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The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

Night of a Dozen Stars at FC

Before a crowd of 300 supporters, colleagues and family members gathered the sixth installment of the Fullerton College Heritage Foundation’s Athletic Hall of Fame Gala commenced on Friday night at the FC Student Center. Established in 2005 the Heritage Foundation’s dual purpose serves to commemorate the student-athletes, coaches and supporters that have made Fullerton College great over the years, as well as continue to fundraise for current FC athletic programs.

The festivities began with an lively, yet elegant dance performance entitled “Ces Enfants Bizarres” choreographed by FC instructor Lisa M. Anderson.

Tommy Lasorda was the first inductee of the evening. The legendary Dodger has lived with his wife Jo in the Fullerton community for over 65 years. Still sharp at 87-years-old, Lasorda shared witty anecdotes, appreciation for the induction and of course his undying passion for the game of baseball. He is one of the most quotable baseball ambassadors of all time and he was not short on this evening, opening with a line that left everyone in attendance chuckling.

“After that introduction, I thought I had died.”

Friday night marked Lasorda’s 18th different Hall Of Fame induction, including his most prestigious the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Wrapping up his acceptance speech he talked about his admiration for FC Head Baseball Coach, Nick Fuscardo.

“I know you are outstanding because you have an Italian baseball coach here… he’s the best,” Lasorda said.

Lasorda’s speech would not be complete without mentioning the Dodgers.

Tommy Lasorda delivering his acceptance speech at the Fullerton College Athletic HOF Gala Friday night.
Photo credit | Ricardo Zapata

“When you go to bed tonight and you lay your head on the pillow, thank God. Sometimes you might feel rejected, but believe me God will take care of you,” Lasorda said “And when you do say your prayers, if you have any compassion in your heart, say a prayer for Tommy and the Dodgers. Thank you.”

After the festivities, Fuscardo reciprocated his admiration for Lasorda.

“I’ve known Tommy since 1970. He has had a major influence on me. We Italians stick together. I just love his passion for the game of baseball,” Fuscardo said.

Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda and FC Baseball Coach Nick Fuscardo catching up after the HOF Gala Friday night.
Photo credit | Ricardo Zapata

The next inductee was former FC football great Jeff Baker “The Touch Down-Maker.”

Baker was a member of 1968 and 1969 teams led by the legendary coach Hal Sherbeck. Bakers list of awards and highlights while at FC include being voted First Team All-Conference, First Team All-State and First Team JC All-American. He also broke the California State record for touchdowns in one season with 18, in a shortened season due to a hamstring-pull, playing only seven games.

Towards his senior year in high school, he began to lose interest in the game of football. Baker thanked his father and coach Sherbeck for giving him the passion for the game again.

“The coaching staff here was second to none. I went onto play for a number of coaches and the legendary Don Coryell at San Diego State, but there were none finer coaches than Sherbeck and his staff that he put together,” said Baker.

He also went on to thank two other football coaches, Al Feola and fellow inductee of the evening, Marvin Sampson. Baker referred to Feola and Sampson as, “the heart and soul of the football team.”

Dr. Marvin “Ace” Burns was the next inductee. Burns excelled in swimming and water polo. Burns lead the FC team to a Conference Championship in 1946. He only played one year at FC, because USC offered him a full-scholarship to become a Trojan the next year. He also went on to make the 1952 and 1960 Olympic Teams.

Unfortunately, Burns died in 1990. Accepting on his behalf was his good friend and fellow Olympic and Naval teammate, Monte Nitzkowski. He shared his love for his dear friend.

“I had the pleasure of coaching five different Olympic Water Polo teams and I will say this, as a set man Ace was one of the greatest players ever to represent the United States,” said Nitzkowski.

The Heritage Foundation also recognizes loyal supporters of FC Athletics. Tom Duff may quite possibly be the biggest supporter. Duff was inducted in Special Recognition for his lifelong support of the Hornets athletics program. He fondly recalled seeing his first Hornets football game back in grade school. Duff grew up in Fullerton, graduated from Fullerton High School and attended FC in 1960. After graduating from Cal State Fullerton, Duff came back and spent over 30 years as a professor at FC. Upon leaving the podium, Duff prompted the entire crowd to say along with him, “Once a Hornet, always a Hornet!”

