RUMBLINGS CIRCULATED ABOUT JACOB NOTTINGHAM’S CALL-UP TO BREWERS

Rumblings on onetime Redlands High catcher Jacob Nottingham began on Sunday night. Milwaukee Brewers’ catcher Manny Pina was headed for the 10-day disabled list, among a flurry of other moves.

Those rumblings were Redlands’ baseball observers — parents, coaches, former players, ex-teammates, observers from all corners of the city, you name it — that included social media attention.

On July 8, Nottingham was recalled to the Milwaukee Brewers. He was expected to share catching duties with Erik Kratz over the next week.

Nottingham may be the Brewers_ catcher of the future (Sean Flynn, Houston Chronicle).
Redlands’ Jacob Nottingham returned to the major leagues, called by the Milwaukee Brewers on July 8. He started one day later, getting a double and single for his first two MLB hits.

Sure enough, Nottingham was placed in the lineup — batting eighth, in fact — in Milwaukee’s game at Miami. He would be facing Marlins’ pitcher Jose Urena while catching Brewers’ pitcher Chase Anderson.

Nottingham, a catcher who spent a few days with the Brewers earlier in the season over a similar situation, had been recalled again. He was hitting .303 with 10 HRs at Class AAA Colorado Springs.

He’s the Brewers’ No. 25 prospect, according the MLB Pipeline.

This could be no ordinary Redlands Connection. Perhaps, it’s just the latest.

Nottingham singled off Urena, who fed him an 89-mph off-speed, hitting it to left field off the end of the bat. Next time up, against Javy Guerra, Nottingham drilled a double to left field.

In the end, Miami beat the Brewers, 4-3.

Milwaukee, which held a two-game lead over 2016 World Series champion Chicago in a rough-and-tumble National League Central Division race, could be the surprise force in 2018.

Nottingham, along with a bevy of other Milwaukee youths, might be a vital cog in the expected summer duel with the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.

Nottingham-to-the-big-leagues is big news.

Redlands has produced previous major leaguers, including undrafted second baseman Julio Cruz (Mariners, White Sox, Dodgers), Seattle’s 1980 13th round pick southpaw pitcher Ed Vande Berg (Mariners, Dodgers, Indians and Rangers), plus Angels-Blue Jays catcher Dan Whitmer (a 1978 Angels’ draft pick), who worked Detroit’s bullpen when the Tigers won the 1984 World Series.

When the Houston Astros drafted Nottingham at No. 167 overall in the sixth round in 2013, it didn’t take long for Nottingham to sign on June 14.

After a couple seasons in the Astros’ chain, Houston needed pitching at the major league level. On July 23, 2015, they traded Nottingham to the Oakland A’s in exchange for southpaw pitcher Scott Kazmir, who was 108-96 with a 4.00 ERA over a dozen MLB seasons.

Traded for by A’s legendary Billy Bean, who authored Money Ball in the early 2000s.

But it was hardly the end of Bean’s transaction activity surrounding the Redlands prospect. Between 2015 and 2016, Nottingham was shipped to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Brewers’ General Manager David Stearns dealt outfielder Khris Davis (166 home runs, .248 average over 5 MLB seasons) to Oakland. Davis, who would go on to smoke over 40 home runs in the next two seasons for the A’s, has 21 bombs so far this season.

That’s how highly Milwaukee must’ve viewed Nottingham’s potential.

On Nov. 20, 2017 Nottingham’s minor league contract was purchased. The Brewers placed him on the 40-man roster, the ultimate payoff for any off-season transaction.

Nottingham was one of five catchers – by far, the youngest on Milwaukee’s roster.

Over a five-year span with a handful of teams ranging from Rookie Ball to Low Class A to High Class A to Class AA, Nottingham had blasted 43 home runs and hit .238 (.325 OBP) in 424 professional games.

Upon his call-up to the Brewers in April, Nottingham received the full treatment. His father, Greg, was spotted being interviewed on the Brewers’ TV network.

Brewers’ history is traced back to the 1969 season when the American League expanded to two teams, the Seattle Pilots and Kansas City Royals. When the Pilots’ support floundered prior to the 1970 season, the were sold to a group in Milwaukee, which included eventual baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

When baseball needed to even up its 30-team alignment in 1998 — there were, at one point, 16 N.L. teams and 14 A.L. teams — the Brewers were shifted to the National League to evenly align the leagues.

Other than a playoff season in 2008 (wild card) and 2011 (N.L. Central Division title), the Brewers’ post-season appearances have been limited.

As for Nottingham, he had one final swing in the Brewers’ loss in Miami. That he struck out against Marlins’ closer Kyle Barraclough is only part of the story.

