2003 BASEBALL TEAM INDUCTEE
1951 FRESNO STATE BASEBALL
They swung wooden bats, wore classy-looking wool uniforms, and played a few military and professional teams. Their coach, Pete Beiden, was the best teacher of baseball fundamentals that Fresno has ever seen and all the starters came from the San Joaquin Valley. The 1951 Bulldog baseball team was arguably the best in school history with a 36-4 record grounded by a pitching staff headed by the school’s inaugural First Team All-American right-hander, Don Barnett.
What that team could have done with modern weight training, aluminum bats, and superior equipment is only conjecture, but the results would have been something to behold. Their only loss was to San Diego State, who at that time was a strong California Collegiate Athletic Association rival. Fresno won the CCAA title and was given a chance to play USC in the playoffs for a trip to Omaha, but they did not accept due to a scheduling conflict. Joining Barnett, who was 11-0 with 140 strikeouts, were left-hander Jake Abbot, who was 12-2 with a 2.21 ERA, and right-hander Lawrence Bolger, who was 6-1, along with Jerry Bishop at 2-1, Tom Yost at 2-0, and freshman Truman Clevenger at 3-0.
They were assisted by a superb infield including first baseman Fred Bartels, second baseman Franny Oneto, shortstop Bob Donkersley, and catcher Don Bricker. Opponents often would stay in the dugouts, watching with awe as Fresno took their pre-game infield practice. Beiden, a master with the fungo bat, would keep two balls going at breakneck pace. Speed was the name of the game in the outfield with future Japanese major league star, Fibber Hirayama in center, flanked by Howie Zenimura in left field and Don George in right. Zenimura led all batters with a .465 batting average followed by George with .345. All three could fly around the bases and were led by Hirayama with thirty- six steals. Hirayama s three-year total was seventy-one stolen bases and, along with Donkersley and Zenimura, are still ranked in the Bulldogs top ten base stealers.
Utility players Zip Brown, Marion Stephens, and Chuck King made significant contributions as well. Bill Hansen, a former Fresno State standout first baseman, was Beiden’s assistant. This team received so much publicity for its outstanding program that the following year and in the years since, Fresno was able to play USC, California, Oregon. UCLA, Oregon State, Fullerton, Pepperdine, and Stanford.