1952: No, No, Not Again!

The dreaded coin toss was back.

The flip of a silver dollar had elevated La Jolla into the Southern California playoffs after a first-place tie with San Diego in 1951.

The ubiquitous toss was facilatated by a similar coin,

Ubiquitous coin controlled playoff destinies.

Now, with a week remaining in the regular season and La Jolla and San Diego again headed for a tie for the City Prep League title, school honchos faced a storm of criticism.

“Flip For Playoff Berth Under Fire”, screamed a headline at the top of the first sports page in the Evening Tribune on Nov. 18, 1952, as teams prepared for the final week of play.

Only one team from the City Prep League would be invited to the 10-team Upper Division, Central Group playoffs.

The idea of a legislative tie-breaker, again, was roundly booed.  A simple solution would have been to choose the winner of the teams’ regular-season game.


Trouble loomed after San Diego defeated La Jolla, 23-6, but lost to Point Loma, 14-12, while La Jolla defeated Point Loma, 26-6.

Point Loma became a non-factor, upset by Helix, 26-7, and out of contention.

It was not all football at La Jolla for Dick Greenfield (left) and Art Luppino, hanging out with coeds Margaret Foster and Peggy Boyd, from left.

It was not all football at La Jolla for Dick Greenfield (left) and Art Luppino, hanging out with coeds Margaret Foster and Peggy Boyd, from left.

San Diego and La Jolla each finished with a 5-1 record, after the Vikings had beaten Kearny, 28-0, and San Diego whipped Hoover, 26-6.

The postgame drama took place in La Jolla coach Walt Harvey’s office in the Vikings’ gymnasium.

To the particular disgust of San Diego coach Duane Maley, La Jolla won the coin flip again.  The Cavemen had a two-season league record of 10-2 and were 14-3 overall but with nothing to show.


The seven City Prep League principals voted in June to invoke the coin flip option, going against themselves, as it turned out.

Writer Gene Earl of The San  Diego Union revealed that in a spring meeting the reps unanimously voted, 7-0, in favor of tossing the toss.

“The official vote, however, was ignored in the group’s next meeting,” Earl wrote. “Faced with such an issue once, 99 out of 100 leagues would have worked to eliminate such future decisions, but the ball was fumbled.”


San Diego was a sad winner after its usual victory over Hoover.

The coin toss news created  a bitter climax for the Cavers, who were in their best form of the season.

Finley ran long distance for Cavers.

Finley ran long distance for Cavers.

Ardell Finley gained 179 yards in 9 carries and broke a 96-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter as the Hillers hammered the Cardinals with 300 yards rushing in 36 attempts.

Jerry Brucker of the Evening Tribune added a bummer when he wrote that “maybe San Diegans have outgrown their interest in scholastic sports.”

Brucker estimated an attendance of 7,500 for the game, which would have been the lowest in the history of the rivalry that began in 1933.

There had been only 8,000 on hand in the World War II season of 1942.


La Jolla did not disappoint.  The Vikings nudged El Monte and its 220-pound-average offensive line, 7-6, in its first playoff, then battled South Pasadena on the road before bowing, 13-6, in the semifinals.

The Vikings would not be competitive for a playoff berth for another decade.

The opening of Mission Bay in 1953 re-zoned  enrollment boundaries and cut off La Jolla’s talent stream from Pacific Beach and Mission Beach.

Walt Harvey left La Jolla the following school year and moved across town to begin shaping the program at the new Lincoln High.


Southern Prep League champion Fallbrook was dethroned after self-reporting a CIF Southern Section violation.

The Warriors forfeited two league games and three nonleague contests after coach Carlin Coffman learned that fullback Eddie Mojado had been playing Sunday baseball for the Pala Indian Reservation team.

Fallbrook's end-of-season saga told in headlines...

Fallbrook’s end-of-season saga told in headlines…

CIF rules state that athletes cannot participate in more than one organized sport at the same time.  Even if the second sport is not part of an interscholastic program.