Against Barraclough’s 95-mph fastballs, Nottingham unloaded back-to-back swings that were hard-core, all-out powerful, home run-conscious hacks that would’ve tied the score if only he’d connected.

He’s a true Big Leaguer.

Nottingham’s call-up, most likely attracting attention from all corners of his hometown, got the rumblings rolling.

Next stop is an N.L. Central Division showdown between the second place Cubs and first place Brewers. That showdown would have true Redlands Connections if Tyler Chatwood, a Redlands East Valley prospect, were pitching for Chicago with Nottingham catching for the Brewers.

FROM A PHONE TIPSTER: PRO BOWLER EARL ANTHONY WAS IN TOWN

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, Wimbledon 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 was a mid-afternoon call. Mid-summer. Very little was taking place around Redlands.

Hardly anyone was in the newspaper office. In those days, the telephone was the lifeblood at any newspaper. Most of the time, when callers weren’t complaining or spouting off, good calls often proved exotic and helpful. One afternoon in early 1982, a very quiet voice who was at Empire Bowl, the local bowling alley, had an alert.

“Earl Anthony,” she said, “is here right now … bowling.”

Anthony was a legendary figure on the Professional Bowling Association tour.

Though I doubted the caller’s accuracy – what would a guy like Earl Anthony be doing in Redlands, of all places, right? – it wouldn’t take a whole lot of effort to drive a few miles from the office to verify this report.

Earl Anthony? In Redlands? No way!

Earl_Anthony
Earl Anthony, who missed the cut at a PBA tournament in Torrance, was on his way to another tournament in Tucson, Ariz. when he stopped off, at all places, Empire Bowl in Redlands (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Empire Bowl, located right next to a portion of Interstate 10, was in a fairly prominent spot along Colton Ave. It bordered along the North Side neighborhoods. A couple blocks west sat Bob’s Big Boy, a popular little restaurant. A little east was historic downtown Redlands.

I parked, got out, walked into the House. A crowd of people had converged to the far right portion.

Empire Bowl
This was the view from the corner of Redlands’ Empire Bowl, where PBA star Earl Anthony stopped by for practice (photo by Empire Bowl).

Sure enough, there he was, rolling a ball. Alone. A lefty, to be sure. Smooth. Effortless. Confident. He knocked down pins the way Jack Nicklaus or Lee Trevino landed golf shots on the green.

That phone tip turned out to be true. Suddenly, I became a bowling writer. I hadn’t written much on bowling. Our newspaper relied on people turning in results.

“Earl, do you have a minute?”

The bespectacled gentleman motioned me over. We chatted for awhile.

First question: What in the heck was he doing here?

Earl Anthony laughed.

Just passing through, he said. Thought he’d stop and roll a few just to get some exercise. We became quick friends. He ordered us a couple Cokes.

It was small talk, mostly. Lots of PBA titles. Some major championships. Anthony shared the news that he, at one time, had been a left-handed pitching hopeful with the Baltimore Orioles, along with a few other insights about his life.

“My pitching helped my bowling, though. It helped my rhythm and concentration.”

PRO BOWLING IS ROUGH

We chatted a little about those local showboats. They have them in every city. They’re the dominant bowlers at their “House.” Pro bowling stars roll into town and have to take them on. You know, kind of like gunslingers taking on the city’s fastest gun.

Anthony, who was 43 at the time, laughed. “Yeah. Yeah. Sure, I’ve faced those kind of guys. A lot of times. Didn’t always win.”

He’d just missed the cut at a tournament in Torrance, “so I figured I’d better get out here and practice a little.”

Each week, the PBA’s top bowlers were in contention.

“Mark Roth, Mal Acosta and guys like that,” he said. “I don’t mean to put down any town’s best bowlers, but usually the difference between them and us is the same difference as a high school player coming up to the big leagues.”

Referring to the rabbit squad, a rabid group of bowlers trying to qualify for one of those 144 tournaments spots, he noted there were 200 to 300 guys trying to qualify for 60 or 70 spots.

“When they qualify, they’ve made no money – just the right to play in the tournament.”

Pro bowling is tough, he said.

At that time, he told me, “pro bowling was at an all-time high in popularity. There is more television coverage than ever.”

In the early 1980s, ABC was televising 16 straight weeks of events.

At that very moment we were talking, the Pennzoil Open in Torrance – the tournament at which he’d failed to qualify – was set to televise on ESPN.

His home “House” was in the Northern California city of Dublin, bordering the Bay Area. Acosta and Rich Carrubba, current PBA members, were connected.

He spoke of a new PBA rule which required its members to take on a 2 ½ -day course – things like how to handle money, talk to the press and public, plus learning PBA history.

