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Rewriting Prep Baseball History

May 11th, 2020 · No Comments · Baseball, Lutherans

Let us take a moment and indulge in some alternative prep sports history.

I have been thinking about a particular high school baseball game since May 11 of 1971, when it was played. It was the final game of the season, and of my organized baseball career.

Had we won, on our home field at Centinela Park, in Inglewood, we would have shared the Olympic League championship and advanced to the playoffs in our division.

I am going to tweak it slightly so that it comes out in a way we hoped. It’s not like we will tear up the whole game. No. Just focus on one moment that might have led to several memorable and happier moments.

I am doing much of this from memory, and with the help of a piece I did five years ago.

So, we, Los Angeles Lutheran, are 11-2 in the league standings, just behind the 12-1 of Pater Noster, which beat us 1-0 earlier in the season.

We win, a tie for the league title and both teams go to the playoffs. A loss, and we turn in our uniforms.

Here is my best guess for our lineup that sunny afternoon in Inglewood: Hemingway 2b; Warnecke cf; Doescher ss; Estes 1b; Reynolds lf; Hicks rf; Oberjuerge 3b; Briggs c; Goodyear p.

After coaching us for 19 games, our coach, Jim Young, pretty much knew who would play where.

The key to our team was Goodyear, a sophomore left-hander with great control of his breaking stuff. Most prep players can’t hit the curve. Especially from a left-hander.

So, the game begins. We get to the home half of the third inning, I’m thinking. We are behind 3-2 against probably the league’s second-best pitcher, a kid named Farr.

Somehow, I am on third base. How did I get there? I tend to think I doubled and advanced on a fly ball to right, or a ground ball to the right side? I don’t actually remember. But I am on third. For sure.

This is where the memory part kicks in. Up next is Briggs, a junior catcher who has been taking playing time from senior Dan Campbell, a friend of mine. Campbell is the better catcher. Briggs is the better athlete. Coach Young goes for the athlete.

If he had gone for the more experienced guy, Campbell, he would now be digging in at home plate.

Coach Young has a good idea. He wants to score the tying run, which I am carrying at third — about five yards from where he is standing in the coach’s box — and he sends out the sign for a bunt. I see the sign. Briggs sees the sign.

It is a high-risk, high-reward play. If Briggs gets down the bunt in fair territory, I will score from third and it will be 3-3.

Now, I am going to change history. Instead of Briggs playing, Dan Campbell is playing. He is pretty solid, fundamentally. I like the odds of him getting the bunt down, and I score without a play.

In real life, Briggs bunted as I charged towards home, and the ball popped up in front of the plate and was caught by the Pater Noster player. I am nearly home, and there is no going back to third.

Double play. End of inning.

But wait: Dan Campbell is playing and he gets the bunt down. I score without a play, and Campbell gets high-fives from me and his teammates.

Goodyear gets a lift from this and bears down. He has given up three runs. He will give up only one more (probably involving a kid named Montan, the league MVP), and we enter the final inning trailing 4-3 but with our best hitters coming up. Dennis Doescher, another friend of mine, our shortstop, coaxes a walk. Frank Estes, our skinny 1b and best hitter, doubles to deep center and Doescher stops at third.

Larry Reynolds, the school’s basketball star (later the coach at Long Beach State) who came out late to the ball season and hit a home run in a win over arch-rival St. Genevieve, steps up, and he singles to right. Doescher and Estes score. We win, 5-4.

Instead of tears in the dugout, it is high-fives and hugs. Olympics League co-champions! California Interscholastic Federation playoffs, here we come!

OK, it took more than one either/or plate appearance to win the game. But I feel now as I felt then. If I score on that bunt, tying the game, we were going to win it.

I like that result much better, coming from one kid trying to bunt and failing, and the other getting the ball down.

That is how it goes in my mind, anyway. I think about it every May 11, even with this particular May 11 attached to the Year of Our Lord, 1971, where the final score is Pater Noster 6, Los Angeles Lutheran 2.


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