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Elway Becomes Unlikely Hero in This Title Game

Twenty years ago today, Crenshaw and Granada Hills high schools played the Los Angeles City Section high school baseball championship game at Dodger Stadium.

Granada Hills had a 4-1 lead in the fourth inning, but its coach, Darryl Stroh, was worried. His starting pitcher was beginning to tire.

So he walked to the mound to make a change, knowing he had a relief pitcher warmed up.

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But he changed his mind halfway to the mound, . pointed to the third baseman and said, “You.”

The third baseman was John Elway.

Among those in the Crenshaw lineup he had to face was Darryl Strawberry.

Elway, who hit better than .500 his last two seasons at Granada Hills, wasn’t much of a pitcher--in his previous outing he’d hit two batters and walked five--so the change was a surprise.

“He hadn’t pitched in six weeks because he was so lousy,” recalls Stroh.

“Halfway to the mound, I said to myself, ‘Wait a minute. I’m going to go with the toughest, most competitive guy I’ve got.’ ”

Elway pitched 4 2/3 innings of three-hit relief and preserved a 10-4 win. He struck out Strawberry once and retired him on an outfield fly. He struck out future major leaguer Chris Brown to end the game.

At the plate, Elway was nine for 13 in the four-game playoffs.

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Also on this date: In 1921, Babe Ruth, 26, hit the 120th home run of his career, giving him baseball’s lead, which he held until Hank Aaron hit his 715th on April 8, 1974. . . . In 1979, the Dodgers made Bowling Green pitcher Orel Herhiser the 440th pick in baseball’s draft. . . . In 1977, in Portland, Ore., during the city’s victory parade after the Trail Blazers had won the NBA championship, someone stole Bill Walton’s bicycle. Walton pleaded publicly, “Please bring it back. It’s the only bike I’ve got.” . . . In 1958, Phoenix high school sensation Dallas Long tossed the shotput 61 feet 1/2 inch in the Compton Invitational, the third-best mark in history. He finished second to Parry O’Brien, who threw 62-4 3/4. . . . In 1969, a weeping Joe Namath announced he had retired from football rather than divest himself of his part ownership in a New York City restaurant, Bachelors III. He had been ordered to do so by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. The restaurant, police confirmed, was a hangout for gamblers. . . . In 1968, Sherman Oaks prep phenom Tim Foli was the first pick in baseball’s draft, by the New York Mets.


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