“I’m insulted by it,” he said. “I think it’s a great idea for guys coming out. But they want me and everybody else to go back and I think it’s ridiculous.”

Sarcastically, he added, “I’ve only been on the tour for about 13 years.”

In other words, he was history.

I’d reminded him that professional golfers, upon inception in the 1960s, did not require its current membership to qualify.

Said Anthony: “I used that same analogy with the PBA. They’re not listening to any of that. They still want us to attend.”

We sipped our Cokes. In between questions and answers, he’d effortlessly roll his ball down the lane. Here was a guy that made his living by rolling a ball better than most.

ANTHONY CLOSING IN ON HIS GOALS

Anthony’s goal, he told me, was “to win 40 tournaments and a million dollars before I quit.”

At that moment, Anthony had compiled 36 pro titles to his credit, plus over $900,000 in total purse winnings.

Before leaving, I said, “You know, I’ve never taken a photo before. Would you mind?”

“Not at all,” he said. “Tell me what you need.”

The photo came out a little dark. It was publishable. I think I was more excited about the photo than I was the article I’d written. Redlands’ bowling public would discover that a PBA star had stopped briefly in their community, en route to Tucson, his next tournament stop.

Two years earlier, Anthony suffered a heart attack.

“I’m fine now. I just want to start winning.”

I was done.

On my way out, I stopped at the front desk. Spotted an older woman.

“Are you the one who called me?”

She nodded.

“I owe you dinner for that. Appreciate what you did.”

“I get off at 6.”

“Bob’s?”

“Should I meet you there?”

It was, it turned out, the first and last time I’d ever see her.

Because of her, though, I’d met – and interviewed – Earl Anthony.

 

 

 

NO REV ATHLETE COMES CLOSE TO KRISTA VANSANT’S ACHIEVEMENTS

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

I could hear the whispers in the stands at Redlands East Valley High, circa 2007.

“She’s only on the team,” said one volleyball-players’ mom to another, “because her mom’s the coach.”

That was enough evidence for me. I glanced down the roster. Saw there was actually a Vansant, jersey No. 16. Freshman. Sure enough, Tricia Vansant was the coach.

Can’t stand a pushy parent. Here’s one mom that pushed her daughter right onto the Varsity – as a freshman. It takes something special to make Varsity as a freshman.

Right?

REV had a squared-away squad. Victoria Brummett, a college-bound (Univ. Colorado-Boulder) junior was playing middle. At setter was sophomore Johnna Fouch and libero Kyla Oropeza, both eventually winding up at Univ. San Diego.

“Two Story Tori” – Brummett’s nickname – would eventually transfer back to NCAA Division 2 powerhouse Cal State San Bernardino and win All-American honors.

Then there was that little REV freshman.

Little? She was listed at 6-feet, 2-inches.

Talk about a “loaded” team.

COLLEGIATE POWERHOUSE IN SEATTLE

Krista Vansant probably wasn’t kidding when she spoke about hopes of winning a national volleyball championship for the University of Washington. She’s that competitive. There was a breathtaking come-from-behind win over Pac-12 rival USC in the 2014 NCAA Division I Western Region championship.

Krista Vansant
Team USA was Krista Vansant’s final stop on a brilliant volleyball career that included Rancho Volleyball Club, Redlands East Valley High, University of Washington, a little European pro ball, capped by a near-miss on reaching the 2016 U.S. Olympic team (photo by Team USA).

One match later, Washington landed in an NCAA semifinals against second-ranked Penn State.

The onetime REV superstar outside hitter had risen from the Gatorade National Prep Player of the Year in 2010 to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Player of the Year in 2013.

It was quite a run – for Vansant, her team and coaches, family and friends, plus all those that followed her exploits – in a season full of remarkable achievements. After that match against USC, though, she was full of hope.

She spoke about not being satisfied, setting goals, never reaching the Final Four despite great teams, winning a national title. For athletes like Vansant, nothing short of winning is ever enough.

Said Vansant: “So I think we’re not being complacent. We’re in the gym working hard every day to get better.”

(Speaking of working hard. During her REV days, Vansant might’ve been among two or three volleyball players working in the weight room – alongside the school’s high-achieving football team.)

When third-ranked University of Washington took the floor against No. 2 Penn State in the NCAA Division 1 women’s volleyball semifinals on a December night just before Christmas, Vansant was the logical force in the Lady Huskies’ attack.

Vansant, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, would likely be a factor in lifting the Huskies to the national title game two nights later. But the Nittany Lions swept Washington’s women in three sets.

One match earlier, top-ranked Texas, the defending NCAA champion, was knocked off by No. 16 Wisconsin – a huge surprise. In an all-Big Ten showdown, Penn State later knocked off Wisconsin for the NCAA title.

