Lisa Fernandez may be the alpha star of softball in Lakewood history, but she was hardly the most notable. Al Arbogast was head coach of the Lakewood High School softball team for almost two decades and he is considered the father of high school softball in greater Long Beach. He took over the Lakewood program and became a leader as the sport began its transition from recreational GAA programs to organized CIF teams. Throughout the community, he was considered a mentor at a time when there were few. He led the Lancers to the CIF title game in 1995, losing by one run, and was named the Long Beach Press Telegram's 1995 Dream Team Coach of the Year. His work in the community led to his election to the Lakewood Youth Sports Hall of Fame.
Walter was one of the original members of the Sunday 55+ Senior Softball players that began playing at Joe Rodgers Field in 1981. He served as the 1st Commissioner of the program from 1981 to 1990. The format for the Sunday program was purely recreational and on a drop-in basis. By nurturing the participants at Joe Rodgers on Sunday mornings, Walter was able to form a tournament team, comprised from his Sunday participants, called the Long Beach Snappers. The Snappers ended up qualifying for the 60 & over World Championships in 1986 and went on to win the title.
Introduced to softball on the recreational fields of Long Beach and Lakewood, Lisa is without question softball's most famous, and successful, representative. After stellar careers at St. Joseph High School and UCLA, the Long Beach native has been the most dominating player in the sport for more than a decade. She was the winning pitcher in three Olympic gold medal games, Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000) and Athens (2004). In her third Olympics, in 2004, Lisa was 4-0 and batted .545. She is currently
In his long fast-pitch softball career, Don Frazier was a member of five International Softball Congress World Champions, including a unique run in which he played for a different winning ISC World Series teams three straight years. He played for 1971 Long Beach Nitehawks, where the infielder was named All-World, hit .455 and drove in a tourney-high five runs; the 1972 team representing Burbank; and the 1973 Lakewood Jets, where he again led the tourney in RBI. His play led him to be named to the ISC Hall of Fame in 1995. "Don was a great hitter and had a great glove," teammate Ron Rupe said. "He hit and played defense in the clutch. He was also one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet."
Patty Gasso set the standard for Long Beach City College softball when she arrived in 1990. During her five-season run at LBCC, she compiled an overall record of 161-59-1. Gasso's teams won four South Coast Conference titles and twice captured the Southern California Regional. In 1992, she was named California Community College Coach of the Year and the National Fastpitch Coaches Association West Regional Coach of the Year. Following the 1994 season, she accepted the head coaching position at the University of Oklahoma and for the past 10 years has molded the OU softball program into a national power. In each of her nine years, Gasso has led the Sooners to an NCAA Regional. Her 2000 team won the NCAA National Championship in its 1st NCAA Women's College World Series appearance. Prior to this season, Gasso's career collegiate coaching record is 611 wins against 199 losses, a .754 winning percentage.
Cleo began his softball career with the Mary All-Stars, in San Pedro in 1951. He was a part of three National Softball Congress Championship teams and was named tournament MVP in 1953. Mr. Goyette joined the Nitehawks in the mid 1950's and went on to win six International Softball Congress World Titles. He earned All-World honors from 1952 through 1961 and again in 1963. Considered the best second baseman in the history of the game, Cleo was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in 1971. Goyette is considered as one of the top five players to ever play the game.
Coming out of the service in 1946, Clint resumed his pre-war softball career by joining up with Joe Rodgers and the newly formed Long Beach Nitehawks. Clint, a shortstop until this time was moved by Joe to third base and held that Nitehawk position until he was 51 years old! His teammates affectionately called him "MOUSE" for his defensive skills that found him scooting around the infield from foul line to foul line. He was an excellent bunter and slap hitter while wearing the Nitehawk uniform for 28 seasons. A member of 10 world championship teams, he was named "All-American" 12 times and participated in 23 International Softball Congress world tournaments as a player. Clint was the consummate team player who went on to coach and teach the game he loved for many years.
Hopkins signed with the Boston Red Sox organization and played professional baseball for five years after graduating from Wilson High School. Nick combined softball and baseball for six years playing with the Long Beach Rockets. He played for one year with the Long Beach Fire Fighters in the Western Softball Congress before joining the Nitehawks in 1959 where he played shortstop for 18 years (1959-1977). He was named to the Western Softball Congress All-Star team 15 times and was a member of six International Softball Congress World Tournament winners. He was named to the ISC All World Team in 1966 and in 1969 and was named WSC MVP in 1966, 1968 and 1974 and was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in 1992. Often accused of playing a shallow left field, Hopkins had arguably the best range of any shortstop to ever play the game. He once handled 125 chances without making an error.
