Class of 2008
Coach Atkinson called the shots in a five-decade coaching career that spanned from 1935-1987. He began humbly: as a San Jose State student, he hitchhiked into San Francisco for the $1 a game pay to referee basketball. He played six sports as a teen and lettered in four at San Francisco’s Commerce High. Babe coached 10 years at Madera High prior to arriving at Antioch in 1947. Under Babe’s 25-year tutelage, the Panthers won league championships in the several sports he coached; 1949, ’50 and ’52 in varsity baseball, 1954 and 1956 in “B” basketball; four consecutive first place finishes for JV baseball between 1968 – ’71. He umpired California League baseball games and was co-founder in 1952 of the Contra Costa Football Officials Association. Between ’47 and ’66 Babe was refereeing Antioch Industrial League basketball games, Antioch Alumni football games, Summer League softball games and the Modesto Elks Charity Baseball games played by major and minor leaguers. Babe often umpired several games per day. That would explain his lifetime totals of 655 football games, 1,045 baseball games and 690 basketball games – 2,390 contests in all. Babe was instrumental in development of Antioch’s youth baseball programs in the early 1950s along with Mno Grant. Babe directed baseball clinics for all ages and several leagues, including “Grasshoppers” at City Park. He could also spot potential talent; between 1952-72 he as a “bird dog” scout for the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, guiding Don Landrum and Kiko Garcia into professional baseball contracts. Babe was honored in 1983 by having AHS’s baseball press box dedicated to him; in 1995 with an award named after him created by the North Bay Officials’ Association, and on his 90th birthday received a California State Assembly resolution.
The scourge of polio – which afflicted thousands in the early 20th century – struck Bill Beasley in 1930. Paralyzed for months, Bill dropped out of Saint Mary’s College at the end of his freshman year, but recovered in time to play football as a sophomore. Bill’s inspiring career began at Riverview Union High School, in the same building now housing the Sports Legends Hall. He graduated in 1929, earning All-League honors in football. He captained both the baseball and football teams. During his Riverview years, Bill played under “Dutch” Eells, the namesake of AHS’s football field, who led Bill and his team to a win over Pittsburg High in 1927. In the spring, he played second base and pitched for the baseball team, and played in the American Legion Baseball League. Few people had the opportunity to attend college during the Depression, but a full-ride scholarship allowed Bill to continue in football and baseball – and captained both teams – at St. Mary’s College. He scored three times on kickoffs in his freshman year. As a sophomore, he intercepted a pass vs. Fordham – running 80 yards – that clinched the winning touchdown at New York’s Polo Grounds. Bill was a virtual one-man team, playing halfback, fullback, quarterback and kicker positions for the Gaels. Perhaps his greatest college accomplishment was being in the East-West All-Star game at Chicago’s Soldier Field in 1933, one of the sporting events held during the run of that year’s Centennial of Progress World’s Fair. Baseball also beckoned for Bill, who played second base, shortstop and pitcher for St. Mary’s. Upon graduation he played baseball in the Pacific Coast League. Bill settled in Antioch as general manager for the Fibreboard paper mill and Antioch Mayor between 1950-53. He was recognized by St. Mary’s; inducted into its sports Hall of Fame for both baseball in 1973 and football in 1976.
Every stroke. Every distance. Every record. Dennis Boyd defined swimming at Antioch High between 1970-1972; outstanding swimmer of 1971 and 1972, outstanding water polo player of 1971 and captain of both sports’ teams. During his junior year, Dennis set seven school records, including a 55.7-second winning time at the North Coast 100-yard backstroke match, a full two seconds faster than anyone else. Dennis was part of an Antioch swimming dynasty, along with brothers Tim and Tom, who competed since early childhood. By 14, he was ranked first in the U.S. in his age group in the 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter backstroke. At 16, he was ranked 17th in the world in the 100-meter backstroke, the top swimmer in his class nationwide. Competing as a Panther, Dennis’ backstroke performances won the DVAL and North Coast titles, as well as being named honorable mention All-America. Dennis’ ability wasn’t confined to the pool, as he was awarded a bravery medal in junior high for saving a classmate form drowning in the ocean. Dennis earned a full-ride scholarship to the University of Missouri, where he swam all four years, setting school records in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke and 200-yard individual medley. As swim team captain in 1976, Dennis was recognized as one of the university’s top student leaders. Graduating first in his business logistics major put Dennis on track toward his current success as a Missouri entrepreneur: five-time Inc. magazine honoree and Small Business Administration Hall of Famer. Dennis still swims competitively, currently holding the St. Louis Senior Olympic records in the 50-yard backstroke and 100-meter individual medley in the 50-54 age group.
