Frank "Husk" Chance, later called "The Peerless Leader," is one of only two Major League Baseball Hall of Fame members to come from Fresno. Chance was inducted in 1946, followed in 1992 by fellow Fresno High School graduate Tom Seaver. Chance was born on September 9, 1876 in the tiny town of Salida, outside of Modesto. A year later, his father moved the family to a ranch on the outskirts of Fresno before the city was incorporated. Chance, who was 6' and 190 pounds, was so intimidating in football at Fresno High School that people said he was tough as a corn husk.
Chance's major league career spanned seventeen seasons as a player and manager. He played in 1,223 games and had a lifetime batting average of 297. He only hit twenty home runs, but had 199 doubles and seventy-nine triples. He drove in 596 runs and scored 797 times. Chance batted .310 in four World Series including 8-19 in 1908. His stats would have been even better had he been healthy. In 1901, he was limited to sixty-nine games because of a broken wrist. In 1909, he fractured his shoulder and missed a portion of the season. Two years later, he sprained an ankle and only played thirty-one games. His success continued as a manager with his Chicago Cubs winning four pennants and two World Series titles.
Chance's parents had hoped he would follow in his father's footsteps and become a banker, but his love of baseball won. He played at every opportunity, first as a sand-lotter in Fresno, then at Fresno High, and later with several semi-pro and amateur teams. He had trouble settling on a position. Chance pitched for the Fresno Republicans, switched to catcher with the Fresno Tigers, and finally was signed professionally as a catcher in 1898 by Chicago Cubs scout Bill Lange. He then traded the catcher's mitt and outfield glove for a first baseman's mitt and stayed there the rest of his career. Chance was speedy as well as versatile, stealing a league-leading sixty-seven bases in 1903 and also was best in the league in 1906 with fifty-seven stolen bases. An excellent fielder, Chance with bandy-legged, 125-pound second baseman Johnny Evers and shortstop Joe Tinker were forever immortalized in "Baseball's Sad Lexicon" by New York Evening Mail's Franklin P. Adams: These are the saddest of all possible words: "Tinker to Evers to Chance." Trio of bear cubs and fleeter than birds, Tinker and Evers and Chance. Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble, Making a Giant hit into a double- / Words that are weighty with nothing but trouble: "Tinker to Evers to Chance."
Baltimore had offered Chance more money than Chicago to sign, but Chance felt there was better opportunity with Walt Anson's Colts as they were called because the team had only one catcher, Tim Donahue. Chance's best break came after the Cubs hired manager Frank Selee in 1903. When the team went to Santa Monica for spring training, Selee's plan was to have Chance understudy Johnny Kling, the great Cub catcher. On the way to Chicago, first baseman Bill Hanlon quit the team to go home. Selee asked Chance to take over until a suitable replacement could be found. In 1904, Selee was so enamored by Chance's play that he declared: "Frank Chance is the greatest ball player in the world. He's the best fielder, good batsman, and baseball player." Selee became ill midway in 1905 and owner Jim Hart appointed Chance manager. The Cubs were in fourth place at the time and they finished playing .667 ball for the last eight weeks and climbed to third. When the Cubs added pitchers Jack Pfiester and Visalia's Orval Overall to the roster the next year, the team won a major league record 116 games and lost only thirty-six. The Cubs finished twenty games ahead of the Giants. What Selee had said about "Husk" as a player was also true of him as a player-manager.
Somehow, Chance's 1906 team lost to the crosstown Chicago White Sox, dubbed the "Hitless Wonders," in the World Series, but the Cubs defeated Detroit for the world title in 1907 and 1908. In his prime as a manager, he was firm, but fair and would back up his words with his fists. It was said he could lick any player that he ever managed. Chance died prematurely in 1924 at the age of forty-seven.
