Rancho High School alumni, from left, Tommy Barrett, Mike Guerra
and James Hoodiman celebrate after getting an inning-ending out during
Monday’s alumni baseball game at the school.
Thu, Jan 24, 2008 (2 a.m.)
During a three-year period from 1974-76 Rancho High won two state
championships and had nine players selected in the Major League
Baseball draft. Four made it all the way to The Bigs (players in
- Marty Barrett
- Tommy Barrett
- Mike Maddux
- Mike Morgan
- Mark Bloomfield
- Mike Guerra
- John Huntington
- Perry Swanson
- Jeff Wolfe
Rancho's State Championships
- 1959: Jack Dailey
- 1960: John Tartan
- 1961: John Tartan
- 1965: Bob Peck
- 1969: Bob Reed
- 1973: Bob Reed
- 1974: Tex Anthony
- 1976: Tex Anthony
I had a friend, was a big baseball player
back in high school
He could throw that speedball by you
Make you look like a fool boy
— Bruce Springsteen, “Glory Days”
For my money, the sound of horsehide meeting composite aluminum will
never equal the sound of horsehide meeting northern white ash. But
you could tell by the way it resonated from foul pole to foul pole
before settling in that place near the top of your spine that makes
the hair on the back of your neck stand up that Mike Villa, as those
old baseball announcers were fond of saying, got all of this one.
The ball rose on a majestic arc and eventually landed beyond the right-field
fence on 21st Street, where it caromed around the fourplexes that serve
as the batter’s eye at Rancho High’s new baseball field.
No can o’ corn, this. It was a leadoff home run.
What a way to start a ballgame!
After Villa had touched ’em all, somebody from ranchoalumni.org
began handing out green buttons with a white ram’s head in the
middle. As souvenirs of the inaugural alumni baseball game celebrating
Rancho’s proud baseball tradition go, a commemorative button
was better than a sore arm or a pulled hamstring.
But it was nowhere near as cool as the baseball somebody was going
to find some 400 feet from home plate when he came home from work Monday
Villa, who played center field and captained the 1997 Rams, was one
of close to 100 former players who turned out for the baseball game
and barbecue organized by Tom Pletsch, the current Rancho coach, and
Tex Anthony, the affable Amarillo, Texas, native who coached the Rams
to state championships in 1974 and 1976.
Those were Rancho’s seventh and eighth baseball titles. They
also were the last ones before urban sprawl transformed the inner-city
school that practically divides downtown from North Las Vegas from
contenders into something less than that.
A new school and new athletic facilities would imply that better days
lie ahead for Rancho. But you could tell by the smiles on the faces
of these old Rams that although glory days may pass you by, it sure
is a lot of fun to recall them.
Everywhere you turned, somebody was shaking hands with an old teammate
or elbowing him in the ribs or asking whatever happened to that $20
bill he lent him in ’69.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve seen almost every one
of them,” said one of the older guys whose baseball pants still
fit. Sort of.
It was Marty Barrett, arguably the most famous of the old Rams, if
you don’t count the ones who made up the Fearsome Foursome in
In 1986, Barrett set a major league record with 24 postseason hits
when he played second base for the Boston Red Sox. Trivia buffs will
recall that Barrett was standing no more than 15 feet from one of the
most famous plays in World Series history, the one that transpired
when that little nubber off the bat of Mookie Wilson somehow trickled
through Bill Buckner’s legs during Game 6 of the World Series.
On Monday Barrett, 49, stood next to somebody a little less infamous.
Between innings, and sometimes during them, he and kid brother Tommy,
who had a couple of cups of coffee with the Phillies in the 1980s,
tried to put names with familiar faces and expanding waistlines.
The Barretts were two of four players from those celebrated Rancho
teams of the 1970s who made it all the way to the big leagues. The
others were Mike Maddux, Greg’s big brother, and Mike Morgan,
who pitched for 12 major league teams in a career that spanned parts
of four decades.
“When those guys were little they used to come over on Christmas
Day and want to play baseball,” said Manny Guerra, the former
Rancho American Legion coach beginning his 26th year as a St. Louis
Guerra’s son, Mike, was one of the Rancho Nine nine players
from those Rams teams were drafted by major league clubs in the days
when Rancho was to prep baseball what the Mississippi Delta was to
slide guitar players.
“All those kids came out of the same neighborhood, which is
just amazing,” Guerra said.
So, too, was watching John Tartan’s reaction every time somebody
with a rusty soup bone would sidle up to say hello.
Tartan coached Rancho to state baseball titles in 1960 and ’61
and was the winning coach in the first state championship game ever
played in Nevada. Norm Craft, who would later coach Rancho and go on
to become athletic director of the Clark Country School District during
a 33-year career as a coach and educator, hit a grand slam against
Fallon to lift Basic to the title in 1955.
John Tartan is 83 years old. Next to that day in 2005 when they named
an elementary school after him, he couldn’t remember a better
one than Monday.
“Oh boy, this is so good,” he said as his former players
lined up like ducks on a pond to greet him.
If you looked close, you could almost see the glory days pass by in
the blink of an old coach’s eye.