By Jim McConnell, Staff Writer
In sports, timing is everything. Proper timing is vital to the athlete and to the event. What is meaningful today may lose much of its meaning in a week, or a month or a year. Which brings us to Jim Brownfield. Up until about a year ago, Brownfield was a frequent contributor to this column. Since then, he has encountered serious health problems. Many of the athletes he coached would like to see some sort of lasting tribute to Jim. This columnist concurs. However, it isn’t that easy.
Brownfield coached championship football and the girls track and field teams at Muir High School. His stint at Muir actually was the capstone to a coaching career that started in 1956. Brownfield’s lifetime coaching record was 549 wins, 110 losses and four ties. His teams won 50 league or CIF championships.
Donald Lundy, who played on Brownfield’s 1985 CIF-Southern Section champion Muir football team, e-mailed to suggest the new track at the high school be named in Jim’s honor. Many others have suggested similar recognition.
Naming of a public school site after anyone requires the wheels of bureaucracy to grind. As anyone who has worked in education will attest, they grind very slowly.
However, this is anything but a hopeless cause. Across town at Pasadena City College, that school’s athletic department has done an outstanding job at honoring its athletes. PCC’s example is a good one, one that Muir alumni would like to see followed.
Muir has seen so many outstanding athletes and coaches through its doors since the school opened 80 years ago that a Mustang Hall of Fame seems like a natural.
When you can count the likes of Mack and Jackie Robinson among your graduates, that’s a pretty impressive beginning.
Brownfield is deserving of being placed in that company of heroes. His time at Muir wasn’t necessarily about wins and losses, it was about turning lives around, getting the entire community involved and producing solid citizens. As it happened, he also produced champions.
For a number of reasons, public schools often are reluctant to lionize athletes. After all, academics need to come first.
In the Pasadena Unified School District, it is safe to assume anything done at Muir would have to be mirrored at the other high schools in the city. That’s a worthy thought, but it does greatly complicate the picture.
And, if we are asking PUSD to make a financial investment in a Hall of Fame, we no doubt are asking at the wrong time.
So these are hurdles to clear. But if Brownfield taught all of us one thing, it is to believe in yourselves and your cause.
Knowing Jim, he would resist an individual honor but would welcome a Hall of Fame approach where many can be recognized.
Along these lines, have received several phone calls and e-mails in recent weeks asking for assistance in verifying Muir’s long dual meet winning streak in boys track and field.
By most accounts, from 1979 to 1999 the Mustangs won 169 consecutive dual meets. It is believed to be a world record, and indeed the people at the Guinness Book of World Records are interested – if the streak can be fully documented.
Unfortunately, like finding a way to honor Brownfield, this is a quest that won’t be easy.
During that span, the Mustangs had three head coaches – Walter Opp, Bill Paul and Clyde Turner. Partly as a result, it is likely the school’s scoring books are long gone.
In addition, some of those dual meet results may not have been reported to the newspapers. Twenty years is a long time, and during that span the Pasadena Star-News went through several prep sports editors.
Thus, no one person has the official records, or even the institutional knowledge of the entirety of the streak. Depending on how strict the Guinness folk want to be, it’s possible that meet-by-meet documentation no longer may be possible.
Which brings us back once again to timing. What would have been simple at the time is now difficult.
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