- Hornets in the
Pros - Dick Bartell - Other
Hornet Greats - Ray French - Duffy
Lewis - Best
Ever Hornet team? -
- '06 NCS Champs Honored at Coliseum - Arnerich: '06 Coach of the Year - Alameda Produces Ball Players -
Hornet Baseball Legacy
In addition to a number of outstanding Alameda High Hornet baseball players who have been drafted into the ranks of professional baseball - including current head coach Ken Arnerich - a number have made it all the way through to the Majors:
High's Diamond Dandy
Bartell played 18 seasons in the major leagues after helping the Hornets to three sectional titles in the mid-1920s
By Mike McGreehan
Alameda enjoys great sporting traditions, with a wide variety of activities each having a fair share of enthusiasts and followers. But when it comes to baseball, nothing else on the island quite compares.
Through the years, some great players progressed from the youth levels through the high schools. From there, a number of them took their games to even higher levels.
Encinal High boasts Tommy Harper, Curt Motton and the late Hall of Famer Willie Stargell among its early graduates. Current major leaguers Jimmy Rollins and Dontrelle Willis are former Jets of more recent vintage.
existed for decades before Encinal opened in the 1950s. As the older of the island's two public high schools, its list of noteworthy players is even longer. Alameda High School
On this list, however, one name stands above the rest: that of Dick Bartell, who went on to an impressive 18-year major league career, primarily as a shortstop.
A lifetime .284 hitter, Bartell earned a reputation as a scrappy, hard-nosed player, a guy who knew how to win games. Bartell played in baseball's first All-Star Game in 1933 and represented the National League again in 1937. A veteran of three World Series, many consider Bartell worthy of induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in
"If he had been born a little later, he would have been a millionaire," Bartell's daughter,
resident Marilyn Chargin, said of her father, who died in 1995 at age 87. Alameda
Bartell's aggressive playing style earned him the nickname, "Rowdy Richard." As a major league star of the 1930s -- the decade of the Great Depression -- perhaps it can be argued that Bartell was a product of his times. But at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, Bartell (he also had the nickname, "Shortwave") had a reputation for never backing down to anyone.
Bartell got his first taste of baseball at a young age. In fact, the sport was quite the family affair for the Bartells.
Chicagoin November 1907, Bartell's parents moved to when their son was six months old. For young Bartell, an early introduction to the baseball diamond was pretty much a given. Alameda
"A lot of his uncles were ballplayers," Chargin said. "He learned to play at
(where the field was dedicated in his honor in 1993)." Lincoln Park
Bartell's skills developed through the years. He gained even greater recognition at
as a four-year letterman under coach Otto Rittler. The Hornets had strong teams in those years. Bartell and fellow Hornets Louie Martin and Joe Floyd were part of sectional championship teams in three of their four seasons at Alameda High -- 1923, 1925 and 1926. Alameda High School
historians and many with a general love of local high school baseball rate Alameda High's 1925 team as the school's all-time best. But the 1926 team made its own impressions, going 21-1 while outscoring opponents by a cumulative 199-58. Alameda
Cal-Hi Sports Magazine, a publication founded in 1975, did some intense research and retroactively dubbed the 1926 Hornets the top prep team in
for that year. California
And the top prep player for that year? Well, none other than Bartell, the Hornets' shortstop.
Though high school statistics from any era are woefully scarce, the honor bestowed on Bartell was well deserved.
An Alameda Times-Star account of a May 10, 1926, "practice" game at
says Bartell had a single, double and two triples in a 15-4 trouncing of Crockett. Lincoln Park
Later that month, Bartell snared a line drive and threw to first base to double up a runner for the final outs of the section title game, a 6-3 win over
. Bartell proved only human in this game, however, when a would-be two-run home run turned into an RBI single when he missed second base. Palo Alto
Nonetheless, Bartell's acclaimed reputation on the diamond was secure. After graduating from Alameda High in 1926, professional baseball beckoned. After stops in
Montanaand , Bartell made his major league debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Oct. 2, 1927, while still more than seven weeks short of his 20th birthday. Connecticut
Bartell's late-season call-up was a sign of the future. By 1929, Bartell was the Pirates' everyday shortstop, batting .302 with 13 triples and scoring 101 runs.
From the Pirates, Bartell went on to play with the Phillies. But his most glorious years, many will argue, came with the New York Giants, for whom he starred on pennant-winning teams in 1936 and 1937.
