Jim McConnell: Our Then & Now columnist takes a journey through CIF history

Bill Schroeder was a little man who accomplished big things.
Among those accomplishments was the “inventing” of All-CIF teams. Before Schroeder, individual honors in high school athletics were viewed as gauche. Now, they are an accepted part of the sports landscape.
Schroeder inaugurated All-CIF teams in 1937. Working at the Helms Hall of Fame, he saw two things: 1) High school sports were becoming increasingly popular; 2) Southern California’s prep athletes were among the nation’s best.

His brainchild lacked one thing: credibility. Sure, he could sit down and pick an All-CIF Southern Section football or basketball team, but all it would represent was one reporter’s opinion. What to do?

Well, to paraphrase Vin Scully, to enact an improbable concept, Schroeder accomplished the impossible. He somehow managed to convince the sports editors at two dozen Southland newspapers to sit down and pick the teams. This feat predated the founding of the United Nations by nearly a decade, although it certainly was as difficult to pull off.

Schroeder, not content to turn things over to the scribes, also sought input from coaches and scouts. His goal was no deserving athlete be overlooked.

In retrospect, it is fair to say the teams stand as a lasting tribute to Schroeder and his selection board.

The first All-CIF baseball team was put together following the 1938 season. It contained players from schools from San Diego (then in the Southern Section) to Santa Barbara.

Player of the Year was a shortstop from Long Beach Wilson named Bob Lemon. In Schroeder’s notes, it is mentioned that Lemon “also pitches.” Indeed, some 50 years later, Lemon made the Hall of Fame – as a pitcher.

One of the outfielders on the 1938 first team was Alhambra High’s George Leyrer, the first of many outstanding San Gabriel Valley players to earn first-team honors on the All-CIF Southern Section squad.

In 1939, George Angelo of Whittier was a first-team outfielder. In 1940, Gordon Warwick of El Monte and Walt May of Montebello were first-team outfielders. In case you’re wondering, a youngster from Alhambra High named Ralph Kiner was the second-team shortstop. So, for all you trivia buffs, who was the man who beat out the future Hall of Famer for first-team honors? It was Verl Bright of Pomona High.

In 1941, the Valley had its first All-CIF Player of the Year in Tom Fleischman, a South Pasadena catcher.

In 1942, Montebello outfielder Elmer Swaim made the first team. The 1943 All-CIF team saw Bonita outfielder Glenn Davis, Whittier first baseman Bud Hill and Covina pitcher Joe Payne on the first team. By the way, Davis (the future Heisman Trophy winner) beat out a young man from Compton named Edwin “Duke” Snider for that first-team berth.

In 1944, the first team once again included Whittier’s Hill, along with third baseman Billy O’Connell from Keppel and catcher Dick Morgan from El Monte. The 1945 All-CIF squad included El Monte’s Jack Nixon and Monrovia’s Will Rheingans as first-team outfielders.

El Monte’s Nixon repeated as a first-team outfielder in 1946. He was joined on the first team by Whittier second baseman Rudy Monzo and El Monte pitcher Bob Hughes.

Nabbing first-team honors in 1947 were Monrovia outfielder Bill Taylor and Pasadena third baseman Dick Williams. Taylor went on to have a brief major league career while Williams had a long one. He eventually also made the Hall of Fame as a manager.

The 1948 All-CIF team included El Monte’s Tom Morgan and La Puente’s George Vissio as first-team outfielders. In 1949, Pasadena outfielder Lee Walls represented the Valley on the All-CIF first team.

Walls repeated as a first-team outfielder in 1950. He was joined on the first unit by El Monte first baseman John Taylor and Montebello second baseman Ray Gutierrez.

El Monte continued its strong representation on the team in 1951, when shortstop Lee Bradley and pitcher Albie Pearson made the first team. Joining them on the first unit was Rosemead outfielder Ton DeSalvo, the first Rosemead athlete to earn first-team, All-CIF honors.

In 1952, Pearson and Bradley repeated as first-team selections. Also on the first team was Monrovia first baseman Sam Pottenger and Muir second baseman Gordon Figard, who was the first Muir baseball player to nab All-CIF honors.

Keppel second baseman Jim Taylor represented the Valley on the 1953 first team. In 1954, it was Rosemead third baseman Jim Price carrying the local banner on the first team.

Four locals made the 1955 All-CIF first team, including pitchers Dale Ziegler (Montebello) and Mike McCormick (Keppel), shortstop Guy Miali (Keppel) and first baseman Bob Hurvitz (Alhambra).

McCormick repeated as a first-team pitcher in 1956. He was joined on that unit by Montebello second baseman Charlie Shoemaker.

Representing our area for top CIF honors in 1957 was El Monte outfielder Bob Delgado. In 1958, La Puente outfielder John Hinson and Keppel second baseman Sandy Johnson hoisted the local flag.

The year 1960 was the last one in which San Diego schools were in the CIF-Southern Section. So, in a very real sense, that was the end of the CIF-SS’ golden era. Our area schools went out with a bang when El Rancho catcher Marshall Adair was named CIF-SS Player of the Year. Whittier pitcher Ron Borson also earned first-team honors.


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