Long, strange trip to the Central Valley

By John Murphy

Back in 1969, when I was a young teen and rocking flared jeans, there was a movie starring Suzanne Pleshette called “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.” Well, if this is Wednesday, I must be in the Central Valley.

My path here has been a circuitous route to be sure. My most recent post before this was the Half Moon Bay Review, where I was filling in for a gent, Mark Foyer, who was stricken with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a serious affliction where the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. He’s been laid up for 1 ½ years.

So I did that and also worked 30 hours a week at a school as a teacher’s aide, mentoring a 7-year-old, red-haired hellion with a penchant for cursing and flipping over desks.

I’d like to say it was the tule fog, promise of Harris Ranch beef and wide-open spaces that drew me to the Valley, but it was really the desire for a full-time job and not having to get up at 6 a.m. to report to El Granada School. I loved those kids, but I’m just not a morning person.

Working, gulp, 37 years in newspapers throughout California, I’ve seen a lot of things. There was the time at St. Ignatius College Prep of San Francisco where I covered a basketball game and a player ran into an electrical box on the end wall and activated the basket, which began rising to the ceiling. The look on the point guard coming down the court moments later on a fast break to discover there was no basket was priceless.

Memorable also was a rivalry game decades ago between South San Francisco and El Camino high schools. Some bloke thought it funny to explode the scoreboard before the national anthem and I still recall the hunks of metal flying nearly to midfield.

At Archbishop Mitty in San Jose one year, fog rolled in and completely obscured the action. I’m not sure how accurate my statistics were for that game.

Somebody asked if I had any ties at all in the Central Valley. I had to ponder that a bit. After wracking my brain, I remembered that I coached Trent Dilfer in Aptos youth basketball. He’s the former California State University, Fresno quarterback who led the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl title and is now on ESPN. I like to think my bad hoops coaching drove him to football.

I also covered former Aptos High boys basketball coach Bill Warmerdam. He won more than 300 games and a Northern California title with the Mariners. He is the nephew of Cornelius “Dutch” Warmerdam, the Hanford High graduate who held the world pole vault record for more than a decade.

Bill Warmerdam coached Dilfer in basketball, in fact, no doubt correcting some of the faulty fundamentals I instilled in the lad.

During my first week here, I’ve already been treated to some poignant and eye-opening moments, such as the joy of senior night at the Selma boys soccer game on Feb. 8, including senior Mario Garcia scoring the tying goal against Dinuba. Stirring also was Selma junior basketball player William Pallesi making six consecutive 3-pointers in a 96-60 win against Dinuba, prompting classmates in the stands to jump and dance like loons.

I’m also still shaking my head in disbelief at a reverse dunk by Selma’s 6-foot-6 junior Tiveon Stroud off an ad-lib alley-oop pass from Junior Ramirez. That was athletic, to say the least.

There will no doubt be more memorable moments to come, and I’ll chronicle as many of them as I can.

John Murphy can be reached at 583-2413 or jmurphy@hanfordsentinel.com and followed on twitter @prepcat.