Bartell played in his final World Series as an American Leaguer with the Detroit Tigers in 1940.
had the great Charlie Gehringer playing second base and we could put in a great relay system," Bartell told the late Win Currier in a 1991 interview. "With the Giants, second base was played by a lot of different people, but Gehringer was something special. I remember when I got to Detroit , Hank Greenberg took me under his wing. I was a lifetime National Leaguer and he told me just to simmer down and relax. He was liked by everyone." Detroit
Despite his reputation as a fiery competitor on the diamond, Bartell enjoyed pursuits beyond baseball.
"He knew he had to work hard to be a good ballplayer," Chargin said. "But he liked to go duck-hunting on weekends, and he liked to play golf. He was pretty well-rounded."
Oh, and there's one more thing to add.
"He was a pretty good father, too," Chargin said.
Though he died a dozen years ago, Bartell's memory lives on. A sign on
Fernside Boulevardproudly identifies Bartell's old stomping grounds at as "Dick Bartell Field." And he was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 1992. Lincoln Park
, with a long tradition as a baseball town, developed some great players through the decades. Alameda
At 5-9, the late Dick Bartell stood tall among them.
Alamedans Link to Hall
French and Babe Ruth were teammates on the Yankees ; Lieber pitched for Connie Mack's Athletics
By Mike McGreehan
Go to the Hornets Boosters Web site for Alameda High School sports (www.hornetboosters.org), click on the baseball page, scroll down a bit, and take in a small slice of the history of Hornets baseball. Featured on the page are 11 former
baseball players who went on to play in the major leagues. Alameda High School
Surely, the biggest star of the bunch is Dick Bartell, who many consider worthy of induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in
The Journal featured Bartell extensively in its June 26 and June 29 issues. Cooperstown, N.Y.
There is, however, one other former Alameda High player who actually is a Hall of Famer.
That would be Ray French, a member of the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame.
For sure, French's major league career was not nearly as extensive as Bartell's 18-year stint in the bigs. French played only three seasons in the majors, with the Yankees in 1920,
Brooklyn(then known as the Robins) in 1923, and the White Sox in 1924.
"When he went to the Yankees, he played with Babe Ruth (who also was in his first year with the Pinstripes)," said Katie Dougherty, French's granddaughter.
Besides Ruth, French had other Cooperstown-bound teammates and managers in his short major league career: Miller Huggins (Yankees), Zack Wheat and Wilbert Robinson (
Brooklyn), and Eddie Collins, Ray Schalk, Ted Lyons, Red Faber, Johnny Evers and Ed Walsh (White Sox). Other Yankees teammates included San Franciscans Lefty O'Doul and Ping Bodie. Also, there was Duffy Lewis, who might have gone to Alameda High, too.
It was in the PCL, though, that French made his mark, beginning in 1915 and ending in 1934. French, a shortstop, played in
Portland, Seattle Vernon and with the Oakland Oaks, but spent the biggest chunk of his career with . In 2,159 games, French batted .269 with 781 RBI. Sacramento
Other Alameda High graduates also had a strong PCL presence in addition to their time in the major leagues. Third baseman Johnny Vergez, for instance, broke into the majors with the Giants in 1931, and played on the New Yorkers' World Series-winning team of 1933.
After the 1934 season, however, the Giants retooled, as Vergez was sent to the Phillies in a package deal for former Alameda High teammate Bartell.
Vergez is best known in this area, however, for his time with the Oaks, both as a player (he broke in with the team in 1928) and as a manager. He later coached at St. Mary's College.
As fellow Alamedans and baseball people of similar age, Vergez and Bartell often crossed paths. One such occasion was the 1947 Alameda Elks Charity Baseball Game at
in Emeryville. Bartell managed a team of major league stars. Vergez managed their minor league opponents. Oaks Ball Park
The late sportswriter Win Currier recalled that game in a 2004 Journal column.
"The minor leaguers staged a ninth-inning rally to come from behind and defeat the major-league all-stars, 2-1, following a 12-inning minor league victory the previous year," Currier wrote.
Alameda High graduate Bill Serena started the rally with a single. Serena, who set a home run record in the West Texas-New Mexico league after his discharge from the army, went on to play six seasons with the Cubs, 1949-54.
Later in the '50s, Andy Carey played a role in baseball history as the Yankees' third baseman in the 1956 World Series perfect game pitched by Don Larsen. Carey, who graduated from Alameda High as Andy Hexem in 1949, had a hot smash go off his glove in the game, but shortstop Gil McDougald (a
native) picked up the ball in time to throw Jackie Robinson out at first base. San Francisco
Other Alameda High players of note include infielder Chris Speier, who began and finished his 19-year major league career with the Giants, and Erik Schullstrom, who went on to pitch in Japan after a two-year stint with the Twins.
