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.
This Kingsburg native was born and raised on a ranch, but became a two-sport star for Kingsburg High and Stanford University. In 1929, the Vikings won the Fresno County football title, but lost to Bakersfield in the Valley playoffs. In the same year, Kingsburg won the County and Valley Championships. One of Anderson's teammates in football was another Hall of Fame inductee John Baker. Anderson doubled as a pitcher and outfielder in baseball for a team that defeated Delano and Merced for the Valley title. In his freshman year at Stanford, he played for future Fresno State coach Jimmy "Rabbit" Bradshaw. Anderson was a three-year starter for the Indians in baseball and football. In 1934, Anderson played on the Stanford Rose Bowl team that lost to Alabama. During the traditional battle with the University of California in 1932, Anderson got off a game record seventy-three yard punt in a scoreless tie. Anderson later coached at Mountain View High School and then became the superintendent of the Los Atos High School district.
One of the rare four-sport lettermen at Selma High School in the early 1920s, Russell earned sixteen letters and followed that up with ten letters at Fresno State. However, he is best remembered as an outstanding coach and administrator at Edison High School. Russell graduated from Selma in 1923 and played center for the Selma American Legion football team which won the state championship. In 1924, he enrolled at Fresno State and was the football team captain in 1926. Russell organized the Fresno State Varsity 'F' Society and became its first president. When he graduated in 1928, he was hired as the athletic director as well as the coach of the football, basketball, and track teams for the Edison High School Tigers. Despite a small enrollment, Russell coached the Tigers to their first Valley basketball championship in 1936. His track teams also held their own against larger schools. He organized the first city-sponsored junior high track and field meet and boxing and wrestling teams at Edison. Russell retired in 1967 after thirty-nine years as a coach and educator for Fresno City Schools.
Tom Seaver said he was more nervous when his wine-master Thomas Brown took the first swallow of vino from his Napa vineyards than he was while pitching his first World Series game. Why would a pitcher elected to Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992 with the highest-ever percentage of votes (98.8%) make a statement like that? "I was back in the rookie league," Seaver said, laughing heartily during an interview. "I explained that on the back of the bottle I wrote 'I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I did bringing it to you.'" In anything of value that Seaver does, he strives for excellence. Seaver said what he put on his bottle is similar to his description of his experience in baseball. "The Hall of Fame, Cooperstown with your family, pitching a no-hitter, winning 300 games, 3,000 strikeouts, land] winning a World Series game are all wonderful stuff and something you are proud of, but the journey is the most fulfilling thing. It's the association with the players, managers, club owners, and fans for something you wanted to do most. The art of pitching, that's the real joy. The satisfaction is understanding the beauty of your trade, I guess, is the best way I can put it. That's the most rewarding thing."
Even when he was thirty-nine, he was trying to develop another pitch that would help when his fastball had slowed. He still maintained long hours of walking, running, and even throwing in the off-season, so he would be in good shape for spring training. He never had any arm problems until he was traded to Cincinnati after eleven and a half years with the New York Mets. Seaver, who retired after the 1987 season, has cut all announcing or scouting ties with baseball to concentrate on maintaining his vineyards and enjoying his family. He does ten days of promotional work a year for the Mets. He did fly back when Shea Stadium was demolished, not that he had any emotional ties to Shea, but the emotion came from seeing many of his former teammates and people he had befriended in his years with the Mets. "I never loved Shea," Seaver said. "It was a stadium where you play baseball, football or watch the Beatles. The new one is a ball park where you go to enjoy the game of baseball; there is a big difference. I enjoyed my seasons with the White Sox and Red Sox because they played in ballparks.
The first time I went to Fenway Park in Boston, one of the classics, I was like a fan going to see a game from the seats, not the dugout. So much history. Like visiting a museum." Seaver said he was disappointed in 1983, the year the Mets did not put him on the protected list, meaning any team that had lost a premium player to free agency could choose him. The White Sox picked up Seaver that way. This was after he had spent his time with Cincinnati and come back for another season with the Mets. "I loved the Mets fans, but Chicago was a great town and we ...wife, Nancy and daughters, Sarah and Anne were on the 45th floor of a hotel overlooking a lake. It was a good family experience." It was in Chicago that magical 300th victory on August 4, 1985, beating the Yankees with a complete game. He added eleven more before he was finished.
In Cincinnati, in addition to his lone no-hitter, he also became the fifth pitcher in history to reach the 3,000 strikeout mark in 1981. He fanned another 640 batters in his final five seasons. The youngest son of the late Charlie Seaver learned from his father the importance of a strong work ethic and striving for perfection in everything that you do. His father, an outstanding amateur golfer, demanded that from himself whether he was playing championship golf or pruning the vast number of trees at his Sunnyside Country Club home in Fresno and he required the same from his children. George Thomas Seaver was the fourth and last child born to Charlie and Betty Seaver. Baseball was Tom's game at five years old. His only problem was slow growth until he entered a six-month hitch in the U.S. Marine Reserves following six months of lifting heavy sweat boxes for the Bonner Packing Company where his father was employed.
