How could a man who was kicked off his Parlier High School team twice, involved in a car accident that gnarled his left hand, and suffered a skull fracture when hit by a baseball in spring training end-up as a successful twelve-year pitching coach of the Los Angeles Dodgers? It is an amazing story. Red Adams has fond memories of working for the Dodgers and the O'Malley family, father Walter and son Peter, for twenty years, first as a scout, then as a spring training assistant, and finally as a pitching coach. Adams grew up during the Great Depression and had a very undistinguished high school career; a part of one season. "My brother Morris was a super athlete, he should have made the big leagues so I followed him to Parlier High," Adams recalled. "Well, I was not as focused or as serious as my brother, so the coach cut me before my freshmen season began."
The next year, Adams was involved in a roller skating accident and broke his left arm. Veteran Coast League player Charley Moncriet lived in Parlier, saw Adams throwing, and encouraged him as a pitcher. Adams got his grades up and won three or four games for Parlier in his junior year, but again the coach cut him, so Moncrief got him into the famous Fresno Twilight League and he won three games for the Holmes Rookies. Before Adams started his senior year, Moncrief took him to a tryout camp at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. "I was a seventeen year old kid and due to the Depression, there were 250 kids there from all parts of the country trying out. Well, the Cubs signed me |up]. I went home and like a fool quit school and went to a Cubs Class 'D' league in Bisbee, Arizona. I was 16-8 in a short season and the next year, they sent me back to Bisbee. I thought I would at least get to Class 'C' and then they told me Bisbee had been elevated to Class 'C,' so it was a promotion."
Adams had a car accident that severed the elan muscle in his left elbow, causing a lack of function in his left hand. Adams was in the Pacific Coast League from 1942 to 1957, winning more than 150 games. In 1941, he won twenty-one games following an almost-miraculous recovery from a sore arm through trainer Danny Carroll. That year elevated him to the Cubs major league team and they were counting on him. He had just finished pitching batting practice and was sitting on a bench in front of the dugout when a ball hit him over the left eye and fractured his skull. When he recovered, the season was well along and he made a few appearances without success. He went back to the Angels and said he "was a sore arm pitcher for the rest of his career even though he had a l5-16 record and league-leading 2.17 ERA in
Dodgers pitching great, Don Sutton said during his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown: "Red Adams is a standard by which every pitching coach should be measured. No person ever meant more to me in my career than Red Adams and, without him, I wouldn't be standing in Cooperstown today." Left-handed ace Tommy John was quoted: "Red saw me throw on the side and told me, “You know, you can win with just a fastball." I thought he was kidding. I had to pitch a certain way, or so I thought, but Red kept pounding it into me that I could get by on a fastball. That advice in 1972 enabled me to have the best years of my career."
Adams was reluctant to talk about himself stating, "Any success I had was due to the fact I took time to know my pitchers,"Adams said. "No two pitchers were alike. What would work for one might not work for another. I liked to interact with them. I never thought of myself as a coach who knew all the answers. I did a lot of observing and not a lot of talking. Pitchers get into slumps just like batters and by watching them day after day I was able to see when they got away from their mechanics. I got the job after [Sandy] Koufax was retired and [Don] Drysdale was in his last year, but I did get to know them and benefitted from their experience."
Adams served under Managers Walt Alston for eight years and Tommy Lasorda for four as well as general manager Al Campanis. "The whole Dodgers organization, top to bottom was first class," Adams said. "Mr. O'Malley treated everyone like a family. He was loud, funny, and liked to have fun. His son, Peter is different, but a great guy.
“The training camp at Vero Beach, Florida was like a resort." Adams' pitchers topped the National League in earned 170 Dwight "Red" Adams run averages several times. Among his best were Claude Osteen, Jim Brewer, Don Sutcliffe, John Sutton, and Al Downing. Adams's only regret was when the Dodgers made the World Series three times in his twelve years and lost all three, once to Oakland and twice to the New York Yankees. "Guess they should've had a better pitching coach," Adams quipped.
