Sorry Bishop Amat, South Hills, Northview and Covina; King says 1977 Edgewood was the greatest baseball team in Valley history; Mike Pill taking MVP honors, woot, woot!

This story comes from longtime staffer Jim McConnell, the man we call, “The King” around the office. He writes a weekly Then & Now column. This week he writes about the greatest high school baseball teams in San Gabriel Valley history.

By Jim McConnell, Staff Writer
The golden age of prep baseball in the San Gabriel Valley? We’re still in it. Over the past 40 years, area teams have been involved in 76 CIF-Southern Section championship games and have won 43 of them. (to continue click thread)


Likely the best pre-1970 baseball team in the area was the 1956 Mark Keppel nine. Keppel, coached by Maynard Horst and led by CIF Player of the Year Mike McCormick, roared through the regular season unbeaten. In addition to McCormick, five other members of that team went on to play pro ball, including future Dodgers pitcher Pete Mikkelson and noted baseball executive Sandy Johnson.

However, a funny thing happened to the Aztecs on their way to the CIF Large Schools title. They lost in the first round of the playoffs.

“Well, that one was on the coach,” Horst said in a 1998 interview. “I got cute and decided to start my No. 4 pitcher in the playoff opener. I felt he deserved a shot. He went out and gave up five runs in the first inning before I could get him out of there. We wound up losing, 6-5.

“I guess the only consolation was that for years afterward, at every coaching clinic I went to, guys would stand up and tell the story about what happened to us, with the moral being go with your best pitcher. My bad example was a great teaching tool for other coaches.”

Beginning with Bishop Amat, winner of back-to-back CIF-SS 3A Division titles in 1968-69 under coach Pat Holigan, area teams have made their presence felt in a big way.
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Considering advances in coaching, conditioning and equipment and taking into consideration high school players of the post-1960 era benefitted from extensive experience in youth ball, it’s this reporter’s belief that the area’s best high school squad has to come from the past 40 years.

But what team?

Here are my finalists: 1971 Northview High, coached by Mel Bantau (won 2A title); 1977 Edgewood High, coached by Karl Major (won 3A title); 1979 Covina, coached by John Bachman (won 2A title); 1982 Walnut, coached by Denis Paul (won 4A title); 1988 Diamond Bar, coached by Paul (won 5A title); 1990 La Serna, coached by Vern Brock (won 3A title); 1992 South Hills, coached by Jim Bastion (won 4A title) and 1996 Bishop Amat, coached by Glenn Martinez (won Division I – formerly 5A Division – title).

This admittedly leaves out a number of other outstanding teams, including Amat’s championship teams of 2001 and 2002 and Edgewood’s championship teams of 1973 and 1976. However, I wanted to limit the field to one team per school.

Here are the playoff results:

Quarterfinals: 1996 Amat 4, 1979 Covina 3; 1977 Edgewood 2, 1971 Northview 0; 1990 La Serna 5, 1988 Diamond Bar 3; 1992 South Hills 7, 1982 Walnut 1.

Notes: No question, the upset of the quarterfinals was

La Serna beating a Diamond Bar team led by future Angels All-Star Jim Edmonds. That La Serna team was as sound fundamentally as any high school team ever. And as good as the 1988 Diamond Bar team was and as great a coach as Denis Paul was, the Brahmas lacked that dominant No. 1 pitcher.

Semifinals: 1977 Edgewood 1, 1996 Amat 0; 1992 South Hills 3, 1990 La Serna 0.

Notes: Pitching obviously is key to these results. Edgewood has the luxury of going with ace Mike Pill against a heavy-hitting Amat team, after having gotten a shutout victory by left-hander Ken Angulo in the opener against Northview. Meanwhile, South Hills goes with Trey Nelson against La Serna after getting a victory by Cory Lidle in the opener, and Nelson shuts ‘em down. That sets up a 1977 Edgewood versus 1992 South Hills finale.

The 1977 Trojans, in addition to Pill and Angulo (both of whom played pro ball before injuries curtailed their careers), had sophomore Rick Aguilera – the team’s starting third baseman – available for pitching duties. Four other members of the 1977 Edgewood team went on to play pro ball.

The 1992 South Hills team eventually sent a Valley record five players to the major leagues. In addition to Lidle, pitcher Aaron Small, first baseman Jason Giambi, catcher Shawn Wooten and reserve Jeremy Giambi reached the bigs. Two other members of the team – shortstop Nelson and catcher Kevin Lidle – played in the pros.

Championship: Edgewood 3, South Hills 2 (9 innings)

Both teams use all three of their top pitchers in a game finally decided in the bottom of the ninth inning when Edgewood’s Ken Toothman hits a game-winning home run off the Huskies’ Small.

The Trojans spot the Huskies a 2-0 lead after three innings on RBI singles by Nelson and Wooten.

But Pill and Aguilera pitch shutout ball over the next six innings. Pill ties the game with a two-out RBI double in the bottom of the seventh off Lidle, driving in Sam Favata, and Toothman wins it in the 9th.

Tournament Most Valuable Player: Mike Pill, Edgewood.

jim.mcconnell@sgvn.com

626-962-8811, ext. 2306

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  • Baseball NUT!

