John Peter Beiden, a Russian immigrant, was hooked on baseball from the first time he was asked to catch at seventeen and he loved the game throughout his lifetime. Beiden became a legend in a most self-effacing way with his own "Beidenese" language that very few could understand, but everyone enjoyed. He was a popular speaker, but he never felt that was his calling and often got the most laughs when he was trying to be serious. Beiden was the head baseball coach at Fresno State for twenty-two years and the campus baseball park is named for him. Former player Tom Sommers idolized his coach and spent untold hours caring for him when Beiden was wheelchair-ridden in his later years. Following Beiden's death, Sommers spearheaded a drive that raised money for the construction of a seven-foot statue of Beiden which occupies a corner inside the park.
Beiden not only consistently produced winning teams, but this master of baseball fundamentals also produced men of character, many of whom became outstanding high school, junior college, and college coaches in their own right. He competed with some of the best teams in the country on a budget so small it was laughable. Beiden allowed players to purchase their own bats for years until athletic director Cecil Coleman put an end to that practice. Beiden loved to talk baseball. "I always had to go out and find work aid jobs for my players," Beiden stated. "John Euless gave me a $100 scholarship and I gave that to Earl Smith. In my entire career, I gave just four players $400; most got $100 to $150."Players on some of his earliest teams often didn't get enough to pay for tuition and books, so they had to sign up for work aid.
For Beiden, there was a correct way to do everything from putting on a uniform to playing your position. He was an icon when it came to coaching pitchers and was hired at Fresno State in 1948. Within four years, he put together a team that went 36-4, one of the best win-loss records in college baseball history. His Bulldogs finished second in the California Collegiate Athletic Association in 1948 and 1949 and won the championship in the next two seasons. Beiden seldom went out of the San Joaquin Valley to recruit players for his early teams and every starter on the 1951 team including the top three pitchers were from Fresno, Visalia, or Exeter.
That team featured unbeaten pitcher Don Barnett, the school's inaugural baseball First Team All-American. Beiden had already developed two of the valley's all-time best pitchers, right-hander Mike Garcia from Orosi High School and left-hander Vic Lombardi from Tulare when he was hired at College of the Sequoias in Visalia in 1946. In 1948, he was offered the Fresno State job. "The money wasn't the thing because Tulare had offered me more to come back there, but I welcomed the opportunity at Fresno State. It wasn't easy. We didn't start from respectability. We came from nothing at Fresno State. Many teams we played didn't even know where Fresno was." Beiden's teams won nine CCAA championships, made the playoff finals four times, and got to Omaha for the College World Series in 1959 where they finished third and were ranked third in the nation.
He was voted into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame in 1964 and the Collegiate Baseball Coaches of America in 1972. His record was 601-268. The list of his players who became coaches includes: Augie Garrido, who is the winningest coach in collegiate baseball history; Beiden's successor Bob Bennett, who won 1,302 games in thirty-four seasons; and Len Bourdet, who at retirement was the winningest community college coach in California history. Some well-known high school and junior college coaches who were Beiden disciples include:
Jake Abbott, Art Shahzade, Jimmy Garrett, Jerry White, Jack Hannah, Allen Cropsey, Skip Winn, Leon Erwin, Bert Holt, Merv Carter, Roy Taylor, Sam Farsakian, and Bill Harbour.
There was a contrast in the furor created by the 2008 Fresno State World Series champions and the team's third place finish in 1959. "I was so proud to have come that far in ten years from nothing to the highest peak, but there was no big fuss made. They had a party for the kids and that was about it. It didn't help recruiting a lot because we didn't have scholarships to offer. We lost some very good recruits who went to other schools because we couldn't offer a large enough scholarship." Beiden never forgot where he came from. He was one of thirteen children born to Henry Beiden. "We were easy to feed because you either ate what was there or you didn't eat,it was that simple. There were a lot of soybeans in our diet,"Beiden said. Beiden came to the United States when he was J.Peter Beiden 63 six years old. His parents with their seven children made the trip, losing one child on the journey. An uncle arranged for a little two-room house which Beiden said was about as big as his kitchen. He went to Kirk School until the fourth grade and then the family moved to Sanger. It was at Sanger High where he met the first of three men who most influenced his career in baseball. Frank Trine was the Sanger coach and later the coach at Redlands College where Beiden and his brother Hank went to school. Trine decided Beiden should try catching. "I'd never caught, but I think the coach figured, 'We got a stupid guy here who's not afraid of anything, so we'll make him a catcher," Beiden recalled. "You can imagine the kind of job I did. It was a butchering job, but I loved it. That's the first time the game ever awakened itself to me."
Beiden's wife, Martha was a huge asset to his success. She recalled that when Beiden was at Tulare High, he coached all four sports and drove the school bus for $135 a month. She also remembers helping Pete get the field ready for an exhibition game. "Work aid people were supposed to do it, but Pete and I were the work aid and I haven't got paid yet," Martha said, laughing. Martha preceded her husband in death. If Beiden was looking down today, he would be very proud of the baseball program's success as he laid the groundwork.