Malcolm Fiese played for Slip Madigan, one of the most colorful football coaches in California history, at St. Mary's College in Moraga. The Gaels, nicknamed the "Galloping Gaels," made history when they traveled east and beat one of the great Fordam teams. The team traveled by train and it was told that Madigan would stop along the way and pick up a few players. Fiese began his football career in the late 1920s at Salinas High School. Fiese was a sturdy 5'10" and 148 pounds with a sprinter's speed. He ran the 100-yard dash in 9.9 seconds and the 220-yard in 22.0 Madigan stressed speed and recruited Fiese as a quarterback for the Gaels for two seasons when he was switched to fullback for his senior year where he won All-Coast honors. In 1934, he called all the plays in a 13-9 upset of Fordam. The Gaels out-gained the Rams 400 yards to 133. Fiese also averaged forty-seven yards per punt. He graduated from St. Mary's in 1935 and became the head football and basketball coach at Regis College in Denver for two years before returning to his alma mater as a freshmen coach and director of minor sports.
Fiese moved to Fresno after being discharged from the Navy and took over the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO). He also served as an assistant coach and scout for Fresno State head coaches Ken Gleason and Clark Van Galder. It was his strategy of running speedy Donnie Driscoll at the teeth of the College of Pacific's defense that enabled Fresno to tie the powerful Stockton team at a score of 21-21 in 1953.
He was called "Barkin' Joe" Kelly when he was a star guard for the University of Southern California. But for those who knew him best, his coaching behavior was not that of a barker. Kelly was raised in Wisconsin where he played on the unbeaten state champion Madison High School basketball team. He caught the eye of USC, who offered him a scholarship, where he eventually became an All-Coast selection. His biggest success came from coaching where he developed winning teams at Fresno High School and Fresno City College. That winning tradition was fostered during his playing days where he went sixty-three consecutive games without tasting a defeat, beginning in high school and into his sophomore year for the Trojans. Kelly even caused a change in basketball rules when he sat on the ball and read a newspaper while Stanford stubbornly stayed in a zone defense. Collegiate rules were changed so that you had to keep the ball moving even in a stall. Kelly remembered that, during one game in his twelve-year career at Fresno City College, his under-manned team was playing Allan Hancock College with future USC All-American and pro star John Rudometkin. John Toomasian, who succeeded Kelly as the Rams coach, was his assistant for five years and remembers that game well. "Joe told me John, there is no way we can beat these guys.' But I told him if we held the ball and split the floor, it is possible we could," Toomasian said. "I knew a lot about the spread, so we tried it and it almost worked. We missed a couple of layups or it would've." The final score was 10-6 and everyone all over the country wanted to know how it happened, especially against a team like Hancock.
Kelly began his coaching career at Tehachapi High School and then continued for two years at the San Diego Naval Training Center. When he was discharged, he went to Fresno High in 1942 and in ten seasons with the Warriors was 133-56, winning four league championships and the Valley title in 1951. He was a solid fundamentalist and instilled confidence in his players. When All-City guard Larry Huebner went to UCLA and turned out for the Bruin freshman team, the coaches asked him where he learned his fundamentals, "Joe Kelly taught me" was the short answer that Huebner gave them. Kelly finished out his career with twelve seasons at Fresno City College where his Rams won two state championships in 1955 and 1963 and six conference crowns. His teams also finished as runners-up for the state title in 1956,1964, and 1965. His overall record of 275-102 equated to a .729 average.
He was inducted into the Community College Men's Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame. "Joe was a good coach because his head was always into the game, Toomasian said. "He was my mentor and he gave me the job, so eventually I became head coach. Joe was pretty laid back on the bench and didn't shout at his players and never used profanity...He never used more than six or seven players at Fresno City until the game was decided one way or the other. His teams were very difficult to beat more than once in the same season." Kelly also assisted Erwin Ginsburg with his football teams. During some of his coaching years, he also officiated various high school sports.
