In 2001, the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues celebrated its 100th year. As part of that celebration, a couple of historians put together a list of the top 100 minor league teams of the previous century. The 1955 Fresno Cardinals were on that list, checking in at No. 79.
In 1955, the Fresno Cardinals were in their 12th season as an affiliate of the major league club with the same nickname (St. Louis). They played in the California League, and they won the league championship, beating Stockton, three games to one.
Fresno won more than 70 percent of its games that season, finishing with a record of 104-43. It is the only team in California League history to win 100 games in a season. The Cardinals set league records for most runs (1,048), hits (1,500), and RBI (893) in a season, as well as leading the league in batting average (.297), doubles (255), triples (78), and stolen bases (161).
Individually, Bobby Gene Smith hit .370 in 1955 to win the California League's batting title. Smith, who was just 21 years old, also led the league in RBI (141) and total bases (318). Benny Valenzuela was not far behind, hitting .354. His 209 hits were a California League record for a single season.
On the mound, Fresno produced a pair of 20-game winners in 1955: Glen Stabelfeld and Tommy Hughes. Stabelfeld (24-4) led the California League in wins, while Hughes (20-6) led the league in strikeouts (273).
The 1955 Fresno Cardinals were managed by Roland LeBlanc, who was also a player on the team. An all-star at catcher, LeBlanc caught 132 of the 147 games while hitting .325 with 11 HR and 105 RBI.
He was also the Cardinals' manager in 1950, 1952-1953, and in 1957.
1974 was an important year for the California Interscholastic Federation as it was the first year that girls' high school basketball was a sanctioned sport. That meant that section champions were decided for the first time in girls' high school basketball, and the winner of the inaugural title in the Central Section was Hoover.
Coached by Pat Boroff, Hoover went 11-1 during the 1974 season with its only loss coming in its first game to San Joaquin Memorial. The Patriots would later avenge that loss, defeating the Panthers in the section championship game
Junior Connie Gooch led Hoover with 12 points in the rematch against Memorial. The first woman from Fresno to receive a college scholarship, Gooch would go on to play at UNLV.
As would Anita Carter, a sophomore on that 1974 Hoover girls basketball team.
After winning its first section championship, Hoover would rattle off two more for a three-peat. One year after going 11-1, the Patriots went undefeated (14-0). It helped that Connie Gooch averaged a double-double that season (18 ppg, 11 rpg). She was a senior that year, and she scored 20 points in the section championship game as Hoover once again defeated San Joaquin Memorial for the title.
In 1976, Gooch was gone. However, the Patriots kept winning. Coach Boroff's team went 16-2 overall that season, 13-1 in the league, and it once again found itself facing Memorial in the section championship game. This time it was Eva Robinson stepping up, scoring a team-high 20 points to secure the Patriots' third straight section title.
Hoover won a total of 41 games during those three seasons (1974-1976), and only lost three times. In the league, the Patriots won 38 games and only lost once.
In 1975, Connie Gooch became the first woman from Fresno to receive a full college scholarship to play basketball. Believe it or not, she had only been playing the sport for two years.
Connie Gooch was born in France in 1957. The daughter of a sergeant major in the army, she and her five siblings grew up on military bases. It wasn't until 1973 when the family moved to Fresno. At that time, Gooch was about to enter her junior year of high school.
Connie Gooch grew four inches in the summer of 1973. She was 5'11" when she showed up for her first day at Hoover High School. In her words, she was "tall and lanky." It did not take long for her to be asked to try out for the girls basketball team.
Gooch had been a track athlete, so she could run and she could jump. She could not, however, shoot! She attended basketball tryouts anyway, and she made the team.
During the 1974 season, the Hoover girls basketball team went 11-1 and won the school's first-ever section championship. Connie Gooch played well, but she played even better the next season. As a senior, she averaged a double-double (18 ppg, 11 rpg) as the Patriots won a second straight section championship over San Joaquin Memorial.