Against Penn State, Vansant looked tall, lithe and athletic, totally ready to fire. Penn State, no stranger to national championships (seven titles since 1999), took her out of the flow, its attack dwarfing Washington in that semifinals matchup.

Washington’s win over USC became ultimate triumph.

Vansant’s efforts were key – 38 kills and 30 digs – the first-ever 30-30 performance for a Husky in the NCAA tournament’s long history. Her 38 kills notched a Washington record, beating Stevie Mussie’s 35 kills against BYU in 2007.

 

Washington, trailing USC by two sets in the NCAA Western Regional finals, likely stunned a national TV audience, completing a comeback that included saving two match points to knock off the sixth-ranked Lady Trojans in five sets, 26-28, 23-25, 25-22, 25-18, 17-15.

I watched closely on TV. You couldn’t miss her. Vansant was seen instantly breaking into tears on the court after the emotionally-draining marathon.

Vansant eventually joined eventual Team USA Olympian Courtney Thompson, a previous Washington star, as the only Honda Award winners in program history.

Finalists included Haley Eckerman (Texas), Kelsey Robinson (Nebraska) and Carly Wopat (Stanford).

For good measure, Vansant was also the espnW Player of the Year.

Incidentally, Vansant was a two-time Honda Award winner.

It’s hard to keep all those awards straight.

CAPPING HER PREP CAREER

At REV, Vansant was a monster – part of a stacked REV lineup that won three CIF titles (2007-2009), winning CIF Player of the Year honors as a sophomore, junior and senior from 2008-2010 – her Lady Wildcats’ squad winning all 59 Citrus Belt League matches with her mother, Tricia, as coach.

In Dec. 2010, Vansant, who was REV’s Homecoming Queen, and later named national Gatorade Player of the Year just after completing her senior season at REV.

She was in my wife’s English class at REV. If I quoted Laura Brown properly, there’d be comments about how classy and responsible, humble and honest, forthright and work-conscious.

Let’s not forget that was in English class – not on the volleyball floor.

It was for that reason that Mrs. Brown forced Mr. Brown to drive all the way to Redondo Beach to watch REV play in a Division 1 playoff match. In a rarity, REV lost the Division 1 showdown to Redondo Union.

It was Vansant’s final prep match. She was a senior.

REV’s end was just the beginning for Vansant. She became the first-ever Lady Husky to win the AVCA Player-of-the-Year honor. On hand to present the award was none other than multi-Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh-Jennings.

The comments were typical Krista:

“I did not prepare a speech, I just want to thank my friends and family and all my teammates for everything you guys do for me. You make my life so easy and I love you all so much.

“Love you Mom and Dad (Robert). Thanks to my previous club coaches. I would say my previous high school coaches but those are my parents, so thanks again!”

As for Vansant’s freshman year at REV, there were 38 matches. Thirty-four of them were victories … team-high 367 kills … she could receive a serve (201) … she could serve well (30 aces) … she could play the net (26 blocks).

The Lady Wildcats went through the playoffs without blinking much – Monrovia, San Bernardino Cajon and Wildomar Elsinore, all in 3-game sweeps.

South Torrance went down in four.

In the finals against North Torrance, REV won in five.

So much for being the coach’s daughter!

 

Down The Road: Stories to come – Vansant came within an eyelash of making Team USA at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics … her coaching career is underway at Indiana.

TENNIS STAR DARRELL HUDLOW HAD THE HOTTEST DRIVE-IN AROUND

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

I wished there were more guys like Darrell Hudlow.

Redlands, the city where football tried to be king, soccer and softball became high-level sports, while swimming, baseball, track & field and golf willed its way to prominence, there was an original Mr. Tennis.

It might’ve been Hudlow.

In a city that’s produced multitudes of high school and collegiate tennis champions, Wimbledon and U.S. Open players, Hudlow comes quickly to mind.

Darrell Hudlow, one of the first top-flight players at the University of Redlands back in the 1930s, had quite a list of opponents that could have included Bobby Riggs and definitely included Jack Kramer and Gardner Malloy (photo submitted by Rachel Roche, assistant athletic director and head sports information at the University of Redlands).

I wasn’t even aware he played tennis. The place to go dancing, said once-young lovers, was Hudlow’s drive-in, located on “the highway to Redlands.”

 

He was Hudlow’s proprietor. Upon moving to Redlands in 1979, you couldn’t miss the greenish sign out there on a Redlands Blvd. building — where the Bank of America now sits, I think.

Hudlow was a University of Redlands Hall of Famer.

It was stressed to me by someone –  probably by my City Editor, Dick West –  that Hudlow had been a tennis player. A damned good one at that.