The name, Raffaele Capabianca Giordano, would have been too much of a mouthful for boxing fans to say, so the Italian-born, Fresno-raised newsboy was dubbed Young Corbett III when he entered the ring as an amateur. Corbett is the only Fresnan to ever hold a world boxing title, winning a ten-round decision in 1933 against Jackie Fields to claim the welterweight championship in San Francisco. Sadly, 100 days later, Corbett was knocked out in the first round by tough Irishman Jimmy McLarin in Los Angeles and lost the crown. Many boxing writers blamed Corbett's manager, Ralph Manfredo, for scheduling such a tough opponent so soon after Corbett's biggest victory. In any case, it was a devastating defeat for his legion of Fresno fans. Corbett's career was meteoric from its start in 1919. In 1926, Corbett won twenty-two bouts, nine by knockouts and he was in his prime from 1929 to 1933. He lost a twelve-round decision to Sammy Baker in Brooklyn in his last fight of 1928 and didn't lose another until the McLarin fight in 1933. In twenty-nine bouts, he only had two draws.
Corbett's devastating left fist and great skill in pounding an opponent's body with saber-like blows gained him high respect in United States boxing circles. Corbett didn't have many knockouts, but usually gave a classic boxing lesson to his opponent. The McLarin loss wasn't the end of his career, but he did cut back on the number of yearly contests. In 1937, Corbett knocked out Gus Lesnevich and in the following six bouts, his only loss was to Billy Conn, whom he defeated earlier that year. Conn will forever be remembered as the man who was leading in points against Joe Louis after eleven rounds, but tried to push his luck and was knocked out by Louis in the thirteenth. Corbett won an overweight bout with middleweight champion Freddie Apostoli. He was recognized by the California Boxing Commission as "the middleweight champion," but in a rematch for the title in New York, Corbett was knocked out in the eighth round. After winning a ten-round decision over Sheik Rangel in Fresno on August 20, 1940, Corbett retired at thirty-two. In his prime, Corbett was 5'7" and weighed anywhere from 132
Won world welterweight title in 1933. 175 fights with ten losses in twenty-two years. Never lost an amateur fight. Corbett-also known as Ralph Giordano-was overwhelmingly popular with his fans. The late Billy Mahoney, a boxing historian, idolized Corbett and put together a slick- page magazine devoted to the boxer. His statistics list 175 fights for Corbett over a twenty-two year career with only ten losses and ten draws. Corbett was inducted posthumously in 2004 to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. His biography there lists different statistics, perhaps because hall officials separated the amateur fights while Mahoney listed those as professional bouts. Nevertheless, the International Boxing Hall of Fame praised Corbett as a strong fighter who sparred with and defeated some of the best in both the welterweight and middleweight class.
Corbett had his first amateur fight in Fresno at fourteen when he weighed ninety pounds. White watched the fight, gave the young boxer his new name, and was also his early manager. Corbett never lost an amateur match-up. He was only nineteen when he met fifteen-year-old Gladys Padgett at the Rainbow Ballroom. It was love at first sight and they were married three years later on January 28, 1925. Five years after his retirement, Corbett and his wife were involved in a near-fatal automobile accident. His car hit a jack-knifed truck and Corbett was catapulted through the windshield. He suffered a serious head injury and was in a coma for ten days. Gladys sustained hip and leg fractures. Both recovered, but the trauma sapped Corbett's strength. Shortly after the advent of World War I1, Corbett purchased what would become Corbett's Lounge on the corner of Broadway and Mariposa Streets. The place was a haven for young servicemen and Corbett was generous in feeding them and loaning money to some. Corbett never forgot his roots and his close-knit family. Sadly, he suffered from Alzheimer's disease in his later life and died in 1993 at eighty-eight.
How could a youngster whom the Mono Indians nicknamed "Panther Foot" evolve into a world record high jumper? First, there was coaching by Julius Trombetta at Fresno High School where Walter Marty burst onto the scene and out-classed all of the Warrior high jumpers. At that time, he was using a scissor-kick technique. Trombetta taught him the Western roll and Marty set a national inter-scholastic record of 6'4" in the Fresno West Coast Relays while competing for the Warriors in 1929. The mark stood for twenty-three years. The next step was at Fresno State College under the coaching of J. Fint Hanner. Marty easily cleared 6'4" as a freshman. By 1954, Marty set a world outdoor record of 6'8"" to erase a nine-year standard set by H.M. Osborn of Illinois. Again at the WCR, Marty upped the standard to 6'9" with a 6'9" jump disallowed in a Fresno State dual meet because no AAU officials were present.