Alameda High produced two other pitchers of note. Dutch Lieber was rarely used by Connie Mack's Athletics during a two-year stint in the majors. With the San Francisco Mission Reds of the PCL, however, he had gone 19-13 with a league-leading 2.50 ERA in 1934.
Bill MacDonald, a Hornet of a later generation, pitched for the Pirates in 1950 and 1953. Military service interrupted his career in 1951-52.
Returning to position players, former Hornet Leo Thomas went on to play with the St. Louis Browns and the White Sox. He also played for
of the PCL. Portland
The hardest call here is the aforementioned Duffy Lewis. Alameda High historians say no record of him can be found in Alameda High yearbooks. Still, there are those who say he went to Alameda High. Whatever the case, he had a fine 11-year career from 1910-21 with a year lost to service in World War I.
Lewis formed the Red Sox "Million Dollar Outfield" with Hall of Famers Tris Speaker and Harry Hooper. He became so proficient at playing a 10-foot left-field incline at
Boston's , that it became known as "Duffy's Cliff." Fenway Park
baseball has a storied past. Having won the North Coast Section 3A Alameda High School title in 2006 and finishing second this season, a new generation of Hornets looks ready to make its marks, too. East Bay
Hornets' Great Earned
French's pro baseball career spanned most of a quarter-century before his induction into the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame
By Mike McGreehan
Those who follow sports know that the pros represent only the tip of the iceberg in any given endeavor, and that many stories exist at other levels of the game.
For professional baseball, the major leagues represent an even smaller portion of that proverbial iceberg.
Take the case of all-time
great Ray French. Alameda High School
Most baseball sources report that French played three seasons in the major leagues, all of two games for the 1920 Yankees, 43 more for Brooklyn (then known as the "Robins") in 1923 and, finally, 37 for the 1924 White Sox. In those 82 games, French collected 36 hits in 187 at-bats for a .193 career average.
These statistics, however, don't even begin to tell the story of French's career and his overall contributions to baseball. Principally, this includes a professional playing career that spanned most of a quarter-century, one that ultimately earned him induction into the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame in 1943. Also, there were stints as a manager and umpire.
Most important, however, French -- who died in 1978 at age 83 -- earned much respect both on and off the field.
"I was 9 when he died," granddaughter Katie Dougherty says, "so most of the stories I know were based on what my mom told me. One thing is that grandpa was always working with younger players. He wanted to mentor younger players."
French's nephew, also named Ray French, was a child growing up in
when his uncle was at the zenith of his PCL career. Alameda
"When he was playing with
Sacramento, he would stay at my grandmother's (the elder French's mother's) house on Mound Streetwhen they would play Oakland, San Franciscoor the Missions," says French, now 82 and living in the hills. "In those days, (the visiting team) would play a week-long series. I remember that he had this big red touring car at the time that carried his wife's and his things." Oakland
For sure, being the nephew of a professional baseball player had its perks.
"My uncle gave me a major league glove that was right-handed, but I was left-handed," French recalls. "My father (Jack French, the player's youngest brother) and I used to practice every night right-handed. During the Depression, that was really something to have a glove like that. Eventually, I became the only kid who could throw with both hands."
In contrast to his nephew, the elder Ray French both batted and threw right-handed. Ultimately, he also paid quite a number of visits to his mother's house during the course of his PCL career. In 14 PCL seasons between 1915 and 1934, French appeared in 2,159 games, mostly as a shortstop. Offensively, he collected 2,191 hits for a .269 average, with 781 career RBI.
As for defense, PCL fielding statistics are not easy to find. But French was involved in at least one controversial play.
In 1933, Joe DiMaggio -- who would go on to have a major-league-record 56-game hitting streak in 1941 -- already was showing his mettle as an 18-year-old with the San Francisco Seals. That year, DiMaggio set a PCL record by hitting safely in 61 consecutive games.
The controversial moment came when the Seals faced
with DiMaggio having already hit safely in 59 consecutive games. Stepping to the plate hitless in the ninth inning, DiMaggio sent a grounder to deep short that French reportedly could not handle. Sacramento fans were aghast when the scorer gave DiMaggio a hit, thus extending the future Yankee Clipper's streak to 60 games. According to newspaper reports, police had to protect the scorer from angry fans after the game. Sacramento
This aside, French enjoyed a distinguished, memorable and productive professional career, one that started with Portland Beavers in 1915. By 1917, he was with
Cedar Rapidsin the Iowa Baseball Association, but returned to the PCL with in 1919. Seattle
The following year brought a trip back to
Iowawith of the Western League -- until, that is, he got signed by the Yankees, with whom he made his debut on Sept. 17, 1920. Des Moines
Babe Ruth was in his first year with the Yankees at the time after being sold by the Boston Red Sox. But French's time as the Bambino's teammate was short. Perhaps the biggest highlight for French that year was being part a postseason tour of
Japanand with other major league players. China
"When they went to
, they stayed at the imperial hotel," Dougherty says. Japan
French's days with the Yankees soon were past. He went on to enjoy two years with the PCL's Vernon Tigers, followed by his time with
Brooklynand the White Sox.