Jim Verdieck may well be the name associated with championship tennis around Redlands, but Hudlow showed up on the scene long before Verdieck came to the city.

Verdieck’s teams won an unheard-of 921 tennis duals over a 38-year span. In 35 of those years, Redlands copped the conference championship. There were plenty of top players, namely Verdieck’s sons, Doug and Randy, not to mention Ron and Richard Bohrnstendt.

Hudlow may have set an early tone for high level tennis in Redlands.

Hudlow’s, incidentally, is a now-disappeared liquor store over on that Redlands Blvd. site. The old-timer just laughed.

“I went into the liquor business,” he said. “I quit tennis because I didn’t have time anymore.”

The liquor business, at least in Redlands, was taboo in those days of the 1940s and 1950s.

“The university fought me,” said Hudlow, who carried a grudge against his alma mater for years. “It was a staid old school. You couldn’t even dance up there.

“Anyway, they took this liquor thing to the city council.”

Hudlow won when the school turned over a new leaf, he told me.

When the school inducted him into its relatively new Hall of Fame in 1984, they extended a familiar hand. “The university,” he said, sarcastically, “is having a cocktail hour before the (Hall of Fame) dinner.”

Maybe, I told him, he ought to provide the liquor.

“If I did that back when I was going to the university,” he said, “I’d have gotten kicked out of school.”

The UofR had long been a dominant tennis program.

Hudlow was conference singles champion from 1937-39.

It was curious timing. Verdieck, who hailed from nearby Colton, was playing football for a dynamic group called the Vow Boys up in Palo Alto. Stanford University had vowed that it would never lose to USC.

Following a loss to USC in 1932, Stanford players vowed they would never again lost to the Trojans.

Hudlow, for his part, was playing championship-level tennis while Verdieck was making football his mission.

He’d won amateur singles titles in Arizona, Michigan and Arkansas.

Some of his opponents were Frank Kovacs, a Wimbledon champion who later lost to Bobby Riggs in the 1941 U.S. Tennis Championship finals.

Bobby_Riggs_at_1939_Wimbledon_Championships
Bobby Riggs, a 1930s and 1940s tennis star, might have played Redlands’ Darrell Hudlow along the way. “I can’t remember if I played Bobby Riggs,” he said (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Hudlow also played Gardner Mulloy, the four-time U.S. Tennis Champion (with William Talbert) in doubles.

Then there was Welby Van Horn, who lost to Riggs in the 1939 U.S. Tennis Championship finals. Hudlow beat Van Horn at Ojai, Calif.

Another big name opponent was Frankie Parker, a former U.S. Tennis champ.

Said Hudlow: “I played Jack Kramer in an exhibition in the university gym,” he said, “to raise money so I could go back east. I think we played to a tie that night.”

Jack_Kramer_portrait
Jack Kramer might have been the biggest name in tennis for a few decades. Kramer and Redlands’ Darrell Hudlow once played an indoor tennis exhibition (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Kramer, who would become a huge tennis executive in years ahead, was a U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion.

“I can’t remember if I ever played Bobby Riggs,” said Hudlow. “I knew him. You know, on rainy days at country clubs, all people do is sit in the clubhouse playing poker. I held his one-dollar bills for him.”

Hudlow was in the second class of UofR Hall of Famers.

The headliners had to be Verdieck himself, along with football coach Frank Serrao.

Lee Fulmer (baseball, basketball), John Fawcett (cross country, football and track), Charles Gillett (football), Lee Johnson (track), faculty member S. Guy Jones, track’s Samuel Kirk, Donald Kitch (football, basketball), Sanford McGilbra (football, basketball, baseball), Robert Pazder (football, basketball, baseball), football and tennis star Randy Verdieck.

While Hudlow was inducted, so, too, was his coach, Lynn Jones (1928-44).

There was a lengthy list of names, likely trying to catch up with a near century’s worth of athletes and other sports-related contributors that needed to be enshrined.

Hudlow, who died on June 19, 1998, said he didn’t play tennis for nearly 40 years before he sold his liquor store.

When he decided to return, he played recreationally.

Darrell Hudlow, in his later years, put aside playing tennis because he had plenty of other activities to take care of, including business-related items. His tennis-playing lifestyle took him to places and opponents that eventually made him a Bulldog Hall of Famer.

“I could tell you lots of stories,” he said, chuckling. “I think I’ll hold off for awhile.”

 

DAVID ROGERS: A BACK-RIDING PERFORMER WINS GOLD

WYSOCKI’S JUMP FROM REDLANDS TO L.A. GAMES

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

Clay Brooks raved about Ruth Kleinsasser.

So did Ted Runner.

Brooks, who spent years as the University of Redlands track & field coach, was a true professor of his sport.

