Robert Warner

Bob Warner has been both friend and foe to Crawford baseball players and coaches. He was the supervisor at Colina Park, where many future Crawford players played recreationally. He was the junior varsity coach and later the varsity coach at Hoover High School when the Cardinals and Colts were archrivals. In 2001 and 2002, he coached Crawford's baseball team.

After Warner's grandparents passed away, his father purchased a home in the Mount Helix area and the family lived there for three years before moving to the Florida Canyon area of San Diego. Warner attended Grossmont High School as a freshman during the 1946-47 school years and then attended San Diego High School from 1947 to 1950.

Warner helped develop the city's first recreational baseball league and managed more than 15 years in that program. Warner became Hoover's JV coach under varsity coach Jerry Bartow.

Warner and Bartow worked well together but sometimes disagreed. Bartow asked Warner to call pitches. "I called some of them," Warner said. "I don't like to call pitches. I think the kids have got to learn how to pitch their own game."

When Warner was a head coach, he let the catcher call the pitches with the pitcher having the last say.

Warner proved Bartow wrong at Crawford's expense in 1969. Preston McCracken played hockey until the CIF baseball season started.  He did not play Winter ball for Hoover and was not in baseball shape. "Jerry had kicked him off the team," Warner said.

Warner advised Bartow to let McCracken pitch. "All he had to do was throw his glove out on the field and he'd beat Crawford," Warner said. When McCracken was in high school, the students living in Allied Gardens attended Hoover. "I lived in Allied Gardens, so I knew who he was," Warner said. "He pitched JV games against Crawford and he never lost."

On May 13, 1969, McCracken threw a no-hitter against Crawford, throwing 87 pitches and striking out six Colts, including Rod Boone for the final out. McCracken next faced Crawford in the CIF championship game on May 29, 1969, this time not allowing the Colts any hits until the fifth inning and only allowing three hits in Hoover's 4-0 win over the Colts.

After the 1975 season Bartow left Hoover to take the job as Southwestern College's baseball coach, and Warner served as Hoover's varsity coach from 1976 through 1983.  The first Hoover-Crawford game with Warner as Hoover's coach took place on April 2, 1976.  Crawford scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the sixth inning when Scott Brown doubled, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on a sacrifice fly. "It was a good game," Warner said.

The sacrifice fly occurred after Hoover right fielder Bo Hill made a diving catch in foul territory. "We were yelling out to him to let the ball go and he just couldn't hear us. He got excited," Warner said. "He learned from the mistake."

Hoover pitcher Ken Lahners struck out nine Colts and allowed only two hits, including Brown's double. Crawford pitcher Curtis Burkhead allowed the Cardinals just one hit, a sixth-inning single by Jerry Everette. The loss was Hoover's first of the season after five wins. "Curtis pitched a very good ballgame and Crawford had a good ballclub, and it was just the way things should go between those two schools," Warner said.

Crawford would also win the May 11 match at Hoover by a 4-1 score, but Hoover and Patrick Henry would share the Eastern League title with 11-5 records while Crawford's 9-7 record gave the Colts third place. Crawford would end up reaching the CIF championship game in 1976 while Hoover was eliminated in the second round, losing 4-3 to Helix in eight innings after a 4-3 win over Kearny in the first round. The Cardinals' final record in 1976 was 20-6 while Crawford posted an overall record of 17-10.

When Mira Mesa and Serra began play in 1977, Hoover was moved to the Western League. Although Crawford and Hoover were not league opponents between 1977 and 1979, they played one non-league game each year. On March 31, 1977, Lahners allowed Crawford only one hit but two runs while Burkhead shut out the Cardinals on six hits.  Warner's first win over Crawford as a varsity coach was at Crawford's field on March 28, 1978; Colts pitchers Kevin Wiggins and Kenny Vasquez allowed Hoover only two hits but four runs while Alan Goodwin allowed the Colts two runs on four hits. (In November 1977 Goodwin pitched to Ted Williams when the Hall of Famer returned to Hoover High School as part of a documentary; Goodwin earned the distinction of giving up Williams' final home run on Hoover's field.) On March 31, 1979, Hoover scored in the bottom of the seventh for a 7-6 victory over Crawford.

Crawford was moved to the Western League in 1980, and Hoover swept both games against the Colts that year. Both of those games lasted eight innings. Crawford spent 1981 in the Eastern League, making that season the only one between 1958 and 1993 in which the Colts and Cardinals did not play each other. (In addition to 1981 and 1994, Hoover and Crawford did not face each other in 1997 or 1998.) 

When University City High School opened, the City Conference was split into three leagues. Christian moved from the Grossmont League to the new Central League, and Crawford and Hoover were Central League charter members. The first Central League game between Crawford and Hoover took place at Crawford on March 30, 1982, and saw Hoover take a 31-2 victory. "That day we just couldn't do anything wrong," Warner said.

"I pulled all the starters out," Warner said. "Not all the starters out, because I didn't have that many players." Two of those players, Eddie Williams and Mark Davis, would later play in the major leagues. "They could hit. They were good ballplayers. That was probably the best team I had," Warner said. 

