After claiming his first San Joaquin Valley high school championship in 1947 and making the playoffs the following two seasons, Sanger High coach Huntley Dayton knew that his team in the spring of 1950 had the makings of something special.
Like many small-town coaches in the post-World War II era, Dayton coached more than one sport. During his career at Sanger, he led the Apaches to ten league championships in basketball and seven league crowns in football, twelve league titles in baseball and two San Joaquin Valley baseball crowns. He accomplished all this without any assistant coaches.
Though small in number with just fifteen players, the ‘50 baseball team might have been Dayton’s best. It featured four players who signed pro contracts: Charles Greer, Bill Krider, Vern Summers and Gene Green. Green played seven seasons in the major leagues (1957-63).
Sanger dominated its competition in the Sequoia League, winning all six games and outscoring opponents by a total of 49-12. Then it moved on to the Valley playoffs, where it faced two larger schools, Roosevelt High of Fresno and Visalia High.
Even though the Apaches faced a Roosevelt team that had star catcher Bob Bennett - a future College Baseball Hall of Fame coach - was more than ready. The Apaches, as they had all season, hit the ball with authority in an 11-9 victory at John Euless Park.
Playing at home in the title game, the Apaches faced a Visalia High team coached by Hank Beiden, brother of another College Baseball Hall of Fame coach, Pete Beiden, a Sanger High School alumni. The first inning was a wild one, with Sanger knocking around Visalia starter Joe Hannah and taking a 7-5 lead.
Both teams settled down and with the score tied 8-8 the Apaches went to the plate in the bottom in the ninth backed by a crowd of 1,200 fans on their home field.
Bill Krider drew a walk, went to second on a wild pitch and scored the winning run on Swede Johnson’s single to right field. Charles Greer was the winning pitcher.
The team: Charles Davis, Charles Greer, Gene Green, Swede Johnson, Bill Krider, George Kubo, Richard Myers, Eddie Perez, Ray Perez, Manuel Pinedo, Bob Spate, Thurman Smith (team captain), Vern Summers, John Terzian, Harry Yasumoto: coach: Huntley Dayton
The Rams had it all: height on the front line, speed in the backcourt, good shooters everywhere and a demanding coach in Joe Kelly, who could match wits against everyone. Using these ingredients, the team put together a magical season, winning the state championship before a crowd of 2,000 at the Roosevelt High School gym.
After concluding the Central Conference season with a 12-0 record, the Rams advanced to the postseason where they met the top two-year colleges in California. The Rams fended off Los Angeles Valley, 86-73, in the opener; West Contra Costa, 86-82, in the semifinals; and Mt. San Antonio, 88-85, in the title game.
The Rams received key contributions from many players during and exciting title run capping a 28-2 season. In the championship game, 6-foot forward Odell Johnson scored 26 points. He was named MVP and was joined by on the all-tournament team by on the all-tournament team by speedy guard R.L. Benson and 6-foot-9 center Gary Alcorn.
In the title game, the Rams had to overcome the loss of Alcorn, who fouled out four minutes into the second half, and Mt. SAC center John Henderson, who scored 31 points. Freshman Don Birkle picked up the slack with his rebounding and Bon Taul, a 17-year-old freshman, scored 13 points. It was Benson, a U.S. Navy veteran, who clinched the game with a late basket.
Alcorn led the way in the semifinals with 29 points, Benson had 24 points and Johnson 23 points. In the opening-round game, Benson led with 26 points and forward/center Ray "Chief" Williams scored 17. The Rams’ accuracy at the free-throw line was important, as they made 33 of 46 against the tall L.A. Valley club.
Officiating was a subject of controversy throughout the tournament. But Kelly offered complaining coaches no solace, saying that they were poor sports.
The team: Odell Johnson, Ray Williams, Don Birkle, Ed Fogal, R.L. Benson, Bob Taul, Gary Alcorn, Marion Daniels, Vic Antonio, Herschel Hoopengarner, Bill Service; coach:Joe Kell
Quite possibly the best all-around female athlete in Fresno County history, she was a four-year letter-winner and star performer in basketball, volleyball, and tennis at Reedley High School.
She appeared poised to make her mark at the collegiate level in basketball, a sport where she set the Reedley career scoring mark (1,255 points) and earned All-NorCal honors her senior season.
But, after one year at Kings River Community College - during which she helped the Tigers win a conference volleyball title and partnered with Amy Hudson to win the NorCal doubles tennis championship- the 5-foot, 9-inch Ainger-Schulte chose to concentrate on volleyball when she transferred to Fresno Pacific College.
It proved to be the right choice as Ainger-Schulte led Fresno Pacific to the NAIA national volleyball tournament three consecutive years. An all-around standout who excelled in kills, as well as passing and digs, she was a rare three-time first-team All-American. And, in 1996, after Fresno Pacific’s 30-5 season, she was named NAIA National Player of the Year.
In 2003, she and Fresno Pacific volleyball Coach Dennis Janzen became the university’s first inductees into the NAIA Hall of Fame.
