LUCKY LOUIE, BUTTERMILK, 1939 CRASH, ALL PART OF MEYER’S INDIANAPOLIS 500 LEGEND

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

It was, by any account, an early Redlands Connection — circa 1920.

Eight years before basketball’s “Black” Jack Gardner graduated from Redlands High.

State sprint champion Bob Allen was one of California’s top track stars.

Bill Boone, a lineman once recruited by Notre Dame Knute Rockne, was a schoolboy.

Louis Meyer, it seems, never even went to Redlands High.

I’d searched high and low through all the Makios (Redlands High yearbooks) of that day and age. Nothing showed up. I later found out why. He told me. It was simple.

“I never went to school there.”

He had been a summer visitor. There was a Ford auto shop just off the downtown sector. Just opened. Eddie Meyer, also a racer, was the owner and operator of that repair garage. Louis was his younger brother.

Louis Meyer
“Lucky Louie” Meyer, who won the 1933 Indianapolis 500, asked for a cold drink of buttermilk after the victory. Who knew, at that time, that the practice would develop into one of the sport’s greatest moments (photo by Wikipedia Commons)?

Louis was, said a nephew several decades afterward, the original “Lucky” Louie. The family name is Meyer, and if there wasn’t a wrench, steering wheel or some kind of speed duel going on somewhere, you probably had the wrong family.

It all started in Redlands around that year, 1920.

Louis Meyer, a three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 (1928, 1933 and 1936) died in Searchlight, Nev. in 1995. He got his start, learning to drive race cars from his brother, Edward T. “Bud” Meyer way back in the 1920s.

“There was a hill in Redlands,” recalls Terry Francis, an El Monte-based nephew of Louis Meyer, “that he learned to race.”

Once he got to Indianapolis, as a relief driver-riding mechanic in 1927, the Meyer family racing odyssey was reality.

“Wilbur Shaw,” says Sonny Meyer, who was in 1998, 69. He was Lou’s son of Crawfordsville, Ind. “got tired. He was looking for someone to get in the car and drive.”

Shaw was one of the pioneer champions at Indy.

It was the story on Louis Meyer’s racing beginnings at Indy. He had never driven a single lap on a speedway, speeds reaching a never-before-recorded 100 mph (these days, racers must be licensed before they’re even given a chance to make a practice run on the Brickyard track).

Louis Meyer, 1928 Indy champion
Louis Meyer, pictured in this 1928 photo, won his first Indianapolis 500 that year (photo provided by Indianapolis Motor Speedway).

One year later, 1928, Meyer won his first Indy 500.

“Dad had that car in second place,” said Sonny, referring to his 1927 race. “Wilbur called him in and wanted to finish the race.”

By 1927, drivers had changed from the leather-helmeted, mustachioed daredevils handling huge, ungainly machines to young jousters in low-slung bombs.

Louis Meyer was a young jouster. He had never won a pole, but lined up in the front row twice.

MEYER STARTED INDY TRADITION

It’s no myth that Meyer was the one who started tradition at Indy. Winning drivers who drink milk in Victory Lane can look back to Meyer for that one: The year was 1933.

“It was,” said Sonny, “actually buttermilk. He had a real palate for buttermilk. He told someone, ‘If I win this thing, I want you to have a cold drink of buttermilk for me after the race.’ ”

Said Francis: “The dairy council saw that and said, ‘We’ve got to jump on that.’ They made it a tradition at Indy.”

Meyer became the first three-time winner in Indianapolis 500 history. In 1928, Meyer led in only 19 of the 200 laps, but they included the all-important final one as he won his first 500.

Sonny recalled that his mom, June, didn’t even know his dad would be racing at Indy.

“She was somewhere back (in Pennsylvania),” he said. “She towed a wrecked car back to the shop. My uncle (Eddie) was racing at a track in Reading. She was there to watch.”

Louis Meyer chuckled over that memory. June, he said, found out he’d won that year’s Indy 500, “when the track announcer asked the crowd to give out a cheer to Eddie Meyer, the brother of the Indianapolis 500 winner.”

In 1933, Meyer recorded a three-lap victory over Shaw.

In 1936, Meyer won from the 28th starting position, tying Ray Marroun’s record for winning from the farthest back on the starting grid.

He crashed in 1939 on the 198th lap, got up and walked away – literally.

Henry Ford made Louis a proposition, one that would bring him back to Southern California in charge of building Ford engines, including the Offenhauser.

He won $114,815, taking 1,916 total laps around the Brickyard track in his 12 starts – finishing in the Top 10 on six occasions and second in 1929.

“He always told me,” said Sonny, “that he knew he wasn’t going to climb back into a race car.”

That, said Francis, “is why they call him Lucky Louie. All those years at Indy, the offer from Henry Ford, the crash, walking away – everything.”

FROM DRIVER TO ENGINE BUILDER

Louis Meyer, said Searchlight, Nev. Museum historian Jane Overy, said, “was the nicest man.” Lou died, she told me, when the city’s museum was getting set to open. He was featured prominently in the small museum. Meyer had beaten the odds just to make it that far.

“There were 11 kids,” recalled Sonny Meyer. “Only three lived.”

Those kids were Eddie, the oldest, then Louis, and then, Harry, the last among the living in Southgate, Calif. “He rode with my dad,” said Sonny, referring to Harry, “as a riding mechanic (in the 1937 Indy 500).”

Meyer’s Indy-racing career concluded with the crash in 1939, which left him 12th.

Until then, the greatest engine ever raced at Indy was the “Miller,” developed by Harry Miller, Fred Offenhauser and Leo Goosen. The rights to its design were purchased by Offenhauser and the engine was renamed after him. Then it was purchased by Meyer and Dale Drake and renamed the Meyer-Drake Offie.

