Decoding bleacher blather

 

By John Murphy 

Growing up in San Bruno in the 1960s, we played baseball with wood bats and metal spikes and sometimes wore sleeveless uniforms reminiscent of the old Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds (think Bill Mazeroski and Vada Pinson).

It wasn’t mandatory for parents to attend our games like it seems to be now, but when they did they yelled things like “keep your eye on the ball” and “it only takes one.’ It was just noise to us.

In 2017, parents and other fans are much more involved and utter a variety of things from the stands. As a public service, I’m going to translate them. Here goes:

“Roll it up”: You hear this every time a runner reaches first base with fewer than two outs. In the old days, people screamed, “Turn two.” They both mean “get a double play,” but it rarely happens.

“Win the battle”: I heard this so many times at the Selma vs. Immanuel baseball game last month that I thought I was at Gettysburg. It means to make contact for a change and stop embarrassing the heck out of your folks who doled out all that money for travel teams and private hitting coaches.

Nobody hurt”: We just made another error and are in a terrible fix, but we’re in denial.

“You got this”: Oops, that’s softball. Next …

“Nobody better”: Despite the fact you, dear Junior, are batting ninth and hitting .125 and haven’t driven in a run since fall league, there is nobody on our team we’d rather have at the plate now. That includes cleanup hitter Moose, who is batting .650 and swings a bat named “Wonder Boy” crafted from the wood of tree hit by lightning.

“Trade places with him”: Yes, Junior is hitting .125 and gets his only doubles at the Rite Aid ice cream counter, but we’d like him to magically hit a two-bagger and trade places with Moose at second base.

“Find a way”: I don’t know, should Junior wiggle his nose and slug one out of the park, cast a spell on the pitcher and have him throw four wide ones or take a fastball off the coconut? The options are his.

“It’s all you”: No idea what this means. Maybe it’s just me.

You’re due”: A particularly mindless exhortation that relates to a batter’s recent failures, I’ve been waiting for years for a youngster to retort, “You’re due to say something intelligent!”

Well, I can dream, can’t I?

 

Derek Salinas II

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Kingsburg stuns CVC with late rally

Hunter SasselliBy John Murphy 

KINGSBURG — The outcome of the Kingsburg High baseball game came down to one dramatic play.

Kingsburg stunned first-place Central Valley Christian 4-3 on Friday in a Central Sequoia League game that was very much in doubt when Seth Costi stepped to the plate in the seventh inning.

The Vikings trailed 3-2 and had runners on second and third base with two outs. Costi sent a Noah Flores delivery into the gap between right and center field for a single, scoring one run to tie the game and sending teammate Ben Coito flying around third base, heading for the plate and the possible winning run.

Coito angled himself toward the inside of the plate as he slid in while Connor Paden blocked his path. The umpire singled safe as Coito raised a cloud of dust and Paden wound up on the ground shaken from Coito sliding into him (Paden was fine after being examined by Kingsburg trainer Victoria Lam).

The excitement wasn’t finished. Viking players celebrated, Cavalier coach Graham Harrison questioned the plate umpire about the call and at least one assistant coach from each team tangled verbally with each other before the teams separated.

“He was out,” Harrison said. “He never got to the plate, but it didn’t come down to one call. Even if he’s out, they still have a chance to win. That wasn’t the reason we lost.”

Kingsburg coach Michael Garza saw the pivotal play differently.

“It was a bang-bang play,” Garza said. “He slid. I thought (Paden) was a little far out and I thought (Coito) had to go around him. He did a good job – Ben avoided the contact as best as he could and got in there.”

The player that set the play in motion was Costi, who dropped the ball nicely into the outfield.

“I was for sure looking at it,” Costi said. “I was kind of in shock. It was my first (walkoff hit) ever. It felt amazing.”

Costi said his only concern was whether Coito was safe at home – something the plate umpire confirmed, much to the displeasure of Cavalier fans, at least one of whom boisterously let the ump know about it.

The result was an important victory for Kingburg (13-8 overall and 4-4 in league, as of the game’s conclusion). Heading into this week, Kingsburg was 2 ½ games behind CVC (18-4, 7-2), with Selma (16-5, 6-3) in second place.