At the time of her induction into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame, Ainger-Schulte ranked among the NAIA’s all-time top 10 performers in many season and career categories. In a 1994 national tournament match against St. Mary’s (Texas), she set an NAIA record with 61 digs. And, in the 1996 national championships, she reached double figures in kills and digs in all five matches.
During Ainger-Schulte’s three years, Fresno Pacific had a 97-19 record, finishing fourth in the nation in ‘94, tying for third in ‘95 and placing fifth in ‘96.
In addition to her natural talents, Ainger-Schulte utilized her intensity, court awareness, and dedication to practice to reach the top in volleyball. She carried those same traits into coaching and teaching, becoming head volleyball coach at Fresno City College in 2007 after assisting at Fresno Pacific and Clovis West High School.
The Craigmount/Lewiston, Idaho native believed in teamwork, loyalty to staff and athletes, and keeping a low profile during an extraordinary coaching career at Fresno State capped by his induction into the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2000.
Estes competed in the discus and shot put at the University of Oregon in the 1950s, then served in the U.S. Army as an officer and coach. While with the Army, he competed and coached in military track and field meets that featured some of the world’s top competitors of the early 1960s.
After a stint assisting the innovative Bill Bowerman back at Oregon, Estes joined another legend, Dutch Warmerdam, at Fresno State in 1964 as an assistant in track and field and head cross country coach. In 1980, he succeeded “The Flying Dutchman” as head track and field coach while remaining in charge of cross country.
Despite having tight budgets, Estes built powerhouse programs with the Bulldogs. While he was the head coach, Fresno State won a combined 17 conference championships in track and field and cross country. And he garnered Coach of the Year honors 16 times in the PCAA, Big West, and Western Athletic conferences.
In an effort to boost funding for the sports that the loved, Estes started and ran a community drop-off recycling center for many years. He also labored for many years. He also labored long hours, building runways, vaulting pits, and hammer-throw screens, and manicuring fields with his own hands. He kept the spirit and tradition of the old West Coast Relays alive by running the Fresno Relays.
Estes was committed to hiring good assistants - among them Bob Fraley, Tom Pagani, and Hugh Adams - and developing strong dual-meet teams. His dual-meet record in track and field was 188-38-1. That is a .832 lifetime winning percentage, the best of any coach in any sport ever at Fresno State. His coaching of more than 100 All-Americans overall, including seven NCAA individual champions, proved the success of that philosophy. His teams finished as high as fifth in the NCAA outdoor championships and sixth indoors.p Most of all, Estes was a teacher - in the classroom and on the field. He led by example, inspiring athletes and fellow coaches to new heights. For more than three decades, he put an indelible, positive stamp on Fresno State and the track and field/cross country community. World Cup champion teams.
The Janzen name is synonymous with women’s volleyball, national championships and Fresno Pacific University. But even more impressive than his five NAIA titles and the coaching of 62 All-Americans is the fact that 96 percent of his volleyball players had graduated at the time of his induction into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame.
Under his guidance, the Sunbirds became the dominant force in NAIA volleyball, with 16 Golden State Athletic Conference championships, 12 regional titles, 12 national Final Four appearances and the five national titles (1989, 2003, 2007-09). In 2003, he was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in the coach category. He has coached two NAIA Players of the Year: Tracy Ainger (1996) and Shu Liu (2007-2008).
Fresno Pacific wrapped up its first unbeaten season in 2009 with a 3-0 victory against Georgetown (Ky.) in the NAIA title game, and Janzen was named NAIA Coach of the Year for the fourth time. From 2005 through 2009, the Sunbirds just lost five games. Janzen’s record through 25 seasons at Fresno Pacific was 835-166.
The Reedley native’s impact on the sport extends beyond the San Joaquin Valley and the NAIA. He has assisted in the development and training of the U.S. Men’s Olympic volleyball team, been an assistant and head coach at the U.S. Olympic Festival and a men’s assistant coach at Penn State and USC.
In addition to coaching volleyball, Janzen also helped build an all-around sports program as Fresno Pacific’s athletic director. He was honored in 2009 as the GSAC Athletic Director of the Year. And he has participated in the NAIA’s Champions of Character initiative as a certified instructor.
Janzen graduated from Reedley High School in 1970 and, after two years at Reedley College, graduated from Tabor (Kansas) College. He completed his master’s degree in Physical Education at the University of Northern Colorado in 1980 and earned a Ph.D. in Sports Psychology at USC in 2004.
Says Janzen: Fresno Pacific "gave me a unique opportunity way back in 1983, and I’m very appreciative of that. I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the best folks I could ever imagine. We’ve been blessed with some great student-athletes over the years who have enabled us to build something special here."
Sclezi got his first taste of drag racing on sand tracks as a teenager, later tasted success in the Sportsman classes and blossomed into one of the most dominant drivers in National Hot Rod Association history.
The Fresno native’s name is all over the NHRA record book. Lightning quick off the line and fearless behind the wheel, he was the first driver in association history to break the 325-mph (1998) and 330-mph (2004) barriers.