It was a high-powered, specially-designed racing engine that was constantly improved over the years. Until Ford came along with its million-dollar automotive budgets and challenged for supremacy in the 1960s, Meyer had a contract with the up-and-coming Michigan-based company.

“After he crashed (at Indy),” said Sonny, “he said he knew he wasn’t going to climb back into a race car. Henry Ford made him a proposition.”

NO REAL FUTURE IN RACING

There wasn’t much major racing around the U.S. beyond the Indianapolis 500. NASCAR had yet to see its beginnings. Louis Meyer returned to California and took part in “board” racing at places like the Rose Bowl and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The “season” started around Trenton, N.J., the only real race before Indy. “We’d go to Ascot,” recalled Sonny. “I remember because we’d have three or four drivers sleeping on our floor when we lived in Huntington Park (a Los Angeles suburb).”

Louis Meyer’s son still remembers being farmed out to neighbors, “while my mom (June) and dad went racing. During the season, they towed the race car with a rope. Mom was in the race car.”

Meanwhile, Ed Meyer still had his Redlands garage.

Sonny Meyer has a way of remembering his family’s Huntington Park address. “Dad won his first Indy 500 in 1928,” he said, “in car No. 14. That was our address: 2814 … Broadway. I still remember our phone number. It was Lafayette 8325.”

The Meyer family is more than just “connected” in racing’s history books.

Retirement was just a short drive away. For years, the Meyers had traveled to Cottonwood Cove – nine miles from a non-descript, desert community of Searchlight, Nev. It’s where Louis and June Meyer settled down for their final years.

Driving through the tiny community, located somewhere between Las Vegas and Laughlin, it became a hideaway for other celebrities, notably Hollywood’s Edith Head, early Academy Award-winning actress Clara Bow, among others.

ONE FINAL CHAT WITH ‘LUCKY LOUIE’

In a very short conversation I had with meyer in 1994, most of his Indy 500 memories had faded. He’d recalled the memory about his wife’s discovery how he’d won the 1928 Indy 500.

Racing, said Louis, nearing age 90, “has been good to me and my family. My only regret is that time goes by so very fast.”

Louis Meyer was born on July 21, 1904, dying October 7, 1995. Born in lower Manhattan, New York the son of French immigrants, Meyer was raised in Los Angeles where he began automobile racing at various California tracks.

There was no track in Redlands, nor even near Redlands. Ed Meyer’s Ford shop was there, though.

Fans these days might not believe there were board tracks in such places as Beverly Hills, which had a 1 ¼-mile oval dubbed Beverly Hills Speedway. Or the Culver City Speedway. There was the Northern California-based Cotati Speedway up in Santa Rosa. The Fresno Speedway (1 mile) and the mile long Los Angeles Speedway in Playa del Rey.

“Yeah, Redlands,” said Francis. “That’s a key spot for the family. You never forget something like that.”

Meyer won the United States National Driving Championship in 1928, 1929 and 1933.

He died in 1995 in Searchlight, Nevada, aged 91, where he had been living since 1972. In 1992, Meyer was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. He was named to the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1991. He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1993.

There was a nice little corner in Searchlight’s museum dedicated to the early racing legend.

Said the Hall of Famer: “A lot of people had me confused with the movie guy … Louie B. Mayer (of MGM). I always got a little kick out of that.”

 

REDLANDS CLASSIC WOMEN: A WHO’S WHO OF FEMALE CYCLING

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

Just take a glance at the past female champions at the 34-year-old Redlands Bicycle Classic.

Mara Abbott and Kristin Armstrong. Genevieve Jeanson and Lyne Bessette. Judith Arndt and Ino Yono Teutenberg. Don’t forget Amber Neben, Mari Holden or Ruth Winder, either.

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A typical pose for 2016 Redlands Bicycle Classic champion Kristin Armstrong, who has three Olympic gold medals for winning the time trials (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

It’s not 34 years for the women, by the way. Women’s racing didn’t join the Redlands Classic lineup until the early 1990s.

That glance at the overall Redlands Bicycle Classic championship lineup is a Hall of Fame list, a stunning one, to say the least.

Name the gal and, chances are, she’s raced at Redlands.

Holden, along with Jeanson and Bessette, a pair of Canadians, are just part of the list. Multiple Olympic gold medalist Armstrong signed off on a brilliant career by winning the 2016 RBC.

Throw in Neben and Abbott – great climbers, racers and mountain cyclists.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
For Amber Neben, a two-time Redlands Bicycle Classic champion, she has been a multiple national and international time trials champion while showing form on a time trials bike like this (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Until this year, 2018, purses haven’t been the same for women as they are for men at Redlands. Is it shorter races, perhaps?

Some of racing’s most powerful female cyclists have shown up to beat the RBC field.

Some, like Jeanson, were caught doping – and penalized. She was never disqualified from Redlands, however.

Since Redlands officials did not erase its own histories – no one seemed to test positive locally – Jeanson goes down as a two-time champion.

She beat Kimberly Bruckner one year.

A year later, the great German champion, Judith Arndt, beat the sensational Jeanson.

But Jeanson returned a year later to edge Bessette, her countrywoman.

But Bessette, in 2004, got Jeanson back in another 1-2 finish.

Don’t leave out Jeanne Golay, who proved superior in a variety of events. The 1994 RBC champion was a national criterium champion, national time trial champion, plus a three-time national road racing champion – with plenty of overseas success.

Then there was French Olympian Jeanne Longo.

Perhaps past her prime in showing up at RBC, or maybe she just wasn’t on form, the remarkable Longo was a multiple world champion in both road racing and time trials. She won a few national titles as well.

As for the Olympics – second in 1996 Atlanta time trials, third at Sydney 2000, 10th in the Athens 2004 road race, fourth in the Beijing 2008 time trials – Longo had no podium finishes at Redlands.