Marty broke the indoor record that same year, clearing 6'8". He won the NCAA high jump title and tied for first in the AAU meet with a high school boy named Cornelius Johnson. Before Marty graduated from Fresno State. Johnson had eclipsed his high school and world records. Marty's son, Ryan, shared something that he had never seen printed: "Dad was through [with] jumping before I was born, but he told me a story which he felt was the key to his world record jumps," Ryan said. "Dad was a great hunter and fisherman and he got his nickname because he moved so quietly in the woods. One day, he was deer hunting and spotted this big buck. He knew the path the deer was on, so he ran around a boulder and was almost set when the buck jumped right over the top of him. He watched in awe and when the buck was at his highest, he arched his back in midair and went even higher. Dad said he incorporated that extra push into his Western roll." Ryan Marty, an outstanding photographer at the Fresno Bee, said his father was born in North Fork, but the family moved to the settlement of Hilldreth, a mining town close to O'Neal's on the Ryan Ranch. Marty's family said Walter never came to a fence that he didn't jump over. During the annual Hildreth rodeo, Walter would jump over two parked cars. He also ran up and down the hills around his home and developed powerful legs and speed. Ryan was an eyewitness to Walter's strength and sure- footedness. "My dad would jump across these big boulders with crevasses with fifteen to twenty foot drops into a creek if he missed. He would tell me to run and jump as far as I could and he would snatch me out of the air. I was pretty young then and very scared. I just knew he would miss me one time and that would be it, but he never did. He was agile as a cat. Finally, when I was sixteen or seventeen, we were crossing a river and he told me to run and jump. I told him I was too big now. Sure enough I jumped, he caught me, and we both went into the river. We lost some of our fishing lures which we recovered by diving for them. We both laughed hard [about] that one."
Classmate Kermit Koontz said that he and Walter worked for Blosser's Sporting Goods Store in the off-season. "The store would get some new fishing rods and, when business was slow, Walter would go out in the parking lot and start seeing how far he could cast. He always drew a crowd," Koontz said. "I recall him telling me about fishing in the river and he was looking for a rock to jump to. He found one and jumped nearly twenty feet. He landed on the rock with his fishing rod, but then was stranded and almost drowned getting back to shore." When Walter was in his late seventies and early eighties, he would come to Ryan's fish operation and be out in the water in his hip boots with a net helping with the harvest of small and large fish. "He was an incredible shot and an amazing fisherman," Ryan said. "That's where I got my training and I couldn't have had a better teacher.
"I've always thought that his life story would have been a great movie." Legendary University of California track coach Brutus Hamilton and Finnish mathematicians concluded after a long study, "Neither Marty nor any other human being would jump seven feet; it was impossible."Hanner said he thought chances were remote unless a new technique was devised. Six years later, the belly roll was introduced and jumpers could lead with their head. It was still twenty years before someone topped that magic mark. Hanner had no doubt that with the belly roll, Marty would have been the first seven-footer. As it was, Marty was the greatest high jumper in Bulldog history. Just as Dutch Warmerdam made history with a bamboo pole, Marty is the only Fresno State jumper with a world record.
Leslie Allan Richter holds the distinction of being the only professional football player to ever be traded for an entire eleven-man team. With today's inflated salaries and signing bonuses for rookies, it will never happen again. His roots were in Fresno where he was an All-Valley blocking back and linebacker at Fresno High School in the 1940s. Richter was a top recruit for storied Cal coach Lynn O. "Pappy" Waldorf, earning All-American honors three times, playing in three Rose Bowls, and winning three conference championships. He also competed in rugby at Cal which was good conditioning for football and allowed him to pummel opponents wearing little protective equipment.
After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in 1952, Richter was the number one draft choice of the New York Yankees football team. Before he could report, seventeen Texans purchased the Yankee franchise for $170,000. They immediately moved the team to Dallas, becoming the Dallas Texans. Dallas needed players and didn't want to pay Richter his asking price, so they arranged a blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Rams. Dallas received six current Rams and five more acquired on draft choices in exchange for the 6'2", 240-pound Richter. During the trade announcement at a lavish news conference, the Rams presented Richter with a $7,500 contract and a $500 bonus. "I just asked one question," Richter said in a 2006 interview at his Riverside home. "Where's the pen?"
