Augie Garrido Dies At Age 79 After Stroke 0

By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

AUSTIN, Tex. — Augie Garrido, the winningest coach in college baseball history with 1,975 victories, passed away March 15 at the age of 79 following a stroke.

Garrido’s storied 48-year baseball coaching career spanned six decades, including his final 20 seasons at Texas.

Garrido finished his career in 2016 as college baseball’s all-time wins leader.

He was one of only two NCAA Division I baseball coaches to lead two different schools to national titles (Cal. St. Fullerton and Texas) along with Andy Lopez (Pepperdine and Arizona).  

Garrido guided squads to National Championships in four different decades, and is one of only three coaches in history to win five or more NCAA titles (1979, 1984, 1995, 2002, 2005).

This dynamic man was a study in the word complex.

On one hand, he was brought up in a boot-tough ship yard town of Vallejo, Calif. shortly after World War II where plenty of street fighting was the norm with Navy sailors.

Both of his parents worked two jobs to support the family. They lived in a federal housing development.

He came out of this mostly blue-collar community with a burning desire to become the best coach he could possibly be against the worldly advice of his father Augie.

Garrido shared the same birthday as two other giants in history — Babe Ruth and President Ronald Reagan.

He led Cal. St. Fullerton to a duo of national championships in 1979 and 1984, brought numerous people into the coaching ranks, sent scores of players into the professional ranks and helped hundreds of players be success stories in life.

Another side of Garrido revealed a passion for art and finely tailored Italian suits. He was a connoisseur of gourmet food and the finer things in life which reflect success.

Without any doubt, his love of people was the catalyst behind his victories in life.

Many people are not aware that Garrido was deeply religious man who taught his players right vs. wrong in every phase of life.

The team concept was much more important than wins in the Garrido philosophy.

A perfect example was the 1992 Titan baseball team which finished second in the nation.

Fullerton had a disappointing Big West Conference season, finishing second to Long Beach St. Everyone was expecting the Titans to waltz through the competition and finish first with a superb pitching staff and equally talented every day lineup.

Constant temper tantrums during games were the norm. Players routinely threw bats and helmets at the slightest problem. Hitters stopped running out ground balls with 100 percent effort.

Garrido resorted to the unthinkable prior to the South I Regional in Baton Rouge, La. He refused to let the team practice until the players showed more respect for the game of baseball.

A group of seniors, led by catcher Jason Moler and pitcher Dan Naulty, held a team meeting and came up with strict new rules for the team. If a player threw a helmet or argued a call with an umpire, immediate suspension would prevail. If a player did not run out a grounder or fly ball, that individual had to run 2 ½ miles.

The attitude adjustment was just beginning as Garrido and associate head coach George Horton allowed the team to practice again.

“They lost the definition of the word respect,” said Garrido.

“I closed the field prior to the regionals and said we weren’t going to practice any more. I said it didn’t matter anyway because they didn’t get it or understand that this wasn’t about winning baseball games. It was all about teamwork and people. They didn’t show any respect for the game of baseball.

“They didn’t show any respect for the groundskeepers. They didn’t show any respect or appreciate they had a ball to play with and had a bat to use. They just didn’t have the right definition of respect. They didn’t know how to get it. To get it, you have to give, and the rewards will come back.”

The Titans shocked heavily favored Louisiana State in the South I Regional by going through undefeated with four consecutive wins.

At the College World Series, Fullerton ultimately met Pepperdine for the national title. The Waves defeated the Titans, 3-2 in the championship game.

Devastating Loss
“Our team was absolutely devastated after losing the championship game to Pepperdine,” said Garrido.

“Once they learned the meaning of the word respect, and once they found out what it could do for them, they were changed.

“Once they found out what being a teammate was and what giving to others brought and the value of doing the right things in the right way at the right time, they were a different group of young men. Watching them grow during those last few weeks of the season was the greatest gift any team has given me.”

Garrido had some sage advice for his team following the gut wrenching loss.

“I told the players: ‘Listen. I know it will be difficult. But you must listen to this. It will take a long time for all of us to put this in perspective. I know you trust me. So trust me now when I tell you. Because of who you have been throughout this whole situation in the last six weeks, who you have become as men, this will be the most valuable thing you will ever lose in your life.

“This is going to serve you very well for the rest of your life. Trust me when I tell you all you have lost was a title, a ring and trophy. It’s meaningless to what you have gained.’

“And I thanked them for everything they did for me.”

Amazing Job At Fullerton
People do not realize what an amazing job he did at Cal. St Fullerton.

Garrido was a defiant man.

This was almost a prerequisite when he became head coach for the Titans in September of 1972. The University of Southern California was king of the hill at that time. USC was in the midst of winning five national titles in a row (1970-1974).

At every turn, people mocked Fullerton. People called it Cal. St. Disneyland because the Fullerton-based school is next to Disneyland in Anaheim.

Before Augie moved to Cal. St., eight seasons of intercollegiate baseball failed to produce even one winning season at the school. The Titans compiled a 145-267-2 record in those lean years — winning just 35 percent of their games.

