In the spring of 1982, 13 years after helping start the California North-South high school all-star baseball game, Jack Taylor of San Diego Kearny said he wanted out of his duties as organizer. Something about being tired.
He asked some other Southern California coaches--Rich Graves of Riverside Poly, John Meiers of Arcadia, John Eno of Whittier La Serna and Steve Hiskey of Brea-Olinda--to take over, which they did. Something about being thankful for the opportunity.
"We felt an obligation because he gave us a shot," Graves recalled this week. "We were young and willing and wanted to keep it going."
Several months later, everyone realized exactly why Taylor hadn't been up for organizing tryouts and holding meetings and raising funds. He died of cancer.
What remains is both a legacy to what Taylor and Fresno McLean's Merv Carter started and a testament to what Graves and the other not-so-young-now coaches have continued.
When the North and the South play a three-game series this weekend--Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at San Diego State and Sunday at noon at the University of San Diego--it will be the 18th such meeting.
Ninety-five players showed up last Sunday when the South held invitation-only tryouts at Rancho Santiago College in Santa Ana, and so did 10-15 pro scouts, although the draft had already been held. About that many college coaches were there, too.
Eighteen of the players from the Southern and San Diego sections made the final cut--top names such as Tom Redington of Anaheim Esperanza, Greg Colbrunn of Fontana, Matt Franco of Westlake, Mike Fyhrie and David Holdridge of Huntington Beach Ocean View and Williams Navarrette of Riverside Norte Vista--and will be coached by Jeff Shimizu of Venice, Steve Gullotti of Placentia El Dorado and Len Arevalo of San Diego Morse.
When the series is over, a combined North-South team will be picked to meet the Oklahoma all-stars next week in Lodi, Calif.
The South, which once had a 14-6 lead in the series, will take a 19-15 advantage into this weekend's competition.
"It's a grudge match," Graves, who has been involved with the series for 10 years and was a coach in the 1978 game, said of the North-South rivalry. "We are now up to a certain point where it's almost a must-win situation. It's really caught fire recently. With coaches, too. Those of us who have been around awhile are feeling the pressure that they are catching up."