Fred Barnes had just switched from a bamboo vaulting pole-made famous by his world-renowned coach and mentor Dutech Warmerdam-to the more consistent steel pole when he enrolled at Fresno State in 1950. Barnes had completed two and a half years of service in the Armed Forces during the Korean conflict. He vaulted 12'6" at Turlock High School and equaled that height during a military meet in Meji Park Stadium in Tokyo, Japan.Warmerdam's coaching and Barnes' hard work and determination enabled him to clear 13'6" in his sophomore year. He tried, but failed to clear the qualifying height of 14' during the Olympic Trials of that year.
Undaunted, Barnes put in a summer of hard labor working for the Turlock-based Hardison's Chicken Trucking. Barnes would pick up chickens housed in forty-eight coops at the receiVing center and deliver them to various vendors. By the end of the summer and entering his junior year, he was a muscular 170 pounds. It was the added muscle and upper body strength the enabled him to set a then-Fresno-State-record of 14'8". He also won the NCAA championship at 14'6". His point total was enough to boost the Bulldogs to a third place tie with Stanford. The 14'8" was during the 1956 Olympic Trials. He finished in a six-way tie for the third place on the team, but lost out on fewer misses.
His all-time best of 14'8 1/2" came at the California Relays in Modesto. That earned him a gold watch and placed him second in the world behind the Rev. Bob Richards. He finished the year with the seventh highest world vault. An improvement of two and a half feet in one year's time was considered remarkable. Like Warmerdam's bamboo, steel had no bend, so the vaulter had to rely on strength and technique. This was in stark contrast to the slingshot fiberglass poles of today that require more of a gymnastic effort. "My technique was a long swing, bringing back the feet quickly, pulling back, elevating and pushing off,"Barnes said. "Dutch had a push off of 2'10" while mine was only 1'9". The technique also required a back twist. I was not too fast, about 10.4 or 10.6 in the 100, so I had to use a longer pole than the faster vaulters.
Barnes said some of his finest vaults were negated when he brushed the crossbar off with his trailing hand after he had already cleared the bar. "I had that technique down pat," Barnes laughed. "I did it at 13’ in the high school CIF meet and finished second. I was over the 14'10" winning height at the Olympic Trials, but did it again. You can bounce the bar and it usually will stay but you can't drag it." Barmes also had a back problem from bouncing off the foam rubber landing pit and hitting a cement wall during a 1953 meet in White City, England. Often when he competed, the twisting motion caused his back popped out.
A pulled hamstring muscle early in his senior year gave him a second place finish in the NCAA at 14'2". "Overall, I had a marvelous time, lots of fun at Fresno State, some great teammates, and of course, having Dutch as my coach," Barnes said. "I think winning the NCAA was a high point because my pole never reached me even though it arrived at the Lincoln, Nebraska Airport. I used a borrowed pole.
Our head coach, J. Flint Hanner had two rules. "No skiing and no sheeing." I twisted my knee skiing, so it was called the Barnes Rule. There never was any doubt about his nickname, the red hair and freckles made it easy. He taught school at Easterby Elementary and at Cooper and Tioga Junior High Schools. He taught math and history and coached the track teams. He also worked four and a half years for the postal service. Barnes helped his wife run an antique upholstering and refinishing store in the mining community of Mariposa into his eighties.
Being in the right place at the right time with the right team usually trumps being a big star. Truman "Tex" Clevenger is a case in point. The former Fresno State All-American pitcher from Ivanhoe has two World Series rings with the New York Yankees and never threw a pitch in either post-season Classic. The fabled pin-stripers beat the Cincinnati Reds in 1961 and San Francisco in 1962, but Clevenger never left the bullpen. "That season and a half with the Yankees was a great way to finish my major league career," Clevenger said. "Watching Mickey [Mantle] play virtually on one leg and still produce was something I'll never forget." In Clevenger's first major league game with the Boston Red Sox in 1954, he sustained a rotator cuff injury. He was able to recover with therapy and become an effective starter and reliever for the Washington Senators for five seasons and to pitch as a reliever for the Yankees. Nine seasons in the major leagues is quite an accomplishment for a man once deemed too small by a coach to play baseball in high school. Clevenger said as a freshman at Visalia High School, he was 4'11", weighed eighty-six pounds, and wore size twelve shoes, but he still went out for the team. "The coach [Bob Witcher] took one look at me and said I was too small to come out for baseball," Clevenger said. "The following year, Hank Beiden (Pete’s older brother) became coach and said anyone who wants to play baseball could play baseball. I still wasn't much bigger. When the paper came around, I put outfielder as my position. A couple fr days later, Beiden came to me and said he needed pitchers and said I would give it a try. That was the start of the whole thing."That included two solid seasons at Visalia High, three seasons at Fresno State with a 21-4 record, and a 16-2 mark as a Boston Red Sox rookie in San Jose in the California League where he was named Rookie of the Year. Clevenger then followed up with nine major league seasons with four different teams plus stops with Louisville in the AAA American Association. As the oldest son on a small farm, Clevenger didn't know anything about professional baseball, but knew that he loved the game.
