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As with any ranking of top 25 teams involving 50, 60 even many more years of competition, criteria needs to be mentioned first and be clear-cut to all.
For this endeavor — picking California’s top 25 all-time best high school baseball teams — the first piece of the criteria to know is that these rankings are not going to go against rankings that Cal-Hi Sports has already determined at the end of a season. This means that other than just a handful of seasons a team needed to be No. 1 in the state to be considered.
Second, this isn’t a talent contest and win-loss record was regarded as more important. This means that a team like South Hills of West Covina of 1992, which had five future major league players, including Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi and the late Cory Lidle, isn’t on the list because that team didn’t win its section title. It also means a team like Rancho Bernardo of San Diego of 1999, once ranked the best in the history of San Diego’s North County, isn’t on the list because that team lost six times. In fact, as the final teams for the all-time top 25 were being sorted out, we decided not to choose any that lost more than three times. Sure, some of the top four-loss teams might have been better than some that didn’t lose as much, but it just turned out to be a line we didn’t have to cross.
Third would be historical significance. Teams that set records or accomplished feats that hadn’t been done before were given higher marks than those that didn’t. Part of this criteria also would be teams that were repeating as a major section champion or which were part of a cycle of championship play over several seasons.
Fourth would be prominent players on the roster. This might include a team that had a future Hall of Famer or one that beat a team with a future Hall of Famer.
Finally, there’s national rankings. From 1994 to 2012, Cal-Hi Sports was part of a national rankings system. This means that teams that were No. 1 in the nation according to that system (Student Sports, Rivals, ESPN) might have an edge over a team that was not ranked nationally quite so high.
With all that out of the way, here are the first 12 teams in the top 25 California high school baseball teams of all-time (through 2013 season):
For writeups on teams ranked from No. 13 to No. 25, CLICK HERE.
1. Fresno 1958
Record: 25-1; Head Coach: Ollie Bidwell
Forget about the one loss because it was to a college freshman team from Fresno State that the Warriors also beat three times. This club also took on college freshman teams from Cal and Stanford and won.
It’s a close call between this Fresno team and No. 2 Chatsworth 2004, but what sets Fresno apart from all others would be its pitching. Ace Dick Ellsworth and junior Jim Maloney both became 20-game winners in the major leagues within five years of graduation. The catcher of the team was Pat Corrales, who went on to play nine years in the major leagues and was a major league manager for nine more years. With those two pitching, Fresno posted 15 shutouts among its 25 wins. It’s a state record that was just tied in 2013 by a team that played seven more games and this was when games were nine innings long.
Offensively, the Warriors were almost as potent. They averaged 11 runs per game and only really had one close game, a 17-11 triumph over Fresno Roosevelt in which they scored seven runs in the ninth inning to turn around an 11-10 deficit.
2. Chatsworth 2004
Record: 35-0; Head Coach: Tom Muesborn
It could be argued that Chatsworth 2004 and Fresno 1958 might be two of the top teams in U.S. history, maybe even No. 1 and No. 2. It’s that close and these two teams were that great.
The Chancellors completed the best season record in state history by winning their second straight CIF L.A. City Section title and they beat a San Pedro team in the final that itself had won 26 straight games. They went on in 2005 to set the state record at 54 games for longest win streak.
The roster was a mix of super-young talent, including freshmen Mike Moustakas and Matt Dominguez (both now playing third base in the major leagues) and veteran leaders, including Jason Dominguez (Matt’s older brother) and Willie Cabrera (he had 72 hits for a new state record).
3. El Segundo 1971
Record: 32-2; Head Coach: John Stevenson
This team had the best record of any championship team that the legendary John Stevenson coached at El Segundo. It also was a team that had a future standout MLB pitcher, Scott McGregor, plus a shortstop, George Brett, who is now in the MLB Hall of Fame.
In the CIF Southern Section 3A final at Anaheim Stadium, El Segundo beat a 32-1 Lompoc team, 5-2. McGregor, who still had his senior year to go, pitched a five-hitter. Brett went 2-for-3 with a stolen base, but the big hit of the game was a three-run double in the fourth inning by Kirk Allison (also later played pro ball).