Another European, however, Germany’s Ino Yono Teutenberg, deserves prominent RBC mention.

A two-time Olympian, who retired in 2013, racked up more than 200 triumphs over 15 racing seasons. Count Redlands, in 2009, among those victories, beating multiple RBC champion Neben by one second.

Teutenberg raced for the dominant Saturn Cycling Team, from 2001 to 2003, where she and her teammates – Arndt, Petra Rossner, Bessette and Bruckner, among others, rode together to some fairly legendary results.

As for the Olympics, Redlands paid the price to host the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials at which eventual 2005 Redlands champion Christine Thorburn won her way to Athens.

Ruth Winder, the 2017 RBC champion, is only 23. She’s bound for the European classics with a new team, Sunweb. Winder probably hasn’t yet scratched the surface of her cycling future.

As the new cyclists head off to promising careers, the older cyclists have wound down.

Armstrong (no relation to Lance, incidentally), for instance.

There were a few Redlands podium spots for Armstrong, the USA Olympian who won gold medals for the time trials in 2008 Beijing, 2012 London and in the 2016 games.

Third overall to Bessette and Jeanson in 2008, Armstrong came to Redlands in 2016 in preparation for the Rio de Janeiro Games.

Her lone Redlands stage victory turned out to be at Highland. Chasing her all the way to the end was Neben, a three-time RBC champion, along with the remarkable Abbott.

Mara Abbott
Mara Abbott, a Redlands Bicycle Classic champion, was considered the greatest women’s climber in the world during her lengthy career (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Armstrong beat an injured Abbott (broken collarbone) by 32 seconds.

A few months later in Brazil, she won her third Olympic gold medal.

 

 

PAYTON JORDAN: OLYMPIC COACH STARTED AT REDLANDS JUNIOR HIGH

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 May, 1984 – an Olympic year.

Jim Sloan, celebrity photographer from Redlands, really pushed the invitation on me.

There was a group of guys getting together for a reunion, of sorts. It was at the home of Robert Scholton, who was truly a pioneer of Redlands. Citrus groves and all. Scholton had married into the Walter Hentschke family – one more Redlands-area pioneer.

At this reunion, however, the guest of honor was a guy named Payton Jordan.

paytonjordan
Payton Jordan’s Hall of Fame coaching career began in Redlands in 1939 at Redlands Junior High School (photo by Occidental College).

One night earlier, it had been “Olympic Night” at Redlands Country Club. Naturally, Jordan was the featured speaker. He didn’t speak on golf. The “club” was directly across the street from Scholton’s home.

Scholton, Sloan and a bunch of buddies had invited Jordan to Redlands. He’d been around more than a few times. This visit, however, was special. Plenty of guys had been summoned for this reunion. It was an Olympic year, after all. Jordan had plenty of connections to the Olympic games.

Way back in 1939, before World War II, Jordan had coached at Redlands Junior High School. He’d just graduated from USC.

That junior high campus had been located right across Citrus Ave. from Redlands Senior High – that is, before the two campuses were merged into one full high school. After the war, Jordan returned.

Briefly.

Little did I know then that Jordan had been a high-achieving two-sports star at USC – part of an illustrious Trojans’ football team, later starring on their nationally prominent track team as a sprinter. He was from nearby Pasadena, the same city that produced the Robinson brothers, Jackie and Mack, who went to USC’s rival, UCLA.

Jordan had been coached in football by the illustrious Howard Jones (121-36-13, record), who’d been Trojans’ coach from 1925-1940.

Track coach Dean Cromwell, the U.S. Olympic coach in 1948, might’ve been even more prominent. The USC guys that he coached, including Jordan, were too numerous to highlight.

Jones and Cromwell are both Hall of Famers in multiple spots, not just USC.

JORDAN’S CONNECTION TO REDLANDS

It’s important to note the scintillating connection between Jordan, USC and Redlands.

It was easy to see why Jordan was so highly favored around Redlands. Scholton, Sloan & Co. were his boys. When Jordan showed up just before the war, his background must’ve seemed spectacular in this small-town haven.

A USC guy in Redlands?

Years later, Jordan had only added to his lengthy list of achievements.

Talk about a Redlands “connection.”

Once I’d arrived at this glorious Redlands Junior High reunion, held at Scholton’s old-century, country club-style residence, I was only aware that Jordan had been 1968 Olympic coach – nothing else.

If only I’d known his remarkable record.

Jordan, splendidly dressed and warmly received by about a dozen older men – now retired, some with money, nice careers – couldn’t have been more gracious.

Jordan personally knew 1936 Olympic hero Jesse Owens.

Athletically, he was remarkable.

  • In 1938 and 1939, Jordan shined on USC’s national championship track team.
  • He was part of a world record 4 x 110 (yards) relay, 40.3, in 1939.
  • Also in 1939, Jordan played on USC’s Rose Bowl-winning team, 7-3 winners over Duke.
  • In 1941, Jordan won the AAU 100-yard title.
  • By his senior years up to age 80, Jordan was an age-group champion and record holder – refusing to stop competing.

As an athlete, Jordan missed out on the 1940 and 1944 Olympics due to World War II.

This guy had history.

Sloan, Scholton & Co. wanted this reunion covered in the newspaper.

Jordan’s career had been phenomenal, to say the least.

His collegiate football exploits were spectacular. On the track, he’d been a whiz. After World War II, where he served in the U.S. Navy, it was time to get rolling in a career.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS TOO NUMEROUS

After coaching those guys at Redlands Junior High, Jordan landed at venerable small-college Occidental, located in Eagle Rock, next to Pasadena. It was like a hometown job for him. After a decade (1946-57), after nine outright conference track titles and one tie, he’d been whisked away to take the track program at Stanford over next 23 years.

