by Larry Ham
Looking back on the year in sports is always a little difficult. Not because there’s not much to talk about, but because it’s hard to remember everything that happened, especially events from the beginning of the year.
So, to begin with, I had to look up the score from the Super Bowl. Baltimore defeated the 49ers 34-31. It made a lot of Niner fans sad, but coach Jim Harbaugh has definitely brought the team back to prominence, and they are one of the top teams in the NFL again this year.
Continuing with the national theme, Chicago won the NHL title after a lockout shortened season. Less than half the games were played in the regular season while the owners and players tried to decide how to divvy up the profits from the twelve dollar hotdogs they sell at NHL arenas.
The Miami Heat won the NBA title, with Lebron James again displaying his talents that he so loves to talk about…. and talk about.
The Boston Red Sox won the World Series, while the Dodgers spent a lot of bingo on players, only to come up short against the Cardinals in the NLCS. As a lifelong Dodger fan, I don’t necessarily like the idea of outspending everyone else to build a winning team, but it sure is better than the years when Frank McCourt owned them, and the starting lineup was littered with minor league rejects.
And of course, the year in sports nationally was also marked by tragedy, when two scumbag cowards bombed the finish line at the Boston Marathon. When the Red Sox won the World Series, they paid tribute to the victims of the bombing during their victory parade. A very classy move.
Locally, several high school teams won championships. The Selma High girls won the CSL title and had a sparkling 30-3 record.
The Selma High baseball team won the Valley D-4 title with a win over Fowler before a crowd estimated at over two thousand.
The Dinuba Emperors won the valley D-3 football title, while the Kingsburg Vikings took the CSL football title.
But the local sports story of the year was definitely the Fresno State football team. Coach Tim DeRuyter led his squad to a 11-2 record and actually had them in position to qualify for a BCS bowl game before injuries and poor defense cost them a game against San Jose State, 62-52. The Dogs won the Mountain West championship. Before losing to USC in the Las Vegas bowl by a score of 45-20.
The leader of that team, and my choice for local athlete of the year, was quarterback Derek Carr. Not only did he lead the nation in passing yardage, completions and touchdowns, he did it while maintaining class, dignity, enthusiasm and effort.
The fact that he was snubbed by the Heisman (complete joke) Trophy committee is inexcusable, and will be, I am sure, motivation that Derek will take with him to the next level.
The story of Derek’s newborn son Dallas, and the life threatening medical problems he had at birth have been shared on a national level, and only go to reinforce what a truly humble and Godly man Derek Carr is. Dallas is doing fine, and so is the Fresno State football program. It will be some time before we see the likes of Derek Carr again, and we wish him well as he moves on to the NFL.
Another significant local story, and one that not enough people knew about, was the retirement of Paul Mitchell as the public address announcer for the Reedley College Football team. Paul began announcing RC football games in 1953, and after sixty seasons, decided it was time to hang up the microphone. Paul is a legend, a great friend, and a well deserved member of the RC Athletic Hall of Fame. He is leaving things in the capable hands of Mark Givens, who I know will continue Paul’s tradition of excellence.
And one final note before I close. The year 2013 also saw the passing of Andy Pafko. Most of you reading this probably don’t have a clue who that is. Andy Pafko played major league baseball from the mid 1940’s through the late 1950’s, playing for the Cubs, Dodgers and Braves. He was an all-star in several seasons, ran out every ground ball will full force, never complained and was friendly with fans, including this one.
He also was the last starting position player on the 1952 Dodgers to pass away. The 1952 Dodgers are my all time favorite team. They actually had a bona fide all-star at every position:
Roy Campanella at Catcher
Gil Hodges at First
Jackie Robinson at Second
Billy Cox at Third
Pee Wee Reese at Shortstop
Andy Pafko in Left
Duke Snider in Center
Carl Furillo in Right
With Andy Pafko’s passing, they are all gone now. Rest in Peace Andy.
My sincere thanks to my friend Will Goldbeck for helping with the local items for this article.