A small beachside town on Santa Monica Bay sits five miles south of LAX. While it is known for its Chevron refinery and large aerospace industry presence, the little town of El Segundo, California boasts one of the richest high school baseball programs in all of the Golden State. And it is all thanks to one man. For 50 years, John Stevenson roamed the dugout as his teams won CIF titles and his troops went on to much bigger stages in the game.
He grew up locally, in the Manhattan Beach section of town, and was immediately faced with a dilemma. His town didn't have a Little League team. In fact, Little League didn't develop in the South Bay until years after young John Stevenson was eligible. Still, he found a way to sharpen his knowledge of the game and was soon impressing peers and parents alike with his acumen at the plate in ballparks throughout the area.
He became a star catcher at Redondo Union High School and after graduation in 1951, went on to play for El Camino College and UCLA. At the tender age of 26, John Stevenson was hired as El Segundo High School's new head baseball coach and geography teacher. While he would hold that teaching position for the next 30 years, it was baseball that he would have the greatest impact. This was 1960, right when California began to really fall in love with America's Pastime. After all, the major leagues had just moved to the Golden State, with the Giants and the Dodgers taking residence. With these two storied franchises taking root, the people of California were naturally curious.
For the next half-century, John Stevenson built a powerhouse, sending six of his players to the major leagues. Players such as Bobby Floyd, Billy Traber, Zak Shinall. Two of his players earned the state's recognition as Mr. Baseball: pitchers Ken Brett (1966) and Scott McGregor (1972). While each would make it to the major leagues, it was Brett who impressed Stevenson the most. Years later, he would describe Brett as the most devastating high school player he had ever seen.
Interestingly, it wasn't Ken Brett who would wind up in Cooperstown, but his brother, George. As a Kansas City Royal, he won the 1985 World Series and carved out an impressive 21-year Hall of Fame career as a third baseman. While the rest of the world could see the obvious talent on their televisions, his coach John Stevenson witnessed his rise as a prep star. Even though he wasn't as impressive then as his brother Ken, George rose ahead in the major leagues.
Even though he was approached for much more impressive jobs over the years, John Stevenson decided to stay in El Segundo, deeming the ability to mold young minds much more appealing than the almighty dollar. In his 50 years at the helm, he amassed seven CIF and 30 league titles all the while cementing a legacy that is impossible to supplant. He retired with the most wins in state history with 1,059 victories to his name and had made the playoffs in 42 of his 50 years. He passed away in January 2010 at the age of 76.