(In May, 2002, a statue of Pete Beiden was unveiled at the Fresno stadium which bears his name.)
A snapshot from a '50s-era scrapbook came to life Saturday at Beiden Field.
(By David White The Fresno Bee, May 26, 2002)
Fresno State baseball players sat on the ground in a hushed semicircle. Longtime coaches and alumni gathered tightly around.
All eyes beheld the bronzed likeness of Pete Beiden, who wore a chiseled grin as he leaned on his trusty fungo bat.
"If Pete were here today, I know what he'd say," Bulldogs coach Bob Bennett said. " 'I don't know what in the heck the gaw-dang fuss is all about.' "
The pomp and celebration centered on the late Fresno State coach, who was immortalized Saturday with the unveiling of the Pete Beiden Memorial Statue, a 7-foot bronzed masterpiece that now towers behind the third-base dugout.
This year's Fresno State baseball team did its part to honor Beiden, beating Hawaii 6-2 in a Western Athletic Conference game.
Today's season finale will be Bennett's turn to be applauded when he coaches his 2,065th and final game after 34 seasons before retiring as the seventh-winningest coach in Division 1 history.
Before a crowd of more than 50 former Beiden players, local politicians and hundreds of fans, Bennett made it clear Saturday belonged to his Russian-born mentor.
"I don't feel I was ever Pete's favorite player, but I always wanted to be," Bennett said. "He just had a way of drawing you in, and you wanted to please him."
Even if he never spoke to a player on a first-name basis.
Alumnus such as Truman "Tex" Clevenger, Fibber Hirayama and Jack Hannah reminisced how Beiden only used nicknames, whether it was a hometown or an adjective of the language termed "Beidenese."
"He called me Ivanhoe, Visalia, Clem, and a lot of other things I won't tell you," Clevenger said. "He just had this charisma. He'd call you anything, and you'd respond. I'm sure he knew everybody's name, though. I'll never, never forget him."
Neither will anyone who gets a glimpse of the Beiden statue, which drew gasps and applause after a small host of former players and friends pulled the tarp off.
With detailed wrinkles in the jersey and well-defined facial features, the handiwork of sculptor Will Behrengs drew raves from young and old.
Bulldogs left fielder Christian Hallaian called it "awesome." Third baseman Casey McGehee labeled it "sweet."
"[Beiden's] always remember in people's eyes as a rough, tough guy," said Tom Sommers, a former player who spearheaded the $125,000 project. "But those of us who knew him, knew him as a loving father."
Beiden (1908-2000) was 600-268 in 21 seasons from 1948-66 and 1968-69. His 1951 team's 36-4 mark still ranks as the fourth-best winning percentage (.900) in NCAA history, and the 1959 team finished a program-best third place in the College World Series.
Beiden wasn't big on names, but most in Valley will remember his
(The Fresno Bee, March 8, 2000)
Pete Beiden had a choice to make in 1948.
Take a job offer as manager of the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League. Or take a coaching position at Fresno State . Beiden's wife, Martha, advised her husband to take the job with the Bulldogs. He did. And although he already had a formidable baseball history, 1948 marked a proud era in Bulldogs history that continued through Beiden's reign as coach.
Beiden died late Monday morning at 92, and his friends spoke fondly of him as they remembered the man some called the Casey Stengel of college baseball.
"I remember that he was a coach ahead of his time. A man who knew all the fundamentals of baseball and how to get it across to his players," said Len Bourdet, a former longtime Fresno City College coach who played for Beiden from 1948-50. "He was one of a kind. He had his own Beiden-isms."
Tom Sommers, who provided the anecdote from 1948 and played for Beiden at Fresno State from 1962 to 1964, recalled some of those: "hot dog" was something he called everyone; "sandblowers" for short players; "common denominator" for a reference point for everything you do in life. And if he didn't use those, he'd call you "lad," "Albert," or "dooflopper."
Ray O'Canto, who played at Sequoias in 1979 before transferring to Fresno State, remembers when Beiden assisted longtime friend Bert Holt at COS . "Oh, God, he was one of the greatest human beings I ever met in my life," he said. "What I'll always remember about Pete, he never called anybody by their first name; it was always by high school, like, 'Hey Bullard, hey Redwood, hey Whitney.' I also remember his little white truck with shovels in the back, a fungo bat.
"He was just there to help the guys and be around the game. And when he started to talk, you would just see a migration of players come over there to listen. They'd listen for hours upon hours and no one would ever say a word, just listen to his sage advice about the game of baseball." Holt, who played for Beiden in 1956, said, "He's a brilliant person, the most remarkable individual I've ever run across in my life. He was, baseball-wise, the greatest fundamentalist, and the things he could see in baseball with kids å us coaches could see if a kid had a problem, but he could put his finger on the solution right away."
Sommers remembers that Beiden was also a farmer who loved working on his ranch. And that he enjoyed reading, especially about history.
Beiden and Martha were married for 69 years. She died Feb. 24, 1997 .
Sommers said a public service will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday at Northwest Church and the burial will be at Fresno Memorial Gardens in a private ceremony. Remembrances may be sent to the Bulldog Foundation Endowment Baseball Fund, The Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame or The Nazareth House.
JOHN PETER BEIDEN
"Pete" The Man,The Coach, The Legend
Pete was born January 30, 1908, in Dinkel, Russia, to Mary and Frederick Beiden. One of 13 children, the Beiden family, including six children, came to Fresno in 1912, and built a two room home - with one door - seven people living in the home - near Edison High School. One daughter, Pauline, was born in the United States. Interestingly and coincidentally, Pete's future wife, Martha Becktold and her family, moved from Russia to Fresno in 1912. The Beiden family moved to Sanger in 1919, and Pete was a star athlete at Sanger High School.