Stanley Evans Borleske was recruited by the legendary University of Michigan coach Fielding "Hurry Up" Yost and became an outstanding end in 1909, his sophomore season with the Wolverines. Borleske was involved in an extraordinary collegiate football game in October of his first season. It was momentous for Notre Dame who defeated Michigan 11-3 for the first time in Ann Arbor. It was also a sad memory in another way for Borleske who had recovered two fumbles earlier in the game and then ran down Notre Dame's Red Miller on a long breakaway to the Michigan five-yard line. Borleske hit Miller with his right shoulder and sustained a broken collarbone, ending his season after five games. Notre Dame capitalized on the injury to pound his substitute for rushing yards. In his senior year, Borleske was a First Team All-American on three different teams.
Borleske was hired at Fresno State in 1930. He coached baseball for eight seasons, basketball for five, and football for three. His 1930 football team was 8-0. Only the 1961 Bulldog Mercy Bowl team that went 10-0 topped his team's record. His teams won one conference title in football, two in basketball, and two in baseball. He was an assistant coach for James "Rabbit" Bradshaw for seven seasons. He retired from Fresno State in 1958 after twenty-nine years of teaching and coaching.
Jimmy Bradshaw earned his nickname because of the way he outran tacklers at the University of Nevada and later in semi-pro and professional football. Bradshaw had a keen football mind honed from a year under the University of Illinois coach Robert "Bob" Zuppke and as an eight-year assistant to Stanford coach Glenn Scobey "Pop" Warner. Bradshaw brought Warner's double-wing formation with some of his own variations to Fresno State as head coach in 1936.
In eight seasons, he compiled a record of 60-18- 6 which is still the highest Winning percentage in school history. In 1939, his Bulldogs were 9-1-0 with a lone loss in a nationally-recognized game against San Jose State where Leroy Zimmerman ran and passed the Spartans to a 42-1 victory. Bradshaw's 1942 team won its first seven games, but was then derailed by the University of San Francisco led by Neil Sheridan. The following week, Fresno edged San Jose 6- 0 and finished with a 27-6 win over Loyola who had defeated USF.
World War II interrupted Bradshaw's career for two years. When the war ended, he returned for one season before resigning to become director of the Fresno City Schools physical education, health and recreation program. He was credited with designing one of the finest P.E. programs in the state. Bradshaw was also in constant demand as a motivational speaker. Bradshaw was born June 23, 1898 on a farm in Green County, Missouri and was three when the family moved to Kansas City. He was 127 pounds when he reported for football at Illinois and was proud of the fact that he made the varsity. He couldn't handle the tuition and housing costs, so he completed the first year at Pittsburgh Normal. In 1919, he came west to play at Nevada. Bradshaw had bulked up to 135 pounds when he reported for the Wolf Pack and that was the weight that he played at for most of his collegiate career. He added another ten pounds when he played for the Olympic Club and professionally.
Bradshaw gained 3,120 yards in three seasons from 1920 to 1923 at Nevada and was placed on the All-Western team even though Nevada was a small school. Sports writers in those days said if Bradshaw had played for the University of California with its precision blocking line, he would have set records that no one could touch. Nevada did play the Golden Bears and were trounced, but all the media talk was about the 141 yards that Bradshaw gained against one of the great teams of that era. Bradshaw was the quarterback and the offense revolved around him.
Bradshaw also captained the Nevada basketball team, was the intercollegiate tennis champion of Kansas in 1918, and twice won the Nevada state tennis title. After his retirement, tennis became his favorite sport and he played well into his later years. Following his graduation from Nevada, he moved to San Francisco where his job was coaching at Redwood High School, but he represented the Olympic Club on weekends. He was chosen to play in the first East-West Shrine game in 1925. In 1926, Bradshaw signed with the first traveling professional football league promoted by Charlie "Cash and Carry" Pyle. He began the season with George Wilson's Wildcats and finished with Red Grange's New York Yankees. Bradshaw organized the professional San Francisco Tigers in 1927 and was the player-coach. The Tigers tackled a four-game series with a squad built around superstars Grange, Brick Muller, Ernie Nevers, and Benny Friedman. Bradshaw's Fresno State teams earned recognition for their "quick strike." Fresno's first possession often ended with a score, sometimes on the first play. Bradshaw utilized the passing game highlighted in 1942 when quarterback Jackie Fellows was named to Bill Stern's First Team All-American.
How different would history be if Bradshaw had been Oregon's choice in 1938? Bradshaw was said to be the front runner for the head job. He flew to Los Angeles to meet in secret with Oregon President Donald M. Erb and Oregon Board of Athletic Control James H. Gilbert. The candidate list was trimmed to Bradshaw and Tex Oliver. Oliver was chosen. In 1946, Bradshaw had high hopes since Fellows, Jack Kelley, and Mickey Masini along with several 1942 teammates, returned. He also had recruited other highly touted players. However the war had zapped the energy and passion for football of many key players and Bradshaw resigned with an 8-4 record which he said, "was one of the disappointments of his life." He and his wife traveled around the world and he wrote articles in The Fresno Bee about his many experiences. Bradshaw was a most delightful person to be around and contributed greatly to Fresno.