Imagine. It all started at Redlands Junior High.

Also imagine:

  • Billy Mills’ remarkable upset win at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic 10,000.
  • Bob Beamon’s world record long jump, 29-feet, 2 ½ inches at the Mexico City Olympics.
  • One of his Occidental athletes, Bob Gutowski, set a world pole vault record (15-9 ¾).
  • Discus superstar Al Oerter nailed down his third and fourth gold medals under Jordan’s watch.
  • When Jimmie Hines won the 1969 Olympic gold medal in a world record 9.9 seconds, Jordan was head coach.
  • Tommie Smith’s 200-meter gold medal in 19.8 seconds led to the “power salute” protest in those ’68 Games. It included third place finisher John Carlos.
  • Quarter-miler Lee Evans set a world record 43.8 seconds in winning the 1968 Olympic gold medal.
  • In 1960, at the Olympic Trials, Jordan ran the U.S. squad in a meet at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif. in which no fewer than seven world records were set.
  • During that 23-year career at Stanford, Jordan’s Indians (now Cardinal) had produced seven Olympians, six world record holders and six national champions.
John_Carlos,_Tommie_Smith,_Peter_Norman_1968cr
From the left, Australia’s Peter Norman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the Olympic medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics at which the two Americans were protesting the poor treatment of Blacks in the U.S. (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

This is just a small sampling of the exploits of the man I was sitting next to at Scholton’s home in spring 1984. At the time, I’d known none of all those achievements.

If I’d been paying attention to my TV set in 1968 – watching the track portion of the games more, perhaps – maybe I’d have noticed the interview with a certain ABC superstar broadcaster.

The media had treated Jordan favorably, except for one nasal-toned, often exasperating, yet highly entertaining sportscaster from New York.

“Howard Cosell,” said Jordan, “had his mike in my nose while my foot was in his fanny. He’s the only one I had trouble with. I had him escorted out of the stadium.”

Guess I’d better be careful in my interview.

Here’s some evidence on how Jordan and Scholton were close:

Scholton had once been offered by Jordan to help him coach at Stanford. The year, 1957. Scholton, a 1937 University of Redlands graduate – Pi Chi, track, cross country, biology major – was a teaching contemporary of Jordan’s at Redlands Junior High.

Scholton, according to the folklore, had served under NFL legend George “Papa Bear” Halas during his own U.S. Navy stint.

Back in Redlands, Scholton taught biology and coached the runners in both track and cross country.

More of the folklore came after Jordan took the job at Stanford, apparently offering Scholton an assistant coach’s role to his former contemporary. Scholton was a homegrown, however. He stuck around Redlands.

The association between Scholton and Jordan, however, lasted for years. Scholton retired in 1970. Jordan called it quits in 1979.

A curious note: As the Olympics were set to take place in Los Angeles, Jordan conceded he wouldn’t be attending. “I don’t have tickets.”

Scholton, however, had blocks of track & field tickets at the Coliseum. I bought a couple from him for me and my father-in-law, Dean Green – an assistant principal, of all places, in an office that was on the same side of the street where Redlands Junior High School once existed.

A portion of my 1984 interview:

“LET THE GAMES BEGIN”

Jordan says it might be a euphemism for “Troubled Times.”

“The Olympics,” he told me, “are always the focal point of politics, world unrest and controversy. All the problems of the world seem to be magnified during this period of time.”

PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS

“You can make it without steroids,” said Jordan, who knew plenty of athletes using even back in those days. “You don’t have to do it …

“If you’ve got the ability, work harder, eat better and dedicate yourself, you’ll get there.”

Footnote: Ben Johnson disproved that theory four years later in Seoul.

Jordan admitted, however, that drug-using athletes could reach their Olympic goals in maybe half the time — four years, for instance, instead of two.

AMATEUR VS. PROFESSIONAL

“There is no such thing,” he said, “as amateurism.”

All of the normal workings of the Olympic disagreements are simply the workings of non-athletes seeking to control the athletic world.

JESSE OWENS

History records that Hitler turned his back on the onetime Ohio State star at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Said Jordan: “Actually, it wasn’t Owens that Hitler had turned his back on. He’d shunned Cornelius Johnson after he won the high jump the day before.”

Germany long jumper Lutz Long, Jordan proclaimed, had given Owens a tip that helped lift him to win that fourth gold medal in Berlin.

Jesse_Owens_1936
Jesse Owens, the hero of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, was a strong acquaintance of Payton Jordan, the onetime U.S. Olympic coach who began his coaching career in Redlands. Owens showed up to support Jordan during the black protest movement during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

“Those types of incidents,” said Jordan, “were left under-publicized, in comparison to what activities existed between non-athletes.”

In 1968, Owens had been summoned to Mexico City for a bull session with the team.

“There’s nobody I know who’s less of a racist than you,” he told Jordan. “Anything I can do, just ask.”

BLACK POWER MOVEMENT

Smith and Carlos, it had long been rumored, were set to protest at an Olympics in which several black U.S. athletes had decided not to participate – perhaps in their own protests.

It’s one reason why Cosell was so blatantly in Jordan’s face.

“They would’ve come to me to discuss (the protest),” he said, “and I would’ve vetoed that idea. They did come in and asked, ‘What should we do?’ I said, ‘Let me and my staff handle it.’

“Thank God it worked out beautifully.”

Part of that was that Smith and Carlos were suspended from the Olympic team and sent home.

It was a team, Jordan said, that was very close. “I never experienced that kind of closeness in spite of all the distractions. It was a group of people … who didn’t get hysterical about it and lose sight of our mission.”

Jordan says he took no part in the protest movement.

“I was part of it, though. I was the coach.”

