Baseball Hall of Fame
After graduating from Wilson High School in 1961, where he earned the title of CIF Player of the Year, Bob Bailey was honored as The Sporting News' Minor League Player of the Year in 1962. Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates for what was then a record $175,000 Bailey went on to play for a stretch of 17 years in the Major Leagues appearing in 1,931 games, hitting 189 Home Runs, averaging .257 at the plate and driving in 773 runs. Describing Bailey's prowess at the plate, Pittsburgh Pirates manager Gene Mauch once said of his third baseman that, "Bailey means wood."
If Yankee Stadium was the House That Ruth Built, it's only fair to call Blair Field to be the House That Frank Built. Frank T. Blair was the sports editor of the Long Beach Press-Telegram from 1921 until his passing in 1953. He spent untold hours covering baseball games at Recreation Park, the functional yet dusty park with wooden grandstands at the corner of Seventh Street and Park Avenue that has served the likes of Bob Lemon and other notable Long Beach youth stars well. He also was the first to suggest building a better, more modern ballpark on the same corner. It was his belief that Long Beach deserved a modern park, and that it could lead to the city acquiring a minor league franchise, perhaps one that would serve as home for a franchise in the Pacific Coast or Western Baseball minor leagues. His passing in 1953 did not end his dream. In 1956, a $260,000 bond issue was presented by councilman Pat Ahearn, and it passed leading to the construction of Blair Field, at a final cost of $500,000. The park opened in 1958. The first official game played there was on April 15, between the baseball teams from Long Beach State and Long Beach City College, but a Poly-Huntington Beach high school game actually was the first, on April 11, won by Poly 3-1. With the Dodgers and Giants playing their first game on the west coast on the same day as the first official game, the hopes of a pro team playing there quickly ebbed. Instead, it has served the community well as a home for prep, Connie Mack, American Legion and winter barnstorming games, at the rate of 200 per season. In the ensuing years, it also hosted a 1961 Dodgers exhibition game that drew 6,250, double the seating limits, the 1966 Chicago Cubs spring training, and the Los Angeles Rams for more than a decade as their official practice facility in the fall and winter. Long Beach State moved its games to Blair Field a decade ago and has since hosted four NCAA Regional Tournaments at the park that has been rated among the finest college facilities in the nation. Blair's dream and the park celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2008.
Ollie "Downtown" Brown is the middle member of Long Beach's Brown family that left a large impact in the baseball community. Older brother Willie starred in football at Poly, USC and then with the Los Angeles Rams. Younger brother Oscar starred at Poly and had his own major league career. Ollie played 13 seasons in the majors, hitting 102 career home runs with a .265 average. After starring for John Herbold's Poly teams, he went to Long Beach City College and then signed with the Giants, hitting 43 home runs for their Fresno farm team in 1964. By the next season, he was in the majors. Brown became a historical footnote as the first player selected by the San Diego Padres in the 1969 expansion draft, and he had his best seasons there. He hit 20 home runs in 1969 and followed that up with 23 homers, 34 doubles, 89 RBI and a .292 average in 1970. He was part of the most popular Padres of that era, a cornerstone in a power-hitting trip featuring Brown, Nate Colbert and Cito Gaston. He stayed with the Padres through 1972, then played in Oakland, Milwaukee, Houston and Philadelphia before retiring in 1977.
A fine pitcher at Wilson High in the late '50s, strapping 6'5" right-hander Casey Cox went from Long Beach City College to Cal State Los Angeles and then slowly made his way up the minor league ladder to the pros in 1966, landing with the Washington Senators. He broke in as a reliever and in his rookie season pitched in 66 games, second-most in the American League. In 1969, he became a classic swingman, going 12-7 while starting 13 games, completing four, and making 39 other appearances in relief. His 2.78 ERA ranked sixth in the American League and he had one of the longest relief outings on record, 8 2/3 innings in an April game against Cleveland. The following year, he became a full-time starter, going 8-12, before requesting a move back to the bullpen. His manager at the time, baseball icon Ted Williams, called Cox one of the best right-handed relievers in the game. His career ended abruptly in the early '70s after being sold to the Yankees. He worked in sales after his baseball career and also fought successful battles against alcohol and cancer.