At some point in 1924, the White Sox sent French to the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association. But Sacramento Senators owner Lew Moreing purchased French's contract the following year, bringing the former Alameda High star back to the PCL.
After years of bouncing back and forth, the 30-year French found stability as a mainstay for the Senators, for whom he played until 1934. According to information supplied by the PCL Hall of Fame, French concluded his stay in the league later that same year with the Oakland Oaks.
Most players -- especially in the 1930s -- were out of baseball as their 40th birthdays neared. But not French, who moved on to the Kansas City Blues of the American Association in 1935 before joining the Louisville Colonels of the same circuit two years later.
Having already played with Babe Ruth and against DiMaggio, French once again rubbed elbows with future greatness.
"When he went to
, there was this young shortstop who took his job away," the nephew Ray French says. "That was Pee Wee Reese. They were friends for the rest of my uncle's life." Louisville
Overall, the elder French made many friends during his lengthy career.
"Dolph Camilli was another good friend of his who also played with
Brooklyn," nephew French says. "They had played together at ." Sacramento
After leaving the Colonels, the elder French enjoyed a short stay with the Mansfield Braves of the Ohio State League in 1939 before hanging up his cleats at age 44. French wasn't out of baseball long, though, as he took over as manager of the
Ashland( ) Colonels of the Mountain State League in June of that year, a post he held until 1941. Ky.
Later, French umpired in the California State League for several years through 1951.
"He would give advice (to players) when he umpired," says the younger French, who himself benefited from his uncle's wisdom.
Turns out that the younger French was a pretty good baseball player, too, getting signed by Yankees scout Joe Devine in 1943 after playing four years at
. Alameda High School
"My uncle gave me lots of tips," he says. "He told me, 'If you don't make it to the top in five years, get out.' I did four years -- interrupted by the war -- which a lot of guys did. Fortunately, I got out."
The younger French went on to work for Safeway for 40 years, 14 of them as manager of the
store. South Shore
As for his uncle?
"Most of his life was spent playing baseball or being an umpire," the younger French says. "In his last few years, he was a clerk on a dock."Many sources only tell us that Ray French played parts of three seasons in the major leagues. Those who dig a little deeper soon find that the PCL Hall of Famer had a lot more going for him.
Alameda to the Majors - Duffy Lewis
Bartell played 18 seasons in the major leagues after helping the Hornets to three sectional titles in the mid-1920s
By Mike McGreehan
In today's world, a sports fan can know most every facet of a favorite athlete's life as television, radio, the Internet and -- yes, even the traditional print media -- follow every move on and off the field.
But it wasn't always that way. Take the case of long-ago baseball great Duffy Lewis, a man respected, but yet a bit of a mystery.
Most sources tell us that Lewis, who died at age 91 in 1979, played his prep baseball at Alameda High School. Alameda High yearbooks from the early 1900s -- Lewis' high school years -- make no mention of Lewis as a player. But he is mentioned as a coach in 1909, which overlaps his career at St. Mary's College, according to some sources, or his time with the Pacific Coast League's Oakland Oaks, according to others.
What is known is that George Edward Lewis was born in San Francisco on April 18, 1888. How and when his family came to Alameda is unknown, as are the origins of the nickname, "Duffy."
Also well chronicled is the fact that Lewis went on to have a distinguished career both in the PCL and the major leagues.
In the case of the latter, Lewis enjoyed his glory years with the Boston Red Sox from 1910-1917. In that eight-season span, Lewis was part of World Series championship teams in 1912, 1915 and 1916.
Lewis might have garnered greater fame had he played during the Red Sox's championship year of 1918, as the team did not win another World Series until 2004. Lewis missed the entire 1918 season while serving in the armed forces (some sources say navy, others army) during World War I.
Upon his return to baseball, Lewis was traded to the Yankees, for whom he played in 1919 and 1920, before wrapping up his major league career with the Washington Senators in 1921.
Released by the Senators after appearing in just 27 games that season, Lewis returned to the PCL, the league in which he had performed a dozen years earlier.
Though many of the details of Lewis' life remain hazy, it is said that he began his professional baseball career in 1907 at age 19 with the Alameda Grays of the outlaw California League.