Paul "Lucky" Humiston
After playing high school baseball in Bakersfield with Ted Williams, among others on the Hawaiian Islands during World War II, Lucky joined the Nitehawks in 1952. He played centerfield for the Nitehawks from 1952 to 1971. Lucky was a member of nine Nitehawks ISC World Championship teams where he was named tournament MVP twice. He also was named a Western Softball Congress All-Star four times and named to the ISC World team six times. After he won his last World Title with the Nitehawks in 1971, Lucky went on to manage the Burbank Comets to an ISC World Title in 1972, beating the Nitehawks in the championship game. A Long Beach Fire Captain for 31 years, Lucky was instrumental in bringing the ISC World Tournament to Joe Rodgers and Blair Field in 1976.
This shortstop was a defensive wizard on the Nitehawks teams of the '50s that won seven titles (1953, 1955-60). He was named to the All-World teams in 1956 and 1959 and was inducted into the Softball Hall of Fame in 1976.
Jones was a standout pitcher for the San Pedro Mary Star fast-pitch softball team, earning National Softball Congress pitcher of the year honors in 1952, 1953 and 1954. He led Mary Star to the 1952 world title and was inducted into the Softball Hall of Fame in 1976.
Nicki is arguably the greatest pitcher the Long Beach City College softball program has ever seen. She finished her career at Long Beach City in 1993 and still holds nine school records and ranks among the top three in 12 categories. As a sophomore in 1993, she earned first-team All-American and first-team All-State honors. She was also named South Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year while leading the Vikings to an SCC title and fourth place finish in the State Championships. That season she set school records with 280 innings pitched, a 0.35 ERA, 234 strikeouts, 22 shutouts, seven one-hitters and three no-hitters. During her 2-year career at Long Beach City College, Kephart tossed 390 innings, struck out 320 batters, threw four no-hitters and had a career ERA of 0.43, all current school records.
Baseball lore says that the greatest umpires are never noticed. That goes for softball, too. But Debbi Lauderback deserves notice for her long service to the sport of fast-pitch softball. She is one of the few International Softball Federation certified umpires who are qualified to work the highest levels of the game. She was one of just nine Americans chosen to work at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 and is expected to work the 2008 Games in Beijing. Lauderback has been a perennial at NCAA championship events, including several College World Series. She is a regional executive for the American Softball Association working out of Long Beach.
Mary was a pitcher on four Women's College World Series teams, the 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 Long Beach State softball squads. As a freshman in 1990, she was named first-team All-Big West, first-team All-West Region and second-team All-American. In 1993, her Senior-year, she also earned second-team All-Big West honors. Ms. Letourneau ranks atop the 49er record books in several pitching categories. She is number one with 131 games pitched, number one with 92 complete games and is number one with nine saves. She is also second all-time with 37 career shutouts. Mary ranks fourth with 324 career punch-outs and a career ERA of 0.87. Her Earned Run Average of 0.46 was second lowest in Long Beach State University history. She also tossed two perfect games at Long Beach State. Mary was inducted into the Long Beach State Hall of Fame in 1999.
This pitcher was a two-time CIF player of the year at Millikan in 1983 and 1984 and led the Rams to the 1983 CIF title. She played four seasons at Long Beach State, posting 36 career wins, throwing nine shutouts in 1988, and a 0.50 ERA in 1986. She has been a successful high school and private coach since her playing career ended.
Linda, a four-year letter winner (1991-94) at Long Beach State, played on three College World Series teams (1991, 1992, 1993). In 1992, she was named a 3rd team All-American, 1st Team All-West Region and 1st Team All-Big West. She was also named 2nd Team All-Big West in '93 and '94. Linda is the 49ers all-time leader with 259 hits and 100 runs scored. She ranks third at Long Beach State with a .304 career average, fifth with 75 RBI, fourth in doubles (28) and third in at bats (852). Linda played in 263 games at the Beach which ranks 18th all-time in NCAA history.