“We played bad defense and we didn’t capitalize offensively,” Harrison said. “We left guys on the bases that should have gotten in and that’s baseball; it happens. We’re still in first place and if we take care of business, we’ll be CSL champions.”

It was a huge victory for Garza, a first-year coach.

“I am very happy with the boys,” he said. “The bats didn’t come alive until the end, but when we get going, we get going.”

Tied 2-2 after five innings, CVC nudged ahead on a run-scoring single by Jack Reitsma in the sixth. Relief pitcher Riley Walls had issued a one-out walk to Trenton Vanderveen, then balked him to second.

Costi had two hits and the two big RBIs for Kingsburg. Coito, batting ninth, went 3-for-3.

Walls got the win on the mound, in relief of Riley Cooper who pitched five innings and allowed five hits, while striking out five and walking nobody.

 

 

 

 

Napa scandal puts hazing in spotlight

JOHN MURPHY  

School and team hazing are like the red, itchy rash that just will not go away. You try balms and lotions, but the attack is relentless.

If it does vanish for a spell, it seems to reappear when you least expect it and wreak its havoc again. Such was the case at Napa High School in the otherwise genteel wine country, where a hazing complaint was reported to Napa police on Nov. 19 regarding an alleged assault involving junior football varsity players holding teammates down, grabbing them and hitting them.

The aftermath has been ugly, with two players expelled and veteran and well-regarded football coach Troy Mott resigning after the district refused to give him control over the rehiring of his assistant coaches for next season.

Neither Kingsburg Joint Union High School District Athletic Director Thomas Sembritzki, Selma Unified School District AD Randy Esraelian nor Kingsburg football coach David Wilson, when contacted, had heard of the mess in wine country, but Esraelian had heard of a local example.

“There was an incident made public at Lemoore [two years ago[ and a coach was let go because of it,” he said. “You hear about it here and there. Hazing is a pretty big buzzword. There’s no longer any tolerance for older kids putting younger kids through a baptism of fire.”

Hazing is defined by legaldictionary.net as “The act of forcing humiliating or abusive tasks upon someone in order to ridicule him, or to initiate him into a group.” The term comes from the late 17th century French word “haser,” which means to irritate or annoy.

According to insidehazing.com, 91 percent of high school students belong to at least one group, and 48 percent of them report being hazed. Forty-three percent were subjected to humiliating activities and 30 percent performed potentially illegal acts as part of their initiation. Every type of high school group was involved in hazing, including 24 percent in church groups.

Like that red rash, nobody wishes it on anyone, and you especially won’t want it yourself.

“Our coaches meet with the players and go over their expectations,” Sembritzki said. “There is no manuscript for when things go crazy and bad things happen, like when we had multiple suicides at our school one year.”

Neither has Wilson experienced any hazing problems in the Kingsburg football program, though the possibility is always there.

“Culturally, it’s not something that’s happened here,” he said. “I remember in college in the 1990s we had a talent show and if the seniors didn’t approve of your routine, you got your head shaved, but I didn’t even think of that as hazing, per se.”

Definitely examples of hazing in other areas or what Sembritzki described as “when things go crazy” are these:

  • In 2014, two Woodside High School basketball coaches were fired after an incident at a motel in Newman where the team was playing in a holiday tournament. Two players were allegedly jumped and beaten and then taped to chairs. One player had lipstick applied to his face and the other was forced to watch Spanish-language television for hours.
  • Mountain View High of Mesa, Ariz. football coach Bernie Busken, who led the team to three state championships in the 1990s, was fired in the spring of 2002 for allowing hazing rituals, including “pink bellies” (slapping someone on the stomach until their skin turns pink or red), to continue after being warned by the district, according to the Arizona Republic.
  • In the barren, windswept town of Yucca Valley in 2000, five Yucca Valley High football players settled for a sexual battery charge after admitting involvement in a sexual assault at an off-campus football camp.