Daley was a member of the legendary Wilson coach Cliff Meyer's 1950 CIF championship team, pitching and playing outfield enroute to being named the CIF player of the year. He signed with the Cleveland Indians out of high school, mostly because that was the team of another Wilson product, Bob Lemon. The left-hander with a sweeping curve spent ten productive years in the majors, going 60 - 64 with a 4.03 ERA. He was a two-time All-Star for woebegone Kansas City Athletics in 1959 and 1960, going 16-13 with 12 complete games, two shutouts and a 3.16 ERA in 1959 and winning 16 games again in 1960 finishing third in A.L. wins. He was traded to the Yankees in 1961 and was part of two World Series champion teams. In 1961, he was 8-9 as a swing man and then didn't allow an earned run in seven innings during the series. He got the win in the Game 5 clincher against Cincinnati pitching the final 6 2/3 innings to close out the Reds. He was also part of the 1962 Yankee title team, putting together a streak of 37 scoreless innings of relief during the season and pitching a scoreless inning in the Yankees' seven-game series wins over the Giants.
Selected as the All-CIF shortstop for Poly High School in 1945, Rocky Bridges carried his success over to the Majors where he played for seven different teams over the span of 11 years. His lifetime fielding percentage of .969 while playing second base, third base and shortstop is a testament to his skills with the leather. Hitting for a lifetime Major League batting average of .248, Bridges spent two years as a coach for the Angels and had a successful 20-year career as a manager in the minor leagues.
An astounding .569 batting average helped earn Wilson High School star Jeff Burroughs the distinction of being named CIF Player of the Year in 1969. Voted California's High School Athlete of the Year for the 1968-69 season, the hard hitting Burroughs became the nation's number one draft pick for the Washington Senators in 1969. In 1973 while playing for the Texas Rangers, the right fielder pounded out 30 home runs at a time when that number was considered the benchmark for long ball hitters. The next year was even more exceptional. In 1974 Burroughs was honored as Most Valuable Player by batting .301 with 25 homers and a League leading 118 RBI. In 1977, the then Atlanta Brave continued with his displays of power by crushing 41 homers while driving in 114. Over his 15 year Major League career, Burroughs played in 1,603 games, hit for a .261 batting average, knocked 234 home runs and drove in 854 runs. As if these distinctions weren't enough, Burroughs took to the field again in the early '90s and led a team from Long Beach Little League to back-to-back Little League World Series Championships in 1992 and 1993.
This Wilson High graduate went on to play ball at Long Beach City College before being signed by the St. Louis Cardinals. He spent six years in the major leagues as a reserve shortstop including the 1973 season with the National League West Champion Cincinnati Reds. Crosby later became a baseball scout signing talents such as Jason Giambi. Ed Crosby is also the father of Oakland A's shortstop and Dirtbag legend, Bobby Crosby.
This 21 year Major League veteran began receiving notoriety in 1956 when he was selected as the CIF Player of the Year for his skills as an outfielder at Jordan High School. His 1958 season with USC, where he batted .348, with 9 home runs and 67 RBI earned him a place on the All College World Series Team. That same year was the beginning of Fairly's Major League career. He would go on to play in four World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, batting .300 in his 20 appearances while playing both first base and the outfield. During his time in the Majors, Fairly played for Montreal, St. Louis, Oakland, Toronto and the Angels. He appeared in 2,442 games, holds a lifetime .267 average, hit 215 home runs and knocked in 1,044 runs. Fairly has worked for many years in sports broadcasting and currently is the play-by-play announcer for the Seattle Mariners.
Amid the crush of high school and college games that were played at Recreation Park and Blair Field, one could also find a hustling man named Bill Feistner whose love of baseball was expressed in a multitude of ways. He served as the owner and operator of the Long Beach Rockets, the city's own semi-pro baseball team that prowled ball fields for almost three decades. In the summer, the Rockets played other city teams in organized leagues, and in the winter, the Rockets would welcome several major leaguers to the team as a way for them to stay in baseball shape between seasons. Feistner became a promoter in another sense, bringing in barnstorming teams to play at Recreation Park and Blair Field during the offseason. These teams often featured big names, like Long Beach's own Bob Lemon as well as Joe DiMaggio and Satchel Paige, and drew even bigger crowds. Feistner was most responsible for bringing a slice of professional baseball to a city that built its dreams on its youth and amateur teams.