Shellie McCall and winning have become synonymous when it comes to Long Beach City College softball. In her nine years as head softball coach at Long Beach City College, McCall has won two state championships, eight South Coast Conference titles, and before this season had an overall record of 377-66-2, an .847 winning percentage. During her nine-year reign at the helm, the Lady Vikings are 134-7 in conference games. In 2002, McCall won her 300th game at LBCC and closed the season with a 47-6 record. She was voted SCC Coach of the Year and led City College to a state championship runner-up finish. Shellie has seen 46 of her student-athletes transfer to four-year institutions across the country.
No coach in the history of Long Beach State Athletics has won more games with the 49ers than softball coach Pete Manarino. He currently has 763 career victories and a career winning percentage of .620, all at Long Beach State. He has been named Big West Coach of the Year in 1986, 1997, 1999 and 2003 and has made Long Beach State one of the nation's most respected and prominent softball programs. Since he took over the softball program in 1984, the 49ers have won three Big West Conference Titles, made 14 NCAA Regional appearances and have advanced to the NCAA College World Series five times. In addition to his duties as softball coach and instructor in the Physical Education Department, Pete also makes it a priority to serve the local community. He was the original coordinator of Long Beach State's "Beach Buddies" program, in which student-athletes work with high school students by motivating them to stay in school. Mr. Manarino has also received the Long Beach Century Club's "Brian Michael Warren Award for his contributions to furthering women's athletics.
A mainstay at Long Beach State for more than two decades, Masner was an infielder and the second four-year player in school softball history from 1982 to 1985. She is the Senior Associate Athletics Director at Cal State Long Beach and served as the interim A.D. in 2005-06.
Most softball teams last a few years and then just drift apart from lack of interest. The Long Beach Nitehawks lasted 40 years because of the dedication of Red Meairs to the game and the unfailing support of his wife Connie. Connie knew when she married Red she would have to share his love for sports and devotion to the Long Beach Nitehawks. They put their love for each other and his dedication to the Nitehawks together to forge a lasting life long labor of love. While Red was worrying about schedules and players, Connie spent week nights and weekends in the concession stand at Joe Rodgers Field making nickels and dimes to keep the Nitehawks financially afloat. A good softball game is played in about one and a half hours. The players and the fans are at the game for about two and a half hours. Connie averaged about five hours of work for every game the Nitehawks played... for 40 years!
Irvin "red" Meairs
A graduate from Wilson in 1941, Meairs also played baseball at Long Beach City College. After earning All-Southern California honors at City College, Red signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization in 1943. His professional days were short lived and he returned home to play with the Long Beach Rockets. After a stint in the Navy he began playing with the Nitehawks in the early 1950's. As a player, Red was a part of 7 ISC World Championship teams. He also led three Nitehawk teams to World Titles. Meairs was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in 1988. In a career that spanned over 30 years, Red Meairs and the Long Beach Nitehawks were linked as one. Devotion to the team was Red's strongest attribute. The same could be said for his wife Connie, who put in countless hours in the concession stand in order to financially support the team until the Nitehawks stopped playing in 1988.
CHUCK MEDICK Long Beach Nitehawk number one fan, the play by play announcer for the team, a sixteen year sports reporter for the Long Beach Press Telegram, a certified international table tennis referee, Chuck Medick was sightless since infancy, but hardly blind. His work as the Nitehawks play-by-play announcer astonished everyone he came in contact with. Softball was his life. His other senses allowed him to see the games he was calling in a different way from the rest of us. The sound the bat made, the sound of the ball coming off the bat and the direction it traveled, the movement of the players' feet allowed Chuck to share "his" game with us. For sixteen years he called pitches, outs and runs, wrote about them in the Press Telegram and befriended the game in a manner that few have. Chuck once wrote,"I don't feel I have accomplished anything special. I don't want to be held up as an example. A lot of blind people can outshine me in 5000 different ways. It's just that when I was little, I had two choices: I could curl up and die, or I could live. I chose to live." Chuck Medick died in 1976 at the age of 54. Today nobody writes about the game of softball. Nobody hears the game being played. Today the game of softball misses Chuck Medick.