Antioch High’s Student Body President and Salutatorian of 1946 became a star at Stanford and enjoyed a lifetime of college coaching success. As part of the undefeated Sports Legends AHS Football Team of 1945-46, Cone was nominated for All-County First Team honors. Following two years in the Army, he earned both a B.A. and M.A. from Stanford and started four years in football. During his college football career, Jesse was MVP in 1948 as well as Outstanding Member of the undefeated freshman football team; an All-America Honorable Mention in 1951; All-Coast for two years; winner of Team and Coaches’ Award for Outstanding Senior in 1951 and Co-Captain of the 1952 Rose Bowl team that played Illinois. Coaching became Jesse’s vocation after college, first at San Bruno’s Capuchino High School in 1952, then Pomona College between 1953-57, where actor/singer Kris Kristofferson was one of his players. Between 1958-1969, Jesse coached high school and community college players, including Les Shy, who later played for the Cowboys and N.Y. Giants. Jesse stepped up to the challenge of offensive coordinator at football powerhouse Utah State University in 1969, coaching future pro Phil Olsen. Jesse was promoted to Assistant Head Coach at Utah State in 1970. By 1972, he was responsible for coaching one of the best teams in “Aggie” history, named the 15th best team in the U.S. He moved on to North Carolina’s Wake Forest University in 1973; Offensive Coordinator at University of Utah in 1974-76, then at New Mexico State University in 1977. Jesse kept coaching into the late ‘70s and early ‘80s at Turlock High and Merced Community College. By 1994, Jesse headed overseas to Germany as Head Coach for the Hamburg Silver Eagles.
An Antioch High alumna never received an athletic scholarship until Sue Cottier came along. The 6’1” basketball player was part of the Mario Tonin-coached 1976 league championship team that crushed the four-year undefeated 26-game winning streak of Clayton Valley High. Sue played varsity center all three years of high school, 1974-1976. She was MVP in 1975 and Co-MVP as a senior in 1976. Her high game was 27 points and she averaged 14 points and 14 rebounds per game. Sue first attended DVC, earning All-League in 1977 and ’78 as well as Most Valuable Player both years: high game of 35 points, season average of 19 points per game. The University of San Francisco offered her a scholarship and at USF Sue pushed her team to second place in the Nor-Cal League. The 1979-80 Lady Dons won the AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) Western Small College Regionals – USF’S final year of eligibility – guaranteeing a berth in the AIAW National tournament. Sue’s skills placed the Lady Dons first in the Nor-Cal League in 1979-80: 12th best in the nation and #1 seed in the AIAW’s Region 8, Division 1 group, beating Stanford and UCLA along the way. Basketball continued to play a primary role in Sue’s life. After earning a B.A. at USF, a teaching credential at St. Mary’s and a special graduate credential in adaptive P.E. at Sonoma State, she came back to Antioch as a coach and teacher. During her 12-year AHS tenure, the women Panthers were BVAL Co-champions in 1988-89, and placed second at North Coast in 1989, ’90 and ’91. Top players Vanessa Selden and Stacey Johnson learned their basketball fundamentals from Sue. Her attention is now turned to teaching P.E. to disabled K-12 students in the AUSD.
