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SPORTS DIGEST: Don Newcombe enters the Shrine of the Eternals

Former Brooklyn Dodger great Don Newcombe probably will never be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

His 149 wins in 12 Major League seasons aren’t enough to rank him with the other baseball immortals, even if he was one of the first pitchers to crack the color barrier, shortly after his teammate and friend Jackie Robinson broke the barrier for all players in 1947.

Newcombe was the first player to collect the Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards until Justin Verlander won the Cy Young and MVP Awards in 2011 to go with his 2006 Rookie of the Year Award.

Newcombe was the first winner of the Cy Young Award in 1956, the year he also won the National League MVP Award with a 27-7 record for the Dodgers and a 3.06 earned run average.

Now in his 56th season in the Dodgers organization, where he serves as a special advisor to the chairman, Newcombe has been around the game for a long time and has a list of awards and accolades to fill a column.

And though he may never enter Cooperstown except as a visitor, he has something else.

On July 17, Newcombe was inducted into the Shrine of the Eternals by the Baseball Reliquary in ceremonies at the Pasadena Library.

The Monrovia-based Baseball Reliquary, founded in 1997, is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation of American art and culture though the context of baseball history and exploring the sport’s unparalleled creative possibilities.

According to Terry Cannon, the executive director of the Baseball Reliquary, the Shrine of the Eternals differs from the Hall of Fame in that statistical accomplishment is not the principal criterion for election.

Its criteria are distinctiveness of play (good or bad), the uniqueness of character and personality and the imprint the individual has made on the baseball landscape, according to the organization’s website.

Electees, both on and off the field, shall have been responsible for developing baseball through athletic and or business achievements, in terms of its larger cultural and sociological impact as mass entertainment and as an arena for the human imagination.

Inducted with Newcombe were Bo Jackson and author Arnold Hano, who is best known for his book “A Day in the Bleachers,” about Game 1 of the 1954 World Series, which was highlighted by Willie Mays’ over-the-shoulder catch of a ball hit by Vic Wertz.

Newcombe topped the field of 50 candidates by receiving votes on 42 percent of the ballots returned by members of the Baseball Reliquary. Jackson was second with 38 percent and Hano third with 26 percent.

Runners-up included Negro Leagues pitching star Chet Brewer (24.7 percent); cartoon character Charlie Brown (24.7 percent); the late Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley (24.7 percent); broadcaster Bob Costas (24 percent); and power hitting outfielder Rocky Colavito, who played for six teams from 1955 through 1968 (23.3 percent).

Newcombe began his professional career with the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League in 1944 and signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in 1946.

When team President Branch Rickey attempted to send Newcombe and future Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella to the Dodgers’ Danville, Illinois, affiliate in the Class B Three-I League, the league threatened to shut down if the two black players arrived.

Instead, Newcombe and Campanella were sent to the Nashua (New Hampshire) Dodgers of the Class B New England League in 1946, making them the first U.S.-based team in organized baseball in the 20th century to include black players.

(Robinson had begun his career in the Dodger organization that year with its International League affiliate in Montreal.)

Newcombe began his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949, going 17-8, helping them to the National League pennant and was the National League rookie of the year.

He was a three-time 20-game winner in his seven seasons in Brooklyn, missing the 1952 and 1953 seasons while serving in the U.S. Army.

Newcombe won a team-high 20 games in 1955, the only season the Dodgers won the World Series when they were in Brooklyn, and his .800 winning percentage was the best in Major League Baseball.

He was also a good hitter, slugging seven home runs for the 1955 Dodgers and 15 overall in his career.

He retired after the 1960 season and rejoined the Dodgers 10 years later when he started the team’s Community Relations Department.

He turned 90 in June, but still makes appearances for the team at various events throughout the year.

He deserves some kind of shrine and now, through the Baseball Reliquary, he has one.

To learn more about the Baseball Reliquary, including how to join, visit the website at http://www.baseballreliquary.org.

USC football coach Clay Helton speaks to reporters during the Pac 12 Media Day sessions at the Hollywood Highland Center last week. Reporters picked UCLA over USC in the Pac 12 Southern Division standings in a preseason poll. (Photo by Mario Villegas)
USC football coach Clay Helton speaks to reporters during the Pac 12 Media Day sessions at the Hollywood Highland Center last week. Reporters picked UCLA over USC in the Pac 12 Southern Division standings in a preseason poll. (Photo by Mario Villegas)

PAC 12 FOOTBALL: The Pac 12 Conference held its annual football media days July 14 and 15 at the Hollywood Highland Center in Hollywood.