Connie Gooch was recruited to play college basketball by both UCLA and UNLV. She chose the Rebels, and she came off the bench for them as a freshman during the 1975-1976 season.
In November of 1976, Gooch withdrew from UNLV. She moved back to Fresno for family reasons, but her basketball career continued. In January of 1978, she played on the first-ever women's team at Fresno City College. She averaged a double-double for the Rams (20 ppg, 14 rpg) and led them to a league title.
After her one season at FCC, Connie Gooch transferred to Fresno State. She played two seasons for the Bulldogs, 1978-1980, averaging 15.2 ppg.
Connie Gooch once recorded 30 rebounds in a game (at Hoover). She also played in the first-ever City-County all-star game for girls, she coached at Edison for a couple of years and she started the Fresno chapter of BEUFE (Black Employees United for Equality).
In the early 1980s, the best place to find Kathleen McCarthy was at San Joaquin Country Club. She was there almost every day, especially in the summers when she estimates that she spent between six and ten hours each day on the course.
Believe it or not, Kathleen McCarthy did not actually pick up a golf club for the first time until she was 12 years old. She credits both her father and her brother for her introduction to the sport, but she was far from a natural. However, she took lessons from the head golf professional at San Joaquin CC. In three years, her handicap went from 34 to zero! McCarthy was the Northern California Golf Association's most improved junior player in each of those three years, and she has the distinction of being the first golfer to record back-to-back eagles in a USGA event. (It took place in Greeley, Colorado, and her Titleist golf ball was sent to the USGA Golf Museum.)
Kathleen McCarthy attended San Joaquin Memorial High School. At that time, Memorial did not have a girls' golf team so she played with the boys. Though she was not on varsity her freshman year, by her junior year she was regularly playing in the Panthers' No. 1 position.
She made it her mission after her sophomore year of high school to earn a college scholarship, and Kathleen McCarthy did just that. TCU won the national championship in 1983, the year McCarthy graduated from Memorial. She could have gone there. She could have also gone to Arizona State, Florida State, SMU, Texas A&M, Tulsa, UCLA or USC.
She chose Stanford.
"I didn't consider myself a strong student," said McCarthy. "I loved that many interesting people who are driven and successfully graduated from Stanford. I was inspired and liked the challenge."
Her education came on the golf course, where she was a three-time first-team all-American for the Cardinal just like fellow Fresnan Shelley Hamlin. McCarthy won eleven tournaments for the Cardinal between 1983 and 1987, and she also won the 1985 and 1987 Women's Western Amateur. In 1986, she finished runner-up in the U.S. Women's Amateur.
Golf has taken Kathleen McCarthy all over the country and the world. She played in four U.S. Opens, two British Opens, two Curtis Cups, and one World Cup tournament (in Venezuela).
In her hometown, she still holds the course record for women at San Joaquin Country Club (67).
On April 1st, 1972, Muhammad Ali won a 15-round fight in Tokyo by unanimous decision. His opponent was Mac Foster, whom Ali predicted he would beat in five rounds.
And via knockout.
Mac Foster was born in Louisiana in 1942. And "Mac" is short for "MacArthur"; he was named after General Douglas MacArthur of the United States Army. Foster comes from a military family, and that family relocated to Fresno when he was approximately two years old.
Mac Foster joined the military himself after high school. He attended Washington Union, and he actually turned down a track & field scholarship to Fresno State to enlist in the United States Marine Corps.
Foster served in the Marines during the Vietnam War. He was a sergeant, stationed in Osaka, Japan.
And it was in the military where Foster started boxing. He had Ken Norton as a regular sparring partner, and he would win 14 amateur titles while in the service.
After a military discharge, Mac Foster turned professional in 1966. That decision was against the advice of those closest to him, who recommended that he choose a career in law enforcement.
Foster made his professional debut in November of that year, and he won his first fight via knockout. He won his first 24 fights via knockout and, in 1970, he was ranked as the world's No. 1 heavyweight contender.
It was at that point when Mac Foster started referring to himself as "Dynamite Mac Foster." He also had the nickname "The Knife," which had been given to him by a reporter from the Los Angeles Times.
