•CALI-FLAVORED HALL OF FAME CEREMONIES: Both players inducted two weeks ago into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame and two of the four who went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last week are from California.
In baseball, switch-hitting slugger Eddie Murray from Locke High of Los Angeles and catcher Gary Carter from Sunny Hills of Fullerton were this year's only two inductees.
Murray, known mostly for his days with the Baltimore Orioles, went into the Hall of Fame just one year after Ozzie Smith was the sole inductee last year. Smith also is from Locke High and, in fact, played on the same high school team as Murray. I was disappointed that Murray didn't acknowledge that fact during his induction speech.
Carter, though, did talk about his high school days and credited a scout for suggesting he become a catcher even though he was only a catcher for a few games during his senior year. Carter was better in high school in football than in baseball, which he also confirmed in his speech. As a junior in 1970 at Sunny Hills, in fact, Carter was one of the best football players in Southern California. He had a knee injury as a senior, however, which was one reason why he chose baseball over football.
The two newest football Hall of Famers from California are running back Marcus Allen from Lincoln of San Diego and wide reciever James Lofton from Washington of Los Angeles. Allen, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1981 for USC, was probably the best prep player in the state in 1977, although he played quarterback for Lincoln and didn't become a running back until he was put there by Trojan head coach John Robinson. Lofton was probably more known in high school in track as he won the 1974 state long jump championship with a mark of 24-3 1/2. His wide receiver skills became more developed and he started gaining more notoriety in football at Stanford.
•BUSH, DUDA AMONG AREA CODE'S BEST: Those expected to be among the best baseball prospects at last week's Area Code Games in Long Beach were indeed among the best. Players like shortstop Matt Bush of San Diego Mission Bay, pitcher/outfielder Chuck Lofgren of San Mateo Serra and pitcher/outfielder Trevor Plouffe from Crespi of Encino. Bush was given Nike Defensive Play of the Game in one outing, reached 93 mph as a pitcher in another and displayed all the tools that make him so hard to beat as a top prospect. Lofgren pitched well and smoked a double in one game. Plouffe had three hits in one game and was consistently near 90 mph as a pitcher.
But there were a few players who made a name for themselves, upping their stock among the assembled pro scouts considerably. On that list would be first baseman Lucas Duda from Arlington of Riverside and infielder Randy Molina of South Gate. Duda had two doubles in one game.
One player with two homers in one game was junior outfielder John Drennan from Rancho Bernardo of San Diego. Drennan's blasts, though, came during a game at a local high school, and not at the more spacious Blair Field, where only one homer was hit during the entire week of games.
Nearly 200 of the top seniors and juniors in the nation for the 2004 season participated in the yearly event, which is produced by Student Sports Inc. with the support of numerous major league teams.
•DENNEHY DRAMA: Many have wondered why the tragic saga of former California prep basketball player Patrick Dennehy generated so much national media attention. Well, we have a possible answer courtesy of a sportswriting friend of mine, John Hillman, who lives in Waco, Texas. Dennehy is the former St. Francis High (Mountain View) and Wilcox High (Santa Clara) player who was allegedly shot to death in early July by a teammate at Baylor University. He wasn't found until two weeks ago, buried in a field, and his memorial service was just last week in San Jose.
When the story first broke, Hillman reminded me, President Bush was staying at his ranch, and the press corps that follows him was staying in Waco. Those reporters, all from national wire services and national broadcast companies, all read about Dennehy's disappearance in the local Waco newspaper. They weren't writing much about the President at the time, so they became intrigued with the Dennehy story. It caught on like a wildfire from there.
I'm sad to say I don't remember much of Patrick's prep career, other than that he was promising big man. I wouldn't say he was a high school star, but a player who kept on improving and worked his way into becoming a Division I college prospect.
•EVANGEL QB INELIGIBLE: When All-American quarterback John David Booty decided to graduate early from national football powerhouse Evangel Christian of Shreveport, La., it was said the team wouldn't lose that much due to the incoming transfer of quarterback Geoff Nixon from Texas. And since Evangel is scheduled to travel to California in October for a hyped matchup against De La Salle of Concord, the performance of whoever replaces Booty is crucial.
But that player won't be Nixon. The quarterback was ruled ineligible last week by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, so Evangel coach Dennis Dunn will have to dig even deeper to groom a new quarterback. Nixon had been getting the bulk of practice time with the first team offense during the spring and early summer. The odds of the Eagles actually losing a game before they even get out to California also just went up. That could happen conceivably against either Longview (Longview, Texas), Rockhurst (Kansas City, Mo.) or Hoover (Hoover, Ala.). De La Salle will likely have a 144-game win streak heading into its game against Evangel.
•LAWHORN TO BERKELEY: It's been a while since Berkeley High's boys basketball team has had that much of a chance of making it to the Division I state finals, but the Yellowjackets will definitely be in the mix in 2004. They already were foreseen to be a prime contender at the end of last season due to a strong nucleus of players coming back from a 25-5 club, not to mention the departure of Leon Powe and others from two-time Division I NorCal champ Oakland Tech. Berkeley's fortunes now look even brighter with the news that 6-6 junior Dior Lawhorn, who was one of 10 sophomores on the 2003 All-State Underclass team, is tranferring in from San Francisco Riordan. Lawhorn had a 48-point game last season and was one of the top players in the rugged West Catholic Athletic League.
•NEW SCHOOLS UPDATE: That new school in Santa Maria that's scheduled to open next fall is right now a vacant lot. I drove by it last week during a break in a family vacation. A local hotel clerk told me, though, that Pioneer Valley High is mostly being built modularly, at a different site, and that it's supposed to open on time.
Assistant commissioner John Williams of the Sac-Joaquin Section has responded to the story we did on all of the new schools in the state and has commented that the Sac-Joaquin already has surpassed the North Coast as the state's second-largest section. That happened last year for number of schools. Based on enrollments of all schools in the two sections averaged out, however, the Sac-Joaquin was larger even before last year.
Williams added that the second high school we referred to from Woodland is going to be called Pioneer and it will open this fall with ninth and 10th graders. Another new school to look for in the section opening in 2005 will be Ronald E. McNair High of Lodi.
Another reader e-mail also has corrected us that the new school going up in Watsonville will be named Pajaro Valley, not New Millenium. We like the sound of that one a lot better.
Finally, a different reader e-mail reported that a new school being built in Chico will be called Canyon View. Further research shows that the bond for Canyon View was initially passed in 1998, but that environmental concerns over a wetlands area on the proposed site has caused numerous delays. The latest story indicated Canyon View won't now open at the earliest until 2006, which would be eight years after the bond was approved.