Steve Brand, recently retired from the San Diego Union-Tribune, covered that team’s last game as a young reporter for the defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.
“That El Segundo team was awesome…just plain awesome,” Brand said. “I remember I doubted they were all that good, but they were.”
4. Clovis 1998
Record: 33-2 Head Coach: James Patrick
The Cougars did the almost unthinkable by finishing No. 1 in most national rankings for the second year in a row. The 1997 team also went 33-2 and for the purposes of this feature it was decided to only list the 1998 squad. Most of those in the CIF Central Section at the time also believed that the 1998 team was better.
Offensively, Clovis rocked with a .373 team batting average and collected 359 hits, a total that makes the all-time state list for hits in a season. Outfielder Cody Nowlin was the team’s top all-state player (he batted .417), but sophomore Chris Patrick had the best batting average at .463. Chris is now one of two sons of head coach James Patrick coaching baseball in Clovis. He’s currently building the program at Clovis North and directed the 2013 team to the CIF Central Section Division I title.
On the mound, all-state pitcher Mike Bumatay was sensational with a 15-0 record, 0.84 ERA and 126 strikeouts. Junior Steve Frazier also went 10-0 with a 1.25 ERA.
5. La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 2003
Record: 32-1; Head Coach: Justin Machado
This was an extremely well-balanced squad from top-to-bottom that won its last 27 games in a row against very good competition, including a triumph in the CIF San Diego Section Division I final over Rancho Bernardo, which that season had the No. 4 team in the state.
La Costa Canyon averaged more than eight runs per game, led by infielder Joey Burke, who hit .465 with 38 RBIs and stole 24 bases. Junior catcher Scott Clement was another of the team’s all-state honorees.
The Mavericks gained the No. 1 state ranking by not losing during a week when state No. 2 Chatsworth and state No. 3 La Quinta of Westminster lost. In Chatsworth’s case, it was that team’s only loss. Looking back, all three teams are regarded as superior to many teams that have finished No. 1 in the state in other seasons.
6. Ontario 1991
Record: 26-0; Head Coach: Bob Beck
Perfection has to carry a lot of weight in any all-time ranking of top baseball teams and while some might question Ontario’s schedule since the team wasn’t in the top division of the CIF Southern Section playoffs, it’s hard to argue against a team that got it done in every single game.
It wasn’t like the Jaguars won some Mickey Mouse division, either. Theirs included perennial power El Segundo plus a Tustin team that was led by future MLB star Shawn Greene. Ontario rolled in its last two games 8-4 over Central of El Centro and 9-2 over La Mirada.
A future MLB standout, Mike Sweeney, was Ontario’s top player. He, along with teammates Darrell O’Brien and Cesar Barrera, all collected more than 40 hits. The pitching was led by Mike Hernandez (10-0), who threw a six-hitter in the final, and Ryan Mitchell (7-0), who had a four-hitter in the semifinals.
7. El Cerrito 1983
Record: 27-1; Head Coach: Larry Quirico
Of all the teams we’ve seen in person from Northern California since 1980 (not including the CIF Central Section), this group of Gauchos is still the best. The simple reason is speed. This team not only had the pitching and hitting, but had a lineup on offense and defense that took advantage of its quickness and athleticism.
In addition to winning the CIF North Coast Section Class 3A title, El Cerrito also went to the Fresno Easter Classic and took top honors. One of its players, outfielder Terry Brown, also led the North to victory in that year’s North-South all-star series.
Including Brown, seven of the nine regular players would eventually sign pro contracts. The group was led by State Junior of the Year James “Pops” Mitchell, who hit .425 and went 10-0 with a 1.96 ERA. Future USC standout Brian Nichols was the closer and led the team in hitting at .432 with 36 RBI. Steve Pearse, Brian Brooks and Brown also contributed to the team’s .325 average. The Gauchos also had Antoine Pickett and Andy McDonald at the top of the lineup with 27 stolen bases each.
