Missing: Harbor College Hall Of Fame Inductees

Richard Johnson, where are you?

Working on the Harbor College Athletic Hall of Fame committee these past five years has been rewarding, but it has its challenges. Chief among them is actually finding the people nominated so they can take part in the annual induction ceremony.

When contacted, inductees have expressed great enthusiasm, and athletes have come to the event from thousands of miles away, excited not only by the honor but also by the chance to see old friends and teammates. Jim Hight, the Gardena High alum and former All-American at Harbor College (1964) and San Diego State, was so impressed by his induction ceremony that he became a member of the committee and makes the drive up from San Diego to attend meetings.

The problem is getting hold of the nominee, particularly those who performed in earlier generations. Some of Harbor’s greatest athletes, even those who went on to four-year schools and the pros, have scattered to the four winds, and former coaches and teammates, when contacted, haven’t heard from them in years.

Such is the case with Johnson, who graduated from San Pedro High in 1978 and starred at Harbor in 1979-80. He started for two years at Colorado before embarking on a professional odyssey that included three years in the upstart United States Football League, where he led the league in pass receptions two years in a row, and two years with the Detroit Lions, where he set a team record for pass catches.

As of this writing, our every effort to get in touch with him has failed, so this is one last appeal to anyone who might know of his whereabouts to contact us before this year’s Sept. 13 event. You can use my email at the bottom of this column.

The same goes for members of the 1968 women’s track and field team and 1994-95 women’s basketball team, both of which won state titles. Finding women athletes has been particularly hard because while we have names, many obviously got married over the years and no longer go by their maiden names.

Then there are those who we want to honor who have died. Because Harbor’s Hall of Fame is relatively new, we have had to honor many posthumously. This year’s list includes three from three generations: Dick Hughes (meritorious service), a faculty member from 1963 to 2006; James Sims (1970-71), all-star linebacker who started for USC’s 1972 national champions; and pitcher Justin Miller (1996-97), conference co-MVP with seven years in the major leagues.

Joining them in this year’s class are Steve Cox (1963-64 All-American wide receiver); Charles Glass (1970-71 gymnast who became world-class bodybuilder); all-star shortstop Mark Lewis (1991-92); record-setting distance runners Sherry Simmons (1978-79) and Diana Karg (1978-80); and the 1983 baseball team that went 30-11 and lost in the state finals.

All of the inductees will be recognized at the Ports O’ Call Restaurant banquet. For tickets, call 310-233-4446. Proceeds maintain the work of the Hall of Fame in honoring Harbor’s finest athletes.

Because of past experience with no-shows, the HOF committee knows that, with or without Johnson and the others, the dinner will still be a huge success. It’s what you’d expect from a committee that includes the likes of Hight, coaching legends Jim O’Brien and Jim White, and Joe Marino, Dave Gascon, Mickey Teora, Jim Stanbery and the recently added Marion Perkov. It’s the honorees who miss out on a memorable occasion, so if you can help us find Richard Johnson, let us know.

Speaking of Pirate Football…

I’m sure the stories were flowing at the memorial for Bill Seixas, the longtime San Pedro High coach and teacher who died July 1 at 91, but there was one story that probably didn’t get told.

It happened during my SPHS days in the late `60s, when I had homeroom in the old gym. The teacher was the aforementioned Teora, and the class sat on one half of the bleachers, with another homeroom class, under Seixas, next to ours. Teora and Seixas, P.E. teachers at this point in their careers and longtime friends, had desks facing the bleachers, and there was always a lot of banter going on. One morning as I was doing homework there was a disturbance, and I looked up to see chairs flying and Seixas and Teora involved in a full-out brawl, fists flailing away. It only lasted a few seconds before some students separated them; I don’t recall any bloodshed or injuries, and the next day everything was back to normal.

Teora must have forgotten that morning when, commenting on his late friend, he said, “He was ornery as hell and he used to fight tooth and nail – verbally of course – but he was able to determine a good athlete from an average athlete and develop them into great athletes.” Then again, maybe he did remember, and was just being kind to the memory of the feisty little coach who loved all things San Pedro. spt

New Baseball Coach Wants No Player Left Behind

Good morning, students. Welcome to “Introduction to San Pedro High Baseball 101.”