Evans, Carlos and Smith, he confided, “were probably more loyal to me.”

The U.S. came out of 1968 with more gold medals and Olympic records than any Olympic before or since, he said.

After several minutes of Olympic protest chatter, Jordan leaned back in his Scholton-home chair, frowned and said, “I think that’s enough talk about 1968.”

 

 

 

 

REDLANDS COACHING CONNECTIONS STRETCHES INTO NFL, CFL AND NCAA

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 might seem easy to ignore the football rumblings at the University of Redlands, an NCAA Division 3 program that doesn’t offer athletic scholarships, nor plays in such places as Tuscaloosa, South Bend or the Los Angeles Coliseum, or attracts ESPN College Game Day staff during their Big Game against, say, Whittier College.

Ignoring them, however, would be a mistake.

Check the sidelines for the guys that have coached at Redlands. Some major careers have been launched.

Mike Maynard, the Bulldogs’ head coach since 1988, might be responsible for priming these guys.

It’s underscored by a recent move of former Bulldog defensive coordinator Ed Lamb (1998-2000 at Redlands), who left as Southern Utah University’s head coach in Cedar City to take the assistant head coaching job at Brigham Young University – about four hours north on I-15.

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Ed Lamb spent two seasons as University of Redlands defensive coordinator before moving on to bigger programs, currently as assistant head coach at Brigham Young University (photo by Southern Utah University).

Maynard, not exactly shockingly, refers to most of his assistant coaches with words and phrases like “tireless worker,” “intuitive,” “patient,” “demanding,” “great communicator,” “structured and thorough,” “relentless drive,” “relates well to players,” and “passion for excellence” – the usual high praise.

At Redlands, they got plenty of training in recruiting, game-planning, scouting and going through rigorous preparations – not to mention the games.

Lamb didn’t just show up at SUU before plopping up to Provo. One of his first stops after Redlands was landing a coaching gig at the Univ. San Diego with Jim Harbaugh as head coach. It’s the same Harbaugh who led the 49ers to the 2012 Super Bowl while later surfacing at Michigan.

Longtime Bulldog coach Ken Miller, who left Redlands in 2000, the onetime Bulldog and Yucaipa High head coach (way back in the 1970s), retired after helping coach two Canadian Football League teams – Saskatchewan Rough Riders and Toronto Argonauts – win three Grey Cup championships.

MIller and Trestman admire Grey Cup
Montreal head coach Marc Trestman, left, and Saskatchewan coach Ken Miller, right, admire the Grey Cup, which is emblematic of the Canadian Football League championship. It was the night before the 2009 Grey Cup championship game (photo by Saskatchewan Rough Riders).

He didn’t stay retired long. Miller’s now working for the CFL Montreal Alouettes.

Since Greg Hudson left Redlands (1991-92), he was defensive coordinator at Purdue, Minnesota, assistant head coach at national powerhouse Florida State (Jimbo Fisher, head coach) and a former defensive assistant coach at Notre Dame when legendary Lou Holtz was top man.

Greg Hudson with ECU ... photo credit Pirate Radio 1250
Since leaving Redlands in the early 1990s, Greg Hudson has coached at such places as Florida State, Notre Dame, Purdue and Minnesota (photo by Wikipedia).

“Best recruiter,” said Maynard, referring to Hudson, “anywhere.”

Ejiro Evero (2010 at Redlands) surfaced as a quality control coach with the Green Bay Packers after spending five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

That included the 2012 season, the year when S.F. played in the Super Bowl. The onetime Bulldog assistant came to Los Angeles last season to coach the Rams’ safeties.

Keith Carter (2007-2008 at Redlands) showed up as a line coach with the Atlanta Falcons. In 2017, he helped construct a line that blocked for QB Matt Ryan in the Falcons’ quest for a Super Bowl championship.

Keith Carter ... AARON FREEMAN
Keith Carter, another of the growing list of ex-University of Redlands assistant coaches that have moved on, is shown here during his days at San Jose State. Currently, he’s running backs coach for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans (photo by San Jose State).

Carter’s the grandson, incidentally, of NFL Hall of Famer Gino Marchetti. These days, Carter’s coaching running backs with the Tennessee Titans – after 13 seasons.

If a question about why Redlands was unable to retain such coaching talent, well, just think about it.

There are no major radio or TV contracts, no network deals, no huge sponsorships that rain in major dollars in the Bulldog football world. No, Maynard got these guys when they were trying to make their football bones, hoping to learn the coaching craft in an environment created for teaching and coaching.

Their “pay,” was largely a two-year assistanceship while they got their Masters degrees, coaching on the side. Maynard grabbed them when the price was right. He lost them when they got good enough to get better paying jobs.

Note the fact that most coaches’ stays lasted two seasons – the normal amount of time needed to get a Masters degree.

Part of “grabbing” those guys is this: Handfuls of applicants come in each year seeking a spot. Maynard, who looks awfully impressive in casting these guys, has to sift through all applicants.

There are former Bulldog assistants having shown up at Colorado, Virginia, Miami, Brigham Young, Arkansas State, Northern Arizona, Univ. San Diego, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Southern University, plus the Ivy League – and the NFL.

Garret Tujague (1996-97 at Redlands), an offensive line coach at Brigham Young University left Provo to follow Bronco Mendenhall upon taking the head coaching position at Virginia.

On Tujague, said Maynard, “is the kind of guy that is fired up when he’s sleeping.”

Even a partial list of the “connections” that these onetime Redlands assistant coaches have made is staggering.

Names like Holtz and Fisher, Harbaugh and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, Sean McVey and Wade Phillips in Los Angeles, an NFL Hall of Famer like Marchetti, plus coaching an offensive line that protected Ryan en route to a Super Bowl.

