It was a different kind of reunion. Sports-related. Coaches. Educators. Even a sports writer. But not everyone. Whoever touched the life of 68-year-old Tom Martin, one of the last of the Redlands Junior High athletes, got invited.
Uncle Howie’s was the spot for about a dozen guys.
In the old days, it would’ve been held at Roaring 20s, or the Cask-n-Cleaver.
You’ve gotta be old Redlands to know about those long-since-forgotten hangouts.
There are no older Redlanders than these guys.
Bob Hahn, the long-since-retired athletic director from Redlands High, told
how he cut school -- Catholic school, no less -- so that he and a friend could watch a 1945 World Series game at Wrigley Field against the Tigers. He’s 96, by the way. The other numbers in this story were $1.10, which is what it cost to buy a Series ticket.
Ancient Dave Farmer, who has officiated handfuls of sports for 63 years, still can’t stop telling Ronnie Lott stories.
Then there was Randy Genung, who coached Redlands High basketball for around three decades. Handfuls of Citrus Belt League championships, all-leaguers, handfuls of playoff wins and All-CIF players came on his watch.
He had to take over a story told by the reunion’s organizer, Martin, about how he’d set up a chance to win a pre-season basketball tournament game in
Orange County one year. Down by three. Less than 10 seconds left. Possession to Downey Pius X High, which had some “legit” college prospects.
Said Genung: “I heard their coach tell his players, ‘we don’t have any timeouts left.’”
Here’s where Genung went to work.
“I told the guys on our bench to yell 'timeout, red … timeout, red.'”
Sure enough, the referees heard it and awarded the timeout -- to the other team.
Technical foul! When Pius X’s coach exploded that he hadn’t called a timeout, another tech, or two, was issued. Redlands, awarded three foul shots and the basketball, still came up a point, or two, short.
This is what these reunions are all about, folks. Stories. Memories.
Martin prevailed upon Bill Havard, who was in his final season -- finally -- of coaching baseball at Redlands High. San Gorgonio, Clement Junior High, University of Redlands and, eventually, three decades of baseball and football in Terrier blue. He had to lead the singing of Happy Birthday to Genung, Martin and a couple others.
Martin himself told the story of an old classmate, a guy named Julio Cruz.
The kid had thick glasses, could barely see.
Al Endeman, the old Redlands High basketball coach, sent him to an optician. Got him glasses.
Cruz, who stood decisively under six-feet, dunked a basketball in junior high, said Farmer.
Cruz also made it to the major leagues, where he spent a 12-year career in pro baseball -- Angels, Mariners and White Sox mainly -- before concluding his career as a Spanish-speaking broadcaster in Seattle.
Martin keeps in touch. Lott?
“I remember Anthony Munoz being a stud pitcher,” said Harvard, “and a great basketball player.”
Why does that matter?
Because Lott played at Eisenhower at the same time Munoz played at Ontario Chaffey. Both schools were in CBL lineups.
What’s cool is that Lott and Munoz, future NFL Hall of Famers, played at powerhouse USC at the same time, then went up against each other in two Super Bowls, Lott’s 49ers beating Munoz’s Bengals both times.
All of which means Redlands went up against both players multiple times in multiple sports.
Harvard, sitting next to Harvard at the reunion, have been partnered for years.
Both came from that El Monte/Covina area.
Both taught math.
Each man wound up in Redlands.
Best man at each other’s wedding. Havard married Claudia. Genung married Cindy.
Speaking of Claudia, Havard told the story about sitting in the home of his old college baseball coach’s home, Paul Taylor, the man whose place Havard took as coach in 1978. Sitting inside the Taylors’ home that day was none other than John and Nell Wooden.
“You think that wasn’t special?” asked Havard, noting how Claudia and Nell may have discussed the joys of being a coach’s wife.
Decades of coaching. Which means dozens of kids. Hundreds of games.
Thousands of practices. Ask them how many. They’re the math wizards.
Genung, who looks like he could still coach, had a different count. “The parents,” he said. “Too much.”
Havard, retired from the classroom, was still hanging tough on the diamond.
He said, “This is it. I’m done after this season.”
It’s worth a reunion.
Got a sports tip, some rumblings or just want to chat about sports? Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org.