Bertha Reagan Tickey was one of the greatest pitchers in women's fast-pitch softball history with eleven national championships, but she is most proud of the title, "World Softball Ambassador." Tickey promoted fast pitch softball in China, Japan, Netherlands, Italy, and Australia. "This [Path for the Gold] tour was in 1965 and took fifty-two days," Tickey stated, "What came out of that tour is that all these countries have teams in the Olympic Games. When we made the tour, we took enough players for two teams because most of the countries didn't even have a team for us to play. Tickey toured the world for the following twelve years sponsored by Raybestos and the United States Chamber of Commerce. She also first introduced fast-pitch women's softball to the East Coast. Tickey left the Orange Lionettes where she had sparked three national championships for Connecticut at the invitation of the Raybestos Manhattan president. "I wasn't eager to leave California, but Orange had lost its sponsor, so I decided to go in 1956," Tickey said. The Brakettes finished third in the nationals in 1956, but two years later won the first national title ever for an East Coast team. Tickey played twelve years for the Brakettes during which time they won six more national American Softball Association titles. Tickey had planned to retire in 1967. One of the three Raybestos pitchers decided to go to graduate school and another was injured, leaving Joan Joyce to go it alone. At thirty-eight, Tickey came to the rescue, posting a 25-1 record and ending her career on a high. In the National Championship final game, Tickey struck out twenty of twenty-one batters for a perfect no-hitter.
With Raybestos, Tickey won 385 games and lost twenty-six. She was 757-88 with 162 no-hitters in her career. "I had six brothers and they taught me how to play baseball," Tickey said. "I started my career at thirteen with the Sultana girls. After playing against my brothers, it was no problem for me facing seventeen and eighteen-year-old girls. Then we moved to Dinuba and I pitched for the Alta Chevrolet team. I played there for a couple of years while attending Reedley High School. I got a call from the Orange Lionettes because they had seen the write-ups about me and their pitcher had broken an arm during a tour of China." Tickey played for the Lionettes while still in high school and had to have a chaperone, her brother, Sam. "Sam was a great baseball player and...Sam taught me how to throw a rise ball with a hop on it" Tickey worked for the City of Orange when she was with the Lionettes and did the same in Bushford, Connecticut while with the Brakettes. "Bushford held an annual Barnum Festival named after the famous promoter P.T. Barnum who once was the town mayor, explained Tickey. "It was patterned after the Tournament of Roses and was well-attended. I was director for eight years.
That's where I met and married Ed Tickey who once played for the Brooklyn Dodgers." When she began her career, the pitching distance was thirty-five feet and, by the time she finished, it was forty-three. Tickey said she constantly had to adjust her pitches to the distance. Tickey was a good fielder and a decent hitter with a .250 average. "You are as good as the ones you play and ourPacific Coast League was the best. Nearly every game was 1-0 or 2-1...Every team was good and every pitcher was good. That's why we were so successful in the nationals. We played the best every week. No one today could hold a candle to Kay Rich [Fresno's star infielder]. She was out of everyone's league. She played like a man. She was so good and a wonderful person, too." Tickey is convinced that most of the teams in that league could have beaten the best collegiate teams of today, even our strong national team. "I think college coaches control the girl's thinking too much. Everything is different. No one had to tell us what to do. We knew what to do every second." It was those six athletic brothers that taught her well and she took it from there.
Nicknamed the "Dean of the Diamond" in Kerry Yo Nakagawa's superb book Through a Diamond: 100 Years of Japanese American Baseball, Kenichi Zenimura, a five-foot dynamo and native of Hiroshima, Japan, earned the title with room to spare. He was a player, an organizer, a manager, a husband, and a father under some of the most difficult conditions imaginable. Zenimura was still a youngster when his family moved from Japan to Hawaii. It was in that beautiful setting that he was introduced to the game of baseball at twelve. He first displayed his leadership skills as captain of the Mills High School team that won the Islands High School championship in 1918. Fresno became his home when he went to visit a relative in 1919 and, a year later, he took up residence. Zenimura's passion for baseball knew no limits and he was still an active player at fifty-five. At seventy-three, he was tragically killed in an automobile accident.
