The early 1980s saw Antioch High’s baseball team reach a new height with its North Coast championship in 1984. Leading that team was Jeff Pico. Jeff’s talent was evident in his sophomore year, when he posted a 7-3 season with a 1.53 ERA. The Panthers named Jeff their MVP during both his junior and senior years. The 6’2”, 170-lb. pitcher had a 6-0 record in 1984. The Antioch native, born in 1966, was drafted in the 13th round by the Chicago Cubs, and signed by scout Tom Davis. He played 13 seasons professionally. Jeff’s major league pitching debut on May 31, 1988 against the Cincinnati Reds went down in the Cubs’ record book: a shutout. Tossing a four-hitter, he became the first Cubs pitcher to throw a shutout in his major league debut since Bill Lee on May 7, 1934 against the Phillies. He appeared in 113 games during three seasons in the major leagues – 1988 through 1990 – and had a career ERA of 4.24. His best preseason, 1989, Jeff had an ERA of 3.77 and a 3-1 record. Jeff’s major league career posted a winning lifetime 13-12 record in 295 career innings. Following his playing days, Jeff turned to coaching which he has done since 1994. Jeff is currently coaching in the Arizona minor leagues for the Visalia Oaks. Prior to Arizona, Jeff coached the South Bend Silverhawks and Chico Heat.
Evan was born in Pittsburg in 1972, but called Antioch his home. His prep career at Antioch High included two years of varsity football under coach Steve San chez and two years of track. He received the Duane Putnam Outstanding Lineman Award as a senior, as well as being named All-League, All-East Bay and All Nor-Cal. Evan attended Brigham Young University in Utah on a full scholarship. At BYU he was an All-Conference lineman – dubbed the Cougars’ “pancake maker” for his blocking successes – and a team captain his senior year, making the Kodak All-America Team. He held the bench press record of 510 pounds at BYU, and was later inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2005 and named to its All-Time Lavelle Edwards BYU Team. The 6’4”, 298-lb. guard was drafted into the NFL in the third round by the Chicago Bears and had a six-season career, playing in 32 games. He played with the Bears from 1995-1997. Evan spent part of 1998 with the Tennessee Oilers, but was traded to Atlanta where he played in 10 games. He was on the team roster in 1999’s Super Bowl XXXIII. Although he left pro football in 2001, Evan got a chance to suit up as a player again when he appeared as a “prison guard” defensive lineman in the 2005 film “The Longest Yard,” starring Adam Sandler.
Ron represented Antioch High School well in 1965, becoming the East Bay Player of the Year, and went on to a nearly decade-long career in the NFL. In his senior year, the gifted prep running back was All-County, All-League, All-Metropolitan, All-Northern California and an Honorable Mention All-America selection in addition to being named East Bay Football Player of the Year. He was chosen to play in the 1965 North-South Shrine Game. The honors continued while at Arizona State University where Ron was an All-America honorable mention and named to the All-Western Conference team as a linebacker in 1966 and 1967. He earned full All-America team honors in 1968, when he was tapped to play in the College All-Star game, Hula Bowl, Senior Bowl, and East-West Shrine Game, where he was named top Defensive player. Ron was named to the Sun Devils’ All-Time Football team and to the All-Time Western Athletic Conference team. The 1969 first round draft pick was scooped up by the Houston Oilers and later played for Cincinnati. He was a starter for seven out of nine pro seasons playing for the two teams between 1969-1977. Following his playing days, Ron was inducted into the Arizona State and College Football Halls of Fame and chosen by the Contra Costa Times for its East Bay All-time High School Football Team.
Duane had a lengthy career as both player and coach in the National Football League, but got his first taste of success as a member of the undefeated AHS Panther football squad of 1945 under Coach Jack Danilovich. That year’s prep performance earned the tackler a spot on the Contra Costa County First Team. Following two years in the Army on the tail of WWII, Duane went on to a stellar four-year varsity career at College of the Pacific (now University). While earning his teaching certificate in the early 1950s. His athletic honors earned enshrinement in the UOP Hall of Fame; he was also on the All-Coast Team, All-America Team, and captain in the Sun Bowl. Duane’s pro career began with the L.A. Rams in 1952, where he spent his first eight years in the NFL. He then spent a season as a Dallas Cowboy and a year with the Cleveland Browns before returning to Los Angeles to finish his 11th pro season while playing in 121 games. Duane was selected All-Pro five time before he retired from active playing and began a new career as an NFL coach, spending 11 years divided between the Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Cardinals.