Separating Sclezi from the competition: he was fast and consistent in both of drag racing’s premier divisions, becoming just the second driver to win Top Fuel (1997, 1998, 2000) and Funny Car (2005) season titles. Reflecting his grass-roots beginnings, he is the only NHRA competitor to have won races in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Alcohol Dragster, and Alcohol Funny Car.
Following the racing death of Blaine Johnson in 1996, Scelzi was chosen to drive Alan Johnson’s Top Fuel car. Scelzi justified the selection by becoming the first rookie to win an NHRA title. He honored Blaine Johnson by keeping a picture of him in his dragster.
After conquering Top Fuel, Scelzi took aim at John Force’s dynasty in Funny Car. The 2005 season produced one of the closest-ever NHRA points finishes, with Scelzi edging Ron Capps and Force for the title.
A handful of drivers have been successful over a longer period, but Scelzi may have shone brighter than any during his 12 seasons at the elite level. He won 25 of 39 finals in Top Fuel and 12 of 20 Funny Car finals. You didn’t want to face him with the event on the line.
Scelzi also helped carry drag racing to new heights of popularity with his fiery, tell-it-like-it-is personality and rapport with fans. Retiring after the 2008 season, he continued to advocate for improved safety in a dangerous sport.
Taking up the hurdles in junior high school, Wilson blossomed into a 6-foot-2, 190-pounder and a world-class star during the golden age of track and field in the 1960s and 1970s.
During his career, Wilson beat many of the best hurdlers of the era, including fellow American Charles Foster, a world record-holder, and France’s Guy Drut, a silver and gold Olympic medalist.
Wilson came to prominence at Fresno’s Roosevelt High School, competing for Coach Ken Dose. As a senior in 1969, Wilson’s record-setting performances carried the Rough Riders to the Central Section team title and a runner-up finish at the state meet.
He swept the 120-yard high hurdles and the 180-yard low hurdles in the Central Section meet and, again, at the state meet at UCLA. HIs time of 13.7 seconds in the 120 lows equaled the state record, and he narrowly missed another state record with an 18.3 in the 180 lows, holding off future NFL wide receiver Larance Jones.
Wilson was the Central Section’s track and field athlete of the year and top performer at the state meet.
The titles continued for Wilson at Fresno City College, the University of the Southern California and with the famed Beverly Hills Striders club team. Wilson won consecutive state junior college crowns in the 120-yard highs for the Rams in 1970-71. The 13.4 mark posted at Fresno CC remained the school record upon his selection to the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame.
He didn’t skip a beat claiming the NCAA crown in his signature event in 13.4 seconds in 1972. While at USC, Wilson helped the Trojans to an NCAA Indoor championship and a second place in the NCAA Outdoors.
Hamstring injuries hampered Wilson’s later career, but he put everything together in 1975 at the AAU Championships, winning the 110-meter highs in 13.38 seconds - fifth-best mark in the world that year.
Wilson, who had represented the U.S. on the national team that competed in Southeast Asia in ‘75, placed fifth in the 1976 Olympic Trials, missing a chance to join fellow Fresnans Randy Williams and Maxie Parks at the Montreal Games. In 2000, Wilson was honored with USC’s presitigous Heritage Award.
An eye for detail, a passion for the preparation, and a distinctive, reassuring voice - perfect for story-telling - brought the Selma native acclaim as the radio “Voice of the Bulldogs” during 37 seasons of broadcasting Fresno State sports.
Woodward was the Red Wave’s eyewitness to history from 1972 to 2008 as play-by-play announcer for more than 2,000 football, basketball, and baseball games on KMJ 580 AM, the central San Joaquin Valley’s powerhouse radio station.
Though players, coaches, and athletic directors would change many times, Woodward was a constant for Bulldogs fans. His time behind the microphone spanned Fresno State’s athletic development from a small-college program into a well-known player on the national stage.
Woodward called many of the Bulldogs’ greatest moments: the 1983 NIT basketball championship, the ‘83 basketball victory over a No.2 ranked Houston team boasting Hakeem Olajuwon the ‘92 Freedom Bowl football victory over USC and the 2004 overtime win over Virginia in the MPC Computers Bowl.
He covered the game as the fans wanted it, referring to popular Bulldog athletes by their first names and venting when he believed Fresno State had been victimized by a bad call. The relationship between announcer and listener was that of a big family living and dying with their Bulldogs.
Just as he was revered by fans, Woodward was respected by peers, twice winning the California Associated Press Television and Radio Broadcasters ward for locally produced play-by play.
Woodward grew up loving sports, playing football at Selma High and in junior college. While recovering from a shoulder injury in 1960, a friendship with KRDU’s Dick Shepperd inspired Woodward to consider a career in radio. After graduating Fresno State, he worked at a station in Eugene, Ore., before landing KMJ in 1972.
To get the job, Woodward needed a football audition tape - which he didn’t have. As Woodward tells the story: “I went to a San Francisco 49ers game and mimicked everything Lon Simmons said into a tape recorder. It was on such a short notice, a do-or-die situation, but it worked.