Monday, August 4, 2008
How the Boys of Spring Became Men By Fall
In Fullerton, California baseball is king. But in 1942 with war breaking out in Europe and our democracy being challenged, even baseball took a back seat in Fullerton to the war.
Almost forgotten that year in the events of the day, was the fact that Fullerton High School was busy working on another baseball championship and on the field was probably the best team ever assembled in Fullerton baseball history. And that's saying a lot for a town that has produced the likes of hall of famers Walter Johnson, Arky Vaughan, Gary Carter, Willard Herhberger and a guy that should be in the hall of fame...Del Crandall.
During the backdrop of the war, the boys of Fullerton rolled on to a League championship and then were taking out opponents right and left in the post season. Anchored by a tall, lanky righthander Vaughan Jones and his battery mate Kenny Sullivan the team was virtually unstoppable. Except this story takes an unexpected turn.
In 1942 two things were happening. Number one, most of the interest was going toward the war effort and not on high school sports. In the CIF (California Intersholastic Federation) that year it was not like today with multiple divisions based on high school size, etc. There was only a major winner which was San Diego that year and a minor winner which was Fullerton. Fullerton was supposed to play San Diego that year to determine on the field which was the better team. That game never happened.
That's because all the Senior boys and the popular coach of Fullerton High all went down before the season ended and enlisted in the military to serve their country. Most of those boys were in the battlefields by Summer. Most of the boys never got back home. Vaughan Jones the righthander was one of the 1942 Championship team that was killed in action that year.
Ken Sullivan, story was somewhat of a tragedy too. When you consider the fact that he was ticketed for the major leagues and could have added his name to the Hall of Famers from Fullerton. Ken took shrapnel to his leg and could barely walk. His baseball career was over. He was decorated for his service in World War II. He was a war hero.
Ken would go on to mentor the great Del Crandall as a catcher.
I met Ken six years ago while I was organizing the annual Fullerton High School Baseball Alumni Game and Reunion. He was not bitter about his life. He couldn't be...he had a great family, great friends, a wonderful career, but one thing he told me was not setting well with him all these years. The CIF never recognized the 1942 team as CIF champions. The official winner that year for baseball was San Diego. I tried to get the school to at least have a banner up with the other CIF Champions for the 1942 baseball team. They wouldn't do it.
Ken died last week. It's strange how life is sometimes. I have started a community newspaper in Fullerton and one of the first stories I wanted to do was on Ken and the 1942 FUHS baseball team. I was going to make a phone call to interview Ken but before I made that call I decided to do some preliminary background research on the team and the year 1942. That's when I ran across Ken's obituary.
A good friend of Ken's, Tom Gregory, picked up the ball and ran with the CIF recoginition. Fortunately, with Tom's hard work, last year CIF, reversed their ruling and officially made Fullerton High 1942 baseball team CIF champions.
But because they were war heroes and great men, they were always our champions.
By Allen Bacon, Editor, The Daily Bosco