(There was precedent, as in 1933, when San Diego forfeited every game in  a 19-3 baseball season after it was discovered that Cavers Chet and Swede Smith had played under assumed names in a meaningless game the previous summer in Imperial Valley).


Fallbrook victories over Mountain Empire and Army-Navy were vacated, leaving the Warriors with a 2-2 record and second place behind Army-Navy.

But league representatives  dissed Army-Navy’s Cadets and notified the Southern Section that Fallbrook would be the league’s playoff representative.

Fallbrook then made a U turn.

CIF SS commissioner Bill Russell was “quite surprised” when Evening Tribune sportswriter Mel Zikes called Russell to inform him that he had received word from Fallbrook principal John Brinegar that the Coffman-coached eleven was bailing from the playoffs.

...in the playoffs, then out.

…in the playoffs, then out.

Russell thought it odd that the school official would go to the media before alerting Russell’s office and before the commissioner could pass the news along to Chula Vista and Laguna Beach.

Fallbrook was scheduled for a first-round bye in the Southern Group (small schools) tournament and would have met the winner of Chula Vista-Laguna Beach.


Principal Brinegar gave Zikes a lengthy explanation, citing injuries, scholastic deficiencies, and that some players had dropped out of school.

Fallbrook also was left with only “four players in the backfield this morning and only two of them were starters.”

If one thought bossman Brinegar  went out of his way to explain why the Warriors were bolting the postseason or that the school had an anti-playoff agenda, consider that after the regular season a year later, the Warriors declined a playoff berth again.

Coach Garrett Arbelbide said that decision was made by the school before the season began.


Not a new Mercury, but Helix liked its Merk.

Merk raised Helix' hopes.

Headed  for USC, Merk led Helix.

With Ernie Merk at the wheel, Helix’ emerged as the most improved team in  City Prep League.

The Highlanders, 1-7 in their inaugural 1951 season, improved to 4-4-1, tripled their scoring total, and knocked favored Point Loma out of the City Prep League race.


Merk scored 74 points, second to the 187 of Oceanside’s C.R. Roberts, and was the CPL player of the year.  The USC-bound senior was joined on the all-Southern California second team by Arizona-bound Art Luppino and Oregon State-bound Dick Corrick of La Jolla.

Helix tackle Carlos Fackrell earned first team all-CIF honors, Grossmont end Karl Grassl second team, and San Diego center Eddie Boyle third team.  Honorable mention went to San Diego end Tom Cofield, La Jolla tackle Chuck Smith, Hoover center Jack Argent, and San Diego back Ardell Finley.

Player of Year was Santa Monica quarterback Ronnie Knox.

Another first-team selection was end Ron Wheatcroft of South Pasadena, who starred at California and was prominent in San Diego business circles for many years.

Boyle anchored Cavemen's lines.

Boyle anchored Cavemen’s lines.

C.R. Roberts was the lower division player of the year.


A total of 368 candidates turned out for the first day of practice at  seven city high schools, but that figure shrunk in comparison to  the estimated 1,300 band members, cheerleaders, and flag corps that entertained before the 14th annual carnival.

This season’s event was dedicated to Edward Taylor, the San Diego High vice principal who conceived the extravaganza in 1939.

A last minute emergency resulted in Frank Rustich’s replacing Biff Gardner as game referee. Gardner rushed to his wife‘s side after she was in an auto accident near San Clemente.

A crowd estimated at 24,000 saw the three West teams of Point Loma, Grossmont, and San Diego defeat the East’s Hoover, Kearny, and La Jolla, 14-7.

Point Loma outscored Hoover, 14-0, in the second period as Hal Krupens scored on runs of 72 and 2 yards and Manuel Ventura added two, point-after placements.

Kirby Woods’ six-yard pass to Robert Meals provided the East with its touchdown.

For the first time, city teams had a played a complete game before the carnival, thanks to the way the calendar fell.

Point Loma's Krupens, on 73-yard touchdown run against Kearny, also ran for long TD in City League carnival.

Point Loma’s Krupens, on 73-yard touchdown run against Kearny, also ran for long TD in carnival.


