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The Preps

Stevenson Has Quietly Piled Up Big Numbers

April 26, 1988|Scott Howard-Cooper

Quiet, now. This is supposed to be somewhat of a secret. John Stevenson of El Segundo High School is closing in on a very impressive milestone.

Only five coaches in the history of high school baseball have won 600 games. Stevenson, with a record of 599-232, is about to become the sixth, possibly as soon as Wednesday, when the Eagles play Morningside of Inglewood at 7 p.m. at El Segundo Recreation Park.

To say he is trying to downplay the accomplishment is an understatement. Stevenson would prefer that no one even knew about it.

Indeed, most probably don't realize the territory Stevenson is about to step into, a national list with only Murl Bowen of Asher, Okla., 1,244 wins; Vince Meyer of Brancroft, Iowa, 1,105; John Schwartz of Moore, Okla., 758; Winston Havenstrite of several Oklahoma schools, 663, and Joseph Michael Kasberger of Newark, N.J., 610, ahead of him. But just try talking about three decades of California baseball without mentioning Stevenson prominently.

"He does a fine job with (El Segundo) during the season and the summer," said Garry Poe, who has been facing Stevenson for 18 years as Rolling Hills coach. "And when I say he, I mean he. It is his impetus that makes the program. He has had an abundance of good players, but so have a lot of people who have not had his success."

Stevenson doesn't measure his success by 599 wins, but with other numbers, such as 16 titles in the Pioneer, Bay and Ocean leagues since taking over at El Segundo in 1960. And five Southern Section championships, with three second-place finishes. And an average of 20.9 wins a season over the previous 28 years. It's consistency that he aims for.

"I don't see it as any big thing," Stevenson said of the 600-win plateau. "It's longevity more than anything else. You stay in the same place long enough, doing the same thing, you pile up enough wins. When I retire, then I might look back at it with special pride.

"I figured it would be a quiet little thing. I thought only I knew, and a few friends."

But El Segundo's success has never been a secret. Not with the four Brett brothers, most notably George and Ken, Scott McGregor, American League umpire Derryl Cousins and former major leaguer Bobby Floyd having played there. Stevenson estimates 35 others signed professional contracts and played in the minors.

El Segundo is 15-6 this season, and Stevenson is lauding three more senior prospects: pitcher-first baseman Heath Jones, a 6-foot 5-inch slugger; catcher Jose Sanchez and shortstop Jeremy Varner, an All-Southern Section pick in soccer.

On overall talent, the Eagles are up there with some of the El Segundo teams past. Pitching, however, makes another Southern Section title uncertain.

"As a team, it stacks up very well," Stevenson said. "But we don't have a Scott McGregor. Heath is a great player, and every time he pitches he looks better. But he's a kid who has gone from football to basketball to baseball and has been a star in every one. So he hasn't had the luxury of concentrating just on being a pitcher.

"I feel very good about our group. But I don't know if our pitching can match up with Redondo or Hart. Redondo has one of the greatest pitchers ever to come through the area, Scott Davison. Last year, it came down to the same thing--head-to-head for the league championship, and they beat us."

The lineup of Santa Monica volleyball alumni invited to play the current team Friday is staggering, in name and accomplishment. A sample:

Pat Powers, a member of the gold-medal winning 1984 U.S. Olympic team; Jim Menges, who was known as King of the Beach when he dominated beach volleyball tournaments in the '70s; Eric Sato, a current member of the U.S. national team; Mike O'Hara and Bill Griebenow, 1964 Olympians; Larry Milliken, who played on the U.S. national team from 1971-74; Larry Rundle, a 1968 Olympian.

This season's Santa Monica team is top-ranked in the Southern Section 4-A.

Carson football Coach Gene Vollnogle has been named 1988 coach of the year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Assn. for Region 8, which includes much of the western United States. Vollnogle, who has won eight City titles at Carson and Wilmington Banning, becomes one of eight finalists for the national title. That winner will be announced July 1.

Prep Notes

The Southern Section will continue in the separate Large and Small divisions for 8-man football when the Central Section joins this fall. . . . In a showdown between the two top-ranked boys' tennis teams in the Southern Section 5-A April 13, No. 1 Beverly Hills beat No. 2 Santa Barbara, 15-3.

A 5-minute clip on the recent Arcadia Invitational, including interviews with Laurie Gomez of Youngstown, Ohio, and Michael Bates of Tucson, will be part of ESPN's "Scholastic Sports America" Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. The show will be repeated Saturday at 8 a.m.

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