Community Sports Leader
If it existed, Leo could easily claim the title of “Father of Modern Antioch.” His behind-the-scenes involvement goes back six decades. He had a hand in bringing County East Mall, East County Bank, Delta Memorial Hospital and the Antioch Senior Citizens Center into existence. He’s served on the boards of several local charities and organizations. Antioch’s voters elected him to the Antioch City Council, on which he served from 1982-1986. He was also an Antioch Planning Commissioner, Parks and Recreation Commissioner and Charter President of the Antioch Merchants Association. The Chamber of Commerce honored him twice as Antioch Citizen of the Year. Leo might easily be called the “Cal Ripken, Jr.” of service club members. He has 59 years – and counting – of perfect attendance; 29 years with the Lions Club and since 1978 with the Rotary Club of Antioch. Sports and recreation programs in the city all seem to trace their origins back to Leo. He participated in the creation of the Antioch Hornets football team, Lob Ball League, Antioch Softball League and Antioch Babe Ruth Baseball, for which he served as its first president. An athlete himself, Leo played catcher for the Antioch Merchants team and left halfback for the Antioch Alumni Football team in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He was chairman of a committee that created a new corporation to run the Antioch Municipal Golf Course, and helped found the Antioch Bocce Ball League. His love of sports and his community led to his involvement in assisting in the creation of the Antioch Sports Legends Program and display in 2007, for which he was honored, with the other four founders, as Antioch Citizens of the Year.
Greg has enjoyed a prestigious career as a U.S. Secret Service agent since 1985, protecting the President and supervising terrorist investigations following the 2001 World Trade Center attack. That drive and accomplishment originated as a young athlete in Antioch, where Greg was a Little Leaguer with the Beswick Bears; an All-Star with the Riverview Lodge Babe Ruth team in 1968 and a Panther pitcher from 1969-1971. As a senior, the 6’4” right-hander was baseball’s MVP and averaged 13 points per game on the basketball court. Greg threw a shut-out during the 1970 Northern California championships as his Panther team defeated the Fremont High team of future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley. Under Coach Bill Snelson, the power pitcher had a career 11-2 two-year record. Greg’s accomplishments led to being named Second Team All-League and recipient of the Contra Costa Times Super Sport Award in 1971 for his DVAL record-setting 28 scoreless innings. As a senior he threw 48 innings, allowing 35 hits, with 57 strikeouts and a DVAL 1.16 ERA. His post-prep career led to DVC, where he was 3-1 for the Vikings in 1972. Several big colleges beckoned with scholarships, however the major leagues wanted him, too. The Philadelphia Phillies selected Greg in the second round, the 25th overall pick of the draft. Greg played on three Phillies farm teams: Clearwater, FL., Auburn, N.Y., and Spartanburg, S.C. A serious arm injury ended the pitcher’s pro career in 1976. He went back to college and graduated from Sacramento State University in 1977. Following graduation, Greg returned to Antioch to serve as a police officer and helped found the popular “Pig Bowl” charity football games in 1979. When not in uniform, he returned to the diamond, earning a silver medal in softball in the 1979 State Police Olympics.
Rachelle emerged as perhaps the premier scholar-athlete of the 1980s at Antioch High: academics and class president duties shared equal time with softball, but the 1989 Contra Costa Times Player of the Year managed to squeeze in some amazing athletic accomplishments. Her prep softball career began as a Park Junior High 9th grader: She was Student Body President and was named Athlete of the Year. At AHS, Rachelle batted .423 as a sophomore and was All-League at second base as a junior (stealing 22 bases) – both years while service as class president. She was All-League pitcher and as a senior, she was MVP in two sports; volleyball and softball, where softball, where she had a 13-1 pitching record in her 1989 senior year, as well as Tribune Player of the Year in softball, with a 13-1 pitching record. Rachelle continued in softball at Sacramento State University as a four-year starter, attending on a full scholarship. Years of student leadership experience made her an obvious candidate for team captain – as a freshman. By her junior year as a Hornet, Rachelle had a 4.0 GPA and had started in every game. She captained her team to a ranking of 16th nationwide in the NCAA Division 1 softball poll, and made the NCAA regionals; in four years, Rachelle never missed a game – 215 in all, starting in 203 contests. Her softball eligibility ended in 1994. But Rachelle shifted to basketball, where she played point guard while finishing her degree in sports marketing and business. The scholar-athlete continued to prove herself as a graduate student, achieving a perfect 4.0 at the University of Tennessee where she earned a master’s degree in sports management in 1995. Rachelle’s academic and athletic expertise is put to good use at Wilson Sporting Goods, where Rachelle currently works as national accounts manager.