Listed in the Evening Tribune as one of 11 returning lettermen for Oceanside was single-wing quarterback “Herb Meyers”.

Herb Meyer, same guy, minus the “s”, became Oceanside’s head coach seven years later, embarking on a Hall of Fame career which ended 44 years and 338 victories later.


–St. Augustine’s Hank Zumstein scored on a 77-yard run in the Saints’ 19-7 loss to  Coronado.  Nothing to get overly excited about,  but the feat was reported in The San Diego Union the next day as being accomplished by Hank “Sunstin”.

There are several possible reasons as to why Zumstein’s named was botched:

–The game was at Coronado and probably was called in by a student from the host school not familiar with the visiting team’s names.

–Newspaper sports departments are filled with activity and noise on Friday nights during the school year.  The reporter taking the call may have been hard of hearing, causing the  misspelled name.

–Third and most often the reason, the man answering  one of the sports desk telephones probably spent his lunch hour across the street from the newspaper’s office at the “Press Room”, a notorious watering hole of the era.

Chances are the staffer was not of a clear mind when he returned.


Mrs. Mary Nettles, a decade later, knew the frustration of the Zumstein family and other proud parents, whose offspring names were routinely butchered in newspaper accounts.

Mrs. Nettles’ son Graig alternately was identified as Craig, Greg, Gregg, and even Gary during his days as a San Diego High basketball and baseball star.


A newcomer to the La Jolla High squad asked coach Walt Harvey for jersey number 57.  Harvey wondered why.  Players usually request more popular numerals, such as 7, 11, 13, etc.

Linebacker Dick Thorson (left) is weighed by quarterback and co-captain Dick Corrick as defensive back Steve Gray kibitzes before La Jolla met South Pasadena.

The coach checked his roster sheet.  The newcomer’s name was John Hinds.

You know, Heinz “57 Varieties”.


San Diego coach Duane Maley’s six running backs were aligned, not just by their ability to dodge tacklers and go the distance.

Ermon Johnson wore jersey number 18, Garnett Adams 19, Floyd Robinson 20, Horace Tucker 21, Ardell Finley 22, and Carl Osborne 23.


Seven San Diego Cavers were late  reporting for football.

Tucker was batting star in national baseball tournament.

Tucker was batting star in national baseball tournament.

The group was with the Fighting Bob Post 364 of San Diego that was in Denver for the American Legion national baseball tournament, where they were runners-up to a team from Cincinnati.

Floyd Robinson, who played nine seasons in the major leagues,  and Horace Tucker were among the late-arriving baseballers.

Tucker won the American Legion Louisville Slugger award with a tournament average of .452.


Mel Zikes of the Evening Tribune predicted Oceanside would beat Chula Vista by 3 touchdowns and outscore Laguna Beach by 20 points. Chula Vista won by 21 and Laguna Beach by 20.


DiTomaso played for and was head coach of St. Augustine.

DiTomaso played for and was head coach of St. Augustine.

Joe DiTomaso was a starting lineman for coach John Finan at St. Augustine and later coached the Saints  to a 12-0 record and the San Diego Section championship in 1970…Vista, 4-5-1 in ’51, took a step up from Southern Prep to the Metropolitan and was 5-4…plans to open the new Helix Stadium during the season did not materialize, as the facility was not enclosed…the Highlanders played home games at Aztec Bowl…Grossmont’s Ed Reed and Bob Baker were diagnosed with polio but recovered…after a 19-0 loss to Inglewood, San Diego had stunningly not scored a point in 63 minutes of play, including the carnival in which the Cavemen were tied by La Jolla, 0-0…they broke the drought 2:40 into the first quarter when Ardell Finley ran 65 yards for a score in a 13-6 win over L.A Roosevelt…the Metropolitan League was 10-3-2 in intersectionals… Karl Grassl caught 7 passes for 4 touchdowns in Grossmont’s 34-25 loss at Phoenix St. Mary’s in the Foothillers’ final game….



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2 Responses to 1952: No, No, Not Again!

  1. JohnDahlem says:

    Super job Rick…love the history and old photos…”the old coin toss!”


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