As most of you know by now, we have a new coach, Lefty Olguin, although calling Lefty “new” is silly because he’s been a part of San Pedro sports for much of his life. The entire Olguin clan, in fact, has been an integral part of San Pedro’s history for most of the past century; our other campus is named after Lefty’s uncle and aunt, John and Muriel.

Please note that Lefty – no one calls him Albert – is not a lefthander. He’s had his nickname since he was a baby and it has nothing to do with his limbs. It seems one day both of his parents ran to answer a phone and realized they had “left” the baby alone for just a minute. As will happen, the kids in the neighborhood picked up on the story, and he’s been Lefty ever since.

Which caused no little confusion for major league scout Carl Hubbell, the Hall of Fame pitcher, who came to watch Lefty when he was starring for the Pirates and was surprised to find out he was checking out a right-hander.

You’ll also note that Lefty is slightly older than the typical beginning high school coach. All right, a lot older. Old enough to be retired as the athletic director of Compton College as of Jan. 31. Lefty is used to being the “old man,” however. He graduated from Pedro in Summer `69 but had suffered a serious injury and didn’t return to playing until 1976, when Jim O’Brien made him his first recruit at Harbor College. That’s when he reunited for the first time with Bobby Ramirez, his former San Pedro High teammate and the man he’s placing as coach at SPHS. Ramirez was an assistant coach (along with Pedro legend Andy Lopez) under O’Brien that year when, with Lefty back on the mound, the Seahawks finished runner-up in the state tournament.

Lefty, having graduated from Biola, returned to Harbor in 1978 as an assistant on O’Brien’s first state championship team. One of the players on that team was Matt Stanovich, who was an assistant at Pedro under Ramirez and will remain, joined by his brother, Dave, and holdovers Ray Mendoza and Jamie Davenport. John Car, another former Pirate, takes over the pitching coach duties from Tim Ursich, who is now helping out Ramirez at his new school, Pioneer in Whittier. Car was pitching coach at Mary Star last year. We’ll explore all of these relationships next semester in “San Pedro Baseball: We Are Family.”

Lefty will be doing a lot more than coaching this year, however. He’s also just launched Future College Stars, a pet project of his that he hopes will have a lasting impact on the lives of young athletes beyond the playing field.

“The goal of the program is to academically track and support baseball in high school,” Lefty says. As a former player and coach, Lefty knows how to get the best out of his athletes on the field. As an administrator, he wants to get the best out of them off the field, in the classroom. “The whole premise is to help support the high school athlete not just for eligibility but help to get them into college.”

Lefty is hoping the foundation can raise the funds needed for people such as an academic coordinator, tutors and workshop leaders. He wants to see local college coaches speak to the students, lead clinics and promote their programs. He also wants to make sure the players have places to play year-round, with perhaps a collegiate league or instructional league. For starters, he’ll be working with San Pedro High, Mary Star and Pioneer, but hopes to expand in the summer.

“We want to put college in front of the kids instead of professional baseball,” Lefty says. “We want a consistent effort to help guarantee they get into college or a two-year program. By the time they’re getting ready to leave junior high, they’ll know what they need to do (academically). We want to try to get kids focused on college.”

Lefty is drawing on his experience of growing up in Pedro in the `50s and `60s and `70s, when he played with the likes of Garry Maddox, Alan Ashby, Joe Lovitto and the Lusic brothers. “We have a great tradition at San Pedro High of getting kids drafted,” he notes, “but there’s only a handful of them who went to college.

“Nothing wrong with signing out of high school, don’t get me wrong,” Lefty says, but he also knows a lot of great players whose professional aspirations didn’t pan out, and without a college education, their options were limited.

For more information, check out www.futurecollegestars.org. Leave it to Lefty to get it right.

The Long and Winding Road

Eight years later, and Ponte Vista is finally down to a reasonable 830 homes.

Like many, I remain opposed to changing the zoning from single-family R-1, but iStar apparently has seen the light. Testing the political wind, the new developers aren’t even going to fight for more housing, obviously hoping that the modest 830 figure will quiet most of their critics.

Of course, the devil is in the details, but at least there is now room for calm discussion on hot-button issues such as traffic mediation, which always has been my main concern, and senior units.

It looks like those goats may have to look for new grazing land soon. spt