An astonishing Earned Run Average of less than one run per game in 1954 and 1955 put Max in the record books as a top pitcher, one of six selected in 2000 to the DVC All Half-Century Baseball Team. In 1950, the three-sport athlete entered AHS as a sophomore. The native Arkansan’s 6’1” slim build earned the nickname “Slatts.” For the next three years under Coach “Babe” Atkinson, Max evolved into a phenomenal baseball pitcher – leading the Panthers to league championships in both 1952 and 1953. His three-year record was 21 wins, 7 losses. When not pitching, Max played first base and led the team in hitting with a .400 average, making All-Contra Costa County. Following high school, Max went to East Contra Costa Junior College (later renamed Diablo Valley College). Under Coach Hugh Boschetti, Max won five games, including a 3-1 league record with a .89 ERA as a freshman in 1954. His sophomore year, the “curve-balling control artist” had nine victories, including a 5-0 league record, and allowed only five league earned runs for the year with a documented .92 ERA which still stands today. This cemented his name in the DVC record books as being one of the top pitchers in Viking history. That 8-l-l season in 1955 earned a league championship for his team and led to his selection as a pitcher for the All-Coast Conference team. His two-year Viking total of 14 victories includes eight league wins. Following junior college, Max played semi-pro baseball in Pittsburg as pitcher for two years and one year in 1957 for Healdsburg. Max shared his baseball knowledge with a new generation of players when he coached both Little League and Babe Ruth teams in Antioch in the 1960s and ‘70s.
John came up through the ranks of Antioch youth football, playing at Antioch High between 1970-1973. He was MVP and team captain on the league champion Panther team, and was chosen for both Offensive and Defensive All East Bay Teams. His prep football career was capped by playing in the North-South Shrine Game at the L.A. Coliseum. Before graduating in 1973, John placed first in the DVAL shot put and was MVP at the Stapleton Relays. Before earning a B.A. from Stanford in 1977, John was the only non-scholarship freshman elevated to the varsity team for the “Big Game” against Cal. At Stanford, John competed in shot put and discus, while playing inside linebacker and special teams in football. After graduation, John played linebacker for the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes. He was a starter in the CFL Eastern Finals and played in the 1978 Grey Cup game. John came back home to Antioch in 1980 to play for the Antioch Hornets, earning MVP. The Kansas City Chiefs signed him in 1981 for special teams. In 1982 John played for the Chiefs during a strike-shortened season and was in the last game ever played at Metropolitan Stadium. John was inducted in 1988 into the American Football Association Semi-Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In the decades before high-tech running shoes and synthetic tracks, Eddie Savage sprinted into the Antioch High, Contra Costa County and North Coast record books in the 660-yard dash. His record-breaking prep career began in 1960, by setting the best time in Contra Costa County: 1:30.4 in the 660. By the spring, he clocked 51.2 seconds in the 440-yard dash, breaking a record set by Antioch’s Mack Enz in 1959. In the Martinez Relays of May, 1961, Eddie aided his Panther team – Richard Neveu, Allan Ramsey and Dave Farley – in winning the 2-mile relay race with an 8:06.7 time. That same season, he set the 660-yard course record of 1:24.2 in the County League meet. At the season end, Eddie continued to improve, peaking at the North Coast championship. His tike of 1:22.9 in 1961 broke a North Coast record. The speedy Panther led his cross country team to a DVAL championship that year and was named MVP. Eddie continued his running career at Fresno State in 1962. He attended on a full athletic scholarship and lettered all four years as well as serving as president of the Bulldogs’ “Block F” Society. As a freshman, he set a cross-country record in the 5000 meters and ran the seventh fastest 880-yard race in the college’s history – 1:53.2. Following graduation, Eddie became a biology teacher for 12 years and coached track at three California schools; Selma High, Sanger High and Parlier High. He coached two individual athletes to state titles; Terry Barr in the triple jump and Cole Herron in the high jump.
