1981 FOOTBALL INDUCTEE
Leonard “Mickey” Masini was the “dean” of the North Yosemite League coaches when he retired in 1966 after eleven years at Edison High School at the age of forty-four. Masini stayed at Edison as the athletic director until 1980. Masini was a fullback in the fabled Fresno State back field nicknamed the “Phantom Four” in 1942 on a Jimmy Bradshaw team that lost only one game and was one of the highest scoring teams in Bulldog history. Triggered by quarterback Jackie Fellows, who was named to Bill Stern’s All-American first team, Masini was flanked by halfbacks Jack Kelley and Lou Futrell. Masini also played linebacker on defense for a team that wasn’t scored on in seven of its ten Games.
As World War II was heating up, Masini and most of his teammates joined the Armed Forces. Following their discharges, Futrell transferred to USC in 1946, but Masini, Fellows, and Kelley returned to Fresno State. The glow that surrounded the 1942 team was gone; time away from the game and the aftermath of being soldiers and sailors was difficult to overcome. Bradshaw resumed his coaching job and had high hopes. Masini was a constant who had bulked up to about 230-pounds. He was a tough two-way performer and the team finished 8-4.
Masini played one year for the San Francisco backup for the great Norm Standlee and a year with the Los Angeles Dons. His urge to coach won out. He returned to school and got his teaching degree. Caruthers High School was his first coaching stop in 1951 and his team captured the league championship in 1952. Masini moved to Kingsburg in 1953 and won the Valley Championship with a team powered by the future decathlon Olympic champion Rafer Johnson and future USC All-American and All-Pro tackle Monte Clark. Clark remembers Masini as a very tough coach. “Often when he was telling us about blocking or tackling, he would put on a helmet and show us what he meant.” In 1954, Masini returned home and was an assistant for former teammate Futrell at Edison High. He took over the Tiger program in 1955. That season, the Tigers tied Madera for the NYL title and the following year, they won the title outright. Vestee Jackson powered those teams as one of the finest runners in the state.