His father strongly supported Truman and his younger brother, Bill and their mother attended every game they played. The Clevenger farm was north of Ivanhoe and Jack Hannah, another Fresno Hall of Famer, lived close by. "Jack and I went to the same schools, the same church, and Lon Hannah (Jack's father) was like another father. I always said I had three fathers, my own, Lon, and Pete Beiden. I was fortunate." In his senior year at Visalia High, the Pioneers played Sanger for the Valley Championship. Joe Hannah was the catcher while Clevenger and Joe's younger brother, Jack Hannah, were the star pitchers. Before the title game, Clevenger fell on the corner of a wagon and hurt his shoulder. Jack was also sidelined by an injury. Sanger jumped on Visalia's third pitcher for a 10-9 victory.
Clevenger and Joe Hannah were set to go to UCLA together. "Joe came to me after graduation and said he had signed with the Chicago Cubs that afternoon." Clevenger said. "Well, that knocked him out of UCLA and I asked Hank to ask Pete if he needed another pitcher. That's how I came to Fresno State. It was the best decision I ever made. I had a lot of fun, made lifetime friendships and learned so much from Pete. I was 5'11" by that time and about 145 pounds."Clevenger joined a roster with Don Barnett, Jake Abbott, and Larry Bolger, but saw limited action. By the following season, he and Bolger were the aces and Clevenger was the top in 1953 when he was 11-3 with a 1.97 ERA highlighted by a no-hitter where he batted 5-5 with two triples and struck out twenty batters.
He signed with the Boston Red Sox before his senior year. In two months, Clevenger was a sensation for San Jose. Along with the 16-2 record, he had a 1.51 ERA with 157 strikeouts in 156 innings. He was named Rookie of the Year in the California League. By the following spring, he was with the Red Sox, but hurt his arm in the first inning of his first game against the Philadelphia A's. He was still recovering in 1955 and never started a game for the Red Sox. Clevenger was traded to Washington in 1956 as a reliever. During the next four seasons, he divided his time between being a starter and relief pitcher for the Senators under Charley Dressen and Cookie Lavagetto. Playing on a team that finished eighth in four straight years and fifth in 1960, Clevenger was 29-31.
In 1956 when he was 9-9, he led the league in games pitched with fifty-five. He had six saves that year, eight each in 1957 and 1959, and seven in 1960. In 1961, he signed with the Los Angeles Angels, so he could stay in California. He pitched twelve games with a 2-1 record and was traded to New York. In 1962, his record was 2-0 in twenty-one games. Clevenger was a witness to the historic 196l home run battle between Yankee teammates, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Clevenger said the media tried to make it look like Mantle and Maris didn't like each other. "That was not true,"Clevenger said. "Heck, they lived together. They were both very competitive and Maris finally broke Babe Ruth's record with sixty-one homers, but they were still friends."After Clevenger's retirement in 1963, he dabbled in the insurance business, then went to work in Porterville as an automobile salesman in 1974. He purchased the business in 1993. Clevenger is still in good physical shape, plays golf at least twice a week, and is heavily involved in helping the Fresno State baseball program. In 2007, his Fresno State number was retired and his name was emblazoned on the left field wall of Pete Beiden Field, only the eighth Bulldog to receive this honor. Clevenger played a role in the establishment of the River Island Golf Club as one of the premier golf courses in Central California. He and his wife, Donna, live next to the golf course on the Kaweah River.
This man did it all and did it well. Lawless was a player, student, coach, official, administrator, and a motivator. In May 1963, this native Fresnan succeeded James "Rabbit" Bradshaw as head of the city schools' physical education department. One year later, he died at the young age of forty-six following an operation for a brain tumor. The Toby Lawless School was dedicated to his memory in 1981.
Lawless was only 5'10" and 155 pounds when he played halfback on Bradshaw's Fresno State football team. He played soccer at Lowell Junior High and was hit in the eye by a soccer ball, costing him seventy percent of his vision in one eye. He never used that as an excuse and was a four-varsity letterman at Fresno High in his senior year. He was acclaimed to be the finest basketball player in the county and was AlI-City in football and baseball.