No negotiations, no agent, but a satisfied player. However, Richter's National Football League debut was sidetracked for two years while he served in the Army during the Korean conflict. Meanwhile, any time that the Rams were not doing well during those two years, the Los Angeles media wrote stories about this "Mystical Superman Richter" and gave their readers a countdown on when he would join the team. That day came in 1954. Richter recalled that he received a "cold, very cold'" reception from the veteran Rams players. It took a couple of All-Pro years before he was fully accepted, but he enjoyed nine seasons with the Rams with seven as a Pro Bowl pick and became one of Ye Olde Rams Club's most popular players. He played 112 games which is the most in Los Angeles Rams history. "I thoroughly enjoyed my nine years with the Rams," Richter said. "We had a lot of fun, which I feel is missing today." Richter gained the most notoriety as a linebacker, but he also played offensive center or guard, kicked off, and was an outstanding place- and field-goal kicker. He played hard and his body took a beating.
A Los Angeles Times column by the late Jim Murray written before Richter's last game with three-time All-American at Cal Berkeley New York Yankees football team's #1 draft pick Seven-time Pro-Bowler for L.A. Rams Played 112 games, a Rams record the Rams in 1962 revealed that Richter had a list of injuries that would have caused most players to retire early."...His nose was broken five times, he had a twisted ankle, two broken fingers, cartilage problems in both knees, and 123 stitches," Murray wrote. "Once, he showed up in Philadelphia on crutches and forty minutes later kicked the winning field goal. He received seventeen stitches from a hit by Don Joyce of the Chicago Bears and John Henry Johnson ripped open the side of Richter's face." Actually, the Joyce hit was after the Bears end had been blocked twice by Richter on the same kickoff. Joyce tore off Richter's plastic face mask and helmet and hit him in the eye with his fist.
Richter was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, the NFL Hall of Fame, and was among the first six named to the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame in 1959. When Richter's playing days ended in 1962, he turned down pressure from alumni and friends to coach at Cal. Instead, Richter, his former Berkeley teammate Bob Karpe, and University of Southern California's Frank Gifford formed a real estate firm. They called it CALSC after their alma maters. Richter also plunged into the sport of auto racing and spent a couple of years in Daytona, Florida to learn all that he could. He returned to California and was president of the Riverside International Raceway and later Director of Racing for twenty-one years.
Never one to do anything halfway, Richter brought enthusiasm, vision, and new ideas to transform Riverside Raceway from a 2.65-mile road course negotiated on 600 acres of weeds and rolling terrain, portable bleachers, and no communication system to one of the premier California auto racing facilities with 20,000 seats, a refurbished track, and plush offices. Richter was as smart about racing as he was tough in football. Through the years, he consulted with some of the greatest minds in auto racing management. Richter devised a checklist of "things to do" and it still is a standard guideline used in many tracks throughout the nation. Richter got to know all of the NASCAR racing legends and second generation drivers. He once said he could attend a race somewhere every weekend. For a guy who never drove a race car in competition, he was held in high esteem in the auto racing world by drivers. car owners, and track employees. Karpe said of Richter: "Les was a tremendous competitor in anything he did. He simply worked harder than anyone in practice. It was the same with the race business."Les Richter passed away on June 12, 2010 at the age of seventy-nine."
Billy Vukovich Sr., a child of the Great Depression who helped his mother and siblings after his father died, grew up to be one of the most fearless and talented drivers to ever conquer the famed Indianapolis 500 Brickyard. Although the media called Vukovich the "Mad Russian" which he despised, he was Yugoslavian and certainly not mad. Born in Oakland and raised in Fresno, Vukovich won back-to-back Indianapolis 500 races when it was the premier auto racing event in the world. He was the first of three generations to race the Indy 500. Vukovich was killed in 1955 at thirty-six, trying for a record three Indy wins in a row. He had lapped all but six cars, but was forced to swerve to avoid an accident. He was hit by another car and killed when his car nearly vaulted over a wall. It tumbled onto a service road and burst into flames. Investigators concluded that he was likely to have died before the fire.
