The Colton Mercuries baseball team and Colton High School star basketball player Thomas Williams were inducted into the city’s Sports Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Gonzales Center on April 22.
“I’m glad it has come to do this,” said baseball historian Mel Salazar. “It was a lot of work but it was worth it.”
The Mercuries (also spelled as Mercurys in the past) were based out of South Colton, the former segregated portion of the city. Many of the young Mexican American (or Chicano) men in the neighborhood gathered during weekends and played against rival teams from Ontario, Pomona, Riverside, and San Bernardino at a small park on N Street and La Cadena Avenue, and later at South Colton Park (present day Veterans Park).
Alumni of the team include 1954 Little League World Series finalist Danny Carrasco and former Major League Baseball player Camilo Carreon. Many of the team’s former members and their families were in attendance on Friday–the oldest member being 92-year-old Socorro Rosales.
Salazar said the Mercuries were an institution in Colton–one that provided Chicanos with a means to promote self-determination and cultural pride. He said these men were trailblazers for others.
“They’ve come a long way. I did this because I didn’t want people to forget about this ball club,” Salazar explained. “I’m so happy it came out great.”
Williams, the Yellowjackets’ captain, won CIF honors during his senior year in 1950, and went on to play two seasons at San Bernardino Valley College and several others at UC Santa Barbara. At the university he earned Most Valuable Player honors and was inducted into their Sports Hall of Fame.
After playing several seasons of semi-pro basketball for the Santa Maria Dukes, Williams became the head coach at Riverside Ramona High School, where he collected six Citrus Belt League titles and named the league’s Coach of the Year six times.
Dr. Bob Percy, who accepted the Hall of Fame award on behalf of the late Williams, said the star basketball players was a good leader and a better friend.
“Our friendship had several interruptions. There were many times when we would not see each other, or speak to one another,” Percy said. “As I often said, you don’t have to eat peanut butter everyday to know that you love it. Tom Williams was a peanut butter friend of mine.”
Also receiving an honorary word was longtime sports and youth advocate Max Lofy, who passed away on February 6 at the age of 88.
Longtime resident Ray Carver, who played and worked under Lofy in his youth, said his mentor is a man who cannot be forgotten.
“What can you say about a guy who goes out, spends his money on the youth, and doesn’t want anyone to know about it,” he said. “He was very humble. [Max] was always for the children and for the community.”