Runner, whose presence on that campus as an athlete, coach and, ultimately, director of athletics, was fond of track. He’d competed. For years, he coached. It almost seemed like he kept a closer eye on that sport than he did anything else.

When Kleinsasser (eventually Ruth Wysocki) stepped onto the track at the Los Angeles Coliseum nine years after spending her freshman season at Redlands, the two men – Brooks and Runner – watched with great interest.

The Alhambra-born Kleinsasser, who ran at Azusa High School, was a prized performer at Redlands for one season.

What made Kleinsasser special was her true dedication to the sport. As a track star, she’s a lifer.

It started in age-group races in the late 1960s, starting an eventual period of about 30 years, until she became a Masters (over-40) runner in 1997.

As an Azusa High senior in 1973, she ran a 2:16 to win the CIF Southern Section 880-yard championship. She also sped around the track to win the 440 (57.3). That’s as tough of a double is in any championship meet.

Since there was no State meet held for girls that year – one would start in 1975, Kleinsasser never had a chance to prove her domination.

By the 1975 season, Kleinsasser was running at Redlands, primarily because internationally-renowned Bulldog coach Vince Reel had come out of retirement. Reel, in fact, met Kleinsasser halfway. He trained her in Claremont.

Ruth Wysocki
Former University of Redlands runner Ruth Wysocki, then known as Ruth Kleinsasser, beat Mary Decker Slaney, right, at the 1984 U.S. Olympic Trials in the women’s 1500-meter – one of the shocking upsets that year in track (Photo by runmoremiles.com).

A YEAR IN REDLANDS

Reel, who was married to Chinese star Chi Cheng, had international status, especially since he’d lured some top talent – Chinese sprint star Lee Shiu-Chia, middle distance runners Chee Swee Lee, plus Donna Fromme and some dandy runners like distance star Molly O’Neil, hurdler Pam Ashe, sprinters Gloria Kennedy, Lynn Jones and Denise Becton.

Throw Kleinsasser into that mix. If only she’d lasted four seasons.

Reel wrote about his own exploits. Part of his writings were about Ruth, including her season at Redlands.

Vince Reel
Vince Reel, shown her as a Long Beach City College athlete, where he was State champion in the 100 and 220, in the early 1930s. A two-time sprint champion at Occidental College in 1936, he was fourth in the NCAA 220 championships for Occidental College.He would become a huge connection in the track world as a coach –  Long Beach Wilson High School Track and Field Coach (1938-1957), moving on to Claremont College (1958-71), coming out of retirement to coach Redlands through 1979. He was also the Olympic track & field coach for India (1960) and China (1972). Reel was the founder of “Women’s Track and Field” magazine. (Photo credit: Long Beach City College).

Admittedly, Kleinsasser dropped out of Redlands. “I realize I had chosen the wrong school. Not that it isn’t a wonderful place; it was not just the right place for me.”

“That was before the NCAA for women,” Kleinsasser told Reel in the days when women’s sports were governed by the old AIAW. Truth is, in those days, Redlands’ men were part of the NAIA, not the NCAA.

In reality, Kleinsasser wasn’t even the fastest half-miler on her own team. That same season, Lee Chiu-Shia ran a 2:05.36 in the SPAA meet at track-rich Occidental College, just outside of Pasadena.

At the Bakersfield Invitational, Kleinsasser posted her 2:07.6.

A more familiar name may well be Ruth Wysocki. That came after she married top national distance runner Tom Wysocki.

What made her a Redlands Connection was the year she spent at the University of Redlands. In 1975, she ran fast – the 2:07.6 in the 800, plus a 56.80 in the 400 at the Long Beach Invitational – but she headed back to Citrus College.

More domination. At Citrus, running as Ruth Caldwell, she scored victories in the State cross country championship for both 1977 and 1978.

During the spring track seasons in 1978 and 1979, she was State champion in both the 800 and 1500.

There was a pattern here. Like many international competitors, she was laying the groundwork for the Olympics. In fact, she ran a 2:03, qualifying for the 1976 U.S. Olympic Trials – still under Reel’s watch. She was 19. Ruth took eighth in the Trials.

She was on-again, off-again training – seriously, pondering, planning. She’d gone from Ruth Kleinsasser to Ruth Caldwell and, finally, to Ruth Wysocki.

WYSOCKI SLAYED SLANEY

If there was a top-flight moment for the ex-Redlands runner, it might be these:

Wysocki upset highly-touted USA star Mary Decker to win the 800 at the 1978 U.S. Championships in 2:01.99. Wysocki scored another upset victory against Decker (eventually Slaney) at the 1984 U.S. Olympic Trials, this time in the 1500-meter.