The latter is ill, criminal behavior, and a long way from a shaved head after a bad talent show skit. The problem is, there is no wiggle room now when it comes to teasing or horseplay. These are teenagers, and some do not grasp the difference between horseplay and outright brutality or sodomy, the latter a growing trend according to a recent “Outside the Lines” report. As a result, student-athletes are being victimized, some are getting expelled or arrested and coaching careers are going in the dumper.

Sembritzki seemed to send a warning shot for all coaches and athletes when he said “Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. We’re not bulletproof, but I haven’t heard of anything like this at our school. But with social media the way it is and every kid having a cell phone, you can bet that everything that happens, good or bad, will get posted.”

John Murphy can be reached at 583-2413 or jmurphy@hanfordsentinel.com.

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.

Pinch-hitting for an icon in HMB

 

Thanks to Bruce Jenkins for this well-crafted story on Mark Foyer and me. 

By Bruce Jenkins  

They called him Scoop, and he was a one-man sports staff. Mark Foyer seemed to be everywhere at once, filling pages of the Half Moon Bay Review with stories, features and commentary on the local high school to the great delight of athletes and their parents.

He was a local legend, and remains so, but Foyer views life from an Oakland hospital bed these days, felled by a disease known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome. He has barely been able to move, let alone take a stroll, since April 2015. To visit him is to be shocked, depressed and then invigorated by his boundless spirit. The nature of the disease leaves no guarantee when or even if a patient will fully recover, but Foyer believes he will. He knows it.

And in the interim, a very generous and hard-working fellow has stepped in. Thanks to John Murphy, the Review sports section is back in business.

“Having John fall into our lap,” said Review editor Clay Lambert, “was like manna from heaven.”

Imagine working two jobs, neither of which pays very well, for the satisfaction of giving. Murphy is only a part-time employee of the Review, hired after the paper sent out a desperate plea via Craigslist, but he reaches out to the wide expanse of Half Moon Bay High School sports — freshman teams, junior varsity, varsity, soccer, wrestling, volleyball, water polo, whatever is in season — in his weekly dispatches.

Half Moon Bay Review sportswriter John Murphy, working in place of popular, longtime reporter Mark Foyer, covers the local high school’s basketball team’s game against Menlo School last week. Photo: Paul Kuroda, Special To The Chronicle

Photo: Paul Kuroda, Special To The Chronicle

Half Moon Bay Review sportswriter John Murphy, working in place of popular, longtime reporter Mark Foyer, covers the local high school’s basketball team’s game against Menlo School last week.
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A friend since grade school, Menlo School boys basketball coach Keith Larsen, describes the 60-year-old Murphy as “a man with zero ego” and “about as laid-back a person as you’ll ever find.”

When asked about his other job, at El Granada Elementary School, Murphy simply said, “teachers’ aide.” In fact, he works with special-education children who would be lost without the proper guidance.

He’s a bit of a vagabond, having covered high school sports with a passion since his graduation from San Francisco State. Working mostly for daily newspapers, Murphy passed through San Mateo, Watsonville, Victorville, San Bernardino and Riverside over the years, later hooking up with Prep2Prep, featuring high school coverage in California and several other states.

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HOLIDAY HEROES

The Sporting Green is highlighting a series of “Holiday Heroes,” all of whom are making the world a better place through sports.

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Not once, he says, did he ever aspire to cover major sports or be a big-time columnist. He once covered the High Desert Mavericks, a minor-league baseball team managed by Chris Speier (the former Giant), for the Victor Valley Daily Press, and the experience left him rather cold.

“A lot of the guys were really cool,” he recalled, “but others, not so much. I wasn’t crazy about dealing with that.

“A high school kid, whenever you talk to him or her, they’re excited. It’s maybe the first, maybe the only time they’ll ever be interviewed. It’s kind of neat from that standpoint.”

It was 1997 when Murphy decided the baseball beat wasn’t for him, and that was the year Mark Foyer was hired at the Review. “Our sports budget is pretty small,” said publisher Bill Murray, “but there was no way Mark wouldn’t cover an event he felt passionate about — and that was just about every event. Maybe the most earnest guy I’ve ever known. I’d be surprised if we paid him for a quarter of the time he put in.”