Baseball was not his first love at that time. That all changed on Pete's first date with Martha, February 14, 1925, as Martha's brother began to instruct Pete on the fundamentals of catching. Pete and his brother, Hank Beiden, who was three years older than Pete, both had athletic scholarships to Oregon State, but they opted to follow their high school coach, Frank Trine, to Redlands University, where they both played on the 1931 Championship Baseball Team. Their brother, Fred, worked with their Dad in order that Pete and Hank could go to school and play athletics. Pete's Mother died at age 93. His Father died at age 77. Pete graduated from Redlands University in 1932.
His coaching career began in 1934, at Orosi High School . In those years, Pete coached almost every sport at the school. In 1937, Pete went to Tulare High School and coached a diminutive southpaw, Vic Lombardi, who went on to pitch for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1946, Pete moved on to the College of the Sequoias, where he coached for 1-1/2 years. That same summer, he was the Playing Manager for the Visalia Cubs in the California League. Pete was offered the job as Manager of the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League in 1948. The following day, Fresno State College offered Pete the Baseball Coaching position for the Bulldogs. Although the contract at F.S.C. was for less money, Martha advised him to take the F.S.C. job. He did and the rest is history!!!
Pete coached the Bulldogs from 1948 to 1966. He took a one year sabbatical in 1967, and his former pupil and player, Bob Bennett, stepped in for a year. Pete returned to coach F.S.C. 1968-69. Pete's overall record at F.S.C. was 601 wins - 268 losses - .691 percent. He never had a losing season. In the last 52 years, F.S.U. has had only two Baseball Coaches, Beiden and Bennett. The 1951 Bulldogs had the best winning percentage of Pete's teams - 36 and 4 - .900 percent. The 1959 Bulldogs were 41-13 and ranked #9 in the nation, and finished third in the College World Series. Pete's Bulldogs won ten Conference Championships.
Following his retirement from F.S.U., Pete went to C.O.S. to assist his longtime friend and pupil, Bert Holt, from 1970 to 1988. Pete Beiden became a baseball legend, not only in Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley , but throughout the baseball world. Pete's in depth knowledge of the fundamentals of baseball and his ability to teach young athletes produced not only outstanding players and great teams, but also a long line of successful coaches, following in the tradition of their coach and mentor. Pete's proteges coached in high schools, junior colleges, colleges and professional baseball. Truman Clevenger and Ted Wills, Jr., became major league pitchers. Jimmy Williams is the current manager of the Boston Red Sox. A long list of players played AAA baseball and on other minor league teams. The tradition does not stop there, because numerous ball players are playing or have played in the Major Leagues, after being coached by "Pete's Pupils".
Pete taught boys to become men. He taught men to become ball players and he taught ball players to become Coaches. What a legacy! Not just about baseball, but about life. Pete was inducted into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame in 1964, and inducted into the College Coaches Hall of Fame in 1972. He was inducted into the F.S.U. Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991. Pete became close to many baseball legends - Branch Rickey, Tom Downey , Joe Gordon, Ted Williams, Mike Garcia, Rod Deadeux, and John Scolinas, to name a few.
One of his great loves was music. Pete and Martha's son, Roland, was a renowned pianist and teacher. Pete's favorite singer has always been his former star ball player, Jack Hannah.
Known as the Casey Stengel of college baseball, Pete spoke "Beidenese". Everyone was a "hot dog". Players short in stature were "sandblowers". Pete was never good with names, so most were called "lad" or "Albert", or you may be called a "dooflopper". This could refer to a person or almost anything. A very handy word to have in your vocabulary! You had to have a "common denominator" - a reference point for everything you do in life. Pete was also a farmer. He was a hard worker and loved his ranch. He loved animals, especially dogs. Pete loved people, especially young people and children. He was a great baseball coach, and baseball was a big part of his life. Foremost, Pete Beiden was a husband, a father, a neighbor, a close friend, a brother, and an uncle. Pete, an avid reader, especially enjoyed reading about history and wars. In recent years, both Pete and Martha remarked how wonderful it was to have so many friends. A very humble man, not really comfortable with large gatherings, Pete was honored to have the F.S.U. Baseball Field carry his name. In April 1998, Pete excitedly participated in the opening game of the Fresno Grizzlies inaugural season. Pete remarked, "I can't believe this is happening to me. It's unbelievable"!
Pete and Martha were married December 28, 1927 . Martha died February 24, 1997, after 69 years of marriage. Their son, Roland, died in 1980. Pete is survived by one sister, Pauline Gomas of Hawaii, and a host of family members and friends. Martha's father said a prayer at dinner each day, "Come Lord Jesus and be our guest and bless what you have bestowed upon us". Pete carried this prayer in his wallet for the rest of his life. Not a church goer, but raised by his family to have a belief in God, Pete made the most important decision of his life in February 1996. He accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. He was prepared to meet his Lord, when asked what he was going to say to Jesus, without any hesitation Pete answered, "Thank you for being my friend".
Visitation will be held at Stephens & Bean Chapel on Saturday, March 11, 2000 , from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. , and on Sunday, the 12th, from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. Pete Beiden, the family man - Pete Beiden, the coach - Pete Beiden, the friend. The legacy continues. Memorial Services will be held at the Northwest Church on Monday, March 13, 2000, at 10:30 A.M.