A year of tough physical labor enabled him to grow from 5'10" and 165 pounds when he graduated from Fresno High to 6'1" and 195 pounds of muscle. Seaver pitched his first no-hit, no-run game as an eleven-year-old Little Leaguer for the Fresno Rotary Club team. A year later, he was the top pitcher and hitter for the Rotary team. It was during the 11th season of his twenty-year major league career in 1978 that he threw his lone no-hitter for Cincinnati against the St. Louis Cardinals. He also had five one-hitters, losing one in extra innings. In 1979, he was 16-6 after various injuries caused a slow start. He and the Reds looked toward a big year in 1980, but he was sick during spring training. "The team was really struggling and I talked [manager] John McNamara into letting me pitch. I wasn't ready and I felt something pop in my shoulder. It was a stupid mistake on my part. It cost me nearly two months before I could pitch and I wasn't very good when I did." He was 10-8 with a 3.64 ERA, the highest of his career. Seaver had four losing seasons, but each time, his ERA indicated losing many low scoring games. In 1969, his high point in wins was 25-7, the year of the "Miracle Mets," who under manager Gil Hodges, went from the worst team in baseball to the best. They beat the powerful Baltimore Orioles in four games to one in the World Series. Seaver lost the first game, but won the fourth.
The ticker tape parade for him and his Mets teammates was the biggest in New York history to that time. More than a million people turned out to cheer their heroes. Seaver was rewarded with his first of three Cy Young awards as the best pitcher in the league. Twelve times, he was an All-Star selection. The next year was the big baseball strike. He was 7-1 when the fifty-day strike began. It was decided to divide the season similar to the minor league format. Seaver ended his twenty-year major league career with an overall 311-205 win-loss record, 3,640 strikeouts, and an ERA of 2.86.
He spent ten and a half seasons with the New York Mets, five and a half with the Cincinnati Reds, three with the Chicago White Sox, and one with the Boston Red Sox. "Tom Terrific" won the National League Rookie of the Year Award and three Cy Young Awards. He was the Mets' all-time winning pitcher and was regarded as one of the best starting pitchers in the history of baseball. In an ESPN poll of his peers, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer, Nolan Ryan, SteveCarlton, Bert Blyleven, and Don Sutton all agreed that Seaver "was the best" of their generation of pitchers. Hank Aaron, one of Seaver's idols, said Tom was the toughest pitcher he ever faced. ReggieJackson said, "Blind men come to the park just to hear him pitch." Baseball purists often compare Seaver to legendary Christy Mathewson for his combination of raw power, pinpoint control, intelligence, and intense scrutiny of his own performance as well as that of his opponents.
Following Seaver's Marine duties, he returned home and pitched one semester for Fresno City College, winning eleven games in a row and striking out record numbers under coach Len Bourdet and assistant Fred Bartels. The following year, he was recruited by USC after playing summer ball in Alaska. After a 10-2 season at USC and his second of two summer seasons with the Fairbanks Goldpanners in Alaska, he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves and signed with extra incentives and tuition to finish USC. A good deal for a twenty-one year old, but nothing went right.
The major leagues said he was not eligible to be signed, so the Braves contract was voided. When he decided to return to USC, he couldn't play because he had signed a contract even though it was deemed null. Seaver appealed to the Baseball Commissioner's office and assistant Lee McPhail for a solution. The Braves couldn't sign him for another year, but any team that agreed to match the Braves' offer could. The Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Indians, and New York Mets agreed to meet the Atlanta offer. The names were placed in a hat and baseball commissioner William Eckert drew the Mets. Seaver was elated because he figured his best chance of reaching the majors early was with the miserable Mets. He was right because he was sent to AAA Jacksonville while two other youngsters, Nolan Ryan and Jerry Koosman, were shipped to AA teams.
Seaver not only set an International League strikeout record of 188 during a 12-12 season, he also married his Fresno High school sweetheart, Nancy Lynn Mclntyre. The next year, he was with the bumbling Mets, had a 16-13 record for the last place team, notched a one-inning save in a fifteen-inning All-Star game, and was voted National League Rookie of the Year. Although only twenty-one, he became the Mets leader in the clubhouse and finally got the players to believe in themselves. The rest is history. Seaver always enjoyed hitting and was far from an easy out. He pounded twelve home runs and had a career batting average of.154. At Fresno City College, coaches Bourdet and Bartels said Seaver would ask for the keys to the equipment room and would hit for a half hour daily before practice began. "I always loved to hit," Seaver said. "You asked me what would I have done differently? First, I would like to have fifteen or twenty of those hanging sliders back. But my dream would have been to be a shortstop who could hit .320 every year. How much fun would that be?" Seaver said he had a feeling when he started a game that if his team could get one run, that would be all he needed. It was a feeling one of the great pitchers of the game had often, much to the dismay of some of the best hitters in the game.
It was a long trip from Trombetta's birth place in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1904 to Italy in 1907 and finally to Oakland in 1908. He played both football and baseball at Oakland and Stockton High Schools. Trombetta earned a Block 'S' at Stanford in football and also played baseball.
