One of the best ways to judge the success of a coach is the testimony of his players, especially those who reach the highest level of their sport. Few high school baseball coaches in Fresno have been more successful than Oliver Hastings Bidwell. In nineteen seasons (seven at Roosevelt, six each at Fresno and McLane), Bidwell was 227-80-3. His teams won eight league titles, two Delano tournament championships and his American Legion teams were always among the best in the state. Bidwell was born and raised in Fresno and took up baseball at an early age. His father played in the old Twilight League. Ollie attended Winchell Elementary, Longfellow Junior High, and Roosevelt High. Bidwell enrolled at Fresno State and played two seasons for coach Stan Borleske, then went into the armed forces for four years before returning to Fresno State for another two seasons. He was a first team All-Conference outfielder in his senior year. In the spring of 1958, Bidwell began coaching at Fresno High. Powered by future major leaguers Dick Ellsworth, Jim Maloney and Pat Corrales, the team was 18-0 in high school competition and 25-1 overall with a loss to the Fresno State freshmen, a team they beat three other times.
Cal-Hi Sports said the Warriors of that year was one of the best, it not the best high school team in California history. Left-handed Dick Ellsworth was 15-0 and Maloney was 3-0, striking out twenty-five batters in a shutout against Merced. Catcher Pat Corrales batted .392 during his senior season. "By my junior year, we had spring training just like the pros," Ellsworth said. "In December, we worked on running and throwing on our own...Ollie put us through long, hard practices with a lot of conditioning and an emphasis on fundamentals. We would play 75 to 80 games in a full year. Our high school season was less than thirty games, but we played American Legion, a twice-a-week night league during the summer, and in pre-season, we played college freshman teams.
The highest compliment I can give Ollie came in my first year of spring training with the Cubs. The pitchers went through all the drills and I never once did the wrong thing. Pitching coach Freddie Fitzsimmons asked me, 'Where did you learn all that?" I told him, 'In high school. "Maloney said Bidwell had hard and fast rules on and off the field and treated everyone equally. The Warriors had a thirty-seven game high school win streak beginning with the last nine in 1957, the full season in 1958, and nine in 1960. That and Fresno's fifteen shutouts in 1958 are still state records. In addition to his big three, Bidwell coached pitcher Mike Uizola. outfielder Mike Noakes at Fresno High, and Bob Bennett at Roosevelt. After coaching, he served as CIF Commissioner from 1977 to 1983 and Central Valley Junior College Conference commissioner from 1980 to 1983. He took over as athlete administrator for the Fresno Unified School district for sixteen years. During and after his coaching career Bidwell was a football, baseball, and basketball official for thirty-five years.
Mike Gallego was one of the first recruits when Dick Francis became head wrestling coach at Fresno State in 1964. Francis had coached Gallego at McLane High School, but Mike had since spent his last two high school years at Pacific Grove. Gallego was the very best Francis had during his reign. Francis said Gallego executed one of the greatest comebacks ever in the final match of the 1968 Division I NCAA championships.
Gallego trailed by a point with sixteen seconds left against Lamoin Markley, a tough competitor from Central Washington, who had squashed every opponent. Gallego had tried to go in for a takedown, but got knocked down and sat on the mat with legs spread and Lamoin between his legs. "Mike was in the worst possible position, but he came up off the mat, got behind him, got the takedown, and won the match," Francis recalled. "It was an incredible move, but typical of the competitiveness that Mike brought to every match." Gallego wrestled at 167 pounds while Lamoin had dropped from 210 to 169.
Currently, Gallego is a dentist in Grass Valley where he has lived since 1976 when he finished dental school. Gallego said he remembers the match against Markley well. "I remember Coach Francis throwing down his towel and starting to walk away disappointed because I came so close," Gallego said. "We looked at the film and everyone said, 'That was not a move, how did you do this?' Well, somehow I ended on top.got the takedown two points, and won. You still remember moments like that." Gallego's senior year was huge. He won the college division title that year, the National 171-pound AAU Freestyle Championship and was Athlete of the Year at Fresno State. His collegiate record that year was 47-1, his only loss was to John Woods of Cal Poly on a one point referee's split decision. Gallego defeated Woods in a rematch.