Mac Foster retired from boxing in 1976, though he did attempt two different comebacks in the early 1990s. He has a career record of 30-6, with all of those wins coming via knockout. He has fought in the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles and in Madison Square Garden in New York City. He also fought quite a bit at Selland Arena, where he won more than half of his fights (18).
Mac Foster, a husband and a father of four, enters the Fresno County Athletic Hall of Fame posthumously; he passed away in 2010.
Marian Battles was 23 years old when she accepted a job at Kerman High School in 1978 to be both an English teacher and a coach.
And not the volleyball coach, but rather an assistant swim coach and the junior varsity basketball coach.
"They needed coaches," said Battles, who added, "it was the best place for me to really start."
Marian Battles had been a student teacher in Fresno Unified, as well as a long-term substitute teacher at Hamilton Elementary School. She has a degree from Fresno State, graduating in 1976 after first attending San Joaquin Delta College in her hometown of Stockton.
During her second year at Kerman is when Battles took over as the Lions' volleyball coach. She also coached the boys' and girls' tennis teams. In fact, during her 35-year career as a volleyball coach, Marian Battles spent 14 years as a tennis coach.
Her tennis teams ended up winning 16 league titles.
On the volleyball court, though, is where Marian Battles had the most success. She played the sport in high school (along with playing basketball and tennis), and, in her words, she "loved building programs."
Battles spent seven years at Kerman before moving on to Yosemite High School, where she led the Badgers to six league titles in nine years, along with two section titles.
In 1994, she became the girls volleyball coach at Buchanan. Three years later, she led the Bears to both a league title and a section title, the latter of which was the first one in school history. That Buchanan team went undefeated in league play (10-0), and was 12-1 at home.
Battles would coach the Bears for a total of 19 years, winning 12 league titles and seven section titles. She retired in 2012 as the second-winningest coach in Central Section history, with an overall record of 838-209.
In retirement, Marian Battles continued to coach. She spent two years at Alta Sierra Intermediate School, from 2013-2015, and she also stayed active with the Central Cal Volleyball Club until 2019.
From 1958-2022, the Fresno City College baseball team had just two head coaches: Len Bourdet and Ron Scott.
Bourdet won 722 games and four state championships before retiring in 1988. Scott took over in 1989, and he won a state championship in 1992.
He also won a total of 1,100 games and when he retired after the 2022 season, he did so as the winningest coach in California community college history.
Ron Scott grew up in Woodside in the Bay Area. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school, winning all-league honors in both baseball and football. After high school, he attended Cañada College in nearby Redwood City; he played baseball for the Colts and he was an all-conference catcher, in addition to being the team captain and team MVP.
In 1974, Scott transferred to the University of Miami. The Hurricanes went to the College World Series that year, their first-ever appearance in Omaha. They were the national runner-up and Scott made the all-tournament team.
Ron Scott would play one more season at Miami. He then played one season of professional ball for the Portland Mavericks in the Northwest League before he began his transition into coaching.
In 1977, Ron Scott came to the central valley to be the head baseball coach (and head football coach, and head wrestling coach) at Chowchilla High School. He spent four years there, winning three league titles. He then spent six years coaching at Madera High School, adding one more league title to his resume, before taking the job at Fresno City College.
Scott was at FCC for 34 years. In 25 of those years, his teams won 30 or more games (including a 45-win season in 1992, the best in school history). He won 23 league titles and made it to the state final four on nine different occasions. He also coached eight players who made it to the major leagues.
On May 7th, 2022, Ron Scott coached his last game at Fresno City College.
“I know I still have the passion to coach and everything," he said. "It’s just time to move on and be a grandfather and be more involved with my family.”
Ron Scott is the father of Amanda Scott, a former all-American pitcher at Fresno State who won a national championship with the Bulldogs in 1998. His other daughter, Courtney, was an all-American catcher at Cal and she was the 2021 and 2022 SEC Softball Coach of the Year at Arkansas.