Those were multiple Redlands connections.

 

TOUR DE FRANCE: THERE’S A CONNECTION TO REDLANDS

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

It’s a connection that defies imagination.

In the 2005 Tour de France (TDF) alone, a string of cyclists had Redlands Classic ties.

Floyd Landis and Francisco Mancebo, Cadel Evans and Santiago Botero, plus David Zabriskie – cycling stars who had long lifted themselves into the cycling spotlight. Landis, an eventual winner who had the title stripped for doping, and Evans were eventual champs.

Francisco_Mancebo_2016_TOA
Two-time Redlands Bicycle Classic champion Francisco Mancebo, has a string of top 10 Tour de France finishes (photo by Wikipedia).

Mancebo was a top 10 finisher a handful of times.

Botero, who later admitted to doping, was good in the TDF mountains.

Zabriskie, a time trial stage winner, was also relegated for doping.

This could be the missing piece that Redlands area fans are missing: The Tour de France (TDF). It’s the crown jewel of cycling. Besmirched a bit by the noted drug scandals, notably 7-time champion Lance Armstrong, plenty of other cyclists have clean enough backgrounds.

It’s not hard to keep track of the scandalous cyclists.

All evil-doing has largely gone ignored, at least officially, by RBC. The focus is on the roads. To anyone’s knowledge, no cyclist has ever failed drug tests at Redlands.

Even back in the earliest days of the Redlands Classic, Team 7-Eleven’s Jacque Boyer was the first U.S. cyclist who showed up in the fabled Tour de France.

Phinney’s 1986 Redlands Classic victory was only a prelude to a great career. The 7-Eleven cyclist became the first American to win a stage at the TDF.

That doesn’t even begin to cover the connections between TDF and RBC.

U.S. Postal Service cyclist Jonathan Vaughters, the 1998 Redlands champion, was a former U.S. national time trials champion. When he won that deadly mountainous climb to snowy Oak Glen in 1998, he sat in a team car musing over his future in Europe.

“This time in a couple of months,” said Vaughters, “I’m really hoping I can be one of Lance Armstrong’s lieutenants in the mountains of Europe.”

Jonathan_Vaughters_CA_2011
Jonathan Vaughters won at Redlands, hoping to land a spot with the U.S. Postal Service squad in Europe where he would be a lieutenant in the Lance Armstrong quest to win more races, including the Tour de France (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

A lieutenant’s role is simple: To keep a team’s race leader fresh for the finish of each stage.

He was trying to pay his dues at places like Redlands.

Christian Vande Velde, who capped U.S. Postal’s 4-year streak of winning at Redlands, won in 1999 by 39 seconds. Nine years later, he took fourth in the Tour de France, trailing winner Carlos Sastre by 3:05.

Vande Velde was seventh one year later. In 2011, he was a lieutenant to Tom Danielson – third, RBC 2003 – in a top 10 finish.

Evgeniy Berzin, the 1989 RBC champion, has won a stage at the TDF.

Dmitri Zhadanov, the 1990 RBC champion, rode in four TDF peletons.

The Poland pair: Tomas Brozyna and Dariusz Baranowski raced for world-renowned U.S. Postal, Armstrong’s team.

Baranowski, 1995 RBC champion, was a 5-time Tour de France starter with a 12th place finish in 1998.

Brozyna was 22nd at the Tour de France in 2003, winning RBC in 1996.

Botero, for Rock Racing, was Tour de France’s fifth best climber in 2005.

At the 2008 RBC, the Colombian rolled to a 54-second win over Chris Baldwin.

Zabriskie, runner-up to 4-time RBC champion Chris Horner in 2000, is a 7-time TDF starter, even capturing a stage in 2011. Like Armstrong, Landis and others, some of Zabriskie’s results have been stricken from the records.

Tour_de_l'Ain_2009_-_Chris_Horner_(cropped)
Chris Horner, the only four-time winner of the Redlands Bicycle Classic, took off for the European jewels of cycling, including the Tour de France where he was a top 10 finisher (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Speaking of Horner: Just after winning his fourth Redlands tour, he pronounced himself unlikely to ever get a shot at a berth in the TDF. Eventually, he got seven shots at the fabled Tour de France. He took ninth in 2010.

Then there’s Mancebo, one of Spain’s all-time greats.

Amid a flurry of top career finishes – Tour of California, Redlands champion, plus a string of European successes – the cyclist known as “Paco” on the peleton has a string of top 10 Tour de France finishes.

Ninth in 2000, seventh in 2001, 10th in 2003, sixth in 2004, his best ride in the French classic was a brilliant fourth place finish in 2005. It could actually be viewed as a second place finish since Armstrong, the winner, along with third place Jan Ullrich, were both eliminated from official results for testing PED positive.

That was evidence some clean cyclists remained on the peleton.

It was in 1998 that Australian 20-year-old Cadel Evans showed up at Redlands. It took the all-out efforts of the mighty U.S. Postal Service squad to keep Evans out of the yellow jersey.

Cadel_Evans_-_Criterium_du_Dauphiné_2012_-_1ere_étape
Cadel Evans showed up at the 1998 Redlands Bicycle Classic almost at the last minute, but wound up coming up just 20 seconds short to place second that year. Thirteen years later, the Australian cyclist won the 2011 Tour de France (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Vaughters, aided by another future Tour de France combatant Tyler Hamilton, barely edged Evans in the chase to Oak Glen. Evans chased Vaughters the remainder of Redlands, losing by just 20 seconds.

In 2011, Evans, a two-time Tour de France runner-up, capped his career by winning the Tour de France. He retired a few years later.

NEXT WEEK: Name the woman and, chances are, she’s raced at Redlands.