The scheduling was designed to compete with the Southeast Conference, which was holding its annual preseason media sessions at the same time, more than six weeks before the college football season begins.

In a poll of media members attending the session, Stanford was picked as the preseason favorite to win the Pac 12, with UCLA being picked over USC to win the Southern Division.

Stanford has Christian McCaffery, who finished second in Heisman Trophy balloting last year, returning and they are the defending conference champion, so that pick makes sense.

UCLA coach Jim Mora speaks to reporters during the Pac 12 Media Day sessions at the Hollywood Highland Center last week. Reporters picked UCLA over USC in the Pac 12 Southern Division standings in a preseason poll. (Photo by Mario Villegas)
UCLA coach Jim Mora speaks to reporters during the Pac 12 Media Day sessions at the Hollywood Highland Center last week. Reporters picked UCLA over USC in the Pac 12 Southern Division standings in a preseason poll. (Photo by Mario Villegas)

And picking UCLA over USC in the Southern Division also makes sense because the Bruins may have the best quarterback in the conference in sophomore Josh Rosen and USC isn’t sure who its starting quarterback will be.

Max Browne, who has been waiting for his shot to start for three years, figured to replace Cody Kessler, but redshirt freshman Sam Darnold has impressed coaches with both his arm strength and his mobility.

Browne is more of a traditional pocket passer who, like Rosen, was a highly praised prep quarterback but was unable to win the starting job as a freshman over Kessler and Max Wittek, and spent the last two seasons backing up Kessler.

The Buins and the Trojans both open the season in Texas Sept. 3. The Bruins play Texas A&M at College Station and the Trojans face Alabama in Dallas. Practice begins in two weeks.

Los Angeles Clippers’ Paul Pierce and Lynwood High School freshman Oscar Lopez had a workout session together following an interview with Lopez for The Players’ Tribune. The Players’ Tribune video featuring Pierce and Lopez was released July 12. (Courtesy photo)
Los Angeles Clippers’ Paul Pierce and Lynwood High School freshman Oscar Lopez had a workout session together following an interview with Lopez for The Players’ Tribune. The Players’ Tribune video featuring Pierce and Lopez was released July 12. (Courtesy photo)

SURPRISE VISITOR: Oscar Lopez Jr. was shooting baskets in the Lynwood High School gymnasium recently when he felt a tap on his shoulder and heard a voice say “good shot.” He assumed it was his coach and kept shooting, but the tap on his shoulder became incessant.

He turned around and found himself face to face with Paul Pierce of the Los Angeles Clippers.

A video of the encounter between Pierce and Lopez, who will be a sophomore next year, was posted on The Players Tribute website, a site created by retired shortstop Derek Jeter.

Pierce and Lopez ended up watching a film of a Lynwood High game against Warren High last season with Pierce offering Lopez a critique of his play and then they worked out on the court with Pierce suggesting some techniques Lopez should work on.

“We were watching a film of my high school games,” Lopez said. “He explained some things I was doing wrong and what I needed to work on. He also told me I need to keep my balance when I dribble.”

Lopez, who is already 6-3, played soccer when he was younger and didn’t start playing basketball until he was 10.

As a freshman, he was Lynwood’s second best player, according to coach Gary Lenoir, who coaches an Amateur Athletic Union team that is called The Truth Paul Pierce, in honor of the former Inglewood High star.

That’s how Pierce came to visit Lynwood High and work out with Lopez.

Pierce still hasn’t decided if he wants to return to the Clippers for another season or retire.

MORE HOOPS FOR YOUTH: Speaking of youth basketball programs, former UCLA basketball star Ann Meyers Drysdale has been named chair of the “Hoops for Youth” program, which enables underprivileged children to attend UCLA basketball games at Pauley Pavilion.

Meyers Drysdale was a member of the Bruins’ 1978 women’s national championship team and was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

“UCLA basketball is in my blood,” Meyers Drysdale said. “I know how magical it is to be part of the tradition of UCLA basketball and I want others to have the opportunity to experience that tradition firsthand as well.”

Hoops For Youth is entering its second year and is run by the Los Angeles Sports Council Foundation in partnership with the UCLA Athletic Department.

The program is funded through tax-deductible contributions from both individuals and corporations. Each $25 donation to the Sports Council Foundation will enable a youngster to attend a game; UCLA Athletics will distribute the tickets to youth groups affiliated with its athletic department. (Pursuant to NCAA recruiting requirements, tickets will be made available only to youth in the sixth grade or below.)

New for the 2016-17 season, the program is expanding to include both UCLA men’s and women’s basketball games.

Information: (213) 482-6333.