It was huge at that time. Still is … huge, that is.

Wysocki outsprinted Slaney to win the Trials in 4:00.18 – her lifetime best.

It was Tom Wysocki, training for the Trials, that had convinced his wife to train for the Olympics.

Brooks, who was Reel’s successor at Redlands and Runner, who were both coming to the end of their Redlands careers, watched with curiosity as the one-year Lady Bulldog star made her way into the L.A. Games.

She finished sixth in the 800 and eighth in 1500.

To veteran observers like Brooks and Runner, it was a Redlands victory. One of their own had reached the pinnacle of the sport.

Who cared if the Eastern Bloc nations had boycotted the 1984 Games?

Remember, these were the games of Carl Lewis’ 4-event gold medal.

The women included sprinters Valerie Brisco-Hooks, Evelyn Ashford, plus Flo Jo – Florence Griffith Joyner – plus onetime San Gorgonio High School star Sherri Howard (4 x 400 gold medalist), Jackie Joyner-Kersee, along with marathon champion Joan Benoit.

More men: Britain’s Daley Thompson scored his second straight decathlon title.

Hurdler Edwin Moses. Triple jumper Al Joyner.

ANOTHER REDLANDS CONNECTION

Adding to the flavor of Redlands connections:

One year before the L.A. Games, Redlands held its annual invitational on its cinder track. Two interested participants were Air Force Academy (Colo.) and Azusa Pacific University, among over a dozen other team entries.

In the meet-concluding 4 x 400 relay, Air Force’s Alonzo Babers and Azusa’s Innocent Egbunike ran neck-and-neck on the anchor lap. They might have even brushed against one another halfway on the final lap.

Egbunike could be seen turning his head in Babers’ direction. Neither runner broke stride.

At the finish, Egbunike prevailed.

One year later, the two met in the open 400-meter – Egbunike for his native Nigeria and Babers for the U.S.

Babers won the gold in 44.27 seconds. Egbunike took last in 45.35.

The two would meet again in the 4 x 400 relay.

Sunder Nix, Ray Armstead, Babers and Antonio McKay won the gold, prevailing in 2:57.91. Nigeria, anchored by Egbunike, ran third in 2:59.32.

As for Wysocki, that Redlands Connection kept going for years.

Over a decade later, in 1995, Wysocki ran seventh in the 1500 at the Championships in Athletics in Gothenburg.

In 1997, Wysocki set several Masters records at distances from 800 to 5000 on the track, plus 5K and 8K road races.

She was surrounded by distance runners.

Her dad, Willis Kleinsasser, was a successful Masters athlete.

Alan Kleinsasser, her brother, ran a 1:50.5 over 800 meters and a 3:52.2 clocking in the 1500 – both school records at Caltech in Pasadena.

Then, of course, her husband, Tom produced 13:35.33 in the 5000-meter and 28:19.56 in the 10,000.

WYSOCKI AT THE L.A. OLYMPICS

It wasn’t going to be easy. Despite the absence of the Eastern Bloc nations, that boycott led by the old Soviet Union, there was still plenty of international talent.

On Aug. 6, Romanian Doina Melinte circled the Coliseum track twice to score gold in 1:57.60. USA’s Kim Gallagher, whom Wysocki had encountered on plenty of occasions, won silver in 1:58.63. Melinte’s teammate, Fita Lovin, won the bronze in 1:58.53.

Wysocki ran sixth (2:00.34).

She also qualified in the 1500, held on Aug. 11.

Wysocki was America’s best in that event, but she took eighth (4:08.32), nowhere close to her best mark set at the Trials.

Melinte won the silver, barely nosed out by Italy’s Gabriella Dorio (4:03.25), the Romanian a fraction behind in 4:03.76 with yet another Romanian, Maricica Puica winning bronze (4:04.15).

Wysocki had to be thinking if she’d matched her lifetime best – that 4:00.18 at the Olympic Trials – she’d have been a gold medalist.

She told Reel, “Even though the Olympics didn’t go really great for me, when I got to Europe after the Olympics, I beat everybody that beat me in the Olympics, including (Dorio).”

It was, she said, some vindication.

Brooks, for his part, sent plenty of half-milers out to do battle in Lady Bulldog colors.

Runner, meanwhile, often reflected on the year that Ruth Kleinsasser ran at Redlands.

“She was,” he said, “not just a hard worker.” Runner said, observers could easily tell, “she had a game plan in any race she ran.”

She even made one last game attempt to qualify for the 1996 Olympics at 38.

That one season, 1975, she was a Redlands Connection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROBBIE HUDSON: STRANGE PATHWAY TO TEXAS LONGHORNS’ INFIELD

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

I still ask myself how?