This Long Beach native led Millikan High School to the CIF title in 1969 as a pitcher. He played baseball and basketball at Long Beach City College earning the MVP award as part of the 1971 State Basketball Championship team under Lute Olsen. Frost continued his career in both sports at Stanford University before being drafted by the Chicago White Sox. Frost pitched a 16-10 season with the California Angels with a 3.57 ERA assisting the team in its first American League West title. Dave Frost continues to be involved with the Angels as a member of the team's speakers bureau.
Fresh from graduating Wilson High School, where he lettered for three years, Jack Graham began his professional career in 1936 when he was signed by the New York Yankees. Graham, the son of Peaches Graham who played in the Majors from 1903 to 1912, followed in his father's footsteps putting in two years in the Big Leagues in 1946 and 1949. In 1948, Graham played in the Pacific Coast League where hit a league leading 48 home runs for the San Diego Padres. During his professional career, the first baseman hit .283, knocked out 422 home runs, had 2,145 hits and 3,979 RBI. In his post player days, Graham took the helm of the Legion Flyers as manager for 12 years and managed the Long Beach Rockets for 26 years. He also served as scout for the Toronto Blue Jays.
After receiving honors as the All-CIF shortstop for Wilson, Bobby Grich was the first player drafted by Baltimore (19th overall) in 1967. In the late '70s and early '80s this six time All-Star was the premier second baseman in the American League. His hard charging style of baseball earned him four consecutive Gold Gloves and an astounding lifetime fielding percentage of .983. In 1985, Grich set a Major League record for the highest fielding percentage by a second baseman with .997 percentage. He also holds the Major League record for putouts by a second baseman, fewest errors, lifetime fielding percentage and most games played at the keystone. His prowess with the glove were equaled by his skills at the plate. In 1979, one of his best seasons, Grich batted .294, slugged 30 home runs and drove in 101. During his 17 year career with both the Baltimore Orioles and California Angels, Grich batted .266, hit 224 home runs and drove in 864.
One of the greatest pure hitters to ever play in the Majors, Tony Gwynn's talents were first recognized while playing for Poly High School where he was named an All-CIF outfielder. Continuing his achievements at San Diego state, Gwynn was further honored as an All-American and became a third round draft pick for the San Diego Padres. During his amazing 21 year career, this Long Beach native won eight batting titles tying Honus Wagner for the most in the National League, hit over .300 in 19 consecutive seasons (hitting over .350 from 1993 to 1997) and won five Gold Gloves. Gwynn is one of the few player to achieve the 3,000 career hits milestone and is ranked 17th all-time with 3,141. His batting average of .394 in 1994 was the highest in the National League since 1930 and he is the only player in Major League history to win four batting titles in two separate decades. This 15 time All-Star is currently Head Baseball Coach for San Diego State and is a baseball analyst for ESPN.
Bob Harrison's body of work of baseball is a half-century long and has always been devoted to young talent. The Jordan High graduate was a baseball playground rat as a kid who decided to bring Pony and Colt Level youth baseball to Long Beach in the late '50s. With great success, too. His 1959 and 1965 Long Beach Pony teams won national titles, the '65 team featuring Jeff Burroughs, and his 1967 Connie Mack team with Randy Moffitt also claiming a national crown. His work as one of baseball's finest scouts---he was named baseball's Scout of the Year in 2003---began with the expansion Los Angeles Angels in 1961. He moved to St. Louis in 1967, and then hired by the expansion Seattle Mariners in 1976. His biggest signing in Seattle with a lad named Ken Griffey Jr. He returned to the Angels in 1992 and then jumped back to the Mariners in 2001. The man who scouted and signed Mark Langston and Garry Templeton in addition to Griffey is still going strong at 86.
