March 31, 1983 was a special day for Fresno, her basketball fans, and the San Joaquin Valley. The Fresno State basketball Bulldogs were coming home to celebrate their incredible victory over the DePaul University Blue Demons for the National Invitational Tournament championship at Madison Square Garden in New York City. There was a wonderful feeling in the air as Boyd Grant's Bulldogs, who had entered the famous tournament as underdogs, went all the way to the top by beating five teams in the 43rd annual NIT. Many people came out to the airport or waved in the streets as the happy players and coaches rode on fire engines and vehicles that were brought to the FSU campus field for the party. It was a very large, vocal, and happy contingent of fans and friends in perhaps the finest moment ever for the famous Red Wave. "It was great to win the NIT!" Coach Grant told the crowd, "This has unified the Valley, the state, and the university. We all care and we all share."
The Bulldog team had ended the regular season with a heartbreaking loss on a last second basket in overtime to UNLV in the PCAA Conference Tournament championship game. The Dogs had won seven straight to end the season with a 20-10 record. The Bulldogs definitely had a great challenge in the NIT with the likes of Arizona State, LSU, Michigan State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, TCU, Wake Forest, Oregon State, and DePaul among others in the forty-team field. In round one, the first game for the Dogs was at "Grant's Tomb" in Selland Arena in front of a packed house of Red Wavers. Desi Barmore led the Dogs to a 71-64 victory over the Don Haskins-coached UTEP Miners. Barmore scored twenty points including going 10-10 from the free throw line. The Red Wave gave the team a great send-off as the Bulldogs were going to be on the road to wherever destiny would take them. As it turned out, it was a long road.
In round two, the NIT Sweet Sixteen, the next game was in East Lansing, Michigan where the Bulldogs took on the Michigan State Spartans, a team that had three future NBA stars in their starting five, Kevin Willis, Scott Skiles, and Sam Vincent. The Dogs stunned the Spartan crowd with a 72-58 blowout. Again, Desi Barmore led the way with sixteen points and fourteen rebounds.
In round three, the NIT Elite Eight, the road game would be at one of the toughest places to win in the country, Gill Coliseum on the campus of Oregon State University in Corvallis. It's where basketball Hall of Famer and Oregon State coach Ralph Miller led the Beavers to eleven NCAA/NIT post-season tournaments. The high-spirited fans made it difficult on visitors, but this time, the Bulldogs would send them home quietly after the Beavers came up short to the Dogs, 76-67. The "Bookend Forwards" of Fresno State, Bernard Thompson and Ron Anderson, combined for forty-eight points as the Dogs did what very few have ever done, beat the Beavers twice in one season in Corvallis.
For the NIT Final Four, the Bulldogs were off to Madison Square Garden in New York City. The team had to face a very powerful Wake Forest squad that had lost to the eventual NCAA champions, North Carolina State in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in overtime, 71-70. The Dogs came away with a shocking 86-62 victory in which they shot an amazing sixty-seven percent from the field, led by Ron Anderson's twenty-four points. They out-rebounded the bigger Demon Deacons, 36-22, and all but six of their field goals came via assists. Tyrone Bradley had twelve assists in the game. With this huge victory, the country was certainly falling in love with this upstart team from Fresno State. Was it a fluke? No way, said North Carolina legendary coach Dean Smith. After he saw how the Bulldogs handled Wake Forest, Coach Smith said, "Fresno State should have been in the NCAA tournament. There is no doubt about that. Those Bulldogs are for real."
In the NIT championship final, the Dogs faced the most successful active coach in college basketball, Ray Meyer and the DePaul University Blue Demons. The game did not disappoint the national audience that saw the battle. A unique twist added to the game was that many of the players from both DePaul and Fresno State were from the Chicago area. Fresno State 's outstanding point guard, Tyrone Bradley, upped the ante by proclaiming the game was also going to be, "for the bragging rights of the Windy City." Bernard Thompson chipped in with twenty-two points and put the Dogs ahead to stay with a great three-point play off of a Bradley assist as Tyrone broke the Blue Demons full-court pressure. Ron Anderson had fourteen points, but the main factor was a disciplined team defense that held the mighty Blue Demons to sixty points.