Still with the Grays in 1908, Lewis made enough of an impression that Oakland Oaks manager George Van Haltren signed the 20-year-old to a contract. After joining the Oaks that August, Lewis played in 50 games and compiled a .253 average while hitting in the lower part of the lineup.
A left fielder, Lewis struggled defensively as a PCL rookie, but blossomed with the glove in 1909. The Boston Red Sox drafted Lewis after the season, and he soon became part of the team's "Million Dollar Outfield" with future Hall of Famers Tris Speaker in center field and Harry Hooper in right. Some consider the trio the best outfield in baseball history.
Lewis took little time to demonstrate his prowess in the field. When Fenway Park opened in 1912, he so masterfully negotiated a 10-foot left-field incline that it became known as "Duffy's Cliff."
A quote by Lewis appearing on thebaseballpage.com speaks of the challenge.
"At the crack of the bat, you'd turn and run up it," he said. "Then you had to pick up the ball and decide whether to jump, go right or left, or to rush down again. It took plenty of practice. They made a mountain goat out of me."
Duffy Lewis did more than catch the ball.
Debuting for the Red Sox just two days shy of his 22nd birthday on April 16, 1910, Lewis batted .283 with 68 RBI and 64 runs in 151 games that season. The following year, Lewis reached major-league career highs in both batting (.307) and slugging (.437). And in 1912, he posted a career-high 109 RBI in helping lead the BoSox to the American League pennant.
Lewis struggled in that year's World Series, batting just .188 (6-for-32) with one RBI as the Red Sox beat the Giants in eight games. Still, he earned a reputation as a clutch hitter, batting .444 with five RBI in five games against the Phillies in the 1915 World Series, and hitting .353 against Brooklyn the following year.
Fielding statistics are never easily evaluated, but Lewis' defensive numbers show a high amount of errors -- double digits in each of his Boston years. For sure, the smaller, shallower gloves of Lewis' day had something to do with this. But on the plus side, Lewis' assist totals are most impressive, as he recorded six seasons of 20 or more, including totals of 27 (1911), 28 (1910) and a career-high 29 in 1913. In addition, Lewis exceeded 300 putouts in three seasons.
Besides Speaker and fellow St. Mary's alum Hooper, Lewis' famous teammates included none other than Babe Ruth, whom he played alongside both with the Red Sox and the Yankees.
Lewis also is the answer to a pair of trivia questions regarding Ruth.
It was Lewis who pinch hit for tiring pitcher Ruth in the bottom of the seventh inning of the latter's major league debut against Cleveland on July 11, 1914. Lewis, who did not start the game because of a sore ankle, delivered the RBI single that won the game for Ruth and the Red Sox.
Lewis also pinch hit for Ruth the following season.
Moving forward to 1919, Lewis' 89 RBI was the team high for the Yankees before the Pinstripes acquired Ruth the following year.
Upon his 1921 return to the PCL, Lewis took full advantage of Salt Lake City's altitude as a member of the Bees. Batting .403 in just 105 games, Lewis did not have enough at-bats (424) to qualify for the league title, but his achievement was a sign of things to come.
Named player-manager after that first season with the Bees, Lewis batted .362, .358 and a league-high .392 (he beat teammate Lefty O'Doul by just .0002 points) the next three seasons, with home run totals of 20 (1922), 28 (1923) and 28 (1924) and respective RBI finishes of 108, 115 and 154.
Moving to Portland in 1925 -- where he had purchased shares of stock -- Lewis' average fell to .294, as the Beavers played their home games closer to sea level.
Lewis wasn't quite finished with baseball, however, as he served as player-manager of the Mobile Bears in the Southern Association and the Portland Eskimos (Maine) of the New England League over the next two seasons.
His playing days having ended, Lewis continued to manage the Portland, Maine, team -- whose nickname had become the Mariners -- in 1928 and part of 1929, then served as a Boston Braves coach for five seasons before assuming the duties of the team's traveling secretary, a position he held well into the team's Milwaukee years.
Sadly, the early years of Duffy Lewis' professional career took place in an era of spotty record-keeping, so his stats are not complete. But combining the known PCL and major league stats, we find that Lewis had 2,658 hits in 8,723 at-bats for a .305 average. He also scored 1,186 runs in that 18-season stretch.
In a 2004 column, the late Win Currier recounted a 1947 testimonial dinner honoring Lewis in Boston. St. Mary's honored Lewis by inducting him into the school's Hall of Fame in 1976. He also was posthumously honored by the Red Sox when inducted into the team's Hall of Fame in 2002.
Many facets of Duffy Lewis' life remain unknown. But when it comes to baseball, he still garners respect in many corners.
Full name: George Edward Lewis
, April 18, 1888 San Francisco
, June 17, 1979 Salem, N.H.