Vukovich was the third of eight children born to immigrants John and Mildred Vukovich, who came to the United States in 1909 from Yugoslavia. After a short stay in Leeds, South Dakota, the couple settled in Oakland, then Kerman in 1920. The family rented a farm in Sanger and John's dream was to own property, but his ambition was thwarted by the Great Depression. His father died when Bill was fourteen and he and brother, Eli, were forced to provide for their sisters and mother. Bill had to drop out of school. He spent long hours working in the fields just to make ends meet. Hard times drove Bill to make something of himself. He cared for his mother until she died in 1939. Oldest brother Mike was the first of the three brothers to try auto racing. Billy Vukovich took to the track as a teenager and became the king of midget racing when the sport was drawing capacity crowds everywhere in the mid-1940s. Fresno Airport speedway attracted crowds of 18,000 to watch their hometown hero in 1945 in the first post-war race. Vukie won the feature and was the toast of Fresno. Many future Indy winners like Troy Ruttman, Johnny Parsons, Jim Rathmann, Ed Haddad, and Pat Flarety were midget drivers in California.
After making what was big money in those days on the midget circuits, Vukovich resisted the chance to go east and try the big cars in the AAA competition, but by 1949, the racing craze diminished with the advent of television. The first time that he saw the Indianapolis Speedway, he was awed. The first time he tried it, he knew it was made for him. He failed to qualify on his initial attempt and his car quit after twenty-nine laps during the race in 1951, but he was so impressive that Jim Travers, Frank Coon, and Stu Hilborn asked him to join the Keck team. The rest is history. He headed for his first Indy 500 win in 1952 when a small timing pin broke, sending him into a wall with eight laps to go. In 1953, Vukovich turned in arguably the greatest performance in Indianapolis 500 history. The temperature at race time was ninety degrees with equal humidity. The track temperature soared to 130 degrees. Author Bill Gates wrote in his book, Vukovich, that only five drivers completed the entire 500 miles. At the halfway point, fourteen drivers out of twenty-three were left or had changed drivers and, in some cases, it took three drivers to finish. One driver died of heat exhaustion as did a spectator and nearly 100 others had to be hospitalized. Vukovich, who had won the pole, led for 195 of the 200 laps. He broke every speedway record from one mile to 425 miles. Only a brief period of yellow lights prevented him from setting a 500-mile record.
Vukovich's childhood of harvesting various crops under the blazing San Joaquin Valley sun had served him well. Still, he lost eight pounds from his slender frame during the race and had to be helped out of his helmet after crossing the finish line. He collapsed in a chair covered with sweat and oil. Vukovich was called the "Heartbreak Kid" in 1952, but a year later, he became known as "Indy's Iron Man." The Howard Keck-owned "Fuel Injection Special" was designed by master mechanics Travers and Coon and ran to perfection. Their choreographed pit erew work set a new standard. The car was fueled and had four tires changed in forty-eight seconds on its first pit stop with all three stops consuming little more than two minutes. At each stop, Vukovich took two cups of water, drinking one and pouring the other down his back. After the first turn, Vukovich had a seven-car lead. He won by eight laps. Despite the heat, it was Vukovich's most dominating performance.
In 1954, everything that could go wrong did for the aging "Fuel Injection Special." It was nip and tuck as to whether Vukovich would make the race field. Loss of power caused Coon and Travers many sleepless nights. The team missed the opening weekend, so Vukovich had no chance of being amongst the first ten cars. He qualified after a piston problem was solved and a cracked block replaced, but had to start in the seventh row and 19th position. Coon and Travers still weren't satisfied, but Vukovich assured them the car was fit and he could win even from the 19th position. Just a day before the race, Coon, who Travers called the best engine man ever, hand-tooled some grooves in each piston and that was the final change that counted. Vukovich stumped the experts. His close friend, Jack McGrath, had shattered the qualifying records and won the pole, but Vukovich told one writer, "I didn't come here to lose. I came to win. I wouldn't take second place money now if they offered it to me." Vukie wasn't saying that in a boastful manner; he was just confident in his car, his crew, and himself.