Bermard Thompson and Tyrone Bradley were named to the All-Tournament team while Ron Anderson was honored as the MVP. After the game, Boyd Grant said, "We had the lead and we were able to get into our control game. Then we won it at the foul line". There are many thousands of grateful fans that came out to give heartfelt thanks to their heroes, the great team, the coaches, the pep and cheer squads and the Fresno State Tamily.
Looking back, Boyd Grant said, "They were so great to coach because they took instruction and they never criticized each other... They loved each other and that's why they won the NIT because they cared for each other and they were the best team that ever played at Fresno State."
Stephen Abas was the smallest athlete in Fresno State history to find success on both the collegiate and international stages. Wrestling at 125 pounds as a collegian and 121 to 125 pounds in freestyle Olympic and World competition, the three-time state champion and high school standout compiled eye-popping records at every level. Winning a silver medal in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece after suffering an injury in the first match was the ultimate moment, but three NCAA championships, three World Cups, and a Pan American title were close seconds. No one can question that Abas was the greatest Bulldog wrestler ever. While he had his choice of schools, he came to Fresno State because he wanted to follow his older brother, Gerry, who was a four-time All-American and an assistant coach at the school.
Abas finished fourth in the state again in his freshman year at California's James Logan High School and won multiple titles at Logan and Canyon Springs High Schools. He also was a three-time Junior National team member and won the 1996 ASICS Junior National Freestyle Championships. Abas holds the national season prep takedown record at 406 and the national career takedown mark of 1,246.
His high school record was 190-10 with most of the losses coming in his freshman season. Fresno State coach Dennis DeLiddo knew he had something special when Abas enrolled. "I knew he had a great work ethic, tremendous skills, and was highly competitive," DeLiddo said. "Of the mat, he was just a typical California kid.
One incredible thing about his Fresno State career: he never had an injury bad enough to miss a single match." On the night of his induction into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame, Abas was asked to name a couple of memorable moments in his amazing career. "I liked that picture [part of the multimedia slide show] where I had yellow hair with blood on my face after winning a World title," Abas said. "I had my family there to support me." What did DeLiddo think about the yellow hair? Abas grinned, "He told me to get rid of it and also my carrings."
Abas also praised his mother for all the miles she drove to take him to little tournaments in the state and even out of state during his formative years. Abas only lost one match during his final three seasons with the Bulldogs. His career totals of 144-4 included forty major decisions, thirty-three technical falls, and thirty-two pins. His one loss was to Eric Guererro of Oklahoma State, a three-time national champion, on a 4-3 decision.
Abas was included with fourteen other collegiate wrestlers on the 2004 NCAA's 75h Anniversary Wrestling team. In 2000, Abas took a year off from Fresno State to attempt to win a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, but lost in the finale of the Trials. He corrected that mishap in 2004. In Athens, he showed competitive spirit by fighting off a knee injury in his first match and battling his way to the finals where he lost to a Russian that he had beaten earlier. His opponent was a two-time Olympic champion, but the silver medal was a nice consolation prize. Four years later, Abas lost to Henry Cejudo in a best-of-three face-off at the U.S.
Terials and retired from competition. Abas remained active in the sport, coaching Poway High School in San Diego to a state title. He is also recognized for his wrestling camps and hopes eventually to have a wrestling school for young men.
Talk about a diamond in the rough; Ron Anderson was a find for sure. In the early 1980s while Frank Carbajal was head basketball coach at Santa Barbara City College, he was told by one of his players about a kid in Chicago who was a playground legend of sorts. That young man was Ron Anderson, who was from Cabrini Greens, one of the toughest areas in all of Chicago. At twenty- one, he had never participated in organized basketball. Coach Carbajal wondered if the kid would be able to play under control given his lack of experience indoors. After meeting with Anderson, the coach decided to give him a shot. Coming into Santa Barbara Community College's gym the first time, Anderson stood at 6'7" and weighed in at 165 pounds. Carbajal taught Ron a drill which was confusing to the "youngster. Having to take a phone call, Carbajal was gone for over an hour and when he got back, the kid was still working on the drill, trying to get it right. At that point, the coach knew that he had a player that he could work with. "He was pretty raw and he was the worst player we had in late August, but he was a hustler which earned him a starting spot. He was the best player in our league by November and the best in the state by the season's end," remembers Frank Carbajal. Post- Santa Barbara, Anderson was recruited by many schools, but chose Fresno State because of Ron Adams, an assistant coach and recruiter under Boyd Grant. Coaches Adams and Carbajal had worked together at FSU and they thought Anderson would be a great fit for the Bulldogs.
