A legendary sports researcher who was honored just last month by the CIF Southern Section has died. Bruce McIntosh was 87 years old. His collection of football scores and sports memorabilia was unique and his intense interest in high school sports will be missed.
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Our usual enthusiasm for the announcement of the CIF state football bowl lineup on Sunday as well as our excitement for all of the various CIF section football championships this weekend isn’t going to be the same.
On Friday morning, we learned that Bruce McIntosh, one of the earliest supporters of Cal-Hi Sports and a longtime friend of Cal-Hi Sports founder Nelson Tennis (as well as a longtime friend of both myself and senior editor Ronnie Flores), was gravely ill in a Vacaville hospital.
Later on Friday at 11:25 a.m., Bruce died from complications of that illness. He had been living in Rio Vista for the past seven years and went to the hospital on Wednesday night. We talked to him just on Monday about an unrelated matter and last visited him at his home in early November. He hasn’t been in good health physically for several years, but every time we spoke with him on the phone or visited he displayed his usual passion for high school sports, high school football and Notre Dame. Mentally, he remained engaging and interesting to talk to right until his final day.
In the last few years, Bruce became close to several neighbors in Rio Vista, including next-door neighbor Melisa Pennington and his neighbor across the court, Candy Dotson. Melisa said that Bruce had become “like family” during a Friday phone call. Melisa along with Candy and Melisa’s sister, Priscilla Zaro, were all with Bruce at the end. For those of us who knew Bruce, we’ll be forever grateful to Melissa, Candy and Priscilla that he wasn’t by himself in those moments.
Bruce only lived a few blocks from Rio Vista High and he was genuinely happy to know that the Rams had won the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII title and probably would be playing a home game in the CIF state bowl games next week.
We can clearly remember the last football game I took Bruce to watch and it was a memorable one. It was at Vacaville in 2012 and the Bulldogs were playing Marin Catholic of Kentfield in a non-league game. It was a back-and-forth contest that Vacaville won 28-24. Marin Catholic, however, went on to have a better season as the Wildcats went to the CIF Division III state final before they lost to Madison of San Diego.
What Bruce and I talked about the most, though, after that game is what we thought of the Marin Catholic quarterback. That’s why Jeff Tedford, the head coach at Cal at the time, also was at that game. That QB, of course, was Jared Goff, who later became a first-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams.
The strongest connections for Bruce, though, were not for schools in Northern California. He kept detailed binders with results in all sports going back to the early 20th century of many schools in the CIF Los Angeles City Section. Bruce also was from a CIF Southern Section school, South Pasadena, and before that grew up a few blocks from Long Beach Poly. Sportswriters and researchers are never supposed to have favorites, but for Bruce he definitely did and it was the Jackrabbits.
Born in Hawaii, McIntosh began keeping stats on local high school games after he moved to Long Beach and began following the Jackrabbits. High school record keeping remained a hobby while he was working in construction for many years in the Gardena area. He made enough of a name for himself that he became friends with Los Angeles sports icon Bill Schroeder (Helms Sports Foundation) and became pen pals with other sports researchers around the nation, including Nelson Tennis.
In the 1970s, Bruce and Nelson would trade detailed letters often as each would help the other with whatever project the other was working on. For Nelson, it was usually information for a California state record book he had begun while for Bruce it was usually football scores for a collection he was building that eventually would entail every high school in California and some outside California and even many junior colleges.
When Cal-Hi Sports initially began as a statewide newsletter in the early 1980s, Bruce was the first correspondent we used for the L.A. City Section and for the Southern Section outside of Orange County. In those days, before the internet, we had to cover the state by calling correspondents for scores and highlights. Bruce did that for us for many years.
There were other football games we attended together (at least two involving Long Beach Poly) and we went to several CIF state track meets with him and Nelson at Cerritos College. One of my greatest memories with Bruce was the time he let me look at a lot of the Helms Foundation memorabilia before the opening of a museum and before all of the items were put behind glass. I put on a glove once worn by Ty Cobb and swung a bat once used by Mickey Mantle.
In the 1990s, Bruce and Nelson also developed a close friendship with Fresno sports historian Bob Barnett. There was an annual trip Nelson would take from Sacramento to Fresno and then Bob would drive down to San Pedro, where Bruce lived from the late 1980s until his move to Rio Vista. Those three then spent three to four days at Bruce’s place, just poring over high school stats for all of their various projects. Bruce also occasionally came up to Fresno when he was still driving to meet with Nelson and Bob.
“The big three,” Barnett said on Friday. “I have a picture of us I look at every day. I still miss Nelson. I’m now the only one left but great memories.”
Nelson died from complications of bladder cancer in 2004 and we know how much he meant to Bruce as well. Somehow, someway, we think those two are now together looking up something and talking about high school sports.
In later years, we worked with Bruce on a project for the CalHiSports.com web site in which we were hired by schools to provide them with detailed records and football score archives. We sold that program to approximately 35 schools in 2015, 2016 and even a few as late as last summer.
Those football scores came from a detailed collection of index cards in which Bruce typed the result of every high school football team in California from 1892 to 2007. He donated some of those cards to the CIF Southern Section and also served as a member of the CIF Southern Section selection committee that chose its 100 Athletes for 100 years. Bruce also wrote a history of the CIF state track meet and collected CIF state meet programs in many sports all through the years.
Because of that work, just last October 18, Bruce was one of six individuals honored with a Distinguished Service Award at the annual CIF Southern Section Hall of Fame inductions in Long Beach. He wasn’t able to attend but was happy to receive a CIFSS Lifetime Pass. Dr. John Dahlem, who serves as a historian for the CIFSS office, helped get that recognition for Bruce and also was a longtime friend.
Bruce moved to Rio Vista when he did because a caregiver of his at the time, Jeannie Matthews, was moving from San Pedro to the San Joaquin Delta community and he wanted to stay close to her. Jeannie wasn’t serving in that role for the last two years, but remained a friend.
Melisa said on Friday that no services are planned for Bruce. People are asked to remember him in their own special way. All of his memorabilia that was in his house is going to be taken to a storage unit in Stockton and we at Cal-Hi Sports will eventually go through all of it. We promise to use it in a way that will honor Bruce’s memory. If anyone has questions about that or would like to help us in some way with that process, please email me at email@example.com or call 209-608-1317.
And for anyone wishing to donate to a cause in Bruce’s memory, we can’t think of anything more appropriate than just giving to your local high school athletic program. All the players and coaches and teams meant a lot to him and he should mean a lot to them.