With baseball season here it is fun to look back at a great experience I had coaching baseball in 1979 at Yucca Valley High School in the Mojave Desert.
I had coached baseball before for several years at Twentynine Palms High School in Southern California, but when a new school opened in Yucca Valley I transferred there as the athletic director and head football coach — no more baseball even though I had always enjoyed coaching it.
During the era when coaches had to have teaching credentials, as had happened with the girls basketball team, baseball season was about to start and we had no coach, so as the athletic director my principal said, you get the job.
Yucca Valley must have been a great place to retire to because I knew of a great former major league pitcher, manager and pitching coach who had moved to the area. Freddy Fitzsimmons, who had pitched for 20 years with the Giants and the Dodgers, was affectionately known during his playing days as Fat Freddy because of his colorful ways.
He was not only colorful but talented as he led the majors in wins for several seasons as well as holding several records that didn't get broken for several years. After retiring as a player he spent a short time as a manager, then became a pitching coach. As the pitching coach he worked for both the Giants and the Dodgers with the likes of Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax.
I knew Freddy wanted to devote some time to our youth, so I went and asked him if he would come and work with our pitchers. He said he would love to, showing up every day walking with a cane.
He would take the pitchers and work them like they had never been worked before, then take them to the dugout and talk baseball. It was an experience these young men will never forget.
With his help we won the league championship, but lost in the first round of playoffs. We also won the Indio Spring Break Tournament, which featured eight other teams such as Palm Springs, Hemet and others. A solid pitching staff accounted for that, thanks to Freddy.
In 1980 Freddy passed away from a heart attack just shortly after I had returned to Crescent City. I know that all of us that were part of the team will always treasure our time with this true baseball legend and all he gave us to remember him by.
Dick Trone writes on his reflections and the history of Del Norte High Warrior sports. Trone, who played football for the Warriors and graduated in 1951, had an illustrious career on the gridiron at Humboldt State University. Trone was football head coach at Del Norte High for a number of years before retiring.