Williams and Davis both hit grand slams in the third inning of the rout over Crawford, in which Hoover scored 14 runs. Currie Rigg's grand slam accounted for nine runs in the fourth inning.

When Warner coached Crawford in 2002, the Colts won a 21-1 game at Hoover's expense. "I hated putting them into the paper. That embarrassed everybody," Warner said of lopsided games.

In the April 22, 1982, game at Hoover, Crawford had a 7-6 lead before the Cardinals scored eight times in the bottom of the fifth for a 14-7 victory. The final Hoover-Crawford game of 1982 was played at Crawford on May 11, 1982 and saw the Colts score two runs on three hits while Hoover was held to one run on four hits. The Cardinals won the inaugural Central League championship with a 9-3 league record.

The Central League teams played two games against each other in 1983. Hoover's took an 8-3 victory May 9 and a 16-8 win May 17. The Cardinals once again won the Central League title, this time with a 9-1 record.

"I was very fortunate to have good kids," Warner said. "We had a good league."

Warner retired as Hoover's coach after the 1983 season. His son had moved on to junior college. "I wanted to see him play," Warner said.

Hoover had an 8-4 record against Crawford in Warner's 12 games as the Cardinals' coach.

"I was very lucky. I had good kids and kids who wanted to play ball," Warner said. "You have to have talent to win."

Warner transferred to Pershing Junior High School in 1984. He spent two years at Pershing and then a year at the San Diego Unified School District administrative office before returning to Hoover, where he coached wrestling, junior varsity basketball, and football. When he was not teaching physical education he taught biology, math, and health and safety, and he was Hoover's Associated Student Body advisor. Warner also served as Hoover's athletic director.

Warner had coached wrestling to get into Hoover. "I was very fortunate," he said.

Warner's baseball history also includes scouting for the San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays. In the 1990s, a Bishop's High School parent asked Warner to teach his sons how to pitch. Warner helped the youngsters and then accepted an offer to coach at Bishop's. He later agreed to serve as the Bishop's head coach, staying two years in that position. He won a league championship with five freshmen. "It was a good situation at that time because all they wanted me to do was teach their boys how to play baseball," Warner said, noting that the Bishop's parents did not have expectations of their sons playing professional baseball.

The parents, however, began arguing about a new ballpark. "It was starting to get a little bitter between the parents," Warner said.

Warner then spent two years as a Grossmont College assistant coach under Ed Olsen.  Bob Lovato left Crawford after the 2000 season to coach at Madison, and Crawford vice-principal John Johnson asked Warner to coach the Colts. "I told him I would do it for two years, no more than two years," Warner said.

Crawford's two assistant coaches and the junior varsity coach remained. "We had a little continuity," Warner said. By that time, the children of some of Warner's Hoover High School players were playing baseball and living in the Crawford area. The students' fathers wanted them to play for Warner, although many mothers did not want their sons attending Crawford. "It was hard getting players coming in," Warner said.

"It just fell down," Warner said of the Crawford program. "They just weren't good enough to compete with the better schools."

Josh Womack was good enough to be drafted by the Padres in the second round of the 2002 draft after playing at Crawford. "Josh had all the tools to be a good ballplayer," Warner said. The Womack family was considering another school so that their son could have more exposure, but Warner promised that exposure. "They stuck it out," Warner said.

Crawford scrimmaged Francis Parker at the start of Womack's senior season in 2002, and the scrimmage drew approximately 30 scouts.

Warner also reached out to the Crawford alumni. In 2001 and 2002, Crawford had a pre-season baseball banquet that allowed alumni to meet the current players and allowed the current players to learn about the school's baseball history. The two banquets were held at the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple.

Warner also used the banquets as a fundraiser. "Whatever it cost, I just added $10 to the thing," he said. Some alumni provided donations in addition to the banquet costs. Former players and coaches from other schools also became guests at the banquets. "The other schools had started showing up and really enjoyed being there," Warner said. The banquets were discontinued after Warner retired. "It takes a lot of work," Warner said. "I wish they would have continued them."

The Fallbrook Baseball Booster Club's primary fundraiser for the baseball program is a pre-season golf tournament. Between 2001 and 2006, the Fallbrook Baseball Booster Club also hosted a home run derby, which provided some funds for Fallbrook High School's baseball program but primarily recognized Fallbrook resident Duke Snider, who hit 407 regular-season major league home runs and an additional 11 homers in World Series play. The inaugural Duke Snider-Upper Deck Home Run Derby took place at Fallbrook High School's baseball field on February 18, 2001. Eighty-five players from 31 high schools participated including Crawford juniors Josh Womack, Jason Simpson, and John Lopez and Crawford sophomore James Bassett. "The kids wanted to go," Warner said.