The Fresno State Bulldogs basketball team was on the move in 1982 when Anderson joined the "Grant Era" ranks. In his two seasons at the school, Ron was a two-time All- PCAA performer while leading the Bulldogs to championships. This included the school's first Division I National Championship title at the 1983 National Invitational Tournament (NIT). On that team, Ron hooked up with Bernard Thompson and the two became known as the "Bookend Forwards. That helped the Dogs knock off UTEP, Michigan State, Oregon State, Wake Forest, and DePaul to take the NIT crown while accumulating many fans across the country. Ron Anderson was named MVP of that 46th annual NIT. In 1984, Anderson was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the NBA Draft as the 27th pick overall. At twenty-six, Ron was the oldest rookie in the NBA draft. That fact did not stop him from playing ten years in the league. He had stints with the Cavs, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, and the Washington Bullets. He scored 7,056 points while grabbing 2,312 rebounds, and handing out 952 assists during his career. His best NBA years were with the 76ers, averaging in double figures in scoring in four out of his five seasons.
After the NBA, Ron competed for another seven years in professional basketball overseas for such teams as Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Mont LeMans, Angers, and others. At fifty-one in 2009, Ron was living in France and playing ball for La Seguiniere in the French National 3 Amateur League. "I really can't explain it," Ron told Matt James of The Fresno Bee, "I think it's very, very exceptional. Basketball is in my blood. You can't imagine how much I love it."
Veteran Fresno State coach Margie Wright summed up her description of Bulldog outfielder Laura Berg in a few words: "The best woman outfielder ever." Wright's statement carries weight since she is the most successful coach in NCAA Womens' Fast Pitch division. Internationally, she has seen the best from all over the world, but far more than Wright's words are the records that Berg set at every level of collegiate and international play, some of which will be difficult or impossible to eclipse.
Wright had watched Berg's steady progress at Santa Fe High School in California where she earned eleven varsity letters, four each in softball and basketball and three in volleyball. She was a four-time league MVP in softball. "I was just amazed at how she could run, throw, and hit," recalled Wright. "I also recruited her twin sister, Randi." Berg is the most lauded athlete -male or female-in Fresno State history, the most decorated Olympic softball player from any country, and a four-time All-American Bulldog who virtually rewrote the school record book.
Berg played in four Olympic Games the only softball player ever to do so-and has three gold medals and one silver to show for it. Just being selected to try out for the U.S. team is an honor, but making the team all four times makes her unique. "I was a twenty-one year old rookie for my first Olympics and sixteen years later, they called me Grandma," Berg said. "It was a bitter pill when we failed to win all four. Nothing can top the feeling of standing on the podium and seeing your flag raised above the rest.”When the spotlight was on Atlanta in 1996, Berg singled in the third inning of a scoreless championship game against China and teammate Dot Richardson hit a home run for a key 5-1 VIctory. During the Atlanta Games, Berg averaged .273 which was fourth best on the team. One of her fondest memories was in the 1996 Games when she ran in from center field after Lisa Fernandez ended the gold medal game with a strikeout.
Flashbulbs were popping all over the field and the pile of celebrating players was already tipping over. In Sydney, Australia in the eighth inning of the title game with Japan, Berg hit a long fly ball that Shiori Koseki gloved hut dropped, enabling pinch-runner Jennifer McFalls to score the Winning run. In Athens in 2004, she was the starter in eight of nine games and hit .368 while playing errorless ball in center field. Berg also played on four World Championship teams, three Pan American gold medal winners, and two World Cup championship teams. In the 2007 Worlds, she was given the honor or carrying the flag for her country at the closing ceremonies. The team visited the White House after the 2008 Olympic victory in Beijing, China and Berg presented President George W. Bush with a #1 jersey and slapped a chalk-laden handprint on the back of his dark coat. This was not unusual for a woman who loved to play pranks on her teammates and even on Coach Wright. Berg's statistics at Fresno State were unreal. She was the only player in Fresno State history to have three consecutive 100-hit seasons.