Major league teams: Red Sox 1910-17, Yankees 1919-20, Senators 1921
Major league statistics: 1,459 games, 5,351 at-bats, 1,518 hits, .284 average, 289 doubles, 68 triples, 38 home runs, 612 runs, 793 RBI
PCL teams: Oakland Oaks 1908-09, Salt Lake City Bees 1921-24, Portland Beavers 1925
PCL statistics: 948 games, 3,372 at-bats, 1,140 hits, .338 average, 574 runs
AlamedaGrays (California League) 1907-08, Mobile Bears (Southern Association) 1926, Portland( ) Eskimos (New England League) 1926-27 Maine
Personal: .Married Eleanor Ruth Keane on Oct. 30, 1911
Noteworthy: Played a 10-foot-high embankment in front of
's left-field wall so well that it was dubbed "Duffy's Cliff." Was one-third of Fenway Park 's "Million Dollar Outfield" with Hall of Famers Tris Speaker and Harry Hooper. Missed the Red Sox's 1918 World Series championship season while serving in military during World War I. After retiring as a player, continued as manager for the Portland Mariners ( Boston ) of the New England League in 1928 and part of 1929. Served as coach for the Boston Braves, 1931-35. Served as Braves traveling secretary, 1935-61. Maine
Did you know?: Lewis pitched in one game for the Red Sox in 1913. In a mop-up relief role, Lewis finished the game by working one inning. He faced six batters and gave up three hits and two runs -- both earned -- for an 18.00 ERA. His record, however stayed at 0-0.
What others say about Lewis:
"His crooked smile couldn't hide a nasty Irish temper."
-- author Tim Gay in "Tris Speaker: The Rough and Tumble Life of a Baseball Legend"
"There are many men who starred in the field of sports. There are many men who have had personal misfortunes, there are many men who are traveling secretaries. But there is only one Duffy Lewis. God was having a good day when He made him."
-- Dave Egan,
Daily Record columnist, 1947 Boston
"In the course of a lifetime, he has been mainly devoted to just being a good, decent, warm-hearted member of the human race. No man ever more fully deserved a testimonial than plain and modest George "Duffy" Lewis.
'25 Hornets Get Vote as the
By Win Currier
Friday, April 30, 2004 + Alternate Selection
What can be described as the "best ever" in anything is open for debate, especially when the topic is non-statistical and purely subjective.
So it is when determining the "best ever" Alameda High School baseball team.
However, over the years, the 1925 Hornet nine had been rated the very best ... at least until Chet Millett's undefeated 1942 squad came along. And, going against sentiment, here's a vote for the '25 team ... a club that was, believe it or not, even before my time.
Two of the players, Dick Bartell and Johnny Vergez, both went on to successful major league careers, primarily (but not exclusively) with the New York Giants. And the field at Lincoln Park on which Ken Arnerich's current Hornet varsity plays its league games is named in honor of Bartell.
Coach Otto Rittler took his 1923 team to San Diego, where it won the state prep championship. But it was the 1925 team that won the Northern California crown in San Jose (which was the end of the prep line that year) that earned the acclaim as best ever.
Some years ago, Alameda team captain Mel "Rubber" Martin recalled that championship game. The players traveled by private cars (and that was a fair-size trek in those pre-freeway days). He said, "Berkeley was our only real rival in the ACAL. We were losing to San Jose in the ninth, 1-0, but we got a couple of men on and Louie Martin doubled in the two runs and we ended up winning 3-1."
Pitchers on that 1925 team were Don "Scotty" Gordon, Ray Edwards, Bob Wallis and Jimmy "Slingshot" Fayen, all right-handers. Stan Caya was the catcher, backed up by Nick Carter (who later became one of the city's top players and even traveled to Japan with a primarily Japanese-American Alameda Japanese all-star team).
The first baseman was Mel Martin, (whose ability to stretch earned him the nickname "Rubber"). Bartell played second, Hughie Nielsen, a senior transfer from Fremont High, was at shortstop, Vergez at third. Utility man Joe Floyd regularly came off the bench.
Backing up Martin at first base was another sophomore, Ed Church, who later earned his own "Zee-nut" (the baseball trading card of that era) while playing for the Mission Reds of the Pacific Coast League.
In the outfield were Al Blanchard in left, Louie Martin in center and George Madera in right.
Louie Martin, arguably, is regarded as one of the "best-ever" Alameda High outfielders. Church said, "We thought Louie was the best of them all. He played center field and had a great arm. He was later signed by the Pirates.
"We thought he had the most ability, Johnny Vergez was in the middle, but there was nobody with the sheer determination of Dick Bartell.
