Fresno State University’s 1998 Women's Fast-Pitch Softball team set a record that will stand forever as the first Bulldog squad in any sport to win a Division I National Championship. Soundly defeating the Iniversity of Arizona Wildcats, the stellar squad won big at Don E. Porter Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. Second baseman Nina Lindenberg hit the first pitch in the sixth inning from Arizona ace Nancy Evans over the left field wall, giving Amanda Scott what she needed for a 1-0 victory over the two-time defending champions.
MVP Scott blanketed the Wildcats on three hits with six strikeouts. The triumph snapped Arizona’s twenty-nine game-winning streak. In getting to the championship game, Fresno won all three of their NCAA Regional match-ups, seven played in Fresno. They beat Minnesota twice and UC Berkeley once.
In the Women’s College World Series, Fresno was seeded seventh with Arizona at first. The Bulldogs quickly finished off Nebraska 6-1 and Michigan 8-0. Washington beat Fresno 3-1, but the Bulldogs retaliated, sending the Huskies home with a 6-1 loss and setting up the final game with Arizona. Coach Margie Wright had led the team to seventeen straight regional appearances and five previous trips to the nationals. Fresno’s squad finished the season 52-11. They went 28-2, winning the Western Athletic Conference Championship for the sixth time with two shared titles in Wright’s first thirteen seasons. That championship year, the team had four All-Americans: Becky Witt, Laura Berg, Amanda scott, and Nina Lindenberg.
For the Season, Scott was 25-4 with a 1.79 ERA, fourteen home runs, and 72 RBIs. Lindsay Parker was 21-4 with a 1.54 ERA and Berg led the hitters with a .458 average and seventy-two runs. Lindenberg hit .449 with seventy-seven RBIs and thriteen home runs while Witt hit .392 with sixty-nine runs.
The squad included Laura Berg, Angela Cervantes, Nina Lindenberg, Lindsay Parker, Amanda Scott, Becky Witt, Candice Bowlin, Kara Campbell, Alicia Dowland, Jennifer Slaney, Janna Todd, Vanessa Valenzuela, Amber Wall, Carolyn Wilson and Daviana Wisener. Coaches Margie Wright, Margaret Sutter, and mary Ivy led the team to victory with the help of manager Maribel Campos, trainer Andrew Weeks, and Jan Winslow, sports information. The team received a royal welcome home with a parade.
In his second year at Kerman High School, Lee Angelich did everything but blow up the footballs. He coached football, basketball, baseball, track, and also drove the bus. Angelich later focused on basketball, coaching the sport for sixteen years at Kerman, Fresno, and Porterville High Schools. Angelich's sixteen-year basketball record was 255-95 and his teams won eight league titles. His 1949 Kerman team won the Small Schools Central Section Championship, but his eight years at Fresno High were the most impressive. The Warriors went 134-311 under Angelich and he was chosen Coach of the Year five times. During one stretch, Fresno High had fifty-four consecutive wins at home. Twice, they finished ranked number two in northern California. In 1963, his final year of coaching, the Warriors were 22-3, but they lost twice to cross-town rival Roosevelt High School and failed to win the championship.
Angelich was a high school star athlete, beginning at Narbonne High Schoolin Lomita in southern California. In his junior year, the family moved to Redwood City, where Angelich was an All-Conference end in football and a versatile, high scorer in track at Shasta High School. He helped Sacramento Junior College to a national title in 1941 placing second in the high hurdles and fifth in the high jump. Sacramento JC also won two state titles. Angelich joined world-record sprinter Harold Davis and quarter-miler Grover Klemmer, along with Jim Jurkovich from Fresno High - a sprinter, discus thrower, and long jumper at University of California, Berkeley. Klemmer and Jurkovich were in the service by the end of 1943, but even with a small squad, Cal finished second to University of Southern California, a team the Bears had defeated in a dual meet. Angelich went undefeated in the 120 highs his senior year.