In a Review piece published in August, Lambert wrote, “Other sportswriters would have longed for bigger stages and more important contests — and he did find ways to cover national and even international events, often on his own dime (a track and field aficionado, Foyer attended the World Championships in Edmonton, Paris, Helsinki, Osaka and Berlin in the 2000s). But in Half Moon Bay, Foyer discovered a small community that he could bear-hug. Suffice to say, the town returned the embrace.”The walls of Foyer’s hospital room are decorated with cards, photos, letters and Facebook posts from well-wishers. “I had no idea so many people cared about me,” he said last week.

Much less clear is how Foyer, 54, found himself there.

It started with a simple visit to the doctor in March 2015, Foyer wondering if he had a bad case of allergies. Within days he was in the emergency room at Mills-Peninsula Hospital, his body essentially shutting down, and he has yet to return home. Friends and family feared for his life when he fell into a coma-like state — for eight weeks. “He went ‘code blue’ at one point,” said Foyer’s half-brother, Willy Mautner. “I was afraid he wasn’t going to make it.”

Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare autoimmune disorder that attacks the peripheral nervous system and leaves the body in a paralysis-like state. Researchers have yet to determine the cause or set a specific timeline for recovery. “Some people get well within a year,” said his sister-in-law, Susan Mautner. “Mark’s case is like the worst of the worst. It’s just a complete unknown.”

Lying in a state of paralysis is a powerful test of one’s patience and resolve. “There were times that I thought I would die,” he said. “One night, I was so sure I was going to pass away that I made peace with myself. Now I see that I have a long life ahead of me. I thank God for everyone who has reached out. They’ve given me so much support and love that at times it can be very emotional.”

For the first 10 months of his hospitalization, now based in the neurological wing of the Bay Area Healthcare Center in Oakland, Foyer was unable to speak. Uttering those first few words, in February, was an immense breakthrough. Friends and family can’t avoid bouts of depression, “and Mark still gets a little grumpy sometimes,” Susan Mautner said, “but he’s very forward-looking, very confident. That makes everyone feel better.”

Such small steps. Learning to swallow, feeling slight movement in his legs and fingers, standing up (with assistance) for two or three minutes in physical-therapy sessions, or sensing a bit of pain in the hip — “the muscles are waking up,” he says. The immediate goal is for Foyer to travel in a wheelchair under his own power. No one dares to predict when that day will come.

At the sight of a visitor, Foyer becomes chatty, eyes ablaze. He’s up to date on the Giants, Jim Harbaugh, how the Half Moon Bay Cougars are doing. How slow is his progress? “As slow as the 5 o’clock Friday commute on the Nimitz,” he jokes. His first words after more than a year of silence? “I hear there was a hockey game and a Trump rally broke out.”

Among the posted newspapers clippings is a Review column from Murphy, headlined “Call me interim bard until Foyer gets back.” That one carries special meaning.

“John is very, very good at what he does,” Foyer said. “He moved to Half Moon Bay to be close to the community, and he really knows it. He’s doing a great job.”

And the sports section hums along, just as thorough and enlightening as ever. “John’s like a machine, but maybe more reliable,” Murray said.

“It’s really remarkable,” said Traci Yerby, whose son, Ryan, was recently featured for his accomplishments in two sports and the classroom. “Mark is an institution here. The kids always loved seeing all his articles, and John has taken it over so well. This is a small community, and it’s so important for kids to be recognized and be the focus.”

On the fields, in the gym, during interviews, Murphy presses on as if it’s no big deal. “Nobody knows the coastside like Mark,” he said. “The guy is Mr. Half Moon Bay. Everywhere I go, it’s, ‘Where’s Mark?’ or ‘How’s Mark?’ He’s iconic.

“I try to hammer out my singles each week until Mark comes back, puts on his No. 24 jersey and starts hitting the home runs again.”

Bruce Jenkins is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Email: bjenkins@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @Bruce_Jenkins1

About the series

The Sporting Green is highlighting a series of “Holiday Heroes,” all of whom are making the world a better place through sports. Read all of our installments at sfchronicle.com/sports.

