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Class of 2023 brings local flavor

If Dave Stieb remembers watching Three Stooges films at Shakey’s Pizza, there’s hope for San Jose after all.

In what was clearly a “Best of Silicon Valley” event, the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame revealed its class of 2023 inductees in the Sharks Lounge at SAP Center last week. Wine flowed and memories resurfaced. Reporters, bankers, real estate bigwigs and other VIPs all devoured sushi and congregated to hear the legends speak.

Stieb attended Oak Grove High School and San Jose City College before leading the then-new Toronto Blue Jays for the whole decade of the ’80s. Alongside him last week, stood Sharks all-time legend Patrick Marleau, plus Chris Wondolowski from the San Jose Earthquakes and Lorrie Fair, who after Los Altos High School and a few NCAA titles was the youngest player on the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup championship squad.

Even before the 1999 Women’s World Cup, Fair played alongside her twin sister for the USA women when they defeated England 5-0 in a 1997 friendly match at Spartan Stadium. At that time, the 17,000+ crowd was the largest ever to watch a women’s national soccer match in the US and it was the first time on earth that two twin sisters ever played on the same national team.

Back in the ’80s, though, Stieb was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, when he won the second-most games of any pitcher in that decade. Even now, fanatics in Blue Jays-land still talk about him and a multi-part biography exists on YouTube. But in San Jose, Stieb did not throw a single pitch. At both Oak Grove and SJCC, he was an outfielder. When Toronto drafted him from Southern Illinois University, only then did he migrate to the mound and realize he was a natural pitcher. To this day, he is the only one in Blue Jays history to throw a no-hitter and still holds franchise records for complete games, strikeouts and innings pitched.

At the event, Stieb talked about his time at SJCC and how that institution was where he came into his own as a player. He remembered Bruce Jenner joining football scrimmages of all things and even Bruce Jenner’s wife playing tennis, all while Stieb attended as a baseball player. He also fondly recalled watching Three Stooges films at Shakey’s Pizza with his dad, a common pastime in those days. This columnist remembers doing the same thing after soccer practice. 

Up next came travel and parenting—two subjects we don’t get to hear athletes talk about enough. While we always hear about life on the road for rock stars, athletes don’t always go on the record about the loneliness of traveling. Marleau said the hardest thing was being away from his family all the time. Wondolowski echoed similar sentiments. 

In Lorrie Fair’s case, she’s been a global ambassador for the sport, literally, as a State Department representative for the Sport Envoy Program, and is now also the Chief Program Director at the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project. She continues to travel and help underrepresented communities around the world.

As a kid, Wondolowski played baseball and many other sports besides soccer, so that was his advice for parents, even though it might not be a popular idea these days. Fair echoed the same sentiments. One learns different skills from different sports. Kids can learn much about their own preferred sport by playing other sports, even if just on a recreational level, she said. And if kids are bored, then let them be bored, she said. Inspiration and life lessons can also come during phases of boredom. 

Each athlete was also asked about his or her favorite places around town. Marleau raved about La Villa in Willow Glen. Fair talked about taquerias in the backs of supermarkets. Stieb had to jar his memory at first, because not much in San Jose really stood out for him. It was only later in the conversation that he fondly remembered Shakey’s.

Ultimately, this was just the pre-party. The main hall of fame induction ceremony will now unfold on November 8th in the SAP Center, including a reception and silent auction followed by the dinner and ceremony.

Gary Singh
Gary Singhhttps://www.garysingh.info/
Gary Singh’s byline has appeared over 1500 times, including newspaper columns, travel essays, art and music criticism, profiles, business journalism, lifestyle articles, poetry and short fiction. He is the author of The San Jose Earthquakes: A Seismic Soccer Legacy (2015, The History Press) and was recently a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. An anthology of his Metro columns, Silicon Alleys, was published in 2020.

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