someone had convinced him to come back for an off-season baseball clinic at Community Field.

A few years later, Julio was inducted into the newly-formed Redlands High School Terrier Hall of Fame.

Brooklyn-born. Moved to Redlands. Graduated. Headed for San Bernardino Valley College. Signed as a free agent. California Angels. That was just the beginning.

Julio hit .237 over nine seasons in the major league. He is, indeed, a Hall of Famer. In Redlands. The guy has taken part in some of baseball’s greatest moments.

JUlio Cruz
Julio Cruz, a Redlands High product, became the first Terrier to ever play in the major leagues (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Sports Editor Jeff Lane, my predecessor at the Redlands newspaper, had done plenty on Julio during his five-year stint. Julio was a popular product. To that point, no Redlands player had ever drifted their way from that city into the major leagues.

Ed Vande Berg, a southpaw pitcher, would be next. In fact, the two would eventually be teammates in Seattle.

Julio, a 1972 Redlands High graduate, played at nearby San Bernardino Valley. Though undrafted, he was signed by the California Angels on May 7, 1974 as a free agent.

The Angels sent him into their minor league system. As a 19-year-old, he batted .241 for Idaho Falls of the Rookie League in 1974. On he went, right up the Angels’ chain – .261 for Quad Cities, .307 for Salinas, .327 for El Paso and .246 for Salt Lake City at age 22.


The American League, about to expand from 10 teams to 12 teams by 1977, had to make players available in a draft pool. Julio, left unprotected by the Angels, who had ex-Red Sox second baseman Jerry Remy at the MLB level. No room for Julio.

While Julio batted .366 for Hawaii of the Pacific Coast League – stashed with the Padres’ chain while Seattle organized its minor league system – it wouldn’t be long before he got his shot at the major leagues.

On Nov. 5, 1976, Julio had been the 52nd player taken in the American League expansion draft when two new franchises appeared in the American League – Seattle and Toronto.

Suddenly, he was suddenly a Mariner.

In a curious draft footnote, pitcher Butch Edge was taken by Toronto out of Milwaukee’s chain. Edge would eventually wind up in Redlands years later as the University of Redlands’ men’s golf coach.

Other players taken in the draft included Pete Vuckovich being plucked away from the White Sox by Toronto. Vuckovich would eventually wind up with the Brewers, winning the 1982 Cy Young Award.

As for Julio, he quickly turned into a Seattle stalwart. Longing for star players, Julio’s base-stealing skills turned him into a popular Mariner.

He stole 59 bases in 1978, then swiped 49, 45, 43 and 46 bags over the next four seasons. What’s lost in those numbers is that he stole 49 in just 107 games in 1979. During the strike-shortened 1981 season, he stole 43 times in 94 games.

If there was a weakness to his game, Julio’s on-base-percentage was awfully low – his highest at .363 in ’79 – but he put a lot of bunts in play to try and get on base.

There were some decent hitters in Seattle – Al Cowens, Richie Zisk, Dave Henderson, Willie Horton, Bruce Bochte, Ruppert Jones, among others – with pitchers like future White Sox teammate Floyd Bannister and Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry playing in Seattle with Julio.

Gaylord Perry
Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry notched his 300th career victory in a Seattle uniform. In fact, teammate Julio Cruz made the final out when he fielded Willie Randolph’s grounder (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

In fact, Julio was on the field on May 6, 1982 when Perry (10-12 that season) won his 300th game. He beat the Yankees in the Kingdome to notch this milestone victory.

In fact, it was Cruz who fielded the grounder off Willie Randolph for the final out.


On June 30, 1983 — MLB’s trading deadline — Cruz was swapped to the Chicago White Sox for second baseman Tony Bernazard. The results of that trade might’ve been the impetus for the ChiSox vaulting to an American League Western Division title by 20 games over Kansas City.

“Let’s Do It Again” was the theme for 1984.  What the ChiSox did was fall back to fifth place, 14 games under .500.

General Manager Roland Hemond, who leveraged the Bernazard-for-Cruz swap, brought in pitcher Ron Reed and practically stole future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver from the Mets.

Chicago White Sox General Manager Roland Hemond was responsible for landing Julio Cruz in a trade with the Seattle Mariners in 1983 (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Their contributions weren’t enough to offset poor showings, perhaps reflected by 1983 ace pitchers Lamarr Hoyt (13-18) and Rich Dotson (14-15) one season later.

There were 54,032 fans at Yankee Stadium when Seaver beat the Yankees for his 300th career win. Cruz, in the dugout batting less than .180, wasn’t part of that ChiSox 4-1 triumph.

On the field, though, were Hall of Famers like Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield, MVP Don Mattingly and, of course, Seaver. Managers Tony La Russa and Billy Martin squared off against each other.

One night later, Cruz was back in the lineup, going 2-for-2 off Ron Guidry — caught stealing by Yankee catcher Butch Wynegar.