Riordan back sheds hard times

raymone-sanders-use-dis-oneBy John Murphy

SAN FRANCISCO — His mom beat drugs. He beat the streets. And his purple-clad team is beating everyone in sight.

Meet Archbishop Riordan High running back Raymone Sanders. He’s been a few steps from Hell in his young life and a short sprint to the end zone for much of this magical 2015 season.

Raymone, en route to 542 yards rushing and eight touchdowns during this perfect Riordan season, has endured much, including:

–Growing up in a single-parent home in the projects of Hunters Point, known as the “HP.”

— Being raised by a crack cocaine-addicted mother who has since recovered, but is now battling Multiple Sclerosis and a mysterious mouth affliction.

— Letting go of the anger of growing up without his dad (who now attends games) in an environment where violence, drugs and despair abound.

“Sometimes the SWAT team will come by the house,” said Raymone, sitting in the Riordan football bleachers on a rare hot afternoon in the city. “A lot of gunshot happens, like every two nights. You see drug dealers around the corner. I lost a friend around the corner when I was 13.”

The “friend” was actually a cousin. “That was blood,” Raymone said.

“I kind of talk about it so I can release my anger,”  the 5-foot-8, 155-pound stick of dynamite said. “But I don’t think about it too much because my mom says not to. If you stress on it you’ll perform bad and you’ll do bad in school.”

Ah, perform — that’s something Riordan and Raymone are doing in spades this season after a 1-9 2014 season. The Crusaders, heading into Saturday’s 5 p.m. showdown with perennial power Bellarmine College Prep (4-1, 1-1) at Terra Nova High, are 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the West Catholic Athletic League. It’s a development about as expected as the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake that hit the Bay Area like a sledgehammer.

RECORD-BREAKING

Last Saturday against another long-time Riordan nemesis, Serra, Riordan scored a smashing 66-45 win at the City College of San Francisco, breaking a slew of school records along the way. Raymone was at his best, scoring three touchdowns and rushing for 182 yards on 13 carries. Included was a 73-yard bolt of lightning with just over four minutes left in the third quarter. The Riordan back took a handoff from quarterback Jacky Luavasa and broke to his right, then cut left and out-raced athletic Serra safety Jaylyn Membreno to the end zone.

That gave once-laughingstock Riordan a 52-35 lead, much to the delight of a growing base of Crusader fans whose numbers are multiplying with each game.

“It’s really motivating,” Raymone said. “You don’t want to make a mistake. You just want to be calm and keep doing what we’re doing so we can bring some more fans and bring Riordan spirit back to the school.”

SPORADIC SUCCESS

Riordan has had pockets of glory in football since 1966 when its Cal Erskine-coached team stunned Bellarmine 13-10 under the lights at Kezar Stadium. That prompted students to tear down the goal posts, with one of the stray pieces of wood now signed by the team and sitting in the office of Crusaders’ athletic director Mike Gilleran.

“We’ve beaten Bellarmine once since Nam,” said first-year coach Kevin Fordon.

“Since what?” he was asked.

“Since Vietnam,” said Fordon with a smile, referring to the 2000 season when Riordan went 5-0 in the WCAL to win its first league championship since back-to-back titles in 1971 and 1972.

Raymone was lured to Riordan because his brother, Rodney Sanford, played there 15 years ago, as did his cousin on his father’s side, Eric Wright, the former USC and NFL player who finished his career with the San Francisco 49ers.

Hunters Point has produced some notable Crusaders over the years, including pros Donald Strickland and Wright, as well as former Riordan running back Tyrone McGraw and receiver Daniel Cannon.

Another NFL player out of Riordan is running back Steve Sewell, said to be a boyfriend of Raymone’s mom Wendy Butler back in the day.’

CHASING THE HIGH 

Wendy appeared at the weathered Riordan football venue Wednesday after the interview with Raymone finished. She’s hard to miss with brightly dyed red hair, a crimson Betty Boop tattoo on her right arm and polka dot finger nails.