While in the Navy, Angelich narrowly escaped a Japanese kamikaze plane attack while stationed aboard the U.S.S. Rixey, a troop landing and hospital ship. He was discharged as a lieutenant in January 1946 and took advantage of the fifth year of competition allowed veterans. He enrolled at Fresno State University to complete his Bachelor of Science degree and excelled at the 120 highs. He placed third in the West Coast Relays.
His coaching expertise also took him overseas in 1961, when he was selected for a three-month stay in Libya to form a Libyan national basketball team for the North African Games in Tunis, Tunisia. "It was a long time, but the competitive spirit and the Libyans' hunger to learn made it a very satisfying experience," Angelich said. "We competed against teams from Russia, Germany, France, Czechoslovakia, and the United States, who were from Wheelus Air Base in Greece." After the tournament, he conducted basketball clinics in Yugoslavia, the birthplace of his parents and his in-laws. Angelich retired from education after thirty-four years in 1980. In l1992, he was inducted into the Fresno City/County Basketball Hall of Fame. His final sports assignment was as an area baseball scout for the Montreal Expos.
The two most skilled positions on any football team are unquestionably quarterback and wide receiver. The passer must be able to guide the ball accurately to his target like threading a needle. The receiver must become a contortionist, leaping and diving, necessary, to collect the ball. The two players greatly depend upon the skills of the other Fresno State has produced at least a dozen exceptional wide receivers throughout its history of exciting football; a legendary Iist including Henry Ellard, Bernard Berrian, Charlie Jones, and Stephone Paige.
Stephen Baker, known as "The Touchdown Maker, survived the mean streets of central Los Angeles by playing football for Hamilton High School and West Los Angeles Community College, but it wasn't until he was a junior at Fresno State that he came into his own as a dynamic wide receiver and future National Football League star for the New York Giants. Fresno State posted the nation's only undefeated college record during the 1985 season, ending its schedule with an upset win over undefeated Bowling Green, a 51-7 victory in the California Bowl.
The Kevin Sweeney-Stephen Baker connection helped lead the way for the Bulldogs and both would go on to play in the NFL. In his two seasons at Fresno State, Baker had sixty-two catches (averaging 26.3 yards per catch) and sixteen touchdowns with the NCAA record-setting Sweeney. He also caught a thirty-six-yard touchdown pass in the Japan Bowl to give the West a victory in that All-Star game. Professional scouts had seen enough and Stephen Baker was chosen in the third round of the NFL draft, the 83rd overall selection.
How challenging was it for Baker to become a starting professional football wide receiver? First, Baker was not tailor-made physically for his position; he was small at 5'8" and 160 pounds. He had to prove himself superior to taller (6'2" to 6'6") and heavier (185 to 230 pound) rivals for his position. But he had other "tools" that are required to excel as a dependable catcher: speed, quickness, great hands, mobility, and toughness. Baker honed his toughness to endure six seasons of professional football with the Giants from 1987 to 1992. He was rewarded with a cherished ring as a member of the winning XXV Super Bowl team against the Buffalo Bills, 20-19. He caught two passes in the game, one of them a fourteen-yard touchdown toss from Jeff Hostetler in the second quarter.
Baker's best season statistically was in 1988 when he snagged forty passes for 656 yards and seven touchdowns, one of them a memorable eighty-five yard catch. He also caught thirty passes for 525 yards in 1991 and achieved his best yards-per-catch average in 1990 when his twenty-six receptions totaled 541 yards for an average of 20.8. Stephen Baker's career totals in ninety NFL games were 141 receptions for 2,587 yards and twenty-one touchdowns. “The Touchdown Maker" is a school teacher at the James J. Flynn Elementary School in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. He coaches football and track and is a tireless representative for the Giants, ViSiting schools, camps, and special events dealing with youngsters in the New York/ New Jersey area. He also leads workshops and mentorship programs to help troubled and disadvantaged kids. In 2009. the New York Giants named Baker the Giants Alumni Man of the Year. Stephen and his wife, Althea, a school administrator. live in Perth Amboy with their children, Ashley and Stephen Baker and Joshua and JaMon Dunn.