Tipping the scales at 153 pounds, he saw little football action as a backup for Stanford legend Ernie Nevers at fullback. He did participate in the 1925 and 1927 Rose Bowl Games. He graduated from Stanford in 1927 and earned his Master's degree the following year. Trombetta entered coaching in 1928 as a basketball assistant at Fresno High School. After three years at Ukiah High as head baseball and basketball coach and a single season at Stockton in the same capacity, he returned to Fresno to stay. When Leo Harris moved from Fresno High to head coach at Fresno State, Trombetta replaced him as football coach of the Warriors. His team won the Fresno County championship three years running and tied Bakersfield for the Valley crown in 1932. Trombetta also coached the track team and one of his athletes was Walter Marty, who broke the national high school high jump record and went on to break the world record at Fresno State. Bakersfield was the only team to beat his football teams and Hanford blotted an otherwise perfect record in track. In 1935, he was the first vice principal and then principal at Edison High. He also served as assistant superintendent of Fresno City Schools from 1944 to 1967. For thirty-eight years, he was part of the timer crew at the Fresno West Coast Relays. Mr. Trombetta passed away in 1983.
His nickname lets you know that Floyd Wilson wasn't very large, but his legs were like well-oiled pistons. His claim to fame at Riverdale High School was that he eclipsed Jesse Owens' high school national long jump record. From 1930 through 1935, he was one of the premier long jumpers in the state of California. Wilson first caused a stir when competing for the Class 'B' Riverdale team in a meet in Hanford when he jumped 23' 5". In the same meet, he won the 100-yard dash in 10.4 seconds and the 220 in 23.4 seconds. At the West Coast Relays, he was elevated to the varsity team and set an event high school long jump record of 23' 5 3/8". Later, he set a Fresno County record of 24.9 seconds in the 220 low hurdles. In 1931, he saved his best for the West Coast Relays where he surpassed his own record with a qualifying leap of 23' 8 1/2" and topped that in the finals at 23' 10 3/4". His performance made him the leading high school West Coast Relays points winner. In the Fresno County CIF meet, Wilson won the long jump, the 220-yard low hurdles, and the 100-yard dash. Moving to Fresno State in 1932, he established a school record of 24' 3 1/4" in Sacramento, a mark that stood for several years. At Fresno State, he won the Far Western Conference and West Coast Relays long jump events and, after graduation, rocketed 23'9" for the powerful San Francisco Olympic Club team. For many years, he officiated the long jump events at the West Coast Relays.
Charle Young, an Edison High School graduate who went on to compete for the University of California and four NFL teams, played tight end as if he had invented the position. He is among those athletes who attained a degree of excellence that vaulted him into a select class, an athlete who deserves to be considered an all-time All-American. Young was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004. What made his selection exceptional was that he was only the ninth tight end to be selected among 900-plus players and coaches honored before him.
He is a legend at Edison High where he was an all star in every sport that he played for the Tigers. He was a fearsome competitor in basketball and baseball, but on the football field, his presence had opponents shaking in their cleats. He not only had size and strength, but speed and great moves as he led the Tigers to multiple championships. After graduating from Edison, numerous colleges from coast to coast pursued him, but Young chose USC.
He was a standout on three USC teams including the memorable 1972 National Champions where Young caught sixty-two passes for 1,008 yards and ten touchdowns. In his senior year, he snagged twenty-nine passes for 470 yards and three touchdowns. An imposing physical specimen, standing 6'4" and weighing 235 pounds, he was blessed with great hands and exceptional athleticism as well as being a fierce blocker and an outstanding route runner.
Young's individual statistics were extraordinary in light of the fact that USC has always been a running team, traditionally favoring a multitude of end sweeps. For the Trojans to have thrown the ball that often to a tight end for so many yards was an exceptional tribute. Young was an All-Pac 10 Conference and All-American selection plus Lineman of the Year for the Rose Bowl Champion Trojans. He also played in the Hula Bowl.
Young's 1972 season teammates included running back Sam "Bam" Cunningham and wide receiver Lynn Swann. Remarkably, thirty-three members of the 1972 Trojan team were eventually drafted by NFL teams. A 42-17 winner over powerhouse Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, the 1972 Trojan opponent-grinder is considered one of the best collegiate football teams of the 20th century. Young was picked sixth by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1973 draft and was with them for four years. In his first pro season, he was the NFL's leading receive, earning him Rookie of the Year honors. He extended his pro career to thirteen years by performing with the L.A. Rams from 1977 to 1979, the San Francisco 49ers from 1980 to 1982, and the Seattle Seahawks from 1983 to 1985.
Selected to play in the Pro Bowl in 1973, 1974, and 1975, Young also played in two Super Bowl games: XIV in 1980 when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Rams, 31-19 and XVI in 1982 when the 49ers edged the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21 Young's best pro season was his first, catching fifty-five passes for 854 yards and six touchdowns, one of them for eighty yards. He captured the most passes of his career at sixty-three during his second season, but those 854 yards as a rookie were his highest single-season total. During his thirteen campaigns as a pro, Young wound up with 418 receptions for 4,836 yards and twenty-seven touchdowns. With his career winding down, Young was signed by the Seahawks. They wanted him to teach the players "how to win." And he did.