"I remember Otto used to keep us scrubs long after practice and he'd hit ball after ball to Bartell who never seemed to get tired working to get better and better."
Church, in an interview some years ago, had lavish praise for Rittler. "We sounded like a cage full of monkeys. Otto always insisted on a lot of chatter -- he kept us alive. He loved the game and instilled the spirit that carried over with a lot of people."
The AHS gym had not been completed and the students used the gym at the First (now Twin Towers) Methodist Church. Church said, "We played maybe 20 games or so and played San Francisco teams like Mission, St. Ignatius, Sacred Heart, plus Oakland Tech, Roosevelt, Fremont, San Leandro and all.
"Otto took the teams to places like Hollister and others. The gloves barely covered the outline of our hands. He would have a lot of fund-raisers for uniforms and trips. Otto would tell us to bring our jams and jellies to the gym and we'd have jam and jelly sales."
Church pointed out Rittler's teams were big on defense and first baseman Martin's stretching was big. Martin went to camp with the St. Louis Browns and, he recalled, "They wanted to farm me out for $75 a month and make me into a third baseman. I came home." Martin later worked for many years as a parking lot attendant behind the former First Interstate Bank (now the site of a Starbucks at Park and Central).
Church played for the Mission Reds at Recreation Field in San Francisco at 14th and Valencia, joined by Alamedan "Dutch" Lieber, who later pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics. Church is often overlooked in the list of Alamedans who went to the majors. Nick Carter also went from that 1925 team to catch for the Mission Reds.
So what was the true "best ever" Hornet baseball team? This vote goes to that 1925 team, and always with the hope that the best is yet to come.
But the main thing is, those Hornets ... like thousands of other high schools across the land ... are still playing baseball, what many of us think is really the "best ever" sport.
How 'bout the '63-'64 Hornets?
The '63-'64 Hornets won the ACCAL championship back-to-back for the first time since the early 40's. The championship game in '63 at Lincoln Park against Berkeley High School was documented in the Alameda Time Star as having the biggest crowd in the history of the park (over 1000). Also, at the time, the ACCAL was noted as being the strongest league in the Bay Area.
There was no post-season NCS-type play at that time, however, the '64 team did beat the UC Berkeley's Frosh-Soph baseball team 1-0 at Lincoln Park, for Berkeley's only defeat on the year (they went 34-1 against other colleges, universities and a select few high school teams). That Cal squad had three future major league pitchers on the squad (Andy Messersmith, Bill Frost, and Rich Nye) of which the Hornets faced two that day.
On those 63-64 Hornet teams, seven went on to play at four-year colleges (two making it into their college Halls of Fame) and three signed pro contracts.
Pitchers - Rick McNamara (our ace, BYU), Dick David (signed w/Orioles),
Rich Sherratt (went on to play at CSUH)
1B - Bob Rebashatis (went on to play at UC Berkeley)
2B - Gary Nelson (went on to play at UCSB)
SS - Marty Olson (signed w/A's)
3B - Rich Sherratt (went on to play at CSUH)
LF - Doug Ladd (went on to play at CSUH)
CF - Al Baitanger (signed w/Cubs)
RF - Tom Deal (went on to play at Arizona State)
C - Ben Vanderkooi and Bill McElwain
Night - Oakland Coliseum
A's vs. Rangers - Tue, September 5
On Tue, 9/5/06, the Oakland A’s acknowledged the 2006 NCS Champion Alameda Hornet baseball team by inviting the players down on the field during the A's batting practice, followed by a baseball game, and a Jumbo-tron announcement between innings.
Hornets Let it Slide
ANG's 2006 Coach of the Year
By David Schoen
Ken Arnerich first did "The Slide" in 2001 when he was coaching a team from the Alameda Little League. Three years later, with many of those same players on the Alameda World Team he was coaching, Arnerich did it again. "We won a big game against Japan, and I came running over to the kids after the game, and they're all yelling 'Ken, slide!'" Arnerich recalled. "I just went and did a popup slide."
Two more years passed, and Arnerich hadn't even thought about "The Slide" until the Alameda High baseball team upset third-seeded Deer Valley 4-0 in the semifinals of the North Coast Section 3-A East Bay playoffs and his players were again begging for the coach to do his patented move.
Arnerich, of course, obliged and when his No. 10 Hornets knocked off Bishop O'Dowd 7-3 on June 3 to win the school's first NCS title, Arnerich slid one final time.
"The funny thing is, on Monday morning I couldn't go to work because my back was sore. My wife was telling me it was because I was sliding," Arnerich said. "It just tells you the history with me and the kids."