LEMOND, ARMSTRONG COULD’VE BEEN PART OF REDLANDS CLASSIC LEGACY

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

Downtown Redlands was failing, say, early 1980s.

Anyone remember that?

It needed saving. Business was down. Anxieties were up. The future of this glorious community seemed to be on the line. Would business owners be able to survive?

Always turn to sporting events for the answer.

Mayor Carole Beswick, councilman Dick Larsen, plus a contributing member of Redlands society, Denmark’s Peter Brandt, who had professional connections to bicycle racing, concocted a plan.

Carole Beswick
Former Redlands Mayor Carole Beswick launched the biggest sports plan ever in city history to claim a spot in the sports world by organizing the Redlands Bicycle Classic.

There were plenty of others, including Craig Kundig, a local business owner whose future commitment as Race Director might have led to some of the events’ greatest growth.

Craig Kundig
Former Redlands Bicycle Classic race director Craig Kundig, who is still part of the committee, delivered several stunning additions and ideas during his days.

On the heels of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games, at which U.S. cyclists like Alexi Grewal (road race) and Steve Hegg (time trials) came away with gold medals, the feeling was simple:

Why not bring professional cycling event to Redlands?

It was a clean-air sport. Shutting down city streets, opening it up to pro cycling, seemed to be a cool answer. Would the city’s residents respond well?

When Davis Phinney, a top USA cyclist from Team 7-Eleven, won the 1986 Redlands Classic, he was asked to reflect his experiences in racing at the famed Tour de France.

He was amenable for a while. Phinney, though, recognized what his Redlands victory really meant.

“Let’s talk,” he said, taking full control of the post-event media interviews, “about the Tour of Redlands.”

Lurking behind the crowd in the media center – the basement of a local bank – Beswick & Co. cheered the moment. Phinney was, perhaps, the USA’s top cycling spokesman. Talking it up about Redlands could only help the cause.

Team 7-Eleven shouldn’t have even been racing at Redlands. The team was racing in Europe when civil unrest was taking place. Said Kundig: “They just decided to get out of there and come out here.”

“Out here” was Redlands.

Thirty-four years later, not only has the Redlands Bicycle Classic survived, but it’s thriving.

Throughout the preceding 33 years, the event has moved from its Memorial Day weekend, thrust itself into February, March and April offerings. This year, it was back in May.

The reason was simple: In late May, the globe’s best teams were setting up for races back east or even in Europe. Those teams’ budgets weren’t big enough to withstand travel back to the west coast for Redlands.

Redlands wanted to build its race on the backs of cycling’s best.

By shifting its calendar dates to the beginning of the season, teams that often train in California could easily schedule at Redlands.

There was even a street sprint in downtown Redlands on State Street, perhaps taking advantage of track specialist Johnny Bairos, who won that stage, incidentally, against the biggest names in U.S. racing.

Bairos, a Redlands product, went on to the 2000 Sydney Olympics. To this date, Bairos is the only local product to ever win a stage of the Redlands Classic.

Plenty of other winners came from overseas – Russia and Great Britain, France and Germany, Canada, Poland, Switzerland and South America, to name a few.

Historically speaking, the Redlands Bicycle Classic may have no equal as an athletic event throughout San Bernardino County.

The white elephant in the room for cycling, of course, is its drug scandals, which have rocked the sport.

Consider this: The Redlands Classic has long since tested athletes for drugs. There have been no disqualifications.

Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond comes to mind.

Greg LeMond
Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond never did race at the Redlands Bicycle Classic. But the remarkable cyclist, who overcame getting shot, bounced back to win again overseas. Eventually, he showed up at Redlands to lead a Fun Ride (photo by Wikipidia Commons).

We’re wondering, out loud, that if cycling’s rampant doping regimen hadn’t taken place if he would’ve eventually shown up to Redlands at Redlands.

Cycling would’ve been a clean sport. While the peleton of lesser-gifted cyclists passed an un-drugged Le Mond, he might’ve brought a team to Redlands.

Redlands was always beckoning to cycling’s top stars to come and race.

The guess here is that he’d have shown up in, say, 1994, 1995, who knows?

That’s the kind of reach the Redlands Bicycle Classic has.

LeMond, incidentally, did come to Redlands one year. He’d retired. Showed up here, courtesy of the organizers, to lead a Fun Ride. He spent time with a couple of us media types – Paul Oberjuerge of the San Bernardino Sun and me – in the board room of a downtown Redlands bank.

There was a hint – but nothing stated out loud – that something was wrong with cycling.

Lance Armstrong had yet to unload a series of victories in the Tour de France.

Lance Armstrong
There was a story circulating in the late 1990s that Lance Armstrong, who had been suffering from testicular cancer, would not only recover but make his comeback race at the Redlands Bicycle Classic (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

The redoubtable Kundig once confided to me that Armstrong, suffering from the ravages of testicular cancer, might show up to Redlands at, of all places, Redlands in his comeback event.

Kundig gave me that impression more than a few times. I believe he was hoping. Armstrong had yet to win a single Tour de France, but he was about to launch a fabulous – later stripped from the history books – career in Europe.

“It was on their schedule to come here … with Lance,” said Kundig. “He made the decision on his own to go straight from here to Europe.”

The Postal team, at that time, was training in nearby Palm Springs. Kundig was riding, ironically, next to Armstrong during a training ride in the Coachella Valley. He asked Armstrong about the plans.

“He told me, ‘That was the plan (to race at Redlands), but I decided that I’m going to Europe.’ ”

His U.S. Postal Service team had landed at Redlands with four straight champions – Tomas Brozyna, Dariusz Baranowski, Jonathan Vaughters and Christian Vande Velde. All were featured players on Armstrong’s Postals.

Imagine the publicity of Armstrong-at-Redlands.

L.A. Times.

Sports Illustrated.