At Fresno State, he played three years of football and baseball and two of basketball. He graduated in 1940 and was named the outstanding man in his class. The following year, he was hired to coach baseball and basketball at his alma mater, Fresno High. His 1941 baseball team won the Valley Championship and, in 1942, he entered the armed forces and played basketball and baseball for Lemoore Air Base and the March Field Flyers. He was discharged in 1946 and returned to Fresno High as the head baseball coach. Lawless was named head football coach in 1949 and his Warriors were 6-1-2. His baseball team won the Yosemite League. In 1950, the Warriors were 7-2. Lawless was one of the top local sports officials and became one of the youngest officials in the Pacific Coast Conference.
He went into school administration in 1956 and, by 1959, was appointed vice principal at Edison High. Lawless had a lively personality and a stubborn character which is how he earned his nickname; they said he had the same bents as the mule "Old Toby" on the ranch where he lived in his early years. Lawless was a fun guy to be around and devised a "gotcha" golf tournament, where players were allowed to talk or yell in the middle of a player's back-swing or putt.
Fresno-born Randy Williams has the distinction of being the only local athlete to make three United States Olympic track and field teams. He still holds the world junior long jump record of 27'4" accomplished in his first Olympic trials in 1972 when he was eighteen years old. He turned nineteen the week of the Munich Olympics and is the youngest ever to win gold in that event. He followed that four years later with a silver in Montreal. His third chance for a medal in 1980 was wiped out when U.S. President Jimmy Carter decided to boycott the Russian Games. Not bad for a 5'9", 140-pounder who never touched any kind of performance-enhancing drugs during his illustrious career.
Randy Williams' road to the gold began in the seventh grade at Ivey School in Fresno. Williams walked out of the back gate at Ivey to go home and watched Eugene McDowell jump. "I went home and told my mom and she said I could try it. Joe Lee was my first coach. I weighed about 105 pounds and wasn't very fast, so 16 jump didn't quality for the junior West Coast Relays. Neither did my triple jump. I went home and cried. I told Coach Lee I would come back the next year and win both which I did. I jumped 19'4" in the long jump and 40'8" in the triple. By the eighth grade, I jumped 22' and kept going, improving three feet each year. In his senior year at Edison High School, Williams won the state CIF long jump at a national record 26'3", but it was ruled as wind-aided. In the same meet at UCLA, he set a national triple jump mark of 52'3 1/2" without wind. "The wind was not over the limit in the long jump, but the officials just didn't think I could jump that far," Williams said. "Tommy Brown of Long Beach Poly had made 25'7". That motivated me because I was in second place for the first time that year and it scared me." One year later as a USC freshman, he was #1 in the world.
What does he most remember from his first Olympic Games? "It was a great thrill to walk into the stadium with the United States team. When they announced Team USA, there was a tremendous roar. But my greatest memory was standing on the podium with my gold medal while the National Anthem was being played and the flag was raised. It was not just in that stadium. It was being televised all over the world. Even now, l get chills to think that it was all because of me and what I had accomplished. It's not every day you can do something for your country. A lot of athletes are thrilled to make their high school or college team, but I made the ultimate team and won." In 1976, Arne Robinson, who finished third to Williams in Munich, won gold in Montreal by one centimeter.
Williams laments that it was a lot of hard work for nothing in 1980. He decided to do something different and joined the Marines. He tried to make the team for the 1984 Los Angeles Games, getting to the first round of qualifying, but was too stiff and sore the next day and failed to secure a spot. At the age of twenty-eight, he hung up his spikes for good. Today, he enjoys training young jumpers and runners. "It is justifying to see kids you tutor do well," Williams said. "All track and field events are complex when you do them right. You don't just run down the runway and jump. There is a technique and the first thing to work on are basic running skills. If you can't run properly, it is very difficult to be successful in the long jump." Williams could run the 100 yards in 9.3 seconds and the 100 meters in 10.2. "My little legs have taken me all over the world," Williams says proudly. "Japan, Russia, Sweden, Budapest, Germany, Norway, you name it. Most of the great long jumpers such as Ralph Boston and Bob Beamon were tall, pretty big guys. I never worried about being tested for drugs. I was an exceptionally gifted athlete and I worked hard. That's all there was." He coaches and raises cattle. Williams considers selling calves a better investment than the stock market. Williams spent fifteen years with the Madera Fire Department and retired after a decade and a half with the Clovis Fire Department.