Berg ended her collegiate career second on the NCAA career list with 396 hits. Leading off for four years at Fresno State, her career average was .414 and she was fifth in games played, first in triples, second in total bases, first in hits, first in runs, second in stolen bases, fourth in slugging percentage, and first in hit by pitches. Berg's single season best batting average was 458 which is third best. "Laura was a real nice person, the ultimate team player, and a leader," Hall of Fame softball player Jeanne Contel said. "She was always upbeat and a very exciting player to watch. She was the best center fielder I ever saw." Laura's goal was to be a member of the Los Angeles Police Department and to serve her community.
When Trent Dilfer first came to Fresno State University in 1990, some people who saw him thought that the 6'4", 237-pound athlete was recruited as a linebacker or tight end. Quite a few teams did scout him with the idea that the big kid from Aptos High School could fill one of those positions. While visiting the multi-sport, prized athlete, Bulldog assistant coach Rich Olsen watched Trent display his agility and strength while scoring forty points in a basketball game. Olsen started thinking that this big kid could have the makings of an outstanding college quarterback and he told head coach Jim Sweeney. “I always give Coach Sweeney credit for letting me try it," says Dilfer today. "He agreed to the idea and gave me a shot and I went from number nine on the QB depth chart to number one. I just got great training here and had a lot of great people around me and I wound up one of the bigger quarterbacks in college football. Jim Sweeney was the best. He taught the aspect of coordinating mental and physical toughness which led to our resilience. Coach was great at bringing that out of us as a team and as individuals. He was an absolutely phenomenal football coach. He taught you all the things you really needed. It helped my fourteen years in the NFL, helped me raise my kids, and even helps my new career at ESPN. Jeff Tedford was our quarterback coach back then and he helped me and I was around so many great players as well like Lorenzo Neal, Tydus Winans, Ron Rivers, Anthony Daigle, Lee Harris, David Dunn, and I could go on and on with the names.All you had to do was give them the ball and they made me look good."
In Trent's two and a half years as the Bulldog's starting quarterback, he led them to win or share conference titles in three consecutive seasons. In 1993, Dilfer had a banner year, passing for a record 3,799 yards and thirty touchdowns. He was named the WAC Offensive Player of the Year, won All-American honors, and snagged the Sammy Baugh Trophy which is awarded to the nation's top college passer, joining the likes of John Elway, Steve Young, Jim McMahan, and others. Dilfer also set an NCAA record in 1993 by throwing 271 consecutive passes without an interception. Trent started and starred in two bowl games including perhaps the biggest football game in Fresno State history, the Dogs' huge 24-7 win over USC in the Freedom Bowl on December 29, 1992. It was the first meeting of the two schools and Fresno State was an eight-point underdog but soundly beat the 23rd ranked Trojans in front of a crowd of 50,745 at Anaheim Stadium with millions more watching at home.
In the 1993 Jeep Aloha Bowl in Hawaii against Colorado, Trent set another NCAA record by throwing for 523 yards, the most ever in a bowl game. Trent Dilfer was chosen in the first round as the sixth pick overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his long career in the NFL, Trent suited up with Tampa Bay, the Baltimore Ravens, the Seattle Seahawks, the Cleveland Browns, and the San Francisco 49ers. He threw for 20,518 yards and 113 touchdowns in a career. He led the Baltimore Ravens to victory over the New York Giants in away in 2005. He was also awarded the “Athletes in Action/ Bart Starr Award”. As an analyst on ESPN, Trent is gaining widespread popularity on NFL Live, NFL Primetime, and Sports Center.