Arnerich, the East Bay Baseball Coach of the Year, coached the majority of Alameda's players on various teams for about eight years. And it was that familiarity that was key in the Hornets' magical postseason.
"I could make eye contact with them and just shake my wrist, and they knew to drag bunt," the fourth-year coach said. "They knew what to expect. It was like we were on the same page because they played with me for so long."
Alameda struggled to a 1-3 start as Arnerich and his staff used the non-league games to give his role players a long look and to save his pitching staff. The Hornets won 11 of their next 12 but ended the regular season on a two-game losing streak and missed a chance for the Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League title.
"I didn't have to say too much," Arnerich said. "Sometimes when you play, you just get beat. It wasn't like we were playing bad baseball."
Alameda knocked off No.7 Clayton Valley 5-3 in 10 innings to open the playoffs and despite missing two starters due to suspension, the Hornets topped No.2 Monte Vista 5-3 in the quarterfinals. Sophomore Jordan Pries then fired a five-hitter in the win over Deer Valley before Alameda (20-8) beat O'Dowd for the title.
"We got hot at the right time, and all the buttons I pushed the kids executed," Arnerich said. "We were a Cinderella story. One, I'm proud we won, but two, it was emotional for me knowing this was the last time I would have that whole group."
that's Alive and Well Alameda Keeps Producing Ballplayers
Before Monday's practice, Alameda High baseball coach Ken Arnerich gazed at Lincoln Park and started scrolling through its history.
"Dick Bartell pitched here," he said. "Frank Robinson and Curt Flood roamed this outfield, and Joe Morgan and Billy Martin fielded grounders on this infield."
Shortly after the trip down memory lane, Arnerich's team took the field with its thoughts on adding to the history of the neighborhood park in Alameda.
The 10th-seeded Hornets, who are tied with Las Lomas as the highest seed remaining in the six North Coast Section playoff brackets, might be remembered decades from now if they continue their improbable run to the school's first section title. Alameda has knocked off Bay Area giants Clayton Valley and Monte Vista, and is scheduled to play 2003 champion Deer Valley at 5 p.m. today in Antioch.
"We've been a winning group ever since Little League," said junior catcher Kenny Arnerich, the coach's son. "We're part of a city with a winning baseball tradition, and we don't want it to end."
Kenny Arnerich, along with senior center fielder Devin Grigg and senior first baseman Anthony Woodd, was part of a city-best seven district or state Little League championships. The past proved this group could win, but a 1-3 start to this season made some question the present.
"It gave us a wakeup call," senior third baseman Jeff Croft said. "We were thinking about how great this year was going to be, and then we had to come back down to earth."
The Alameda players didn't allow self-doubts to fester. After the slow start, they won 11 of 12 games and jumped to No. 8 in The Chronicle's rankings by getting back to what they do best.
They sacrifice bunted. They drag bunted. And, then, they bunted some more.
"We've been bunting since Little League," Grigg said. "We won a district championship on a two-out bunt in the bottom of the last inning."
The Hornets' confidence in playing small ball is matched only by their confidence in one another. Usually the underdog high school playoff team makes a run behind a pitcher who shuts down a couple of top-notch offenses or a hitter who gets hot at the right time.
Enter Alameda, this year's Cinderella story, and there's a new plot.
"Jeff went 4-for-4 last game," Kenny Arnerich said.
"Dev had three hits," sophomore pitcher/shortstop Jordan Pries said.
"Jordan keeps us in every game he pitches," Croft said.
"(Jeff) Murphy's been really hot," Kenny Arnerich added.
Finally, they agree.
"You can't say it's been one person or two people," Grigg said. "All year, whenever someone started to slump or didn't play up to their potential, somebody else has picked them up. That's just continued in the playoffs."
Maybe that's why Alameda has been overlooked.
"Some teams may have one or two better players than us, but we've got a better team," Croft said.
"I feel like teams have come into games against us thinking, 'After Alameda, we play this team or that team,' " Kenny Arnerich said. "I'm sorry, but we're playing the next team."
Ken Arnerich hasn't allowed his players to get ahead of themselves. With only six seniors and a strong returning group, it would be easy to chalk up this season as experience toward next year's title run.
"I've stressed that you always want to win now when you have the opportunity," he said. "You never know when you'll have the chance again."
He's told the team about his senior season in basketball, when the four juniors who started alongside him in the league championship loss didn't cry. They thought they'd be back, but they didn't make the playoffs the next year.
"Wednesday could be the seniors' last game, and we're not going to go down without a fight," Pries said. "I don't want it to be over for them, so we're playing for this year."
Croft said: "We're playing for the keys to the city."
And they're playing for their spot in Lincoln Park history.