How close did he come to making the 1972 Olympic team? "Real close; in the freestyle finals for qualifying, I lost by one point to the man who went on to win the gold medal against a German wrestler. In 1971, I competed in the world tournament in Bulgaria. In 1972, I placed third in Tbilisi, Russia [Georgia]. It was right before the Olympics. Georgia was a great place and they produced some of the best wrestlers in Russia. The people treated us well, but they hated the Russians." Gallego finished third in the National AAU in 1970 and was second in 1971 and 1972. "I wrestled a little in 1973, but that was the end." By then, he was married and on his way to studying dentistry.
This Wyoming native was reared in San Bernardino and moved to Fresno in 1959. Hippenstiel played tennis for fifty-five years, including three at the University of California during a span when the Golden Bears never lost to rivals, UCLA and Stanford.
His personal resume is highlighted by thirteen national tennis championships, including ten senior men's doubles titles. He and his son, Gary, won the National Father-son Championship in 1969. Hippenstiel and his brother, Clyde, were the second-ranked doubles team in Northern California. In his collegiate days, he played on the Southern California Junior Davis Cup team with future great Jack Kramer. From 1966 through 1969, he was ranked in the Northern California Senior Top 10 singles and five times was #1 in doubles.
Hippenstiel accomplished all of his senior triumphs despite a series of injuries that would have caused a less-dedicated person to quit. During a short span of years, he even was forced to Switch from being a right-handed player to using his left hand. He helped establish the Fig Garden Swim & Racquet Club where he served as the tennis director as well as the teaching professional.
Standing 5'4" and weighing 145 pounds, Satoshi "Fibber" Hirayama was small even by baseball standards. Surprisingly, Hirayama went to Fresno State College on a football scholarship. "I was recruited for football, but I didn't like spring practice, so went out for baseball in the spring and played four years for Pete Beiden," Hirayama said. "I also played four years of football, my first on the freshman team and the last three varsity." The quickness that allowed Hirayama to set a school record for stolen bases carried over to the football field where he was a very elusive runner and a hard-hitting tackler on defense. Hirayama never suffered a major injury and enjoyed the physical contact.
Hirayama's family was living in Exeter, but came to Fresno's St. Agnes Hospital for the birth of their son. His father was born and raised in Hiroshima, Japan. He brought his wife to Exeter in the 1930s. Hirayama's athletic success was rewarded when he received a Fresno State scholarship for fifty dollars a month and worked in the towel room for athletic custodian Windy Holmes. Hirayama was recruited by Fresno State after two stellar years as a football and baseball star at Exeter High School under coach Bill Terry. "In those days, Terry coached all the major sports," Hirayama said. "We had some strong football teams. Baseball came easy for me because that's all I did for nearly three years in theJapanese detention center in Poston, Arizona." Hirayama was only twelve years old when the American fleet at Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan, plunging the United States into World War II. The Hirayama family was part of the 25,000 Japanese-Americans (Nisei) on the West Coast ordered to sell their homes and businesses. They eventually were shipped to one of ten detention centers in California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, South Dakota, Wyoming, Arkansas, and Idaho surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by soldiers. Following his three years in the Arizona relocation center, he played two seasons of football and baseball at Exeter High.
Today, Hirayama helps to run the Hiroshima Carp Baseball Academy in the Dominican Republic. His twenty-year association with that Japanese major league team includes eleven years of playing and managing as well as scouting and teaching. Fibber would have had a longer professional playing career had he not run into a wall while chasing a fly ball and sustained the loss of a nerve in his right eye, an injury which basically deprived him of his sight in that eye. "I can see images,but can't tell any details of what I am looking at," Hirayama said. "I think that was during my seventh year of play in Hiroshima. I was playing and coaching at the time. After that, I just coached for three years, then managed a farm club for a year before I came back to the States." Hirayama later stated, "Baseball was popular, but with Hiroshima, a team owned by the city, it was still pretty basic. No lights, people sat on grass. No bathrooms, people did their thing against the fence. From our dugout, we had to go outside for a bathroom. There was a big barrel at the entrance and people tossed money in to keep the ball club going." In Hirayama's second season, the Carp moved into a new stadium that had lights, bathrooms, and seated about 20,000 fans.