"The Mad Russian" had an amazing career on the softball and baseball field. He was a softball star in the '30s then he crossed over to baseball. In 1940 he had a .363 batting average with 41 home runs and 171 RBI for the Pacific Coast League Los Angeles Angels. Novikoff's five years in the major leagues included a .300 batting average with 64 RBI for the 1942 Cubs. He returned to softball after his baseball career and helped the Nitehawks to several more titles and was inducted into the Softball Hall of Fame.
Mr. Perrucio's impact on baseball and softball has been tremendous over the past 35 years. From 1969 to 1981, he was a coach for the Kid's Baseball Association of Long Beach. He worked with 11 and 12 year olds teaching them the rules, fundamentals and sportsmanship. In 1981, the City of Long Beach organized a senior softball league at Joe Rodgers field. In addition to being league commissioner from 1990 to 1995, Izzy was an active player and ambassador for the league. In 1986, he pitched all six games while leading the Long Beach Snappers 60+ team to a World Series title. He was also named series MVP and was selected to the All-World team. Izzy has been honored by the Long Beach Poly Elks Club supporters, for his contributions to the Kids Baseball Association and also by the Long Beach Department of Parks, Recreation & Marine for the Mary Dell Butler award, given to outstanding City volunteers.
Jack Randall's career started at a Joe Rodgers softball clinic in 1939 when he was nine years old. He soon became the Nitehawks batboy and carved out a roster spot for himself as a high school teenager in 1950. During his fifteen-year career he participated in 14 International Softball League and International Softball Congress (ISC) world club championship tournaments. Among his many accomplishments he was named "All-American" pitcher seven times, and selected "Leading Pitcher" three times in ISC world tournament play. He led the Nitehawks as one of their front line pitchers during their glory years. Joe Rodgers called him "one of the greatest" players he had associated with and "one of the finest persons he has ever known." Jack Randall was inducted into the International Softball Congress Hall of Fame in 1973.
As founder, owner, manager and shortstop of the Long Beach Nitehawks, Joe Rodgers is soley responsible for putting Long Beach on the map in the fastpitch softball scene. He brought Friday night softball to Long Beach and saw his teams play to standing room only crowds. Under Joe Rodgers' direction, the Nitehawks won seven ISC World Titles. He also served as Vice President of the ISC from 1952 to 1967. Joe Rodgers was inducted to the ISC Hall of Fame in 1970 and he has also been inducted into the Helms Hall of Fame. As the original owner of what is now Joe Rodgers Field, he donated the land to the City of Long Beach for recreational softball play.
Sandra Shirley-Ross' service to Long Beach State hasn't stopped since she arrived as a freshman in 1990. She immediately became a starter on the 1990 team and went to four straight College World Series (1990-93) with the 49ers and won all-Big West honors three times. She still ranks high on the school's all-time career top ten lists, including second in stolen bases, third in hits and eighth in batting average (.271). A 1994 graduate, she is the Associate Director of Long Beach State's much-lauded Bickerstaff Student-Athlete Academic Center, which works closely with student-athletes in making a career connection before they graduate.
Don pitched for 30 years and played for the Long Beach Nitehawks from 1965 to 1979. He was a member of five ISC World Championship teams and has been named tournament MVP and Most Valuable Pitcher. He has also been named an ASA All-American and All-World Team three times. Inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in 1980, Don was the pitching coach for the 1994 USA Women's Softball team. He also served as the pitching coach for the 2000 Olympic team in Sydney, Australia. Mr. Sarno is still active with the USA Olympic effort, serving as treasurer of Southern California Olympic teams.
Shadie will long be remembered as one of the best hitters to play softball at Long Beach City College. As a sophomore in 1997, Sickles nearly became the only player in LBCC history to bat .500. She finished the year with a school record .493 average, while banging out an all-time City College best 71 hits. Her 13 doubles ranks #3 and her 44 RBI is the sixth best in school history. Sickles was named first-team All-American and first-team All-State along with South Coast Conference Player of the Year. Her career batting average of .426 still ranks number one at LBCC. She also ranks third in career doubles with 18, fifth in hits with103 and is eighth all-time with 59 RBI. After playing at Long Beach City College, Sickles continued her career at Baylor University.
This first-baseman was a mainstay on the Nitehawks teams that dominated titles in the '50s before being named to the all-time International Softball Congress (ISC) team. He was an All-World choice from 1955 to 1960 and in 1963. He was inducted into the softball Hall of Fame in 1975.
