THEN AND NOW
It all started with Red Worthington.
Bob “Red” Worthington, born in 1906 in Alhambra, graduated from Alhambra High School in 1924. By 1931, he was a starting outfielder for the Boston Braves, the first but certainly not the last Alhambra High athlete to make the big time.
Worthington played four years with the Braves. He then played in the Pacific Coast League from 1935-37 before ending his pro career.
“Oh yeah, Red making the big leagues was a big deal in Alhambra,” Max West said in a 2001 interview. “He lived right down the street from my family. So it told me that I had a chance, too.”
Indeed West did. Max, a 1934 graduate of Alhambra High, made the majors in 1938. He played seven years in the big leagues, part of a 15-year career in pro ball.
West’s accomplishment’s in turn inspired a youngster named Ralph Kiner, who graduated from Alhambra High in 1940 and made the majors by 1946 en route to a Hall of Fame career.
Worthington, West and Kiner made history playing baseball. Alhambra High, however, was better known during the first half of the 20th century for producing football and basketball players.
“Growing up in Alhambra, football was actually king of the hill,” West said. “It was a great sports town, but people really lived and died with the high school football team. If we didn’t win league it was a major disappointment. And the basketball team wasn’t far behind. Baseball was kind of an afterthought.”
Starting with the likes of Johnny Seixas and Orv Mohler in the late 1920s and continuing to Dick Wallen, Bill Leeka and Duane Allen in the 1950s, the Moors’ football program consistently produced winning teams and outstanding players.
One of the first San Gabriel Valley players to make it big in the NFL was Vic Carroll. The 1931 graduate of Alhambra High played his college ball at Nevada-Reno and then played from 1936-47 as an offensive lineman in the NFL, most notably for the Washington Redskins.
Another outstanding AHS football product of the 1930s was Vard Stockton, Jr. He went on to be a three-year starter at guard for Cal, earned all-conference honors in 1937 and is in Cal’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
High achievement ran in the Stockton family. Vard Sr. was a notable photographer in Southern California, a friend of Norman Rockwell and a big influence on Rockwell’s work.
Basketball at Alhambra High came on strong after World War II. Bob Boyd, later coach at USC, was a 1948 Alhambra grad.
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In the 1953 and 1954 seasons, Alhambra High could boast of not one but two of its alums on the UCLA basketball team. Ron Bane, Alhambra class of 1950, was a starting forward for the Bruins those seasons. Ron Livingston, Alhambra class of 1951, was a starting guard.
Livingston also was a standout on the UCLA tennis teams of the 1950s.
Steve Kemp, of the AHS class of 1956, went on to be a three-year letterman in basketball at USC while Darrall Imhoff, also Alhambra class of 1956, started three years at center for Cal.
From there, Imhoff played on the United States team that won the gold medal at the 1960 Olympics. He then embarked on a 12-year career in the NBA.
So, with all these notables, who from Alhambra High had the biggest influence on sports?
If you are a football fan, you probably will say Tex Schramm. The 1938 Alhambra graduate parlayed a career in journalism into a job in the front office with the Los Angeles Rams. From there, he joined the fledgling Dallas Cowboys of the NFL in 1959.
The rest is indeed history. Schramm, working with coach Tom Landry, revolutionized the way pro football teams assembled and evaluated talent.
Before Schramm, it wasn’t uncommon for an NFL team’s pre-draft preparation to consist of a couple All-America and all-conference lists clipped from newspapers.
Schramm changed all that by expanding the Cowboys’ scouting efforts to all parts of the country and stressing a player’s potential as opposed to his college accomplishments.
If you are an auto racing fan, you’ll know the names Sam Hanks and Mickey Thompson. What you may not know is they are both Alhambra High grads.
And, if you are a follower of the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues, you’ll certainly know the name Cheryl Tiegs, the nation’s first supermodel. Yup, she’s also an AHS grad.
And we haven’t yet mentioned the likes of humorist Stan Freberg, or journalist Alfred Gettelson or author Clive Cussler. Proud Moors all.
It’s an amazing list of alumni and has to be considered a lasting tribute to the Alhambra school system.
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