When the race started, Vukovich passed eight cars in the first two laps. Just before the halfway point, Vukovich caught leader McGrath and passed him on turn four, for his second pit stop, he was never out of first place. He finished a full lap ahead of runner-up Billy Bryan. In 600 laps in three 500s, Vukovich had led 435 of them. In 1955, Vukovich was forced to change owners when Keck determined that the new car that Travers and Coon were putting together would not be ready. So Vukie signed with Florida millionaire Lindsay Hopkins with the stipulation that Travers and Coon would come with him. Hopkins readily agreed. Vukovich was killed in the Hopkins car. His grandson, Rick Vukovich Amabile, recounted in the movie, Vukovich Home Racing Movies, Etc., that Travers had said that Vukovich was in a different mood before the start of the 1955 race. "Usually, Billy was anxious to get started, but this time, he just sat in his car with his head down. Perhaps he had a premonition of what was to come," Travers said.
Vukovich, who had married Esther Schmid in 1940, had a daughter, Marlene, and son, Bill Jr. who went on to compete in the Indy 500. Bill Jr.'s son, Bill III, was a promising driver when he was killed on the race track at twenty-seven. Amabile said hardly a day passes that someone doesn't call and wants to take a picture of the Vukovich house. His legacy is still remembered by many racing fans around the world even after more than fifty years.
Cornelius "Dutch" Warmerdam was one of the most humble, self-effacing athletic greats that anyone could ever meet. His close friend, Payton Jordan, who was a top sprinter at USC and later an outstanding track and field coach at Stanford University, made this statement: "Dutch was the truest and purest champion I have ever met." Whether he was on a ladder in his First Street peach orchard or in a jam-packed indoor meet in Madison Square Garden, he was just "Dutch." Warmerdam was born in Long Beach, but the family moved to a farm outside of Hanford when he was three. His father, a farmer born in Rotterdam, could never figure out how his son's picture was in all the papers, yet he wasn't making any money. "Yes, some of the athletes were making extra money at the time, but I never got more than expenses and sometimes not enough to cover those," Warmerdam said during an interview on the occasion of his retirement from coaching in 1980.
Warmerdam graduated from Fresno State in 1938 and joined the San Francisco Olympic Club coached by Charley Hunter while taking post-graduate work at Stanford. Hunter had put together one of the greatest track and field teams ever and freely predicted that Warmerdam would top fifteen feet. Much was written about Warmerdam, George Varofi, and USC's "Heavenly Twins" Bill Sefton and Earle Meadows as they inched toward the magical fifteen-foot mark. In contrast to today's fiberglass poles, they used bamboo poles which had little bend to them and relied on timing, arm pull, and technique. Vaulters landed on unforgiving sawdust or sand, not today's inflated foam rubber pillows. Meadows held the world record of 14'1l" when Warmerdam made his historic fifteen-footer on April 13, 1940 during a three-way meet in Berkeley. His highest vault prior to the record was 14'7" Warmerdam made eleven vaults in Berkeley. He missed the first three tries at 14'5", 14'8" and 15", but sailed over on his second attempt at all three. That record was headline news in America and Europe.
Writers searched for nicknames, calling him "The Flying Dutchman," "The Human Fly," "American Eagle." "Corny," and Connie." Forty-three times, Warmerdam vaulted fifteen-feet-plus during a period from 1940 to 1943 before he retired to become a coach. It was fifteen years later that Bob Gutowski of Occidental, used a steel pole and topped Warmerdam's 15'7" outdoor record by clearing 15'8". In typical Warmerdam fashion, he greeted the news of Gutowski's vault from his tractor while plowing his peach orchard. He had his wife, Juanita, relay his response: "It couldn't happen to a nicer fellow and I am not surprised." Later he added: "Fifteen years is long enough for anyone. I enjoyed my position and now it is someone else's turn." Some might think from his easygoing personality that Warmerdam was not a strong competitor, but he was always at his best when the pressure was on. There was immense pressure when he went east for the first time after his record vault because people were skeptical of anyone from California. Perhaps the biggest obstacle was that Warmerdam had no rivals to push him, so he had to provide his own motivation. That's where the competitive spirit shined brightly.
Warmerdam said he used just two poles in making forty-two of his fifteen-foot-plus vaults. The first was one that he found in the discard pile at Stanford. That pole had a weak spot, but Warmerdam knew where it was and was able to compensate for it. His next pole was one given to him by San Jose State vaulter Tony Sunseri. It was too heavy for Sunseri, but just right for Warmerdam. Another record vault was with a pole borrowed from Milton Padway during the Millrose Games in Madison Square Garden in New York. Transporting vaulting poles was always a problem," Warmerdam said. "The time I borrowed Padway's pole, mine arrived by rail late. Airplanes did not like to transport poles because they didn't fit in the baggage compartments and even when they did, most taxis wouldn't take them, so I had to hire a delivery truck." Padway's pole was six inches shorter than Warmerdam's, but he still managed to make 15'3/4", satisfying himself and the East Coast crowd.