Bob Fraley coached track and field at Fresno State for twenty-eight years, mentoring forty-four All-Americans, winning a slew of awards and saving the program from the budget ax by coaching without pay. He gained a world-wide reputation as a pole vault expert and launched the Run for the Dream Indoor meet. Fraley's path to coaching was set early on, when Tom Van Gronigan, his track coach at Laton High School said: "Bob, did I ever tell you that I think you would make a good teacher and a great coach?"
After high school, while at Fresno State University, Fraley competed for another mentor who further inspired him to pursue a coaching career: world record pole vaulter Dutch Warmerdam. Growing up in Hardwick, near Laton, Fraley's home was just one ranch away from the Warmerdam place. Like many youngsters in the area, Warmerdam was his hero: "All of us kids wanted to be like Dutch. He had done it all and was right back at home, farming. teaching, and coaching." It was a special privilege for Fraley to compete for Wamerdam. "Dutch was a great teacher and motivator. I leaned so much from him about the dynamics of the pole vault, but I loved his philosophies. He'd say, 'Compete and give your best, be a cheerleader for your teammates, go to church on Sunday, and we'll work on it on Monday," Fraley said.
After college, Fraley taught and coached track at Riverdale, Laton, and Lemoore high schools, his athletes and teams winning numerous championships. His Lemoore teams went ten years without losing a meet. In 1980, Fresno State hired Fraley to assist head coach Red Estes, who was taking over for Warmerdam. Fraley became the Bulldogs' head coach for indoor track in 1984, then the women's head coach in 1998. In 2000, when Estes retired after a great career, Fraley was named the Director of Track and Field, a position he held until retiring in 2008.
Fraley's success over nearly thirty years at Fresno State was phenomenal, with his focus on sprints, jumps, decathlon, relays, and pole vaulting, His athletes accomplishments stemmed from a coaching philosophy that he learned early on, Fraley said: "Excel in your sport and in the classroom, work and compete hard, cheer for your teammates and be consistent in developing your beliefs." Under his direction. numerous FSU track and field athletes were All-Americans and Academic All-Americans, winning titles and championships around the United States and throughout the world from college meets to the NCAA championships to the Pan American Games to the Olympics.
Fraley coached at every level of track and field in the U.S. and internationally. His awards included USA Track and Field's NIKE Coach of the Year, United States Olympic Committee's Developmental Coach of the Year, Region 8 Head Indoor Coach of the Year, president of the Division I Track Coaches, chairman of U.S. pole vault development, Western Athletic Conference Women's Coach of the Year, and WAC Men's Coach of the Year. His son, Doug Fraley, won three NCAA pole vaulting championships. The 1998 4 X 100 relay team ran a 38.94 and Jeff Roberson broke the indoor 500-meters world record. For his work in the pole vault, Fraley was inducted into the U.S. Pole Vault Hall of Fame. Perhaps the most widespread attention Fraley attracted was in 2003, when it looked like Fresno State would eliminate track and field for budgetary reasons. Fraley stepped up and donated his salary to the school's track program to keep it alive. Stories about his coaching and personality appeared in magazines around the world, including Sports Illustrated and Track & Field.
Tom Goodwin won an Olympic gold medal for the USA's baseball team while excelling as a Fresno State Bulldog, and went on to a fourteen-year professional career. At age twenty, he was the youngest member of the USA team that took the top prize at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
"It was an awesome experience," Goodwin said. "It was my first time being away from home. I learned so much how other countries viewed us and how they played the game of baseball. I was one of the rare athletes who had a chance to compete for my country." During the Seoul Olympics, the U.S. Team defeated Korea 5-3 and Australia 12-2, then lost to Canada 8-7, but rebounded against Puerto Rico 7-2, winning the gold medal against Japan 5-3 in the tournament finale. When Goodwin was thirty-six and in the final season of his major league career playing for the Chicago Cubs, first baseman Derrek Lee overheard Goodwin reminiscing about the 1988 Olympic Games and asked him: "You have a gold medal? That's awesome. I want to see it." Twenty-five Fresno State athletes have been members of various Olympic teams through the years, but two-time All-American Goodwin was on the team that won the first and only gold medal for baseball.
