A Star in Eclipse : Silverman Now a Softball Coach After Stormy Career as a Player


Beth Silverman used to prance over a softball field, where she once enjoyed unparalleled success at El Camino Real High.

Today, her body broken down by injuries and her involvement in softball limited to a new coaching job at Campbell Hall, Silverman walks gingerly.

She has not competed in an interscholastic game since her last one at El Camino Real, which capped a brilliant but sometimes stormy four years with the varsity.


Her days with the Conquistadores included an estimated batting average of about .400 and a 56-4 record as a pitcher--including a streak of 39 consecutive victories.

But she is just as well remembered for her absence in 1987--the result of an on-field confrontation with a teammate in the opening game--which is still a subject of debate.

Occasionally plagued by pain from several knee operations and a debilitating back injury, Silverman looks to the future, hoping someday to play again. At the same time, she doesn’t hide from the past.

Silverman is willing to talk about what she calls “the incident.”

During the opening game of the 1987 season, Silverman made a remark--some said a profane remark--to an El Camino Real infielder, which eventually led to her dismissal by a team vote.

“It was something that was assumed said that wasn’t said,” Silverman said. “There were a lot of meetings. There were a lot of undercurrents going on at school between friends, teammates, people talking to people.

“If it hadn’t been reported to the press, it would have been cleared up within a matter of days. But people started talking. People started fibbing, and one thing led to another.”


With Silverman sitting out the season, the four-time defending City Section champion Conquistadores lost to Sylmar, 13-4, in the title game. Silverman returned her senior year in 1988 to post a 17-4 record and shut out San Pedro, 5-0, as El Camino Real regained the City championship.

In 1986, her sophomore year, Silverman went 19-0 and posted an 0.05 earned-run average, allowing only one earned run while striking out 149 in 127 innings. In the process, El Camino Real extended its winning streak to a state-record 73 games.

“She was a phenomenal pitcher and an excellent hitter for us,” El Camino Real Coach Neils Ludlow said. “She was a major part of that streak. She’s quite a competitor . . . very intense. She was motivated. She wanted to achieve.”

While Silverman might have been cast as someone other than a team player, Ludlow said he had few problems with his standout pitcher, who threw hard and had great movement on her pitches. But he lost control of the situation when other players threatened to quit.

“We got along real well, and I think we respected each other,” Ludlow said of his relationship with Silverman. “It got blown way out of proportion. I thought I could put it back together. I really tried. I talked to parents, but it was a behind-the-scenes thing.

“It had been building for years and it just exploded. There was nothing I could do about it.”


Silverman said she especially enjoyed her final season with the Conquistadores, because she had something to prove.

“If I was pitching good, and I was hitting, I was always a factor,” she said.


But Silverman said the media focused all attention on her, which probably made teammates jealous. At the same time, the pressure to keep winning became unbearable.

“A lot of stress was put on me,” she said. “Honestly, I’m happy I took that year off, just for my own psychological needs.”

One her teammates said Silverman got preferential treatment and was too passionate about winning.

“She got away with a lot of things other players did not get away with,” said Darcy Stehlik, an infielder who played briefly at Long Beach State and coached at Millikan High. “I often wonder if we all went about it in the correct way.

“Was it worth it to lose Beth and lose a championship? To me, it really was. I hope we all learned from the situation. And I know I have, and I hope Beth has.”


After El Camino Real, Silverman was ready to for the college ranks when all went sour.

A scholarship to Arizona State fell through, Silverman said, because she failed to maintain a 3.0 grade-point average in high school. Her GPA was 2.9.

So she enrolled at rival Arizona, determined to make the team and win a scholarship. Then one morning in 1989 she woke up and had no feeling from her waist down. Doctors told Silverman she had two herniated disks in her lower back. She was advised to avoid physical activities.

The condition of her back has improved, but Silverman, 25, has also been slowed by three arthroscopic surgeries on her knees.

Her first was 10 years ago; her last was in July. Now she is preparing for a fourth: reconstruction of her right knee.

She says she yearns for the chance to play again. But could she ever be as competitive as she once was?

“If you give me a new body, yes,” she said. “With my injuries? No.”

Unable to play, Silverman in 1989 began preparing for a career in coaching. She graduated from Cal State Northridge with a degree in kinesiology. She was hired at Campbell Hall last year and led the Vikings to a 7-13 record after working as an off-campus coach at Harvard-Westlake the year before.


Silverman describes herself as an average coach who is always striving to improve. Some of her players think she’s better than average.

“I think she’s a good coach,” Campbell Hall shortstop Molly Jacobs said. “She sort of knows what you’re thinking. She likes to win, while other coaches do it for fun. She’s very positive about it.”


Said Campbell Hall first baseman Erica Hassan: “She’s learned how to adapt to various players on our team. A lot of people on our team aren’t necessarily very serious about softball. Beth has made me very serious.”

Some former teammates are amused that Silverman is coaching. But they also suspect she’s changed in the past eight years.

“Coaching is probably different than playing, and she’s grown up,” said Alisha Knopf, who stays in contact with Silverman but still calls her “Beth, the enigma.”

“She’s more friendly and easier to talk to than she used to be,” Knopf added. “Plus, she’s not playing anymore, and she’s not the main focus of a softball team anymore.”


Silverman said good team chemistry is one of her biggest concerns, and she hopes she never has to coach a team like the 1987 Conquistadores. She has already improved a traditionally poor team at Campbell Hall.

The best route to success, Silverman said, is with a good pitcher. For now, Campbell Hall is without a dominant pitcher, so Silverman is working to develop pitching skills with one or two of her players.

They might not have much experience, but they will learn from someone who was once the Valley region’s best.

Silverman believes pitchers should be treated different from other players.

“You have to give them more privileges,” she said. “If they say, ‘I have to go pitch,’ you let them go pitch. All it’s going to do is better your team.”

Despite their differences, Stehlik suspects that Silverman might develop into a good coach.

“The kids need good role models,” she said, “and I think [Beth] can be one.”

Silverman said she and Ludlow have not talked since she left El Camino Real.

“Say hi to her, and I wish her the best of luck,” Ludlow said when he was told of her new career. And he added a piece of advice.


“In high school, you gotta do the best with what you have. My advice is to keep your chin up and keep pushing.”