San Bernardino High School won the 1925 California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section (CIF) baseball championship and has not won one since. CIF baseball championships are rare in San Bernardino County. Chaffey won three straight in the late 1950’s and Yucaipa won three in four years in the early 1990’s. The CIF record book shows only eight other schools in the county have won a CIF baseball title in one hundred years.
San Gorgonio High School’s 1977 CIF title should go down as the most sensational. But San Bernardino HS winning with a one-legged catcher was the most inspirational.
Entering the post season, San Gorgonio tied for second in the Citrus Belt league, ending the regular season with a 13-9 record. San G pitcher Tim Miner then proceeded to win all five playoff games including a two-hit, 1-0 victory in the title game against Lakewood, the defending CIF champ.
At the time, pitchers could throw an unlimited number of innings, allowing Miner to go nine innings in a 1-0 win against St. Paul High School and its future St. Louis Cardinal’s pitcher Andy Rincon. Miner came in to relieve in another game and hit a three-run homerun to win it. Miner wasn’t spectacular entering the playoffs with a 5-6 pitching record, but something clicked and Miner allowed only two earned runs in 32 innings in the playoffs.
Current CIF-Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod was a student at Long Beach Wilson HS and remembered Miner defeating his school during the 1977 playoff run. Wigod credited Miner with a great feat, but due to new CIF pitching limits, Miner’s miracle might never be broken. Wigod said also the CIF-Southern Section has grown into 580 schools, by far the largest in the state and perhaps the nation.
Miner’s performance still ranks among the greatest Southern Section baseball accomplishments of the modern era. Miner, a big-lefty went undrafted after graduation but was recruited to pitch at Cal State Fullerton where he was on its first NCAA championship roster in 1979.
The 1925 San Bernardino High CIF-championship team had a pitcher named Clement “Fats” Levering who nearly matched Miner, yet accurate individual stats are harder to locate. In 1925, high school games were played nine innings and only one school could win the CIF-Southland championship that covered all of Southern California. Unlike San Gorgonio, SBHS was the Citrus Belt League champion and with Levering pitching were favored to defeat Fullerton in the CIF title game.
Levering pitched all four playoff games for the 1925 Cardinals. He beat Colton and future Major League Baseball player George Caster in the first round. Then threw a no-hitter at El Centro, and a two-hitter to beat Alhambra. In the championship game at Fullerton, Levering completed all nine innings in the 3-1 win.
Evening Telegram reporter Sid Olin thought Levering had the ability to soon pitch at the Triple-A level but later indicated Levering was often lethargic, out of shape and didn’t take baseball serious.
Along with Levering, the 1925 team had a number of high-profile athletes. Ernie Pinckert went on become an All-American football player who played in the NFL for eight years. Jimmy Payne became the national high school champion in the 220-yard low hurdles. His time of 23.8 was reported to be a world record.
Sid Olin went on to describe the miraculous story of their teammate, LaVerne Winkleman, the starting catcher who had one-leg. Olin wrote in the Evening Telegram that Winkleman had his leg amputated below the knee due to a infection when he was a child. Winkleman still had enough speed to hit doubles and steal bases. Fans in Fullerton at the title game were shocked when Winkleman was hit by a pitch, shattering his wooden leg. The game was delayed until Winkleman and his mother taped the leg back together. He later played at San Bernardino Valley College, the University of Arizona and semi-pro. Winkleman died in an industrial accident at 28. Members of his 1925 championship team was pallbearers.
SOURCES: Paul Oberjuerge, Claude Anderson, W.I. Lemon, Sid Olin, Mel Nelson, Rob Wigod, San Diego Evening Tribune.