Two of Warmerdam's fifteen foot vaults came during the 1942 and 1943 West Coast Relays in Ratcliffe Stadium. He topped 15'2" in the first and 15'1/2" in the second. During his reign, Dutch bettered fifteen feet twice in 1940, ten times in 1941, fourteen in 1942, sixteen in 1943 and once in 1944. His forty-three fifteen-foot-plus vaults were accomplished in thirty-three meets where he bettered his own outdoor records thirty-one times. His final ten were while he was stationed at the U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School. Warmerdam won the James E. Sullivan Award in 1942 before he enlisted in the Navy after placing second for the Sullivan in 1941. This award is given to the top amateur athlete in any sport who typifies the excellence in performance and sportsmanship in the United States. He was voted the Greatest Field Athlete of All Time in a 1955 UPI poll and was in the first group elected into both the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame and the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. He was also ushered into the U.S. Track Coaches Hall of Fame.
The Fresno State campus track was named after him. On 24 Cornelius "Dutch" Warmerdam September 13, 2001, Hanford dedicated "Dutch Warmerdam Drive," located on the north side of Hanford's library. With all of his honors, he never made it to the Olympic Games. His best chance was in 1936, but an abscessed tooth caused his ankle to swell and he couldn't participate in the trials. That year, he vaulted 14'4" at Fresno State and the gold was won by Meadows at 14'3". When Warmerdam ruled the world of vaulting from 1940 to 1944, World War II cancelled the Olympics. Warmerdam set his outdoor record of 15'7 3/4" in Modesto and his indoor mark of 15'8 1/2" in the Chicago Relays on his 33d record vault. Following his discharge from the Navy, he began coaching which disqualified him from the Olympics.
Warmerdam twice narrowly missed sixteen feet in Philadelphia. He brushed the bar once with his hand and another time with his elbow. At forty-three, he used a bamboo pole to top 14'4" just to show he still could do it. Without even telling his assistant Red Estes, Warmerdam, who was sixty, entered a Masters Division Decathlon at Glendale College and not only won, but set a Masters world record of 4,328 points as well as set global marks in three individual events. His poorest event was the pole vault. He could not get his timing on the fast Glendale runway. Estes said: "Dutch had trained for six months before or after practice and surprised everyone with his performance. That was his only meet after sixty, but was a tribute to his physical condition and determination." When Payton Jordan presented Dutch his silver tray for being inducted into the Northern California Hall of Fame, he gave his friend high praise: "Dutch undoubtedly was one of the greatest athletes in history, but more than that he was a humble, gracious man who exemplified everything good about athletics. He competed any place and under any conditions with never an alibi or complaint. No finer gentleman has ever competed."
Warmerdam began coaching at his alma mater in 1947 as assistant to J. Flint Hanner and became head coach of the Bulldogs when Flint retired in 1961. He tutored several NCAA champions. One of his finest coaching assignments was head coach of the American team in the 1967 Pan American Games in Winnipeg. Warmerdam made two trips overseas and always was the headliner, even though he was in meets where there were a number of world record holders and Olympic champions. Dutch was a handsome man with a ready smile and a good sense of humor. He was a good golfer, hunter and an excellent husband, father to his five children, and grandfather to his twenty grandchildren. Dutch Warmerdam passed away on November 13, 2001 in Fresno."I doubt that the achievements of any other man in the entire history of American athletics has ever had so great an effect, not only upon American sports but on the minds of American people, as those of Warmerdam from the day in Berkeley when he first vaulted to the supposedly impossible 15 feet. He did it in such a way as to prove that all previous ideas had been pure fallacy. And if the ideas about the pole vault had been completely wrong, then why weren't they equally wrong in other events? And if they were wrong all through track and field, maybe they were wrong in all kinds of business. Who can ever begin to measure the extent to which his example has influenced the thinking of American men?" -Dink Templeton, Stanford University Track & Field Coach