John Herbold may hold a record for most memberships in sports Hall of Fames. The long-time area baseball coach joins the Long Beach hall after having previously been named to the Halls of the Long Beach Century Club, Cal State Los Angeles, American Baseball Coaches and Hollywood High School. Herbold won 938 games in his coaching career and is widely considered one of the all-time greats in prep coaching. The Hollywood High and Stanford grad went into coaching after the service, landing at Poly in 1955 and leading the 1963 team to the CIF title. In 1969, he moved to Lakewood High, where he won 13 More League titles in 15 years and claimed CIF titles in 1970 and 1974. He moved to the college ranks in 1983 as coach at Cal State Los Angeles, where he won 455 games in his career before finally retiring. When he retired, he had spent the last 49 years coaching baseball, and most people would say that he could return to the dugout today.
As head baseball coach for the Long Beach City College Vikings from 1950-1975, Joe Hicks set a career record of 514 - 257 for an incredible .664 winning percentage. Hicks led his teams to a total of 13 Conference victories, eight Southern California and three State titles. During his tenure he was coach to 10 future Major Leaguers and eight future coaches. In 1988, Hicks was elected to the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He founded the very successful Diamond Sports company, a nationwide sports equipment business.
It is his numerous off the field contributions that has earned Bob "Rupe" Hughes an honored place in the Long Beach Baseball Hall of Fame. For 20 years (1930-1950) Hughes coached in the Samuel Thomas American Legion league and with the semi-pro Elbees. Employed as a plummer, Hughes spent countless hours, and went to considerable financial expense, supporting youth and instructing them in the fundamentals of the game. In his 20 years of coaching, at least 48 of his players signed professional contracts and at least 10 of those went on to play at the Major League level. Hughes, who throughout his career served as a scout for three major league teams, was personally responsible for signing Bob Bailey out of Wilson High School for a record $175,000.
Johnson began his coaching career in 1936 when he took coaching responsibilities for both Wilson High School's baseball and football teams. He remained in his dual role for the next 10 years. During his span as baseball coach, he won seven baseball titles and was considered "the mold" for all great coaches. It has been estimated that the number of his former students who have gone on to become coaches would range in the hundreds. After his tenure at Wilson, Johnson continued his career in sports by serving as the Athletic Director and baseball coach at Long Beach City College, where he served from 1946 - 1949. Skip Rowland, a former Wilson High School Baseball coach and respected member of the Long Beach baseball community has said, "Al Johnson has had a greater positive influence on more people in the City of Long Beach than any person in history. For anyone and everyone who has ever been associated with him, he would rank as one of the top three most influential persons in their lives."
The early accolades for Bob Lemon include CIF Player of the Year for Wilson High School, and State Player of Year as a pitcher in 1938. A Major League star for 15 years, Lemon spent his entire career with the Cleveland Indians where he helped win the World Championships of 1948 and 1954. Lemon was a seven time 20 game winner and led the Majors in complete games in five seasons. His lifetime record of 207 - 128 earned him an incredible .618 winning percentage. On June 30, 1948 Lemon joined an elite group of pitchers when he threw a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers. A two-time winner of the Manager of the Year award, Lemon managed the Kansas City Royals in 1970-'72, the Chicago White Sox in 1977-'78, the New York Yankees in 1978-'79 and again in 1981-'82. He guided the Royals to their first winning season in 1971 and led the Yankees to a World Series victory in 1978.
This Lakewood High standout spent seven seasons in the Major Leagues as an outfielder and pinch-hitter for the San Francisco Giants, New York Mets and San Diego Padres. He has hit homeruns off pitching legends Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale.
Meyer captained the first football team at Wilson, coached the first Wilson football team to beat Poly, and won a CIF baseball title in first season as the Bruins baseball coach, in 1947. He would repeat in 1950 and over his 15 years produced almost a dozen major leaguers, including fellow inductee Bud Daley, Bob Bailey and Andy Messersmith. His legacy in town extends to his son Jon, who succeeded him at Wilson, and grandson Scott, who coaches high school football. Almost overlooked are his contributions in founding recreation programs for kids and the disabled in Long Beach.
Myers coached Millikan High to two CIF titles (1967 and 1969). He then coached at Long Beach City College and led them to the 1976 State Title. He remained active in the Long Beach baseball scene as a personal coach and hitting instructor before returning to LBCC as an assistant coach and the 2006 State Title.