Goodwin, an outstanding all-round high school athlete for Central High School in Fresno, played for Coach Bob Bennett at FSU from 1987 to 1989. He was drafted in 1986 by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the sixth round (134th overall) when he was still in high school, but opted not to turn professional until 1989 when he was drafted in the first round (22nd overall) by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Built tall and lean and blessed with great speed and quick reflexes, the 6'1", 170-pounder led the National Collegiate Athletic Association in stolen bases for 1988 and 1989 and holds the school record of 164 stolen bases. Goodwin was one of three AlI-Americans on the 1988 Bulldog team which compiled a 56-12 record and was ranked number one during most of the season. Goodwin stole thirty-two bases that year. First baseman Lance Shebelut and pitcher John Salles joined Goodwin as All- Americans that season. The Bulldogs went on a thirty-two game winning streak and Bennett was named Big West Conference and NCAA Coach of the Year. But the Bulldogs ran out of gas when they got to the College World Series, losing their first two outings to Stanford 10-2 and Miami 8-4 in twelve innings to finish tied for seventh place.
The Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame president for 15 years at the time of his induction, Mehas’ professional and civic career is a notable example of applying the lessons learned in athletics to other endeavors.
Under Mehas, the Hall of Fame expanded on its mission of honoring the Valley’s greatest sports heroes and inspiring youngsters to follow in their footsteps. He also has been instrumental in expanding athletic opportunities for women.
Mehas’ love of sports was nurtured during his childhood as he shagged baseballs as a batboy for the Fresno Cardinals at Euless Park. Although he never considered himself a great athlete, Mehas was an All-American center/linebacker at Fresno CC and a member of the 1961 Fresno State Mercy Bowl team.
After UCLA, Mehas returned to Fresno, where he taught and coached future Fresno Hall of Famers Charle Young (football) and Charles Anthony (football) at Edison. While at Roosevelt, he coached the Rough Riders to six straight NYL tennis titles. He moved into administration at Clovis Unified School District and assisted in the development of many programs and facilities - including Lamonica Stadium and the Clovis West Olympic Swim Complex.
Politics came next as Mehas served as Gov. George Deukmejian’s Secretary of Education and a trustee for the state Board of Education and California’s community colleges. In 1990, he was elected to be the first of four terms as Fresno County Superintendent of Schools, and, in 2007, he was appointed to the California State University board of trustees.
Mehas says he was fortunate by great athletes and mentors throughout his life. Among them are: Olympic gold medalists Bob Mathias and Rafer Johnson, football coaches Bob Burgess and Hans Wiedenhoefer, UCLA football coach Tommy Prothro, for whom Mehas was a graduate assistant coach, and Fresno High football and track and field coach Erwin Ginsburg
Born third in a family of nine children in the Ukraine at the turn of the 20th century, William Neufeld moved to the United States and blossomed into a world-class performer in the javelin and other throwing events. His father, a Mennonite minister, eventually settled the family in Reedley, where the 6'2" and 201 pound athlete played football, basketball, baseball, and track and field in high school and earned money working in the fields.
He went to Bethel College in Kansas, playing basketball and starring in track and field. Neufeld then decided to follow his brother Henry to the University of California. It was a perfect match, as Neufeld dominated the throwing events and led the Bears to the National Collegiate title in 1923. The following year, he won the discus title at the Collegiate Nationals, but that was just a warm up. Neufeld captured the javelin competition at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Cambridge, Massachusetts and threw the hickory stick 191'1 1/2". Following a week-long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, he placed fifth in the javelin in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. Neufeld was a familiar face at many Olympics to follow. After coaching at Riverside College and Harvard University, he entered the U.S. He served in the Navy during World War II and later returned to Harvard as director of physical education. When Neufeld's competitive career ended, he traveled the globe as a coach and athletics liaison for the U.S. State Department. Thereafter, he was a contact for the 1952 Japanese Olympic team and also taught sports in Iran, Taiwan, and Africa on assignment for the State Department. Neufeld passed away in 1992.