Public golf courses dot the landscape in Central Valley towns today, but the first never would have been created had it not been for the untiring work of one of California 's pioneering golf club professionals, Grant R. Halstead. The Visalia-born Halstead spent over forty-six years in the role of golf club professional including twelve years at Sunnyside Country Club and twenty-two years at Fresno Municipal which is now the Riverside Golf Club. Halstead's introduction to the game was as a caddie at eleven, earning fifteen cents an hour while carrying a small bag for J.C.Wade at the nine-hole San Gabriel Country Club in Alhambra that had sand and oil greens. Club professional Art Rigby at San Gabriel greatly impacted Halstead 's golf career. Rigby hired Halstead to retrieve golf balls from the rough around the course which is how he earned enough to purchase a mid-iron (similar to today's two-iron). Halstead learned the game with the mid-iron and practiced different types of shots with it, even using it to putt. The putting stroke came in handy and allowed him to finish in the top ten in the Los Angeles Open.
Halstead watched Rigby give lessons at San Gabriel and learned enough from careful observation to develop the smooth, almost effortless swing that enabled him to compete professionally from 1919 to 1927. He played in the first L.A. Open in 1924 at the Wilshire Country Club and also in the U.S. Open at Oakmont CC in 1927 where Bobby Jones completed the Grand Slam as an amateur. Halstead was promoted by Rigby to caddie master twice, once before World War I and again when Halstead was discharged from the Marines shortly after the war ended. He soon became the assistant professional. When Rigby left, Halstead was given the head job. His teaching skills attracted interest at San Gabriel and he earned a bonus for dropping one member's handicap from 100 to ninety in eight lessons. He also became an accomplished golf club maker with his hickory-shafted clubs. He worked in the shop and played afternoons with the members.
Fourteen years later, he applied for the head pro job at Brentwood Country Club. Olin Dutra was eventually hired which opened the job that Dutra had left at Sunnyside. Halstead was chosen for the position and moved his family - wife, Alberta, and their two-year-old daughter, Norma - to Fresno. Halstead took over Sunnyside as head pro in late 1928. The course had added a second nine holes just before Halstead started. In his twelve-year tenure, Sunnyside expanded from a small rural course to one of the most prestigious links in Central California. The course had few players from July to September because of the oppressive heat which gave Halstead an opportunity to hunt and fish with his close friend, Art Melville, head pro at Fort Washington Country Club. Meanwhile, the nine-hole Riverside Country Club ran into financial problems. Fresno Mayor Frank Holman, a Sunnyside member, asked Halstead what he thought about the city building a public golf course. Halstead said he thought it was a great idea and added, "You're looking at the guy who’ll run it for you."
In 1922, Riverside was on the banks of the San Joaquin River near the town of Herndon and was the only course in Fresno County. During the Depression, Riverside owners agreed to sell the course and an additional forty acres to the City of Fresno for $11,507. Halstead suggested to Holman that they contract noted golf architect Billy Bell, who had designed the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. Bell designed a challenging eighteen-hole course that had nine acres left for a practice fairway and also installed bent grass greens that were the envy of the clubs in the area for years. Holman hired Halstead as head pro and on November 1, 1939, the course opened for play. Halstead supervised the greens keeping and developed a maintenance system that made the course one of the best cared for in the state. He was responsible for all concessions in the clubhouse and coffee shop. Six years after it opened, Halstead was "in the black for the first time.
Golf was very inexpensive. Green fees on weekdays were fifty cents and a dollar on weekends. A monthly ticket for weekday play was $2 and every day was $4. A family ticket was $5.50. The working man finally was able to enjoy the sport which was previously for the wealthy and the public came by the hundreds and thousands. Halstead also moved the Fresno City Championships from Sunnyside and Fort Washington to Riverside and played the part of host with alacrity. He was well-known as the "Mayor of Herndon." Once Halstead retired in 1961, he spent much time at the large Palm Lakes driving range giving free advice to anyone who was struggling. In an attempt to simplify the game, he taught “no thinking golf" and a tool that he used was a piece of plywood with a brace on the back. He placed the ball a couple of inches from the board. If his student could swing without hitting the board, the ball went straight. His motto was: “To make it go far, hit it easy."
Halstead’s first wife died and he married Mae, whom he taught to play golf. The book Chicken Soup for the Golfer 's Soul included the story about Halstead, Riverside, and the hole-in-one that his daughter, Norma, made at fifteen. Halstead died in 1990 Just a few days shy of turning ninety-four.