A graduate of Wilson High School in 1946, Harry Minor signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in 1947 where he played until 1949. In 1950 and again in 1953-'54, Minor played in the Philadelphia Athletics organization and was invited to Spring Training with the A's in 1954. He managed in the minors from 1957-1960. Known as one of the best scouts in the business, Minor scouted for the Braves from 1960-67 and signed Tom Seaver to the Braves before the then Major League commissioner deemed Seaver a free agent. Minor who began his long tenure as a scout for the New York Mets in 1967, has also served as the Assistant to the General Manager. Currently he works for the Mets as a consultant.
When he was 13, Moffitt decided he couldn't beat his sister in tennis so he put all his energy into baseball. It proved to be a good move. Moffitt was a two-time all Moore League star at Poly, was MVP of the 1969 Long Beach Cardinals Connie Mack World Series champions, and a two-time all-league choice in three seasons at Long Beach State, where he won 18 games and set since-broken career records for innings pitched and strikeouts. He then had a 12-year career in the majors that saw him pitch in 534 games, all but one in relief, and serve as the San Francisco Giants' closer during the '70s. He won 43 games and saved 96 in his career while posting a 3.65 ERA. His best seasons were in 1973 (60 games, 14 saves, 2.42 ERA) and 1976 (58 games, 14 saves, 2.27 ERA) and his first win came against the hometown Dodgers. After fighting off a parasitic infection, Moffitt got in one last good season in 1983, winning six games and saving ten with a 3.77 ERA for Toronto. His sister, Billie Jean King, is understandably proud of her younger brother.
Muser was a left-handed first-baseman who came out of the rich Lakewood High program in the mid-60s and went on to play ten years in major leagues. A career .259 hitter, his best years came with White Sox, topped by a .285 average and 14 doubles in 1973. He finished his pro career with one season in Japan before moving into coaching. Muser began his professional coaching career in 1980 and spent thirteen years managing and coaching in the Brewers organization. Muser became the skipper for the Kansas City Royals in 1997. While managing the Royals for more than 5 seasons, he compiled 317 wins and ranks third on the all-time Royals managerial win list. He is currently the bench coach for the San Diego Padres.
This award-winning sportswriter began his career at the Long Beach Press-Telegram in 1961 and then had a 37-year career at the Los Angeles Times, more than half of it as the paper's national baseball writer. He was inducted into the writer's wing of the Hall of Fame in 2004.
This graduate of Wilson High School was owner and operator of a local sporting goods store from 1937 - 1962. As an activist for youth baseball, as well as all youth sports in general, Proctor was known for his incredible generosity. All who knew him would talk of his giving ways and would speak of him giving away far more sporting goods than he ever sold. If a child had a desire to play the game, Proctor was there to make sure that, no matter what the personal cost, that child would have the tools they needed to succeed.
Skip has one of the more storied biographies in Long Beach sports history, a biography he continues to add even now as an active supporter of his alma mater, Wilson High. Rowland was a back-up quarterback and kicker on the first Wilson football team to beat Poly, in 1943, and he went on to earn all-CIF honors in football in 1944 and baseball in 1945, performanaces that led to a scholarship at UCLA, where he earned a record eight varsity letters. In 1946 his Bruin football team was undefeated (10-0) and played in the 1947 Rose Bowl. After an injury-shortened minor league baseball career, Rowland eventually returned to Wilson as a coach where his football teams won five league titles in 11 years, his baseball teams won a league title and his golf teams won nine league crowns and a CIF title. Among the many athletes Rowland coached at Wilson were Jeff Burroughs, Bob Bailey and Bob Grich, all later major league baseball standouts; football players Dennis Dummit, Sid Smith and Terry DeKraii, and golfer Pinky Stevenson.
Dave Snow began the "Dirtbag" era at Long Beach State in 1989 and was the head coach of the Dirtbags for 13 seasons (1989 - 2001). While leading the Long Beach State baseball program, Snow compiled an amazing 511 - 290 record (.638). He led the 49ers to four College World Series appearances (1989, 1991, 1993, 1998) and 11 NCAA Regionals. Under his direction, the Dirtbags won six Big West Conference Titles. Snow was also named Big West Coach of the Year five times and the NCAA Coach of the Year in 1989, when he guided that squad to an all-time school record 50 win season. He never had a losing season at Long Beach State and averaged 30 wins per year. While the head baseball coach at the Beach, Snow sent 102 players into professional baseball. Coach Snow is currently a scout with the Colorado Rockies.