Gordon Dunn had two nicknames in various stages of his life. He was "Slinger Dunn" at Stanford University and "No Fun Dunn" while mayor of Fresno as he waged a relentless war on city vices. Dunn was born in 1912 in Portland, Oregon, but the family moved to Fresno early enough for the big youngster to begin his weight-throwing career for Fresno High School where he also played center on the Warrior football team. Dunn's finest moment as an athlete came during the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany where he competed before Adolph Hitler. It was the same year that he graduated from Stanford. U.S. teammate Ken Carpenter captured the gold medal in the discus at 165' 7 3/8" while Dunn grabbed the silver medal at 161' 11 7/16". Dunn's effort was just shy of the NCAA record of 162'7" that he set while winning that event for Stanford in 1934. After Fresno High, Dunn attended the "feeder school" of Menlo Junior College before moving on to Stanford. While at Fresno High, Dunn won the first of fifteen gold watches in thirteen years of competition at the Fresno West Coast Relays. Moving to Stanford in 1934, he was chosen by the AAU to join a group of U.S. collegiate athletes to tour Japan, China, and the Philippines. Dunn returned with twenty-four trophies of various types from participation in eight meets.
Included in those awards was a sword presented in Japan that had been passed down through several generations and a large silver bowl which came from the International Olympic Committee in Japan. After Stanford, Dunn competed under the famous Winged-O emblem for the San Francisco Olympic Club on a team that included world record holders like Dutch Warmerdam, Fresno State's Elroy Robinson, and Olympians in nearly all running and field events. Dunn set an American record of 171'5 3/4" in 1936 during the annual Compton Invitational meet. The former record was 169'8 7/8". Dunn was a lieutenant commander in the Navy during World War II. After his discharge, he returned to Fresno where he deplored the wide-open prostitution and other crimes that flourished in the city. He was elected mayor at the age of thirty-six and was regarded as one of the country's toughest mayors on crime. Dunn died in San Francisco on July 26, 1964 at fifty-two.
John M. Euless was the right man at the right time with the right connections when professional baseball returned to Fresno in 1941. This was the year that the California League was created and Fresno was selected to be one of the franchise team locations. Euless, who was raised in St. Louis and was thus a Cardinals fan, made the contact which resulted in the St. Louis Cardinals with flamboyant general manager, Branch Richey, sponsoring the Class 'C' local team. It was Euless who gathered the backing from several friends to build Fresno State College Park in time for the season opener and Fresno State was able to play a post-season game there that year. The cozy park which later carried Euless name led the league in attendance, but that was the year that World War II started and the division folded in 1942. Euless was the first president of the Fresno team and continued in that role when the Cardinals resumed play following the war until 1949. Euless was in the real-estate business and a rancher who loved pheasant hunting with his dog beside him. Euless played high school and sandlot baseball and his Euless Realty Company sponsored teams in the popular Fresno Twilight League. John Euless died in 1966.
Erwin Ginsburg was one tough customer. In his days at Tulare High School before graduating in 1922, he racked up All-Conference honors in football, basketball, and track. He was always known for his work ethic and his "all for the team" attitude. At Fresno State College, he was a multi-year starter on the Bulldog basketball team and an all-round performer on the track team. Erwin was a ten-flat sprinter in the 100-yard dash and his long jump efforts of over twenty-three feet brought him close to a world record. His work ethic was also present in his schoolwork as he served as the Fresno State Student Body President and Valedictorian of the Class of 1922. He completed his Master's work in English with Honors and was ready to embark on his long career as an English teacher and coach in the Fresno area.
He taught and coached at Fresno High for twenty-eight years from 1929 to 1956 and the results were of legendary proportions. In football under his tutelage, the Warriors had 101 wins, thirty-six losses and nine ties in sixteen years with valley championship years in 1937, 1938, 1940, and 1952. In basketball, his teams had eighty-six wins and fifty defeats including two Valley titles in 1934 and 1937 and at one stretch, they won twenty-three consecutive games. Ginsburg coached track at Fresno City College for eleven years in which his teams won seventy of ninety-three dual meets along with three conference titles and three Northern California Championships."Erwin was the most innovative man and the most inspirational man I ever met," said Robin Rush, who was a football player on Fresno High teams under Ginsburg and would go on to a successful football coaching career himself at Hoover and Bullard.
Erwin Ginsburg was known as a strict disciplinarian and an excellent judge of talent. He talked Les Richter, a junior at Fresno High who had never played football, into coming out for the Warrior team. Richter later went on to become an All-American player at Cal and an All-Pro with the Los Angeles Rams. Richter once said of his former mentor, "Coach always expected 100% effort, nothing less. Erwin practiced what he preached and he preached a pretty good sermon." Robin Rush remembers, "As a teacher and a coach, Erwin wanted things done right. He dotted all the I's and crossed all the T's. He was very demanding. When I became a coach, I had kids run a lap and I wanted that last step in that lap to be a full, running step. I got that from Erwin Ginsburg." After he retired in 1967, he served as the Superintendent of Northern Officials in the North Central California Interscholastic Federation until 1976. He was inducted into the California Coaches Hall of Fame in 1967. Ginsburg passed away in 1989.