When Mike Mealiffe and his twin brother, Pat, were growing up in Santa Clara, the twelve-year-old boys were active youngsters. One of the things that they loved was going to the municipal pool. Noticing the athletic abilities of the boys, swim coach George Haines suggested that the Mealiffe twins try out for the team. After talking it over with their parents, Michael and Pat took a shot at it. It was fun, but it was also hard work and took a lot of time. The boys had other ideas for summer fun and oftentimes would go to the pool right after school, dunk their hair in the water to get it wet, and then go play. The reason for that was that their mother would smell their hair when they got home to make sure they had gone to practice, the old chlorine trick. "That didn't last long,"remembers Michael today, "We finally gave in and got serious about it. Whenever we would start to get bored with it, our parents would say if we kept swimming, maybe someday we could be in a movie with Esther Williams. Those were the years that she was making all those swimming pictures. It didn't happen, but it kept us in the pool."
When the Mealiffe family moved to Fresno in 1952, the boys immediately joined the Fresno YMCA swim team which was headed by the legendary Gene Stephens. Michael set many AAU age group and Junior Olympic records in the backstroke. At Fresno High School, the twins swam for Jack Skadden, who was a strict taskmaster, and the boys prepared for school competitions. For the Warriors, Michael was undefeated and he was a member of the Warrior 200-yard medley relay team that set the national high school record in 1959. In 1961, he broke the world record for the 110-yard butterfly. It was a great thrill for Fresno area fans as he did it in the Airways pool and it was the first such record set by a swimmer from Fresno. "It was even more exciting for me because my parents and my twin brother were all there," says Michael. "I credit Gene Stephens, Jack Skadden, and Bud Fisher for enabling Pat and me to both receive swimming scholarships to college," says Michael.
As teenagers, it wasn't long before the twins began to attract attention from many colleges. Among them was USC and coach Peter Daland, who recruited Michacl to come and swim for the Trojans. This choice turned out to be the right one for Michael as he starred at SC and became a three-time All-American starting in1962. He helped the Trojans win the 1963 NCAA Men's Team title by placing second in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly. "My days at USC were amazing," remembers Michael. "Under Peter Daland's coaching, I started swimming the butterfly seriously in addition to backstroke because as he put it,’I need another butterflyer.’ I was swimming with world-class athletes like Murray Rose, Jon Hendricks, and Jon Konrads -all Olympic Swimmers from Australia. It was a heady time and gave me great inspiration."In 1990, Michael returned to swimming competition and as it turned out, he was not through breaking national and world records yet. In 1990, he captured Masters global marks for the 50-54 Age Group in both the 50-meter and 100-meter butterfly. Seven years later, he set the Masters world record for the 55-59 Age Group in the 50-yard butterfly. Michael had to give up competitive swimming due to injury. He is still in great shape and is back in the pool three times a week to kick and walk laps for an hour. "It's great cardio," says Michael. "I tell my friends I have to have chlorine or I'll go through withdrawal." Michael Mealiffe says his favorite accomplishment is raising two children, daughter Shannin and son, Gavin. He also adores his two grandchildren, Brandt and Evan, from Gavin and wife Leah.
The late Al Pitcock said that when his nine-year-old daughter Joan hit her first golf ball with a club, it went 150 yards straight down the middle. He knew then she was going to be something special. Once Joan got hooked on the game, she benefited from the teaching of the late Vic Lombardi at Fig Garden Golf Club. "Vic was such a great athlete, a major league pitcher, and a fine golfer, and he gave me my first formal instruction, said Pitcock. "He was a lefty, but he gave me the fundamentals that stuck with me throughout my career."
Pitcock qualified for the LPGA in 1987 and during fifteen seasons, earned $1.3 million in an international career that included winning the 1996 Jamie Farr Classic by a single stroke. Twice, she played on the United States team at the Nichireir International which pitted the best from the LPGA against the best from Japan. Pitcock was 2-0 in those matches: one of her most cherished memories. "I had a lot of success in the juniors and amateur events and twice qualified for the U.S. Open when I was pretty young [15-16], so I felt I could compete," Pitcock said. "I didn't really think about age or who I was playing with, but just matched up my skills. That victory [at Jamie Farr] was in my ninth season. It takes a long time out there to learn to win. I just tried to get better each year. Although the accomplishments are few, the effort level remains the same. You try so hard. I played in the final group in the last round nine times before I won."