    I couldn’t agree more. GREAT conservation I’m sure!

  • Correction

    Jason Giambi graduated in 89 so I would also lean towards the Trojans.

  • fact

    The ’97 Damien team that not only won the schools only cif title in baseball but is the only baseline league school to ever win a cif title would have competed with any of the great above mentioned teams. If your not going to throw them in the conversation, I will.

  • Cougar

    I would agree the 1977 Edgewood Team has to go down as the best the Valley has to offer..I think “Maj” won Three in a row with that team..

    The problem with your scenario is that Rick Aguilera was more of a power hitting third baseman in high school than a pitcher. He always threw hard, had a good curve ball that became a great curve ball after he went to BYU and ended up with the Mets. But he was never a dominant high school pitcher. Guys were afraid to face him because you/he never knew where the ball was going.

  • You forgot

    If you have Aguilera pitching for Edgewood, than Dan Haren and Jim Bullard who who also on that 1996 team are available to pitch with Valenzuela and Mangini. Bullard played pro ball and Haren..well you know how good he is. I think someone should have researched more.

  • sherlock

    Thanks for such a great article. I had no idea the rich traditiion and quality of baseball players coming from the sgv other than the last 5 to 8 years.

    Fred, maybe you should start a blog on the past players and how they are doing now, be it college or pro if their is interest.

    I know I am very interested in hearing about the last few years high school guys and how they are doing, like leyland, zuniga, reyes, arnold, pedroza, jimenez, and all others….

    thanks again, great reading.

  • king?

    is this the same king who had El Rancho as the SGVs all time best football team? lol btw Amat beat Royal Oak in ’68 for the AA CIF title at Cal Poly, I was there, a small detail yes, maybe it goes to his having a senior moment and overall recollection of teams, hard to go wrong with the Trojans, but to dismiss Amats back to back Champs coached by Kendrana with national champions status, AMAZING

  • EHS

    Good to read Sam Favata’s name: I wonder if he gets Fred’s BLOG in jail?

    http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jul/03/business/fi-ponzi3

    …..was sentenced Monday to five years in prison for stealing $32 million from more than 200 investors through a real estate scam.

    An apologetic Salvatore “Sam” Favata also was ordered by U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford to compensate his victims at a rate of $10,000 a month when he is released from prison.

  • Duke

    You forgot said,

    Did Haren even pitch on that team or did he become a pitcher at Pepperdine?

  • JUST THE FACTS

    fact,
    We’re talking great baseball powers and programs here not one hit wonders.

  • http://stephen2 ole pinetar

    king? said:
    BTW Amat beat Royal Oak in ’68 for the AA CIF title at Cal Poly, I was there, a small detail yes,

    Some of us remember those days, having grown up in the SGV and with many of those mention in this article…I too would agree that Karl and his Mike Pill Trojans were a very talented team, however there is a but….Baseball is a team sport and although pitching translates volumes…I do remember that Amat Royal Oak as I too was there and the from those memories I remember playing beside the O’Conners, Estrada, Cappiello and the Stryculas what a day that was. However the greater memory for me was the following year when the unknown faces of Amat met the well publised El Segundo High school team sporting a couple of names to be…Kenny and George “the Brett brothers” Kennnny pitched and the Amat Team hit efficiently the final was Amat 5 El Segundo 1 and I believe that most of you know the rest of the story….The point I will continue to make is that having great individuals are important Teams win games 95 per cent of the time!

  • Fact Finder

    King, I agree the 1977 Trojans were the best team in the valley ever. However through out the years your facts have become a little skewed. In 1977 Aguilera was a freshman and didn’t play on Varsity. His first full year on vasity was 1979 when he was a junior. As a senior in 1980 he split time as the #2 starter with lefty Rick McNeil. The ace that year was senior Scott Williams who was 11-2 0.60 era. Aguilera was much more of a hitter than pitcher. He was recruited by BYU as a power hitting third baseman.

  • AS I SEE IT

    Just so you know I was one of the captains of that 1977 Edgewood High School Baseball Team. We won two titles in a row 76 & 77 and they lost in the semi’s in 78 to Mike Witt and Servite. Our record was 28-2 in 76′ & 29-1 in 77′ for a two year run of 57-3. We where voted the nations top team in 77′. We placed seven kids in D1 schools all of which started as freshmen – Fullerton, Loyola, BYU, Stanford (2), San Jose State & Air Force. From that group three kids also went on to win College World Series championships: Sam Favata – Fullerton, Mike Toothman & Loring Davies – Stanford (twice)and three kids signed out of high school including Mike Pill. Keep in mind that Edgewood produced other great players and major leaguers Gary & Ron Roenicke, Jay Johnstone, Dave Aloi, Kurt Reiker and a couple of others. Not bad for a school of 1800 kids max. Unfortunately, Rick Aguliar was on JV as a sophmore and called up for the playoffs only

  • R. Maris

    YEAH_____ WHERE IS EDGEWOOD HIGH SCOOL TODAY!

    GOOD BYE!OLD MEMORIES.