The single mom grew up near Riordan in a middle-class family and was a track star at Lincoln High out in the Sunset District. But a broken leg hindered her track career and drugs (specifically crack cocaine) turned her life upside-down.

“Before Raymone was born I was on drugs, but he doesn’t know what that kind of mother is,” Wendy said. “I’ve been clean since 1989. I’m not ashamed of it because it made me the woman that I am. I feel I’m a strong individual. I feel like all my kids got their determination from my will. I went in (to rehabilitation) and never looked back.”

Wendy’s father and uncle took her to a tough, pre-2000s rehab, not the country club atmosphere today’s programs offer. The 13 ½ months she spent in rehab saved her life.

“My upbringing had a lot to do with getting off of it,” Wendy said. “It started off as fun — it was just supposed to be a fun thing. I had the money and my parents gave me anything at that time that I wanted to help take care of my two older kids. But before you know it, it’s no longer fun. Before you know it, you’re chasing the drug. It’s not party time anymore.”

During one dark moment suicide seemed an option but Wendy shook the urge, much like her remarkable son sheds tacklers today.

Asked what goes through her mind during a game like Serra when she watches her youngest, Wendy said: “There goes my baby! There’s my baby! I used to run track and I tell him “You know you got your speed from your mama?”  That all comes from me. But when I see him going through the end zone I say “There goes my baby. “I’m just proud he can hang with these big guys.”

POWERED BY SKIPPY

The Hunters Point residents don’t have it easy. They share a three-bedroom place with an aunt who has cancer and her small daughter.

“Things are really tight,” Raymone said. “Sometimes there’s no food in the house to eat and my coaches help. I come to school and they feed me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and give me some of their food. It’s really tough sometimes.”

Then there’s the neighborhood which is bleak and dangerous, at best. When Raymone was in the sixth grade returning from basketball practice, he came across a dead body.

“That was at Third and Palou,” he said. “He was shot — two bullet holes in his back. When I saw that it was like nothing I could think of. Stuff like that, I don’t even like to think about.”

“There are a lot of gangs; too much I think. I look around and I don’t really like it because it’s taking the younger kids — kids younger than me that looked up to me when I was playing Pop Warner that’s involved in gangs now. Ten years old, 11 years old. It’s crazy.”

San Francisco police officer Rob Fung, the recently retired Washington High-San Francisco High baseball coach, agrees the HP is no paradise.

“I’ve never lived in this young man’s shoes,” he said. “I trained out there and occasionally patrol that area. It is one, if not the toughest, areas in the city. It’s a tough place for a kid to grow up.”

Raymone has muddled by but not without help. His mom signed him up for Pop Warner football and track and field at a young age, but he grew into an angry, resentful kid by middle school, with a penchant for bullying.

“I was a violent kid when I was younger,” Raymone said. “I used to get in fights a lot. I’d bully kids. I knew I was stronger than a lot of people. And I’d take my anger and frustration out on the kids that were not as strong as me. The weak links. I feel bad about that because it’s not cool.”

GROWING UP

Raymone’s  brother Rodney snapped him out of it, teaching him to channel his aggression on the field. And a San Francisco Warriors’  Pop Warner coach nudged him toward Riordan, an all-boys Catholic school of just under 700 students (1,000 fewer than this week’s  opponent, Bellarmine) that’s  in the working-class Outer Mission/Sunnyside neighborhood.

An indifferent student for three years on Phelan Avenue, Raymone has made a late rush and is said to be NCAA Division I eligible, with Cal State Sacramento in hot pursuit.

“I have him in class this semester and he’s completely different (than last year),” said Fordon who was the offensive coordinator last season. “He’s the first one to raise his hand and he always has his homework done. He got an A on my mid-term; it’s like night and day. It just shows how much this kid’s grown up.”

It didn’t come easily. Raymone’s  mom not only has MS but that severe gum disease doctors at first thought might be cancer. Fordon found out in August, but Raymone was not told until last Thursday for fear it would sidetrack him. His three-TD performance against Serra was dedicated to his mom, who is in the painful process now of having her teeth extracted.

