Santa Cruz Sports History

Welcome to the Santa Cruz High School Sports Web Site

In the winter of 2012, former Santa Cruz High baseball and basketball coach Bill Dodge approached me at a high school basketball game and asked me to assist him with a special project on which he had been working for several years. I had never played for “Coach Dodge”—in fact, I had played against him as a baseball player at Soquel High—but I had developed great respect for him in every capacity in which I’ve known him: fan, athlete and friend. When I helped coach the Santa Cruz High varsity baseball team in the early 1990s with two of his protégées, John Wilson and Rudy Escalante, Bill was always there to lend a supportive hand. Bill has given so much of himself to the community over the past sixty years that I felt compelled to do whatever I could to help facilitate his dream.

Bill slowly explained his project to me. He, along with his wife Roberta, had been amassing vast amounts of data on Santa Cruz High athletics dating back to before World War I. He wanted to make all the information available on the internet. He thought it would be of great interest, not only to Santa Cruz High alumni, but to sports historians around the world. Bill handed me a small red thumb drive and asked me to see what I could do with the material.

Only someone like Bill would undertake a painstaking effort such as this. He himself is so modest that few people fully understand his accomplishments as an athlete and coach. By the time I was a kid following Santa Cruz High sports—I was a devout fan beginning in the early 1960s—Bill was already something of a legend. Born in Santa Cruz and raised in the vicinity of what is now Seacliff, Bill went to Watsonville High, where he was a varsity player in both basketball and baseball. He was a catcher on the baseball diamond and also served as captain of the team. He went on to play baseball at Salinas Community College (now Hartnell), before attending San Jose State University, where he eventually earned his teaching credential.

In high school, he also met a lovely classmate of his, Roberta Luce. They married in 1950, then settled and raised a family in Santa Cruz, where Bill took a teaching post at what was then the only local high school and began his remarkable coaching career, mentoring some of the best baseball and basketball teams that Northern California ever produced. At one point, his Cardinals baseball team won four straight Monterey Bay League Championships (1960-1963), while his basketball team won three straight titles (1967-1969). Many of his players in both sports went on to successful collegiate and professional careers.

Never one to trumpet his own efforts, Bill attributes all of his teams’ various successes to his players. He made a point of telling me that winning was only a secondary by-product of his role as a coach. “My sole intent was not just to win games,” he declared, “but to help players prepare for their futures, by learning through hard work, pushing themselves past where they thought their limits were, and working together to help each other get better at playing. I tried to emphasize being positive about themselves and to not give up, but to keep working to improve.”

Bill approached organizing this material with that coaching philosophy in mind. A little bit of good fortune was also involved. Bill told me that a neighbor of his, Robert Irion, Program Director and Senior Lecturer of the Science Communication Program at the University of California, would be willing to help find a student to work on the project. Robert approached Jonah Mulski, a fine young writer and scholar, currently enrolled in his program. It was a perfect choice. Jonah tackled the vast amounts of material compiled by Bill with great vigor and began to organize, assemble and post it. Little did I realize how much material Bill (and Roberta) had accumulated. It made Tolstoy’s War and Peace look like a dime-store novel. Jonah has tackled designing and posting the initial installment of the web site with great insight, talent and creativity. It is a monumental accomplishment, and Santa Cruz High alumni owe him a great deal of thanks.

While Jonah was busy with assembling the data and web site design, I began the task of locating photographs to accompany the text. Many have come from my own private collection which I have assembled over the past 40 years—five generations of my family have attended Santa Cruz High—and from the Harold Van Gorder Collection (Harold was a superb athlete and a member of the class of 1921). Other images have been graciously provided by the Santa Cruz High Alumni Association and various individual graduates of Santa Cruz High and their families.

Jonah has provided a remarkable start to the project, bringing together the material assembled by Bill up to the 1950s. But there is still more work to be done. If anyone has additional photos, corrections, new information or an interest in further work on the web site, please contact: santacruzsportshistory@gmail.com .

In the meantime, I trust that you will enjoy this amazing archive of Santa Cruz High sports history.

— Geoffrey Dunn

     June 2012

Photos of Bill Dodge below:

Late 1950’s – Coach Bill Dodge being carried away after the Santa Cruz High School lightweight basketball team wins the championship.

1946 – Bill Dodge following the ball as catcher for Watsonville High School.

1970’s – Bill Dodge coaching at Santa Cruz High School

2012 – Bill and Roberta Dodge

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