    I HEAR YOU ARE CALLED A MIDDLE SCHOOL!

    IS THIS CORRECT?

  • fact

    had damien hs kept that program from 1997 intact it would be a powerhouse today. in fact the 1999 team was number one ranked in cif entering the playoffs (24-2)with a completely different set of kids and was eliminated in the semis by riverside poly. this was the same program that 2 years prior had won it. that program lasted until 2000 and won 9 playoff games in 5 years. the 97 team was a huge surprise to many because damien prior to that year had been woeful in terms of playoffs and such for years and years. And have been since until last year when the current program won 2 playoff games. but if the question is one team (not program) and one team only to play in a bracketed playoff format, that team could compete with any of the above mentioned teams, thats all im saying.

  • Kimbo Slice (of Reality)

    FYI-

    Scott Williams was the ace of that Edgewood staff and is currently the pitching coach for Charter Oak.

  • Dirtbags

    Jason Giambi, Aaron Small, Cory Lidle, Kevin Lidle and Shawn Wooten all played on the 1989 South Hills team. They lost to Hart HS in the 4A semi-finals that year. Jeremy Giambi was a freshman in 1989 and did not play on the varsity team. No doubt…the ’89 Huskies go down as one of SGV’s greatest teams of all time!!!

    “The 1992 South Hills team eventually sent a Valley record five players to the major leagues. In addition to Lidle, pitcher Aaron Small, first baseman Jason Giambi, catcher Shawn Wooten and reserve Jeremy Giambi reached the bigs. Two other members of the team – shortstop Nelson and catcher Kevin Lidle – played in the pros.”

  • really?

    I’m sure “The King” would be a nice old man that would have a ton of entertaining stories that I could listen to for hours. Really.

    But now we find out that players were not on teams or played different positions?

    Didn’t this happen in football when El Rancho won the mythical title behind the play of a quarterback, who went to play in college and pros, and wasn’t really the quarterback until the following year?

    Love to sit and feed the birds and hear the stories – but if we’re posting it in a newspaper let’s at least try to be a little accurate before the fun fantasy part.

  • socal baseball fan

    The Diamond Bar team that won cifss D1 in 1986 had a great team led by cf Jim Edmonds,1b-p Tony Darden(Oklahoma,UCLA),3b Kyle Shuler among others. 2 other outstanding players should have been on that team were Brian Hendricks 1b-rf who received a basketball scholarship to Cal who did not want him to play baseball. He was awesome as a junior at 6’8″ and could hit. Another player Corey Kapano had to leave school due to some football incident and played his senior year at Azusa and made all cif.
    Diamond Bar beat Riverside Poly in the semi-finals and Esperanza in the finals at Angel stadium. The 1985 cifss championship team was great with Kraig Washington(USC),Rich Gonzales(OSU,CSF),Larry Vladic(OSU),and others. This team played in a lower division and won the title beating Mission Viejo at Blair field.

  • playhardr

    Wow who knew Diamond BAr had those great players.

    A little birdie well now a big birdie mentioned that the 3b on the 77 edgewood team was Steve Bridgewater and not Aguilar. Steve’s son Rouric is now tearing it up with D ranch.

  • socal baseball fan

    Correction the DBHS title was won in 1988 and the highest division was called 5A rather than D1. DBHS had an all lhp staff led by Tony Darden and Paul ?? last name who was like 12-1 for the season. He was recruited by CSLA and told me while golfing at Diamond Bar cc he was through with baseball after high school. Jim Edmonds would have been the #1 pitcher however a shoulder injury ended his pitching career his jr season. At Los Altos he struck out 19 hitters.
    Now Edmonds is making a comeback with the brewers and drove in 5 runs today with 2 hits. The 3 starting outfielders with the brewers are all right handed hitters and he should make the team.

  • AS I SEE IT

    Kimbo Slice of Reality:

    As I stated earlier – I was one of the captains of that Edgewood team and I know Scott Williams. He was NOT on the 1977 team just ask him. Mike Pill was the ace of our staff and stills holds the national high school pitching record of 33-0 over his three year varsity career. Look it up before you pop off again.

  • EHS1977

    Okay, here is the most obvious statement about the EHS 1977 team. This team was built around PILL, and quite frankly he carried both Championship Teams76-77 to the CIF finals. He was surrounded by some talent, but by in large except for a few, Favata, Angulo, (both of whom had less talent) his players came from a nucleus of Orangewood Little League. Another factor, PILL was the MOST Feared offensive player on this team as well! This is often overlooked since his stellar pitching stats.

  • Keeter

    Great reading! The comments are better than the article. One thing about the ’77 Edgewood team: Gary Kretz built the EHS program including the ready-made ’77 team. All Major had to do was not screw it up! I played on the ’76 team and we could have easily been undefeated had we known we were so good. Max effort would have beaten Damien in the first game, and all we wanted to do at the Elks tourney was to be done and have some Easter vacation left. I really can’t speak for the ’77′s but the ’76 team was not “built around Pill.” He was a great member of the team, but a lot of people contributed to that effort. Also Pill, like myself, were Edgewood Little Leaguers, not Orangewood. Go Indians!