Schools were allowed to send up to four players, although if more than two players from a school competed the two whose home runs would count in the team competition had to be designated prior to the contest. In the preliminary round, players were allowed six outs, defined as any swing, which was not a home run. The individual semifinal round took the top 20 from the preliminary round with a sudden-death tiebreaker resolving ties for 20th place. Fifteen players hit at least four home runs while ten, including Womack and one Mater Dei player who left prior to the semifinals, hit three. Womack made an out in the tiebreaker while four of the other eight players hit at least one home run before making an out and advanced to the semifinals. Five players reached the finals, and Monte Vista's Joey Metropolous eventually won the individual competition.

Upper Deck donated the $3,000 prize money, allowing $1,000 apiece to the school of the first-place individual and first-place team and $500 apiece for the school of the second-place individual and team. The chance to earn money for the program was one reason Warner took the opportunity to participate, but the opportunity to swing bats was also an important reason. "Give them as much experience as you can," Warner said.  "That's what it's all about."

Although the outfield fence at Fallbrook High School's field, which during a subsequent Home Run Derby was renamed Duke Snider Field, is 14 feet high, the foul lines are 314 feet from home plate, the power alleys are 334 feet away from the plate, and the distance to dead center is only 336 feet. "Fallbrook's got a short fence.  It's a short ballpark," Warner said. Warner did not send any players to the 2002 Duke Snider-Upper Deck Home Run Derby. "They were kind of disappointed," Warner said.

Crawford began the 2001 season with the Bully's East Invitational tournament. The season opener took place on March 3, 2001, at Sweetwater. The Red Devils scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to trigger the ten-run mercy rule and take an 11-1 victory. The Colts then traveled to Clairemont High School for a tournament game March 7, and Warner's first victory as a Crawford coach was a 3-2 win over the Chieftains in which Womack homered in the seventh inning for the winning run.

Warner's first Harbor League game was an 8-1 home loss to San Diego on April 4, 2001.  Crawford's next league game was at Hoover April 6, and Warner's players defeated their coach's former team by a 15-4 margin (Crawford scored twice in the top of the seventh, so the game was not shortened by the mercy rule).

On April 9, Pauline Kern became the first girl to play on Crawford's varsity baseball team.  In the second inning of the Lions Tournament game against Kearny, Kern relieved Lopez on the mound. Although Kern allowed only an unearned run in her varsity debut, the other two Crawford pitchers gave up eight runs and the Komets took a 9-2 victory.

"Pauline was a surprise," Warner said. "She was the talk of Southern California there for quite a while." Warner had expected Kern to spend the 2001 season on the junior varsity team. "We were so short of ballplayers," Warner said. "I always like to bring people up from JV."

Lopez had been walking batters, and the bases were loaded when Kern entered the game. "I just got tired and I said 'Pauline, warm up'," Warner said. Eventually Warner replaced Lopez with Kern. "I said 'just throw strikes, don't walk anybody'," Warner said.

Kern struck out her first batter and then obtained a double play.  Warner began utilizing her more often. When Lena Phay started having problems at shortstop, Warner moved Phay to the outfield and utilized Kern as a shortstop. "She did an outstanding job.  She was the best shortstop I had except for Josh," Warner said.

Although Kern made Crawford's baseball team as a freshman, she spent her final high school years on the Colts' softball team. "She made the right choice going back to softball," Warner said.

As for Phay, Warner noted that he had as much speed as Womack. "He could have been a good ballplayer," Warner said of Phay. "He just couldn't hit."

In defense of the Vietnamese-born Phay, before he moved to the United States he did not live in a country baseball scouts frequent. Another player who tried out for Crawford's baseball team while Warner was coaching was an immigrant from Africa who did not have a glove when he came to practice the first day. "We were afraid he was going to get killed when we hit fly balls to him," Warner said.

That player eventually played on Crawford's junior varsity team, although he did not have the skills to play at the varsity level. "He came around quite a bit," Warner said.

Crawford closed out the 2001 season with a 4-2 home win over Hoover.  The Colts concluded Warner's first Crawford season with a 6-20 overall record, including a 4-9 Harbor League mark, which tied Lincoln for third place among the league's five teams. Womack batted .409 with seven home runs, 15 stolen bases, and 97 strikeouts while pitching.

Crawford opened its 2002 season March 8 at Holtville. Womack threw a two-hit shutout and the Colts earned a 1-0 victory. The team stayed in Imperial County for a doubleheader at Central the following day, although Central won both games.

The 21-1 win over Hoover on May 9 would turn out to be Warner's final win. The Colts lost their final two games, closing out Warner's career May 16 with a 2-1 home loss against Coronado. Crawford finished with a 7-18 overall record, and the Colts' 6-7 Harbor League mark placed third among the five teams. Womack earned Harbor League player of the year honors.

"It was quite an experience," Warner said of his Crawford coaching career.

"We were able to get a JV team there," Warner said. "We were able to practice at Crawford without going to Colina Del Sol."

Warner considers such stability a step in the positive direction. "The wins and losses just didn't come. The losses came, but not the wins," he said.

Warner turned 70 in 2003. "I didn't want to coach when I was 70," he said.

Warner's current sports involvement is as a spectator watching his grandchildren play various sports. "We're just having a great time," he said.