The ’85 White Sox club bounced back to win 85 games and actually led the division in June.

By 1986, the club was in disarray with new general manager Ken Harrelson, who had replaced Hemond, and manager Jim Fregosi. It would be four more seasons before the Chicago White Sox finished over .500.

Julio was living off an impressive free agent contract that was signed in December 1984, a six-year deal between $3.6 and $4.8 million. He never finished out his contract.

Julio played in 1,156 games; swiped 343 bases; don’t forget impressive .982 defense at second base.

Released by the White Sox in July 1987, Cruz signed as a free agent with Los Angeles. But the 1987 Dodgers already had a second baseman. Steve Sax would go on to lead his team to a World Series title a year later. Julio never actually played in L.A.


He was part of the second class of Hall of Fame inductees at his former high school. In fact, Julio unwittingly opened the door to a humorous line given by fellow inductee Brian Billick, of Super Bowl fame.

Julio had spoken emotionally about his Terrier days. The memories. Boy, he had fun. The teams he’d played on. There was some success. The Terriers, with Cruz in the lineup, won the first Citrus Belt League title in 1971 — 44 years after their previous championship from 1927.

At the Redlands Hall of Fame podium, Cruz shared a memory.

“Just being in the showers with guys like Brian Billick was a thrill. Those were highlights for me. I’ll never get over that.”

Billick, the Terrier great defensive back/QB who was head coach of the Baltimore Ravens when they won the Super Bowl, was being inducted the same night.

In fact, Billick broke the crowd up when he said, “Julio, it’s amazing to me that you felt like the highlight of your high school career was taking a shower with me.”

A few years before that Hall of Fame moment, Cruz, along with ex-major leaguer Rudy Law and Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins took part in a baseball clinic at Community Field. Former Pirates and Yankees pitcher Dock Ellis, I was told, showed up late.

Hundreds of youth had shown up for that historic event at the corner of Church and San Bernardino. This was a rare moment for local youth.

Dads let their kids know who this guy was. Julio Cruz, of Redlands. Former major leaguer. Little guy. Second baseman. Switch hitter. Lots of speed. Wanna be a big leaguer? Listen. Watch.

Jenkins and Law couldn’t have been more classy.

Julio, the ex-Terrier, knew he was at home.

They gave tips. They shared stories. They shook hands. Smiled. They signed autographs.

Julio became a coach. Broadcasting games for the Mariners, Julio Cruz took his Brooklyn-to-Redlands-to-Seattle-to-Chicago travels really well.

Why not a Terrier Hall of Famer? He fit the mold. While playing with, or against, all those MBL Hall of Famers, he played for one Cooperstown-bound manager, La Russa.

It was a diamond-style Redlands Connection.


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, 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’s a growing club, one that began assembling in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. beginning in 2002.

There’s Bob Bowman, the Arizona State University coach who helped guide Michael Phelps to a myriad of Olympic gold medals, who joined that exclusive list in 2010.

Add George Haines, who notched 26 women’s national AAU championships, plus another nine men’s titles at Northern California-based Santa Clara Swim Club before becoming head swimming coach at UCLA before heading off to Stanford.

Throw in Ron Ballatore, the five-time U.S. Olympic team coach who took over at UCLA upon Haines’ departure — 10 gold medalists amid a myriad of achievements that included 26 NCAA individual champions.

All three men, among a few dozen more, are part of the American Soccer Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame.

Redlands’ Chuck Riggs’ inclusion into ASCA’s Hall of Fame this year might be considered long overdue.

Chuck Riggs of Redlands will be inducted into the American Swimming Coaches Association on Sept. 6 (photo by ASCA).

Coming to Redlands as its club coach in the early 1980s, Riggs has a lifetime of swim-coaching achievements that keep adding up even at age 71.

Riggs, a diver during his competitive days in the midwest, is currently operating on the deck at Beaumont High School. That team, plus heading up the PASS Dolphins, is his latest test after spending a few years coaching at the University of Hawaii.

Beaumont was a nice landing spot — willing athletes and a nice facility.

“I’ll do it,” he said, “until I’m not having fun anymore.”

In his early coaching days, he took 11 Riverside Aquatics Association swimmers to the 1972 Olympic Trials.

Let’s see — 1972. Wasn’t that the year Robin Backhaus claimed a bronze medal at the Munich Olympics, better known as the Mark Spitz Swimming Invitational?

Riggs admits to a small role in Backhaus’ training.

Riggs met the Hall of Fame criteria long ago. Some criteria off that list:

  • Placing two teams in the Top 10 at the USA Swimming Nationals, or NCAA Division I (top 10), II or III (top 2).
  • Personal coach for two, or more years, of two individual USA summer national champions.
  • Personal coach for two years, or more, of two individual USA Olympic or World Championship (long course) medalists.
  • Personal coach for two, or more, years of two world record holders.

Around these parts, Riggs has made more than a contribution to swimming.

ASCA’s Hall of Fame missed selecting him for years.