8. Edgewood (West Covina) 1977
Record: 29-1; Head Coach: Karl Major
Pitcher Mike Pill was the dominant player for this team, which is from a school that was consolidated in 1988 and merged with West Covina. Pill went 14-0 as a senior after going 14-0 as a junior and set a state record with 33 straight wins. He also had a 0.50 ERA. Injuries prevented him from reaching the major leagues, but his son, Brett, homered in his first at-bat for the San Francisco Giants.
Edgewood won the 3A division of the CIF Southern Section playoffs with just one loss. The pitching also included Ken Angulo and sophomore Rick Aguilera, who did eventually get to the major leagues.
In 2010, San Gabriel Valley Tribune columnist Jim McConnell ranked the Edgewood 1977 squad as the greatest team in San Gabriel Valley history.
Edgewood’s baseball program, which also produced players like Jay Johnstone, Gary Roenicke and Ron Roenicke (current manager of the Milwaukee Brewers), is back because the school was re-opened two years ago.
9. Lompoc 1970
Record: 27-1; Head Coach: Dan Bodary
This team and the 1971 squad from El Segundo are tied at the hip and both make the all-time rankings.
In 1970, the Braves lost their first game 6-4 to Santa Maria, then rolled off 27 in a row and won the CIF Southern Section 3A title. In the final, Lompoc defeated a young El Segundo team 8-5 behind junior pitcher Roy Thomas. The next season, Lompoc set a state record with its 29th straight win, stretched it to 36 and was 32-1 before losing in a rematch with El Segundo’s 1971 team.
Both prominent players for Lompoc’s 1970 team also were still at the school in 1971. Thomas was a first-round MLB draft choice in 1971 and went on to play for several seasons with the Seattle Mariners and St. Louis Cardinals. Roy Howell was another member of the team. He was a sophomore in 1970 and was the fourth pick in the first round of the 1972 MLB draft. He made it to the major leagues as well, most prominently with the Toronto Blue Jays.
10. Bishop Amat (La Puente) 2002
Record: 28-2; Head Coach: Kenny Kendrena
The Lancers capped a phenomenal two-year run with a 2-1 win over La Quinta of Westminster in the CIF Southern Section Division IV final. This was a La Quinta team that had future major leaguers Ian Kennedy and Ian Stewart on its roster.
Bishop Amat also was No. 1 in the state in 2001 and had a two-year record of 55-4. Top players included pitcher Adam Simon, who posted a 13-0 record with a 1.36 ERA and struck out 104 batters in 77 innings. Simon also had a .530 batting average. Infielder Mike Lange was another of the team’s standouts.
11. Bullard (Fresno) 1980
Record: 29-2; Head Coach: Mike Noakes
For the decade of the 1980s, the Knights had the best record in the state at 227-50 and arguably had the most consistently outstanding program. Head coach Mike Noakes built the machine and had four teams earn No. 1 national rankings. The 1980 Knights were the first of those teams and seemed to set the bar high for the others that followed (although Noakes’ 1977 team was awfully strong as well).
Bullard’s pitching staff in 1980 was led by senior Richie Gaynor, who won 16 games and later was a sixth-round pick in the MLB Draft. Infielder Randy Asadoor was the team’s other all-state choice. He was later picked in the 11th round of the draft.
12. Chatsworth 2003
Record: 33-1; Head Coach: Tom Muesborn
Other than Clovis for 1997-98 and Fresno for 1957-58, the best two teams from one school over back-to-back seasons in state history without question goes to the 2003-04 squads from Chatsworth.
In the season before the Chancellors went 35-0 and were No. 1 in the nation by everyone, they posted a 33-1 record and were No. 1 in the nation by some. They were No. 2 in the state, however, behind 32-1 La Costa Canyon, which also was No. 1 nationally in other polls.
For these all-time rankings, we did not include Clovis of 1997 or Fresno of 1957 but we could have. We did rank Chatsworth of 2003 because in addition to La Costa Canyon we wanted to put in a third team from the 2003 season as well.
Note: This feature and these rankings will be updated after every season. Next season’s feature will be part of the Gold Club membership to see. This season, we’re using it to help promote our e-book, “California: The Baseball Capital of the World.”