The baseball, football and basketball teams all looked to Butch’s leadership – and golden arm-in 1961-62. He was an Antioch quarterback and pitched on the baseball team. Butch also played basketball, scoring 200 points his senior year. He was named All Nor-Cal and unanimous First Team All-League. The three-sport star was Athlete of the Year at Antioch in 1962. Fresno State University offered him a scholarship for basketball. After one season he transferred to Diablo Valley College where he played basketball, baseball and football. He was named Golden Gate All-Conference quarterback in 1963. In baseball, his ERA of 1.84 became the fourth all-time lowest in 50 years at DVC. Butch was DVC’s Athlete of the Year in 1964. He finally settled for one sport – baseball. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1965. In 1968 he led the Eastern league with most wins (14), most shutouts (6), most completed games (14) and an ERA of 1.76. Butch was the first Antioch player to break into major league baseball when he made his White Sox pitching debut against Minnesota on April 7, 1970. He won 62 minor league games in his professional career. In 2006, “Big Righty” was named to Reading, Pennsylvania’s “AA” Hall of Fame as one of the best all-time pitchers.
Alex set six all-time baseball records at UCLA, but he developed his athletic gifts at Antioch High. His senior year of 1984 was a great prep year for Alex: he was 10-2 with a 1.54 ERA including 89 strikeouts in 61 innings pitched. Named first team All-DVAL for three consecutive years and two years as All-East Bay and All-Northern California, Alex led the AHS Panthers to their North Coast Championship victory against Hayward in the Oakland Coliseum, capping a 23-5 season. In basketball he was named First Team All-DVAL and League MVP as well as the DVAL’s top scorer and named AHS’s Athlete of the Year. Antioch later honored Alex by retiring his #23 baseball jersey. He was named by USA Today as one of the top 25 pro prospects and drafted by the Chicago Cubs straight out of high school in the 20th round in 1984, but chose to attend college first on a scholarship. The UCLA years were fruitful. Alex still holds the single season all-time record for 16 wins, set in 1986 during his sophomore year and was named co-Player of the Year in the Pac 10 and to Baseball America’s First Team. Alex’s unbroken UCLA records, set between 1985-1987 include; career total wins (27), career games started (58), career innings pitched (341), all-time career strikeouts (328) and single season games started (23). The 6’2”, 185-pound, hard-throwing right-hander was drafted again in 1987, the #17 overall pick in the first round by the Toronto Blue Jays. In 1989, his best minor league year, he was 13-7 for Syracuse and was named the International League’s Pitcher of the Year. Alex made his major league debut as a starting pitcher against the Minnesota Twins on May 23, 1989. His nine-year pro career included stints with Kansas City, Seattle, San Diego and Oakland’s franchises, accumulating 59 career wins in the minors.
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.
Baseball earned him early glory as a catcher on the Babe Ruth State Championship team in 1981, however Larry would carve out a career as a professional golfer. Larry played high school JV baseball but focused on varsity golf at Antioch High where he was a co-MVP as a junior. In 1984, he played at San Jose State on a golf scholarship, where he won the PCAA conference championship in his freshman year. Larry transferred to the University of Arizona, winning five individual golf title matches and two Pac-10 Conference titles in his college career, as well as First Team All-America twice. In 1988, Larry was named Pac-10 Player of the Year. His University Of Arizona stroke average as 71.60. He was inducted into the University of Arizona Wall of Fame in 1993. Larry made his Professional Golfers Association debut on Jan. 22, 1989 at the Phoenix Open. He competed in 157 tour events and placed in the top 25 sixteen times and in the top 10 four times. 1991 brought his first PGA victory, shooting 14 under par with a sizzling 63 on the final day to win the Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic, collecting the biggest payday of his career – $54,000.