When Zenimura reached Fresno, he immediately founded the Fresno Athletic Club. Later, he played for two Fresno Twilight League teams. Zenimura organized the Fresno Nisei All-Stars team in the early days and led them to two state championships. He managed, played shortstop, and was team captain of those championship teams. He wanted to expand the cultural heritage and competitive skills of his players, so he arranged trips for his Nisei All-Stars to Japan in 1924, 1927, and 1937. He also scheduled home games against teams from the Negro Leagues and the Pacific Coast League. In 1927, he was able to participate in an exhibition game in Fresno against a team of major league players headed by the immortal Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. However, all his pre-war activities paled by comparison to what happened after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States into World War II.
Zenimura's real legacy was established in the dank, hot Japanese internment camp in the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona. The Zenimura family were among the 120,000 Nisei citizens who were sent to assembly centers and then to internment camps. The family was forced to sell their home and many of their belongings on short notice for ten cents on the dollar. They were housed for six months in disgraceful conditions in horse stalls at the Fresno District Fairgrounds. Zenimura was able to line up tractors, some carpenters and lumber, and clear off an alfalfa field on Butler Avenue to build a ballpark near the fairgrounds. There was no grass, but Zenimura still organized a league. Later, the family was sent to Gila, Arizona and they had barely settled before Zenimura's mind was planning a baseball park. There were thirty-two blocks in the camp to house the people and each block had a baseball team. Zenimura arranged the teams into three categories. Class A for experienced players, B for high school, and C for junior high.
Howard said a gate was cut in the barbed wire fence surrounding the camp, opening the way to build Zenimura's "field of dreams." "All the camp roads were dirt, so they had a number of graders to maintain them," Howard said. "One of the drivers was Japanese and he leveled the infield. We screened rocks and made stacks. When the grandstand was completed, we put the rocks underneath to keep down the dust." "Building the park was hard work, but a lot of fun," Howard said. "My dad, my brother, and I along with a few kids worked from early morning to noon, had lunch, a nap, and got the field ready to play. That was the routine for most of our four years in camp."
Since the Zenimuras lived in a corner barrack, Howard's father dug a ditch from the laundry room to the field and laid a pipeline. At night, he would connect the laundry room pipe to his line and direct the water to the ballpark. Zenimura ordered equipment from Homans Sporting Goods in Fresno and women sewed uniforms from bedding material. Zenimura paid Homan's from contributions taken at the two park entrances. The park held about 3,000 people, but when the A teams played or for an Al-Star game, it was standing room only. In 1945, Zenimura arranged a game for his high school team against a Tucson High School team that had won three straight state championships at Gila Park.
Tucson pitcher, Lowell Bailey was undefeated in 1944 with a 0.0 ERA. Zenimura's team scored ten runs off Bailey, but with a tied score, the game went into the tenth. With bases loaded, Harvey Zenimura singled to left to win the game. On November 10, 2005, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano issued a proclamation designating Kenichiro Zenimura Day in honor of his role in building the park for the interned Nisei.
Following the war, Zenimura returned to Fresno with nothing. He organized the Fresno Nisei team that won the National Nisei Championship against Denver which was played in Fresno. Howard and Harvey Zenimura went on to Fresno State. Howard said he learned so much from the Nisei veterans and his dad that he had no trouble making any team. "I joined the Army and made the team in Virginia," Howard said. "They transferred me to the Military Intelligence School in Monterey and I made that team. Then I went to Fresno State with Pete Beiden and had no trouble making that team." Howard is a member of the Fresno State Baseball Hall of Fame and Harvey went on to play several seasons with the professional Hiroshima Carps. Howard followed his father's lead and for many years, took local high school all-star teams to Japan.