The former Kim Kostyk, Sowder was a speedy, slick fielding shortstop and Long Beach State from 1989-1992. A 1991 third-team All-American, she helped the 49ers to three trips to the NCAA College World Series. She also earned second team All-Big West honors as a junior in 1991. Sowder is the school's all-time leader in stolen bases with 50 and her 19 thefts in 1991 is still the single season high at Long Beach State. She ranks in the top five in career at bats, runs, walks, hits and sacrifices. Defensively, she holds three out of the top four 49er single season assist marks. Sowder is currently in her ninth year as associate head coach at the Beach and works the hitters and defense. Under her tutelage, the 49ers have posted the four highest batting averages in the history of the program. The 1998 squad led the nation in fielding with a school record .978 fielding percentage. Kim was inducted into the Long Beach State Hall of Fame in 1998.
Milt Stark's contributions to the sport goes well beyond his playing career. The catcher was a member of the 1964 Downey Impalas team that rose through the loser's bracket to win the International Softball Congress title, scoring the run in the win that led to the title game. He would play in ten more ISC World tournaments, nine of them as the catcher of the Long Beach Nitehawks, where his battery mates included fellow Long Beach Baseball/Softball Hall of Famers Don Sarno and Bob Todd. He was named to the All-World teams in 1966 (hitting .500 and leading the tourney in RBI) and 1968, and elected into the ISC Hall of Fame in 1981. A year after his retirement and election, he was named Executive Director of the ISC and served the organization for two decades before retiring.
Bob Todd was one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the Long Beach Nitehawks, which is quite a compliment considering how many great hurlers played for Joe Rodgers and Red Meairs. Todd played on ten Western Softball Congress championship teams and played in a stunning 14 International Softball Congress championships. He won two titles, finished second five times and was named to the All-World team three times (1975, 1977 and 1979). He was named the Most Outstanding Pitcher in the '75 series, going 5-0 with a 0.60 Earned Run Average while striking out 34 with just one walk. He also went 5-0 in 1977 and 3-0 in 1979. He was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in 1991 and continued his career as a coach, holding clinics throughout the world, running his own school for young pitchers, and serving as pitching coach at Cal State Dominguez Hills
Stacie Van Essen
Stacy lettered at Long Beach State from 1991-1994 and was a member of three College World Series teams. She earned second team All-West Region honors in 1991, 1992 and 1993. She is the only 49er to ever be selected first-team All-Big West four times. Stacy is the career leader at Long Beach State in at bats and ranks second in doubles with 31 and second in runs batted in with 105. She also ranks second with 251 hits and 12 triples. She is fourth in career home runs with 8 dingers. As a pitcher, she is the all-time leader at Long Beach State with 65 wins and 408 strikeouts. She also ranks second in career innings, games. She tossed 80 complete games, which is also second all-time at the Beach. Stacy has also thrown two no-hitters. She is 2003 Long Beach State Hall of Fame Inductee.
A lifelong resident of Long Beach, Stan White was a standout baseball player at Wilson High School. World War II interfered with his pursuit of a professional baseball career and after a short stint in the Brooklyn Dodgers farm system, Stan began his 20-year career with the Long Beach Nitehawks. During his career, Stan was named All-American an unprecedented 15 times. He is also an inductee of the International Softball Congress Hall of Fame. Describing his abilities, Red Meairs said it best, "Anyone who doesn't know that Stan was far and away the greatest catcher to play the game, just hasn't followed softball."
This left-hander was the mainstay of Long Beach State's first team to advance to the College World Series, posting 20 wins in 1986. Winchester was a four-year letterman and an All-Conference choice three times and finshed her collegiate career with 325 strikeouts and 57 wins. She threw a school-record 38 shutouts, three no-hitters and set a school record with a career 0.48 career ERA.
After a nine-year career in the National Football League, Leroy took up softball at the age of 32. As a pitcher, he was named to the International Softball Congress All-World Team 10 times while playing for the Fresno Hoak Packers and the Long Beach Nitehawks. He played on nine ISC World Championship teams and was named ISC World Tournament "Outstanding Pitcher" five times. He has also tossed six no-hitters in World Tournament play. Leroy is also remembered for never wearing a fielder's glove while amassing 32 victories in World Tournament play. He is called by many the "best softball pitcher ever."