This year’s fall classic between the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks shows a lot of new players that needed to be looked up for their high school origins. It’s a low total again for California players, but one of the five is from one of the state’s historically great baseball high schools in San Francisco.
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Whether baseball immortal Joe DiMaggio ever officially was a student at Galileo High in San Francisco doesn’t matter. He’s always been connected to the school by being from the neighborhood he’s from in the North Beach of the City by the Bay.
Galileo, in fact, has one of the great baseball histories among any school in California and this year one of the players in the World Series is from there. That’s Kyle Nelson, a pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who opened the 2023 World Series on Friday night at the Texas Rangers. The teams split the first two games of the series, which resumes Monday night in Phoenix.
It’s been since 1960 when there has been a player from Galileo in the World Series. That was when Gino Cimoli was playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the New York Yankees. In one of the most famous World Series games ever played, Game 7 that year when the Pirates won, 10-9, on a walk off home run by Bill Mazeroski in the bottom of the ninth inning, Cimoli led off the eighth with a pinch hit single and scored a run. He also had four other hits in that series.
Nine years earlier, in 1951, there was not one but two players from Galileo on the 1951 World Series champion New York Yankees. One of them was DiMaggio, the man with the unbreakable 56-game hitting streak, who was playing in his final World Series and the final games of his MLB career. The other was infielder Bobby Brown. He played eight seasons with the Yankees and they won four World Series titles in those years. Brown later became a respected baseball executive and was president of the American League from 1984 to 1994.
Other former MLB players in those golden years of Galileo grads being so prominent in the sport were Dom DiMaggio (11 seasons), Vince DiMaggio (10 seasons), Tony Lazzeri (14 seasons), Dario Lodigiani (6 seasons), George Puccinelli (4 seasons) and then there also was Walt Williams later on (1964 to 1975). Lazzeri was part of the famed Yankees’ Murderers’ Row lineup in the late 1920s that included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.
Galileo is now known technically as Galileo Academy of Science & Technology. Nelson played football and baseball there (graduated 2014) and was signed by UC Santa Barbara for baseball. He developed into an MLB prospect relief pitcher for the Gauchos and was initially drafted by the Cleveland Indians (now Guardians). He made his MLB debut in 2020 for Cleveland. He was claimed off of waivers by the Diamondbacks at the end of the 2021 season and has made his way back to the big league level.
Here’s a complete list of this year’s other World Series Alums:
Kevin Ginkel (El Capitan, Lakeside)
One of the standouts for the Diamondbacks in their Game 7 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS was Ginkel pitching out of the bullpen. He’s become an ace on the back end of that group. Ginkel also would be one of those guys that every young player who is not getting much attention from colleges and scouts should continue to hold on to those dreams, keep grinding and keep improving. He was a two-time all-league and two-time All-CIF San Diego Section choice as a pitcher, but didn’t have offers. He eventually went to Southwestern JC out of high school. He did do well enough at Southwestern to gain the attention of coaches at the University of Arizona. Kevin also wasn’t a high draft choice coming out of college (26th round by the Red Sox), but again he overcame the odds and made it to the biggest stage any baseball player dreams of reaching.
Austin Hedges (JSerra, San Juan Capistrano)
Known primarily as a defensive catcher, Hedges is the first player from JSerra to be in the World Series. There isn’t going to be a long wait for others as current head coach Brett Kay has been sending multiple top players to college and the MLB Draft. JSerra’s Royce Lewis just this year was a hitting star for the Minnesota Twins, which lost in the ALDS this year to the Houston Astros.
Evan Longoria (St. John Bosco, Bellflower)
If anyone could ever get close enough to yell out to Evan, “Who’s got the best high school football team in the nation?” we’re pretty sure he’d know what to say in response. Longoria played in the 2008 World Series when he was having great success early in his career with the Tampa Bay Rays (lost to the Phillies) and now he’s back playing a veteran’s role on a young team. Longoria and former Boston Red Sox standout Nomar Garciaparra probably would be regarded as the top two players in baseball to ever come from Bosco. His appearance in the World Series comes not long after the school had its first player in the Super Bowl — DB Trent McDuffie of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Marcus Semien (St. Mary’s, Berkeley)
The all-star infielder for the Texas Rangers was a standout in high school, including his junior year in 2007 when he batted .471. Semien also was a student-athlete and headed to nearby University of California for college after going in the 34th round of the MLB Draft. Semien played for his hometown Oakland Athletics from the 2015 season through the pandemic season (2020) and then left the Athletics to play for the Toronto Blue Jays. He was third in MVP voting in the 2021 season for the Blue Jays, including 45 homers and 102 RBI. He signed a long-term deal with the Rangers starting with the 2022 season. This is Marcus’ first World Series.
Torey Lovullo (Montclair Prep, Van Nuys)
While the state has dipped in its numbers of players getting to the World Series, California continues to be strong with managers. It was Dusty Baker from Del Campo of Fair Oaks with the championship Houston Astros last year. In 2021, Baker also managed the Astros when they lost to the Atlanta Braves. In 2020, the championship Los Angeles Dodgers had Dave Roberts from Rancho Buena Vista of Vista. And in 2014 and 2015, Dublin’s Ned Yost was managing the Kansas City Royals. Lovullo continues the tradition this season with the DBacks. He became manager of the Arizona squad for the 2017 season and has been allowed to complete the task of building up the roster after some lean seasons. Just two years ago, the Dbacks lost more than 100 games. Lovullo was a two-time Cal-Hi Sports all-state small schools baseball player for Montclair Prep in the late 1980s and later played at UCLA. Montclair Prep, a school that no longer has an athletic program, has had two players in the World Series: Russ Ortiz for the Giants in 2002 and Brad Fullmer for the Angels in the same World Series.
*The associate manager of the Rangers is former MLB player Will Venable. He is from San Rafael High in Marin County and to make us feel really old is the son of former MLB player Max Venable. Max was part of the legendary 1975 Cordova of Rancho Cordova undefeated State Team of the Year in football and played for legendary head coach Guy Anderson for the Lancers in baseball. Max also played later for the San Francisco Giants. Will will be an MLB manager soon. He recently turned down an interview request with the Cleveland Guardians to remain with the Rangers. As a player, he was with the San Diego Padres, who also have a current opening.
*California’s total of five players in the World Series this year ties the lowest total we’ve ever counted for the years in which this research has been done and extended back to, which is 1968. The last time there was five was in 2019. There were only six last year. Texas has six this year, but Florida only has two. The reason for lower totals for California (and other states) is the influx of talent from Central America, including the Dominican Republic (six players this year), Cuba (three), Venezuela (two) and Puerto Rico (two).