When Kennedy High School of Granada Hills won the Los Angeles City Section baseball championship last June, more than a few of its players thought of themselves as the best team in the state.
That same feeling was experienced by players at Fountain Valley High, winner of the 4-A championship in the California Interscholastic Federation's Southern Section.
Was Kennedy the best, or was it Fountain Valley? Or was some other team in a different part of the state?
No one will ever know. There is no state champion in baseball. For that matter, there is no football champion, either.
But there are state champions in boys' and girls' basketball, boys' and girls' track, wrestling, and girls', but not boys', volleyball.
It is puzzling to many athletes and coaches why there are state championship playoffs in some sports, but not others.
Officials who make those judgments cite lack of money and too much geography as reasons not to expand state championship playoffs.
Schools often can't come up with enough money to send teams to state tournaments in all sports, and they often have to travel too far across California's 158,693 square miles of mountains, desert and rugged coastline to get to them.
Those, at least, were the impressions gained in interviews with top athletic administrators, heads of coaches' associations and coaches of Southern Section and Los Angeles City championship teams.
The state's first state prep playoff competition was in football. Pomona High won the first championship in that sport in 1915.
Also in 1915, a state title game was played in rugby, and a state tennis tournament was established. In 1916, Whittier High won the first state basketball title, Pasadena High the first state swimming title. Track and field was added next, and baseball followed in 1918.
An outbreak of Spanish influenza wiped out the 1918 football tournament, however, and even before that, the basketball, swimming and tennis tournaments had been canceled because the money wasn't there.
The minutes of the CIF's federated council said about basketball: "No State basketball championship was declared since neither Fremont High School (in Fremont, near San Francisco) nor Hollywood High School cared to meet the heavy expenses necessary to bring their teams together."
Some state championship playoffs were resumed after World War I, but in 1928, all state tournaments and meets, except for track, were eliminated. It took 45 years for them to start reappearing. A state wrestling tournament was established in 1973. A girls' volleyball tournament was begun in 1978, then basketball was revived in 1981. There are also so-called state championships in golf, but they are actually separate southern and northern regional tournaments.
There seems to be no strong sentiment for adding state championship playoffs in other sports.
Jim Cheffers, the veteran director of interscholastic athletics for the City Section, said that several years ago a committee of school officials studied the state tournament situation and concluded that boys' baseball and girls' softball would the next sports to have state championships.
Recently, however, Cheffers said: "I think the feeling is to leave it where it is. There is some feeling that (there shouldn't be) any more state playoffs."
He said that arguments against state softball and baseball tournaments are that they would be held at the end of the school year, the cost involved and the probability of a small profit, if any.
Thomas E. Byrnes, state CIF commissioner of athletics, said that he remembers the study cited by Cheffers but that it was based on "now-outmoded criteria and final adoption would have to come from the (CIF) federated council."
Byrnes said that the federal directive known as Title IX calls for equal treatment for male and female athletes. "You can't have baseball without softball," he said, adding that the CIF constitution and by-laws and the State Department of Education also require equality of opportunity in sports.
He said that softball would be a logical addition for girls and baseball would be the equivalent boys' sport, that present Title IX equivalents are the state tournaments in girls' volleyball and wrestling, primarily a boys' sport.
He noted that 21,745 girls played volleyball in California last academic year but that only 2,941 boys did so, and that there were 18,487 boys in wrestling and a reported 215 girls, but none on all-girl teams. The numbers in girls' volleyball and wrestling are what make them viable and equitable (under Title IX) state tournament sports, he added.
Said Byrnes: "If there were unlimited time, resources and large numbers of people (involved in a particular sport), certainly you should consider expansion. But frankly, those things do not exist.
"And there is another group of people who would say you shouldn't have state playoffs of any kind, that there is enough competition with league and sectional titles--and that's probably a good argument."