How in the world did Redlands’ Robbie Hudson work his way to Riverside City College, the class of California Junior College baseball, to — of all places — the University of Texas.

The 2001 Redlands High graduate, who was part of a nice collection of Terrier ballplayers from that era — outfielder Curt Mendoza taken by Cleveland, infielder Chris Wilson selected by Texas, Chris Hernandez plucked by the Pirates, plus catcher Bret Martinez taken by the Angels — who eventually got drafted by MLB teams.

That Hudson survived seven seasons in minor league baseball after his collegiate years is a testament to how tough this little non-power, 170-pound infielder was over his career.

I remember seeing Hudson’s photo — leaping in the air to snag a throw from his Longhorns’ catcher — appearing on the Associated Press wire.

That’s big!

Robbie Hudson
Redlands’ Robbie Hudson, a College World Series champion.

In the end, Hudson batted nearly 2,000 times in minor league games — a .249 average, 16 total HRs, playing either second base or shortstop. He never was an all-out regular, appearing in a career-high 112 games for the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in 2006.

That was just one season after helping the Texas Longhorns win the College World Series.

Robbie’s dad, Bob, just laughed at the questions.

Redlands to RCC? RCC to Texas? Texas, it seemed, wasn’t in the habit of picking up junior college recruits, especially from California.

“Texas didn’t have any guys on that team,” said Bob Hudson, “out of California — except Robbie.”

There was one from Colorado. Another from Oklahoma. Virginia and Louisiana each landed one. Hudson was wrong about his son being the only Californian. Thomas Incaviglia came from Monterey. All others were homegrown Texans.

Hitting .287 and .292 in back-to-back seasons on that Longhorns’ team, Hudson played a considerable role in Texas’ championship years.

He was teammates with future No. 1 picks like Drew Stubbs, Huston Street, J.P. Howell, Kyle McCulloch, not to mention highly-regarded catcher Taylor Teagarden.

Hudson had gone from one great coach, RCC’s Dennis Rogers, to another, Texas’ Augie Garrido.

Augie Garrido
Texas coach Augie Garrido, who left Cal State Fullerton to take over at the University of Texas, had Redlands’ Robbie Hudson in the Longhorns’ lineup when they won the 2005 College World Series (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

In 2004, Garrido’s Longhorns reached the College World Series championship finals, but lost to Cal State Fullerton in a two-game sweep, 3-2 and 6-4.

Hudson wasn’t in the lineup in a game saved by Street, an eventual MLB closer.

There had to be some irony involved that Fullerton had once been Garrido’s team, having departed the Titans after the 1996 season for the legendary Longhorns.

Future Dodger slugger Justin Turner was a prime member of Fullerton. Southpaw Ricky Romero (13-5, 2.86 ERA), another MLB-bound player, was its top pitcher. So was Wes Roehmer (7-3, 3.80). Both hurlers were first-round picks.

One season later, Hudson’s senior year, the Longhorns won it all.

Imagine having to get past Baylor. Or Tulane. Or Florida.

Texas (52-16) beat Florida twice, 6-2 and 4-2, to wrap up the CWS.

Truth be told, there weren’t all that many glittering names that would become MLB stars.

Baylor, for instance, had just one No. 1 pick, pitcher Mark McCormack (St. Louis).

Florida had Matt La Porta and pitcher Darren O’Day, who was still toiling on the MLB mound in 2018.

MLB teams must be salivating over a collegiate championship team, looking at each and every player in hopes of landing a future major leaguer.

Hudson, taken in the draft by the Chicago White Sox, had to be a prime example.

He swiped 69 minor league bases, knocked out 88 doubles and 10 triples, hitting only into 29 double plays and fielded .963.

Spending time in the Philadelphia, Seattle and San Diego chains, his minor league stops included Class AA Birmingham, Class AAA Tucson and Lehigh (Pa.), not to mention Class A Winston-Salem in such legendary spots as the Carolina League, Southern League and the International League, among others.

In the minors, Hudson was teammates with plenty of No. 1 MLB picks — John Mayberry, Jr., Jack Cust, Nate Nump, Jason Grilli, Joe Savery, Phillippe Aumont, Aaron Heilman and Gordon Beckham, plus Buster Posey’s current backup catcher Nick Hundley (San Francisco).

There may have been no better spot than Omaha, Neb., however — legendary site of Rosenblatt Stadium, home of the College World Series. Hudson singled in his final collegiate game.

Rosenblatt Stadium, it turns out, was home over a four-year stretch (2002-2005) to former Redlands ballplayers. Hernandez, pitching for University of South Carolina, had been there in back-to-back years with the Gamecocks in 2002 and 2003.

Hudson showed up there in 2004 and 2005.