In the 78-year history of high school sports in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the number of Olympians produced, major league players developed and Hall of Fame members inducted from a variety of sports is staggering.
So now you can understand how difficult it is to be selected to the Los Angeles City Section Hall of Fame.
The second class of 42 recipients has been selected, and it is a who’s who of greatness.
There are baseball Hall of Fame members Robin Yount (Taft 1973) and Eddie Murray (Locke ’73), and All-Star Garret Anderson (Kennedy ’90). There are football Hall of Fame members Warren Moon (Hamilton ’74), James Lofton (Washington ’74), Mike Haynes (Marshall ’71) and Joe Perry (Jordan ’44). There are Olympic track champions Quincy Watts (Taft ’88) and Florence Griffith Joyner (Jordan ’78).
There are coaching legends Al Scates (Westchester ’57), John Muir (Fremont ’46) and Gene Vollnogle (Fremont ’48). There’s golf standout Donna Caponi Byrnes (Granada Hills ’63). There’s tennis legend Bobby Riggs (Franklin ’36). There are basketball standouts Sidney Wicks (Hamilton ’67), Kiki Vandeweghe (Palisades ’76), Joe Caldwell (Fremont ’60), Billy McGill (Jefferson ’58) and Anita Ortega (Los Angeles ’75).
From volleyball, there are Craig Buck (Taft ’76), Ron Lang (Dorsey ’55) and Jeff Stork (Taft ’78). From swimming, there’s Lenny Krayzelburg (Fairfax ’93). From track, there are Kevin Young (Jordan ’84) and Sherri Howard (Kennedy ’80). From gymnastics, there are Mitch Gaylord (Grant ’79) and Sharon Shapiro (Monroe ’79). As an at-large representative, there’s boxer Oscar De La Hoya (Garfield ’91).
It’s an extraordinary group that will join the previous 55 inductees at an induction dinner April 28 at the Westside DoubleTree Hotel.
“I looked at the guys who were selected, my God, it’s a pretty good group of athletes and coaches,” said Scates, who coached volleyball for 50 years at UCLA, winning 19 NCAA titles.
Scates didn’t even play volleyball at Westchester High during the 1950s.
“I had a great coach named Bill Rankin,” Scates said. “He inspired me to become a coach just by the amount of fun I had playing on his basketball team.”
Scates learned volleyball when his football coach at Santa Monica College told the players to try out for the volleyball team.
“I was cut in five minutes and deserved to be cut,” Scates said. “I didn’t know anything about six-man volleyball.”
He started showing up at Santa Monica State Beach and learned the game.
“I’d watch the good players,” he said.
Trent Cornelius, an assistant City Section commissioner, said this class was about recognizing the “trailblazers.”
One was Marjorie Gestring, who graduated from Los Angeles High in 1940. At 13, she became the youngest to win an Olympic gold medal, winning in the three-meter springboard diving competition at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
Another was Muir, who became coach of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team in 1964 while still coaching at Los Angeles High.
It’s a list of achievers that will make anyone who grew up in Los Angeles proud.