Bill Johnson was another swimmer and water polo athlete at FC. Johnson played under FC Hall of Fame coach Ernie Polte and re-wrote the record books in the 100, 200 and 500 yard swimming events. His most prestigious accomplishment was being part of 4×100 meter and 4×200 meter freestyle relay teams that both won gold medals in the 1968 Olympics.

Polte accepted the award on his behalf. Holding back tears he talked about how close they became over the years.

“I miss him terribly,” said Polte. “When my sons watched Bill growing up, they would say, ‘dad I want to be like Bill’ to which I would reply, ‘son that’s a tall order.'”

Larry Mac Duff first played, then coached for the FC football team. Mac Duff was a defensive end on the Hornets 1967 National Championship team. He was named All-Conference twice and Eastern Conference “Lineman of the Year” his sophomore season.

Larry Mac Duff delivering his acceptance speech at the Fullerton College Athletic HOF Gala Friday night.

Photo credit | Ricardo Zapata

After his playing days, Mac Duff came back to Fullerton to coach the Hornets football team for seven seasons and was also assistant coach for the baseball team. He went on to coach at Stanford, University of Arizona and eventually spending eight seasons as special teams coach in the NFL. In 2000 while with the NY Giants, he got to coach in the Superbowl.

In a night filled with chilling speeches, Mac Duff possibly offered the most inspirational closing statement of the evening.

“I had the privilege to coach in the NFL on some championship teams, I’ve coached in the Superbowl, as the defensive coordinator at the University of Arizona with some of the best defenses in college football at that time, but for me personally, the best of times was right here at Fullerton College! The best of times where I grew the most as a person, where I grew the most as a player and grew the most as a coach was right here because of the people at Fullerton College. I am a Hornet now and forever!”

Marvin Owens was a triple-threat for the Hornets, playing football, baseball and basketball. He was a QB on the 1969 team that featured wide receiver and fellow inductee, Jeff Baker “The Touchdown-Maker.” Sherbeck thought so highly of Owens he once said that he was, “the best quarterback there is.” Owens was selected First Team All-Conference, First Team All-American and Player of the Year in 1969.

In baseball, Owens was also voted Most Valuable Player for the Hornets that same year, finishing with a .371 batting average, three home runs and 25 RBI.

Owens ended up getting drafted in both the MLB and NFL. He decided to pursue football and played a few years with the NY Jets and St. Louis Cardinals.

Echoing the sentiments of all of the inductees, Owens redirected the shine onto his coaches and teammates.

“In receiving this award it would not be if it wasn’t for my teammates in that 1969 team, thats the reason why i’m up here, i loved my teammates we would go out and play our hardest and our coaches were the best you ever seen, they worked hard day and night.”

Owens received a lengthy standing ovation both before and after his speech.

Charlie Petrilla played baseball at FC from 1964-1966. He was a two-time All-Conference selection and finished with a .328 batting average. Petrilla turned down an MLB contract to further his education at UCLA.

He met his wife Linda at the Fullerton College Library his freshman year and they have been married almost 46 years. Petrilla became a teacher and baseball coach after his playing days were over, winning several awards along the way.

“I think it’s absolutely fabulous what Fullerton college is doing by bringing the family and athletes back to the college is a very wonderful thing,” said Petrilla.

Marvin Sampson was one of the staples of the Sherbeck dynasty teams. As Offensive Coordinator for the Hornets football team for over three decades, Sampson helped lead FC to three National Championships, 16 Conference Titles and a 47-game unbeaten streak. Sampson also coached over 30 offensive All-Americans.

“My whole family is here and I want to thank them for there support and patience with me, it wasn’t always easy,” said Sampson. “Even now my wife and I have two sons that are teaching and coaching here at Fullerton College so the name Sampson has been synonymous with fullerton college for 52 years now, i know thats a long time.”

Jan Underwood was the final inductee of the evening. He was a standout in both track and field, and cross country. In his sophomore year at FC he finished third in the mile and second in the 880 at the State Finals. He also won the “Man of Distinction” award at FC in 1962.

Underwood would later become a NCAA All-American while at Oregon State and later a finalist at the Olympic trials for the 880. He became a teacher and track coach for Buena Park High School and Fullerton College before returning to Oregon to raise his family.

“I owe Fullerton junior college a whole lot, I owe a lot to my teammates,” Underwood said. “Fullerton has been really great to me.”

The FC HOF Inductees gathering for a group shot on Friday night at the student center.

Photo credit | Ricardo Zapata

Full bios of each inductee can be found here.

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