ESPN.

CNN.

The joint would’ve been rocking.

But Armstrong picked his comeback race in Europe.

Too bad.

It’s spread from Redlands to Yucaipa and Loma Linda, Highland and Route 66 in North San Bernardino, in the nearby mountains of Crestline, even to the Fontana-based Auto Club Speedway, plus Mt. Rubidoux over in Riverside, plus a road stage that wound its way past Lake Mathews.

The final two days have always been reserved for Redlands – finish line on Citrus Ave. – where the city can highlight its downtown image a la the original Beswick-Larsen dream.

All they needed was a plan.

It’s been long billed as an event “Where Legends Are Born.” That’s based on the fact that top-racing Redlands competitors often bolt for bigger races and become hugely successful overseas.

Original champion Thurlow Rogers, 1985, may have set the tone for that theme.

NEXT WEEK: The Tour de France connect with Redlands.

JIM SLOAN ‘SHOT’ BEN HOGAN

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

Jim Sloan never really pushed his photos on anyone. In the media business, whether it’s on large metropolitan dailies or a mid-size, there are also small town dailies that attract a group of contributors ranging from writing correspondents to photographers. Sloan was a true professional.

The guy hustled, figured the angles, brandished his gear, fed film into the canisters, throwing his heart in the art long before modern technology – aka digital – was available.

Sloan, who specialized in Boy Scout photography throughout the years, had presented the local newspaper with a lengthy list of photos throughout the years. On the back of those mostly black-and-white glossies was the familiar hand stamp – “Photo by James Sloan.”

There were photos of President Eisenhower, especially during that time when the World War II general was living out his final years in the Coachella Valley. Sloan caught the ex-president in a variety of poses, mostly on the golf course.

Fellow photographer Ansel Adams, musician Stan Kenton and politician Ted Kennedy were among the celebrity shots. Plenty of stories could be written about his photography connections with those famous faces. In his own way, Sloan, himself, was a celebrity photographer.

One of his photos, however, stood out. I remember when he brought it into my office. “I got this,” he said, pulling the 2 x 4 black-and-white out a small white envelope, “when I was down in Texas. I got him to pose for this.”

I looked at the mug shot. Smiling, handsome, almost stylishly posing, was the familiar face of golf legend Ben Hogan.

459px-Ben_Hogan_Walking
This isn’t the photo that Jim Sloan provided to me during my days as a sports editor in Redlands. That photo, if it even still exists, is in possession of the newspaper. The Ice Man? This wasn’t the shot of golfing legend Ben Hogan that Redlands photographer Jim Sloan presented me with, but it will have to do (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

I glanced slyly at Sloan’s face. Hogan was a well-known recluse, a superstar who rarely claimed the spotlight. Players from Hogan’s era had often commented on Hogan’s arms-length distance, a coldness, a reluctance to seek the spotlight – but a legendary golfer.

Sloan’s photo was apparently opposite of such a philosophy. Was it a lie? Did Hogan occasionally shed that image? Was Sloan a personal friend? No, way. Couldn’t be. Ben Hogan, who had captured every major championship – four U.S. Opens, a British Open (in his only attempt), two Masters and two PGA titles – while overcoming that infamous 1949 car collision with a bus that nearly killed him.

All of which is a well-known story by now, part of history – along with that picturesque swing, the calmness, ice water in his veins, the famous comeback, the movie that depicted his life around the crash, Follow the Sun: The Ben Hogan Story. No sense in reciting all that here. This story is A Redlands Connection between a local photographer and a golfing icon that breathed immortality.

It was hard to trust Jim; I didn’t know him all that well, but I had to trust him. In a way, Jim Sloan was far more worthy than I was on a local front. A trick? A way to claim some kind of connection to a legend? A little self-indulgence? Redlands was a golf community, its country club often playing host to a variety of legendary connections. Wouldn’t it be great to fabricate a story with those golf partisans? A story connecting Jim Sloan to Ben Hogan would be a good one.

Golf had plenty of prominent connections to Redlands.

Club manufacturer Mario Cesario, whose son Greg was an All-American golfer at Arizona State, made golf clubs for Tom Watson, Nancy Lopez, Gene Littler and others – in Redlands. Watson himself even journeyed to Mario’s local shop for consultation.

Tiger Woods came to Redlands as a well-known five-year-old.

Phillips Finlay, younger brother of Madison Finlay, once took on Bobby Jones in the Roaring 20s. Or was twice? Or three times?

Dave Stockton, who famously outdueled Arnold Palmer at the 1970 PGA Championship, hailed from San Bernardino – but moved to Redlands.

On the other hand, here was a photo print of the Ice Man, Hogan’s historical nickname, that bore all of Sloan’s photographic trademarks. Remember my cynicism. That started melting away. I believed Jim Sloan was telling me the truth.

I asked the first question that came into my head.

“Did you shoot this photo in Redlands?”

Excuse my excitement. Jim, of course, had already told me that he was in Texas when he took the photo. Texas was Hogan’s home, somewhere near the Dallas area. I was excited to think that, somehow, Hogan might’ve traveled to Redlands.

All of which would have begged several questions: Why was he here? Who does he know from Redlands? Will he be returning here sometime? But, no, Hogan was never on local turf.

I wish I could re-create the conversation I had with Jim Sloan about his Hogan photo – but he was always in a hurry. There was no real conversation. Any time he showed up, it was always a quick-hitting visit. Sloan, in my memory, only showed up a few times for talk, presenting photos, or discussing some sports-related shot he’d taken. Something about the guy, always on the move, seemingly like he was late for something.

“I’ll give you this,” he said, “to use when he dies. Keep it in your obit file.”

And Jim Sloan disappeared. A few years later, Jim Sloan died. Hogan outlived him by a few years.