Said Serra coach Patrick Walsh of Raymone. “I was very impressed with his speed, agility and toughness. He really hit the holes hard and ran through a ton of tackles. He ran right up the middle on us and seemed to be in a different gear. I think he has the ability to play at the next level.”

Now with Riordan ranked among the top 25 teams in the state for the first time in school history, Wendy contemplates all that’s happened and gives thanks for the all-boys school he attends.

“Raymone has changed, even at home,” Wendy said.  “I’d don’t have to say please do this and why didn’t you do this? “I’m starting to see the maturity of him becoming a responsible young man. I owe that all to Riordan. They taught him education is first and being a great athlete is important but it’s not a priority. All of these men around him made a difference for my son.”

 

Loma Prieta: The devastation, gratitude

San Francisco Giants vs Oakland Athletics, 1989 World Series
Giants pitcher Kelly Downs carries his nephew Billy Kehl after Loma Prieta Earthquake. Photo by John Iacono /Getty Images.

By John Murphy

October 17, 1989, around 5 p.m. my brother Jim and I had settled into seats at Candlestick Park for Game 3 of the so-called “Bay Bridge”  World Series.

He was teaching at South San Francisco High. I was living in Watsonville and had begun work at the Fremont Argus newspaper.

The A’s were up two games to none but, hey, this was World Series. Spirits were high.

Then it happened. At 5:04 p.m. there was a loud rumble and hard shaking that gained momentum. I noticed the bleachers in right field swaying and half the fans sprinting for the exits. In a teaser to ESPN’s 30-by-30 show that premiered Monday,  a worker describes the horror of being on a light tower and feeling it sway.

But I’m  third-generation native San Francisco and we’re used to earthquakes, no matter the ferocity.

“Rock the A’s!” one Giants’ fan yelled after the 15 seconds of shaking. “Yeah, rock the A’s said another and a rally cry was born.

So unconcerned was I that I went to a concession stand and requested two beverages … and was served!

Well, we all know now, this was no minor league temblor. There were players in uniform milling around the middle of the diamond with their children perched on their shoulders. Easterners, we thought. But then 10, 15, 20 minutes passed and the scoreboard never came back on and we knew the game was in jeopardy. Soon the P.A. announcer confirmed it and we trudged out of the concrete stadium, confused and disappointed.

Heading back to our car, someone heard the report on their transistor radio, the Bay Bridge had collapsed (partially true). Someone else heard the epicenter was Watsonville (untrue, but it scared the heck out of me).

Mangled home in Watsonville.

Long story short, it was a 6.9 magnitude shaker 10 miles northeast of Santa Cruz, near the Loma Prieta peak of the Santa Cruz mountains. Sixty-three people died as a result and over 3,700 were injured. The event caused $8-10 billion in property damage.

Just outside Watsonville, my significant other at the time was on Highway 1 when the pavement began undulating and cars spun out. She thought she had a blowout. In downtown Watsonville, a falling brick from the ancient Oddfellows Building hit an old man, killing him instantly.

Farther north in downtown Santa Cruz, a young woman at the Santa Cruz Roasting Company was trapped inside the crippled building and was never heard from again. Her friends maintained a vigil outside, chanting her name all night and praying — but she was already dead, along with two co-workers.

Old wooden homes in Watsonville not bolted to their foundation were mangled and deformed. A tent city rose on the Watsonville High football field, right near my old house. Many were farm workers who had been through the recent quake in Mexico City where building codes aren’t nearly so strict; they refused to return to their Watsonville dwellings.

The Rolling Stones played in Oakland around that time and Mick Jagger toured Watsonville, it was reported. Ford’s Department store on Main Street was condemned and my better half lost her job.

Life went on. The Giants got swept by the A’s and I missed Game 3 to cover a James Logan High School football game. I sold my Game 3 ticket stub, now a collector’s item.

Back in Watsonville, FEMA came around and surveyed our wrecked china cabinet, broken crystal and busted water heater. The worker took pity, cutting us a check for $1,500. It wasn’t much, but at least we lived to tell about it.