“All it took,” he said, “was someone to nominate me.”


Riggs could be excused for wincing every so often over another top-flight swimmer — Shannon Cullen.

A likely Olympian, Cullen was a contemporary — an outright competitor — of multiple Olympic medalist Amanda Beard. On the road to an Olympic career out of Riggs’ Redlands Swim Team program, Cullen took off on a full-ride scholarship to swimming-rich USC.

That sport might’ve been awaiting a major showdown between the two medley specialists, Beard and Cullen. It couldn’t have been set up any better.

Beard went on to international acclaim. Cullen chose a different path.

“She got a boyfriend,” said Riggs, “who she later married.”

Some two decades later, Riggs was asked to reminisce about the fabulous Cullen.

“She’s still married to the same guy,” he said, “and they have three beautiful kids.”

Riggs’ RST club produced well — in the water and out.

Vicky West went to Northwestern.

Steve Messner went to Cal-Berkeley.

Alicia Wheelock? Arizona State.

Evan Castro showed up at Utah.

Temple Cowden splashed in at Fresno State.

Yale got Erin Carlstrom and Cole Heggi.

Auburn landed Heather Kemp and Karl Krug.

Speaking of Auburn, Ben Worby went to arch-rival Alabama.

Then there’s Krug.

Krug, along with another Redlands sprinter, Joey Hale, became the first prep tandem in history to record sub 20-second clockings in the 50-yard freestyle at a high school championship meet.

In 2008, Krug, Hale, Tyler Harp and Mike Perry combined for a 1:21.94 clocking in the boys 17-18 division at the U.S. National Championships.

Dozens of swimmers through the years reached U.S. Senior and Junior Nationals, plus the Olympic Trials.


Then there’s Cynthia Woodhead, who’s known to the swimming world as “Sippy.” At one point, Woodhead held no less than 16 world records.

Woodhead would have been an Olympian in two Summer Games if not for the U.S. boycott of 1980 when she was just 16. By 1984, the Los Angeles Games, she was still in racing mode.

Sippy Woodhead
Cynthia “Sippy” Woodhead in a familiar pose — winning a race. The onetime 16-event world record holder initially trained under Chuck Riggs, whose coaching career was just getting underway during his days as Riverside Aquatics Association coach (photo by Sippy Woodhead).

Woodhead won Olympic silver in the 200-meter freestyle.

There were seven world records, plus 18 American records.

Multiple medals at the 1978 World Championships, three gold and a silver.

Five gold medals at the 1979 Pan American Games.

In the 1983 Pan Am Games, Woodhead picked up a gold and silver medal.

There was a total of 18 U.S. national championships, ranging from the freestyle, medleys, butterfly and multiple relays.

Not all of Woodhead’s marks were associated with Riggs. She swam in Mission Viejo — Hall of Fame coach Mark Schubert — for a couple years before landing at USC.

Riggs, however, set up her initial path.

At age 11, Riggs had Woodhead in his senior group in 1975.

The plan was simple, yet complex. It was always early-morning workouts balanced by late-day sessions.

Riggs was stoking the fires of a 12-year-old Woodhead who set a U.S. record in the 1650-yard freestyle. Woodhead was a world record holder at age 14.

Workouts included 20,000 yards daily.

There were 11 workouts each week.

Throw in weight training.

At Christmas one year, she did 30,000 yards that week — 5 ½ miles in the water!

While the athletes log the workload, it’s the coach that sets the tone, schedules, outlines the pathway and formulates a motivational approach. Non-swimmers probably have no idea what it takes to become a swim champion.

Riggs, throughout his lengthy career, took notes all along the way.

Thirty-seven years in the classroom — Riverside Rubidoux High, mostly — as an English, history and philosophy teacher, Riggs coached two Pasadena City College divers to All-American status.

On Woodhead, said Riggs: “She never argued about the workouts. I sat down with her parents one time and we hashed out a plan when she was very young. She stuck to it.”

Riggs’ Hall of Fame induction, set for Sept. 6 at the World Clinic, scheduled for Anaheim. It’s an hour’s drive from Riggs’ Redlands home.



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).


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.


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.


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.



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

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

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

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

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

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

A motivated sports writer from the Redlands area was searching.

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

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

There was no Masters Championship yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ouimet beat Max R. Marston, 3 & 2.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was news!

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

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

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

Finlay was chasing a legend.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out this Pebble Beach foursome:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Long hitting, concluded Ouimet, was an advantage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His family continued on.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get it?

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

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

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

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

Nicklaus and Woods are multiple ’Slam winners.

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

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

Stockton stood up under the heat and the pressure.

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

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


Fast forward a decade, or so.

I was now working for the Redlands daily sports section.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack Nicklaus was four shots back.

Johnny Miller held the first-round lead.

Stockton shared the second-round lead with Larry Hinson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neither did his career.


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

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

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

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

That lesson came via Stockton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was part of that Redlands Connection.