Pitcock's amateur career was the best among Fresno female players since Shelley Hamlin. It included winning the Fresno City Amateur at every age level that she entered. During high school, she played on the boys' golf team at Clovis West because there was no girls' team at the time. Pitcock played volleyball as well and suffered the worst injury of her life in her junior year when she tore all of the ligaments in her left ankle. That injury ended her quest for any sport except golf. "Being inducted into the Fresno Hall of Fame was more like a celebration of my effort out there," Pitcock said. "I was out there for a lot of years and you don't always see the day-to-day results, but I never quit on a game of golf." Pitcock said she played in the final group several times in 1995 which was her best year money-wise. Her teacher while on tour was Kent Casey. Pitcock was a two-time American Junior Golf Association All-American. Two years later, she won the prestigious Optimist Junior World Championship at Torrey Pines and was the low amateur in the U.S. Open.
Pitcock set several course records as an amateur. At sixteen in the America's Cup playing at the difficult Dunes course in Las Vegas, she followed a 39 putt, 78 with a six birdies, an eagle, and only two bogies for an amateur course record of 68. It was a stroke more than pro Nancy Lopez's record of 67. That same season, she had records of 72 at Visalia Plaza, 74 at Tulare Country Club, 73 at Pine Mountain Lake, 76 at Oakdale, and a course-tying 73 at Riverside. She opened eyes early on in the LPGA when she shot a 63 round in her rookie season. Pitcock participated in two mixed-doubles matches with longtime Fresno friend and PGA golfer, Bill Glasson. When she retired from the LPGA, she returned to Fresno. Pitcock plays a few corporate sponsor games and helps to coach her former high school team.
Ten-year NFL veterarn Marquez Pope stated, "I just always asked the Lord to send me wherever he thought I should be and I guess he wanted me to be in California." The native of Nashville, Tennessee was recruited by many colleges who were interested in his abilities on the football field, but he chose coach Jim Sweeney and the Fresno State Bulldogs. California would also loom large in Pope's NFL career after he became, and still is, the only player in NFL history to play for the four California professional teams: the San Diego Chargers. the Los Angeles Rams, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Oakland Raiders. Marquez competed at Fresno State from 1988 to 1991 and was truly one of the leading "hitters" on the Bulldog's big hit parade of tough defensive backs. He was a three-time AIl-Big West safety and twice won the Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Year Award. During Pope's tenure at Fresno State, the Bulldogs had a record of 39-7-1 while winning the Big West championship three times and picking up a couple of Cal Bowl victories. "I salute our coaches for the great teachers that they were, from Coach Sweeney and all his many assistants like Cliff Haskell, Pat Hill, Willy Robinson, and so many others. They helped us in many ways that led to our time in the NFL, as well as in life," says a grateful Pope.
He would often see some of his former FSU teammates around the professional ranks which he and the others felt was a great tribute to their college coaches. Marquez kept up his winning ways in the NFL as well. In his ten seasons in the "Big Time," his teams made it to the playoffs six times. Drafted by the Chargers as the fifth pick in the second round and 33 pick overall, Pope began his NFL journey which would lead him to his well-deserved reputation as a hard-hitting and lightning-quick cornerback. "Again, I have to thank the Lord for the fact that I was always pretty healthy through my career and even feel great today," says Marquez. At 5'11" and 193 pounds, he was still able to hit with authority In 1994, he was the second leading tackler for the Los Angeles Rams before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers. In his four years there, he would establish himself as the team's right cornerback and one of the leading tacklers with Ken Norton, Bryant Young, and fellow Fresno Athletic Hall of Famer, Tim McDonald, as the 49ers made the playoffs in each of those years under George Seifert and Steve Mariucci. In 1999, Marquez was with the Cleveland Browns at strong safety and again he was the third leading tackler for his team. By then a seasoned veteran, he longed to be back on the West Coast and that wish was granted when he signed with the Oakland Raiders under coach Jon Gruden. Once again, Marquez was one of the playoff-bound team's leading tacklers from the Raider's strong safety position.