Ron Sbranti graduated from Antioch High in 1962 after playing third base on the varsity baseball team and offensive and defensive end in football during his junior and senior years. He was All-League in both sports and captain of the football team. Ron was known for his hard-nosed football, which was noticed by college recruiters. He was signed by Utah State University and played there on a full-ride football scholarship. During 1963-1965 at Utah, Ron was a starting defensive end for all three years and team co-captain in his senior year. The 6’2”, 235-lb. linebacker played in the 1965 Honolulu, Hawaii Hula Bowl and the 1966 East-West Shrine game in San Francisco at Kezar Stadium. In the latter he caught a touchdown pass. Ron was drafted in the 10th round, the 147th overall pick, by both the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers in 1966, during the days of the double draft. Ron played 14 games for the Broncos in the 1966 season, wearing jersey #54.
Gary Sheide did not disappoint the hometown fans in 1969, when as a junior, he quarterbacked the Panthers to a 20-0 “Big-Little Game” victory over Pittsburg, the first in 22 years. But that’s not all: Gary’s tip-in with one second left – in the third overtime – clinched an Antioch High basketball victory which was the first court win against the Pirates in 12 years. Gary’s amazing athletic abilities began as a child; he held a Little League All-Star strikeout record, threw a football 60 yards and dunked a basketball – all by eighth grade. He was AHS’s all-time leading scorer, the first person to surpass 1,000 points. He batted .400 in baseball and quarterbacked his football team: both earned league championships. This triple-threat athlete began college at DVC, then moved on to Brigham Young University on a football scholarship. Gary’s career soared in Utah. He was first in a string of six All-America quarterbacks, followed by Jim McMahon and Steve Young. As a college junior, Gary was #2 in passing and #3 in total offense nationwide. By his senior year in 1974, Gary threw for 2,174 yards, including 23 touchdowns. He earned Conference MVP honors; captained BYU to its first ever Fiesta Bowl; was awarded the Sammy Baugh trophy as the nation’s “Best Passer”; named to the All-Conference Academic Team; was UPI Second Team All-America and eighth in balloting for the Heisman Trophy. College career totals: 4,524 yards and 45 touchdowns. Gary seemed destined for a professional football career. He was the second quarterback in the 1975 NFL draft, taken by the Bengals in the third round, but played in only exhibition games before being cut due to injuries, ending a nationally recognized career.
Forty years before there was Tiger Woods, there was Wayne Sleppy. Son of Ollie Sleppy, the head professional at the Antioch Municipal Golf Course, “Champagne Wayne” moved to Antioch at age 12. One year later, in 1952, he shot a hole-in-one at age 13, the first of six in his lifetime, and several times matched his career best round of 65. During his four years of prep play, he lost only two matches. Described by the Antioch Ledger as a “frail, 130-poun d” high school junior in 1956, he placed sixth in the state playoffs. He was a DVAL medalist in 1957, leading his Panther teammates to a huge win over top-seeded Acalanes 5-1 and on to a County championship. Simultaneously, Wayne was playing in the Antioch city championships outside of school, winning as a junior in 1956 against local veteran Joe Rios. En route to winning the 1957 city championship, the AHS senior beat Antioch’s own golf “legend” Elmer Clites by knocking in a hole-in-one on the Par 3 hole #18. His 69 score beat Clites for top medalist before moving on to match-play, defeating top Napa player Howard Shinnerer for the title. Wayne became a PGA professional following high school graduation, working as resident pro at the Long Beach municipal course at age 20 where he met and golfed with movie, TV, and sports celebrities. In 1964, he beat 142 players, including PGA champion Jerry Barber, U.S. Open winner Lloyd Mangrum and World Golf Hall of Famer Paul Runyan, to capture first in the Southern California PGA Tournament in what was described by sportswriters of the time as “the biggest surprise in the 40 years of the championship.” Following that $2,000 win, Wayne’s career included playing in the Bing Crosby “Clambake,” the Los Angeles Open and the San Diego Open.