"It was like I had died and gone to heaven," Hirayama recalled. "We drew big crowds as did most of the other major league teams. Baseball continued to grow in Japan. At that time, there were very few foreign players. Most of those were from Hawaii." Since neither he nor his wife, Jean, spoke Japanese when he signed with the Carp, there was a period of learning the language and customs. Wally Yonamine and Andy Miyamoto were two Hawaiian players who had a lasting impact. Yonamine played aggressive American-style baseball, similar to what Hirayama brought to the Carp.
Darrly Rogers: Born and reared in Long Beach, Jordan High School and later at Long Beach City College. He was a wide receiver and defensive back at Fresno State. He was signed as a free agent and played one year as a defensive back for the Los Angeles Rams in 1959. Rogers served as an assistant coach at Fresno City College for four years before accepting the head job at Hayward State College. After one year he returned to Fresno State as head coach and remained in that capacity until 1972. The Bulldogs won the conference title in 1968. He moved to San Jose State in 1973, winning the conference championship in 1975. The followed four seasons at Michigan State where he was named College Coach of the Year by the Sporting News in 1978 when the Spartans went 8-3. He had four winning seasons (1980-84) at Arizona State University and then was hired by the Detroit Lions where he coached three-plus seasons. As a college coach his teams were noted for their high scoring passing attacks.
Of the thirty-two All-Americans who played baseball for Bob Bennett at Fresno State, right-handed pitcher Dick Ruthven is exceptional in that not only did he make it to the major leagues, but was also a member of a World Series championship team. Ruthven was on the roster for the 1980 National League pennant-winning Philadelphia Phillies, who ended a drought of thirty years by making it into the World Series and then defeating the Kansas City Royals in four of six games. Ruthven's resume includes credit for one of the complete game Series wins. Although he was a shortstop when he played for Irvington High School in Fremont, Bennett detected an exceptional amount of power and accuracy in Ruthven's athleticism and converted him to a pitcher for the Bulldogs. The experiment worked to perfection.
Ruthven played three seasons for the Bulldogs before turning professional after his junior year. During that three-year span, he won 28 of 37 games. He was 5-2 as a freshman, 13-4 as a sophomore, and 10-3 as a junior. At 6'3" and weighing 190 pounds, there was plenty of heat in Ruthven's pitches as he perfected a style that produced forty-eight strikeouts as a frosh, 171 as a soph and 153 as a junior, totaling a school record of 372. Ruthven, as a soph, led the 'Dogs to a co-championship of the Pacific Coast Athletic Association and tied a school record by striking out twenty batters in one of his junior season games to nail down PCAA Player of the Year and All-American honors before turning pro after the 1972 season.The Phillies paid Dick Ruthven a bonus as a #1 draft pick to sign with them in 1972. His big league career extended for fourteen years spread among the Phillies, the Bobby Cox-coached Atlanta Braves, and the Chicago Cubs.
As a pitcher, Ruthver appeared in 355 games, compiling a 123-125 lifetime record with 1,155 strikeouts and a 4.14 earned run average. His best big league season was 1980 when he was 17-10 with a 3.55 ERA. During his Phillies rookie season, Ruthven was 6-9 and 4.02. He was 2-2 and 4.20 during his injury-limited final stint in 1975. He was then traded twice during 1975, first to the White Sox and two days later to the Braves. He was 14-17 for the Braves in 1976, but made the All-Star team. Continuing to be plagued with injuries, Ruthven was 7-13 for the Braves during 1977 and was reacquired by the Phillies in June 1978.
He was 2-6 when he was traded back to the Phillies and was 13-8 for the remainder of the year, tallying a combined 15-11 Braves/Phillies record. Ruthven was 7-5 and 4.27 in 1979, a career best 17-10 in 1980, and 12-7 and 5.15 in 1981, making the All-Star team for the second time. He was 11-11 and 3.79 in 1982. In 1983, Ruthven was traded by the Phillies to the Cubs, racking up 12-9 and 4.10 numbers the rest of the season. Injuries figured importantly in Ruthven's departure from major league baseball, but more significantly, he explained that he retired so that he could spend more quality time with his family “I might have hung on a couple of more years," he said as he returned to Atlanta, "But my kids were entering school. I just felt it was more important for them to have their father around.” Kuthven was thirty-six when he exited baseball. His son, Sean played for the University of Georgia Bulldogs and his dad was a regular fan in the bleachers during most of the home games. Was it tough on him being a fan? Yes." he replied. "The anxiety I felt watching Sean pitch was greater than anything I ever experienced as a player."