John McConnell was the first coach of Long Beach State baseball.
May 23, 2008
LONG BEACH--Long Beach State Baseball will endow its second scholarship, when it officially kicks off the John McConnell Scholarship drive, beginning on Saturday, May 24 at Blair Field.
The scholarship, named after the program's first head coach, John McConnell, will attempt to raise $250,000 to endow the program's second scholarship. A successful campaign, started by McConnell, raised over $150,000 for the Bob Wuesthoff Scholarship over the past three years.
McConnell coached the 49ers from 1954 until 1959, going 86-65 (.570) in three years as an independent and his final three as a member of the California Collegiate Athletic Association. After going 3-13 the first year, with only 14 players, the team's first 11 games on the road and practices at Whaley Park prior to the completion of the campus field, the 49ers went 83-53 (.610) over his final five years. He was inducted into the Long Beach State Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.
In the classroom, McConnell's teams graduated 50 of 57 letter winners and played with a budget in the neighborhood of $3000 along with no athletic scholarships. Many of the players also had part-time jobs.
The school's first winning season came in 1955, with a three-man pitching rotation, while at the plate they were led by outfielder Ruben Ingram's team-best .324 average and 20 RBIs. The team went 17-4 in 1955 and then 18-6 in 1956 paced by Carl Evans, the school's first, first team all-conference player in 1957.
Starting in 1956, Evans led the team in runs three-straight years (1956-58) and triples and home runs for two (1956-57), while batting a team-best .333 in 1957 and school-record .398 in 1959. That .398 mark would be topped just three times in 30 years, once by Don Anderson (.436) in 1964, All-American Rob Townley in 1979 (.422) and Tony Felicione in 1986 (.431).
In 1957, the school's first year in the CCAA, the 49ers went 16-13 and finished fifth in the conference (4-11). The 49ers moved up to third place in 1958, going 8-7 in the CAAA and 16-10 overall, before going 16-19 in 1959 and 5-10 in the CCAA (fifth).
The team's pitching staff would produce ERAs of 2.42 in 1955 and 2.49 in 1956 paced by Dimas Garcia and his ERAs of 1.35 and 1.89. Jay Davis would be the team's ace for three seasons (1955-57), producing a team-leading ERA of 2.69 in 1957.
A midwest native, McConnell went to Thornton Township High from 1938 to 1942 in Harvey, Illinois, enrolling at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, before enlisting in the Marine Corps from July, 1943 to December, 1945, reaching second lieutenant during World War II. He finished with a bachelor's from Cornell College in 1948, earning his Master's in Education from Purdue in 1949 and PhD. from the University of Iowa in 1953. He moved West and joined the Cal State Long Beach Athletics Department in 1954 and retired as an associate dean in 1986.
McConnell began his coaching career at Washington (IA) High School and Junior College from 1948 to 1951, teaching social studies, history and PE, while serving as the junior college coach for the football (1949), basketball (1949-50) and baseball (1949-51). If that wasn't enough in 1950-51, McConnell took on the role of Director of Athletics and was the assistant high school football coach and the varsity high school basketball coach.
After earning his Master's and Ph.D, he moved West and was not only the school's baseball coach, but an assistant basketball coach (1954-56). He went on to work in the athletics department from 1958 to 1960 and from 1965 to 1967, while also chairing the men's PE department (1962-64) and serving as the associate dean for Academic Affairs and School of Applied Arts and Sciences from 1969 to 1986.
Program First's Under McConnell: The program's first game (February 26, 1954 at Harbor Junior College, lost 6-5), first win (April 2, 1954, 14-1 against Terminal Island Navy) first home game and home win (April 30, 1954, 6-0 against Pierce JC), first winning season (1955, 17-4), first conference (CCAA-1957), longest win streak (eight games in 1956), and first all-conference player (Carl Evans-1957).
(pictured from the first team: Front Row--Ken Smith, Dick Donovan, Glen Becker, Dave Mills, Rube Ingram, George Guillory and Jerry Clinkscales; Back Row--Chuck Horger, Bob Vance, Clair Vance, Ron Sisler, Phil Phillips, Ed Votaw, Coach John McConnell. Not Pictured--Dick Mitchell and Bob Barnes
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