Amanda Scott threw twenty-four no-hitters and sixty-two shutouts in eighty-one victories, striking out 1,051 batters. And that was just her record at Clovis High School. By the time the college scouts came calling for the young phenom, Scott had decided to stay close to home and signed with Fresno State in 1996. She was able to lead the Bulldogs to their first National Collegiate Athletic Association Championship, become Fresno State's first four-time First Team All-American, and to finish second behind Dutch Warmerdam on the university's list of Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century. In her freshman year, Scott hit .450 in a twenty-four game streak with thirty-two RBIs, ten doubles, two home runs and fifty-three total bases while scoring seventeen runs. She led the team in doubles that year and was second in RBIs. As a pitcher, she was 19-5, including winning seventeen of her last twenty-three games. Nine of those wins in her freshman year were shutouts.
As a sophomore, Scott established numerous school, league, and national records during the team's Division I championship drive. Against top-ranked Arizona, she pitched a 1-0 shutout in the NCAA Softball World Series, striking out six and giving up three hits. She also went three-for-three at the plate on that historic day for Fresno State. In the same season, other highlights included ending the year with a streak of 33.1 innings pitched without an earned run and going 5-l in post-season play with two shutouts and a no hitter for an ERA of 0.00 in 23.2 innings. During the season, she had a streak of twelve straight wins, including four shutouts, eighty-seven strikeouts, and a 0.37 ERA. At bat, Scott had at least one hit in forty-six games with twenty-two multiple-hit games and nineteen multiple RBI games. She belted grand slam home runs against Oklahoma and New Mexico and led the Bulldogs in homers and was second in RBls. She also threw her first collegiate no-hitter and perfect game at New Mexico that year. In her junior year, Scott posted a school record and national best 0.24 and was nationally ranked in wins and saves. She opened the year with an amazing streak of 92.2 innings pitched without giving up an earned run. In the 1999 season, Scott set a school record, unearned run streak at 126 innings and also set the Western Athletic Conference record in ERA. She also pitched six one-hiters, got her 500" career strikeout, threw her second career perfect game and third no-hitter, had six consecutive shutouts, and set the Fresno State record for single season strikeouts.
In Scott's senior year, she continued to break records. She led the Bulldogs and the WAC in wins, strikeouts, earned run average, innings pitched and saves, while setting a school record with nineteen straight wins and establishing single season records like strikeouts, consecutive wins, consecutive games without an earned run (21), and consecutive no-hitters. “Amanda was fundamentally sound at the age of six," said her dad, Ron Scott. "Leslie (Amanda's mom) and I never pushed her. She just loved to play and loved the competition." When she was eight years old, Scott asked if she could take pitching lessons. She worked with Leroy Zimmerman, a fast-pitch legend from the valley, and established herself as a pitcher and a hitter to be feared. From early on and throughout her career at Fresno State, before each inning she pitched, Scott walked to the top of the pitching circle and drew a "Z" in the dirt behind the mound in honor of her mentor. Her dad taught her how to hit and the rest all came from Scott.
"She always had a great competitive spirit and never wore her heart on her sleeve. She was always on an even keel and competitive. and you couldn't tell if she was winning or losing," says her father Ron Scott. Amanda was also a two-time Academic All-American, won an NCAA postgraduate scholarship, and was a two-time WAC Female Athlete of the Year. She was a top draft pick in the professional leagues for four straight years. In 2004, she pitched for the New York Juggernauts and led them to a National Pro Fast Pitch Championship while earning the league's MVP honors. Scott graduated from Fresno State in 2001 and received a master's degree at Michigan State in 2005. She began her coaching career at Michigan State and has also coached at lowa State and the University of Illinois, Chicago.