A Long Beach Poly High and Long Beach City College graduate, Stephens was noted as one of the hardest hitting shortstops in the history of the game. Until the arrival of Ernie Banks, Stephens was the best home run hitting shortstop in the Majors. In honor of his hitting prowess the top hitting award at Long Beach City College is named the "Vern Stephens Award." Stephens, who played at the Major League level for 15 seasons, is credited with driving the then St. Louis Browns to their lone World Series appearance in 1944. He led the league in home runs once, in RBIs three times and in 1949 he belted 39 homers, scored 113 runs, averaged .290 and garnered 159 RBIs. During his career, Stephens played in 1,720 games, batted .286, hit 247 home runs, garnered 1,175 RBIs, and was named an All-Star eight times. Stephens passed away at the age of 48 in 1968.
The member of Poly's 1936 CIF title team has been involved in baseball his entire life, spending 21 years in the pros and another 40 serving ball players as director of the Association of Professional Baseball Players of America, a group that assists former pros in need. Stevens played in the St. Louis Browns' organization for a decade, making it to the majors in 1941, 1946 and 1948. His best year was 1946, when he hit .248 and led all A.L. first-basemen in fielding. Like many west coast ballplayers, Stevens returned to the Pacific Coast league after his major league career and played many seasons for the old Hollywood Stars as well as other PCL teams. He also took part of a 1951 tour of Japan that was organized by Lefty O'Doul and Joe DiMaggio.
This infielder was a standout on Poly's 1936 CIF title team alongside teammates Vern Stephens and Chuck Stevens. He signed with St. Louis out of high school, was traded to the Cubs in 1939 and made his debut for the Cubs at the age of 20 in 1940. His six-year career in the major leagues was interrupted by a three-year stint in the military. He started 126 games for the 1941 Cubs and hit .296 for them in 1946, his first year back after the war. He finished his career as a member of the 1948 National League Champion Boston Braves, then returned to Long Beach and stayed active in local baseball.
Craig Swan was a standout pitcher for Long Beach Millikan High School, helping Bob Myers' 20-4 1967 team to the CIF title, which was won at Blair Field. He went to Arizona State and allowed just one run in 18 innings of work at the 1972 College World Series, earning a spot on the all-tournament team as his Sun Devils lost the title game to USC. He was a third round draft choice in 1972 by the New York Mets and made his major league debut a year later. He quickly became a full-time major leaguer and had two extremely good seasons for two very bad Mets teams. In 1978, he led the National League in ERA (2.43) while going just 9-6 on a team that lost 96 games. A year later, he led the Mets in wins with 14 on a squad that lost 99 games. His manager those years was Joe Torre. He tore his rotator cuff in 1980 but rebounded to win 11 games in 1982 while making the transition to the bullpen. His arm woes returned the following year and he ended his career in 1984. He used hypnosis as a relaxing technique during his career and launched a post baseball career in the field of alternative medicine.
Charlie Williams played baseball at Long Beach Poly, but his best sport was football and he would later star on the gridiron at Long Beach City College and Cal State Los Angeles. It was while in college that he started his officiating career on the amateur and youth levels around Long Beach and Los Angeles. While working in a factory, Williams had a chance encounter that led to his attending a umpire school. He graduated at the top of his class, worked in the minor leagues for several years, and joined the major leagues in 1982. He worked stayed on the job until 2000, when health complications led him to retire. In his career, he worked two All-Star games, two NLCS championships, and the 1993 World Series, where he was the home plate umpire in one of the more memorable series games, Toronto's 15-14 Game 4 win over Philadelphia in a game that lasted 4:14. Williams, who died in 2005 of complications from diabetes, is one of just six African-American umpires in baseball history. Said his wife, Diana: "He recognized that it was hard being a Black umpire, that there were times people had nasty racial things to say. But the main thing is that he loved his job."