1986 COACHING-BASEBALL INDUCTEE
It would be difficult for any high school coach to match the seven-year record that Frank “Jake” Abbott established at his alma mater, Roosevelt High School. Under Abbott, the Rough Riders won five league titles and tied twice. They were the only Fresno team to ever win the state American Legion championship. Abbott was one of a select number of Fresno State baseball players to earn a doctorate degree. Today, he lives in Walnut Creek where he has been since retiring as Superintendent of Schools at Mt. Diablo, the tenth largest district in the state.
He has also formed a company that finds superintendents for school districts, helping to place forty-one. Abbott, a lefthander with a wicked curve ball and above average velocity, was a product of the Fresno playground leagues which prepared him for a successful pitching career at Roosevelt, Fresno State, and the Brooklyn Dodgers’ California League farm team, the Santa Barbara Dodgers. He credits the teaching of baseball fundamentals by legendary Fresno State coach Pete Beiden and an incredible string of top pitchers for his stellar 171-37 record at Roosevelt. The American Legion Post 4 Championship came over a team from Southern California which sent his team to the regional finals in Bend, Oregon, where they finished second to a team from Phoenix, Arizona.
Abbot’s road to success had its usual twists and turns, starting with declining a scholarship to USC. He chose instead to stay home and accept a trip to Canada with Pete Beiden which led to his stay at Fresno State. After his sophomore season on the Bulldog varsity as one of the aces of the 36-4, 1951 Bulldogs, he signed with the Dodgers. Abbott was the California League Rookie of the Year with a 23-9 record and a league-leading 2.23 ERA.
He was drafted and sent to the army base at Fort Ord where he was a member of the Sixth Army championship team in 1954, It was at Fort Ord while pitching on a cold day that he felt a sharp pain in his left shoulder. The sore arm never went away, even after therapy from Dr. Floyd St. Claire, who had been successful in curing the sore arm of Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean. “St. Claire gave me cortisone shots and I could throw for a short time, but I had no stamina and it still hurt, “Abbott said. “I had seen too many sore-armed pitchers try to hang on, so I decided to come home and accept a coaching job at Hanford High School.” Two years later, he went to Roosevelt. “If you had good pitching. you were successful in high school” Abbott said. “That was something I learned from Pete [Beiden]. I also learned from him that discipline is important and if you are going to play the game, play it right.”
Abbott coached future major league pitchers Wade Blasingame, Dale Williams, and Roy Harris, in addition to future Fresno State aces, John Salles and Buck Hoover. When his Roosevelt players threw a golf tournament, roast, and dinner for Abbott in Fresno in July of 1981, players talked about what Abbott taught them about baseball and life. Two who were most appreciative were players he kicked off the team for breaking Abbott rules. Abbott said he had pretty high expectations for their behavior, stating, “Someone has to be in charge. whether it’s in a family. athletics, or business. I look back and I think the hardest thing I ever had to do was kick Jim Flynn off the team. But he violated a rule which I felt was pretty severe. I felt I had an obligation to the rest of the team. If it’s a rule, do I give everyone the opportunity to break it once? If they knew in advance it was a rule? So I went ahead and did it. It wasn’t easy and I lost sleep over it, but it was something I felt I had to do.”
Abbott paid tribute to the three men most influential in his life: his father, Maurice, Beiden. and his Roosevelt principal, Bob Miner. After leaving Roosevelt, Abbott was hired as principal at Clovis High School. That was the beginning of a new career for Abbott which included being principal at La Cañada High School from 1969.1971, assistant superintendent of schools at Oceanside from 1971-1974, and superintendent at Huntington Beach from 1974-1984. He later moved on to Mt. Diablo.