In his first full season with the Titans, Cal. St. finished with a 19-33-1 record. It would be his only losing record at Fullerton in 18 seasons. The following season, the Titans compiled a 37-17 record and won its first-ever conference championship in the California Collegiate Athletic Association. Garrido was named CCAA Coach of the Year.

In the summer of 1974, Fullerton switched to NCAA Division I and joined the Pacific Coast Athletic Association.

No Respect At First
During the 1975 season, another milestone was achieved. The Titans captured the PCAA title and earned a spot in the NCAA West Regional at Dedeaux Field, home of the USC Trojans.

The University of Arizona and Pepperdine also were in the regional. USC had won five consecutive national titles going into that regional and were heavy favorites to make it to Omaha.

Just prior to a first round contest against USC, a writer from Los Angeles phoned Garrido about the Titans’ first round contest against the Trojans.

“I’ll never forget when he asked me about those pairings in the first round,” Garrido said at the time.

“I just told him it was bad scheduling. I hate to see the host team (USC) eliminated so early.”

Garrido said the reporter’s typewriter clogged, and it stayed silent the rest of the interview.

Prior to the regional, Madeline Franks, organist at Dedeaux Field, asked Garrido what the Fullerton fight song was so that she could play it during Titan contests.

“I really don’t know,” Garrido said. “But our players like a certain rock and roll song that you could play.”

When game time arrived between USC and Fullerton, Franks’ delicate playing fingers started twitching — a sure sign the USC fight song was about to be played.

“I honestly expected to see Traveller II come galloping onto the field and see those SC cheerleaders,” Garrido said after he heard that song.

“When Fullerton took the playing field, the organist struck up It’s A Small World since the Titans are right next to Disneyland.

Amazingly, the Titans knocked off USC in that regional and represented District 8 at the College World Series. Fullerton lost two straight at the College World Series, but the groundwork had been laid for the future.

Four years later, Fullerton would win its first national title in baseball. Then in 1984, the Titans would win another one.

“We had no respect in 1975,” said Garrido.

“We were coming from NCAA Division II in 1974. We had a $4,500 budget. After we won our first conference championship in 1974, Athletic Director Neil Stoner said he had good news and bad news. The good news was that our budget would increase by $1,500 to $6,000. The bad news was that we were now going to be in Division I.

“In addition to baseball, I was teaching tennis and racquetball for 12 hours a week.”

Legendary Compassion
The compassion Garrido shows for his players is legendary.

Cal. St. Fullerton pitcher Ed Delzer had just pitched the game of his life in the championship game of the 1984 College World Series won by the Titans, 3-1.

The 5-foot-8, 150-pound pitcher had no-hit the Texas Longhorns for six straight innings in the national championship game after giving up two infield singles in the first inning. A leg cramp sidelined him during warm-up pitches before the start of the eighth inning.

After the final putout, he stood alone by the steps of the third base dugout choking back tears. They weren’t tears of joy, but tears of sorrow. Two years prior to this special moment, his father Edwin was shot and killed during a party that got way out of control during the Christmas holidays.

Garrido helped Delzer during this difficult ordeal. During this touching moment at the College World Series, Garrido attempted to console Delzer.

Definition Of Teamwork
Teamwork is a central cog in his teaching system.

“When I was at the University of Illinois (1988-1990), I marveled at the school’s band. Several times reporters asked me who the best team at Illinois was. I always responded that it was the band. They were unbelievably good.

“One day I asked our players if they thought they were a team when things weren’t going so well. I told them what precision is involved in being a team. I said if we were a band, the fans would boo us off the field at a football game.

“It requires playing an instrument, marching in precision and teamwork, timing and concentration. It’s the same as baseball. I asked them if they really thought they were athletes. I told them to go watch Baryshnikov (world famous ballet dancer). I’ll show you an athlete.”

Tough Childhood
The ability of Garrido to never give in to any challenge has served him well throughout his career, and it can be traced back to a tough environment during his childhood.

“Basically, I grew up in about as tough of an environment as there was,” said Garrido.

“Everone has had to fight their way out of difficult situations. But the early going was tough. We always had plenty to eat. My dad did a great job of providing for the family by working two jobs. My mom worked two jobs. We were never hungry. Our level was certainly at the level the world should be concerned about.

“It was a tough neighborhood (in Vallejo, Calif.). It was ship yard town — a Navy town just after World War II. There were plenty of sailors on the street. It was a rough and tumble, down and dirty area.

“There was lots of fighting and lots of brawling at the time. We lived in a building that had six families in it. Each one had their own place. It was a federal housing development built by the government during World War II.

“There were several of those communities in Vallejo. It was highly congested with lots of kids. The government put in these community buildings spread out in eight or 10 different districts. They were huge, almost temporary housing areas. They were called terraces.

“We lived in Federal Terrace. Larry Himes, general manager of the Cubs, lived in another one. Many fine athletes and others have come out of that environment and enjoyed tremendous success in the business and sports world.”

Rough Neighborhoods
It was mentioned to Garrido that several big name coaches were reared in tough neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods, such a Ron Fraser, former head coach at the University of Miami, Fla. and Andy Lopez, former coach at the University of Arizona.

“All of us have had exaggerated childhoods. That’s what has given us a sense of the importance in coaching. I know in Ron’s case and Andy’s case, what is important is the people. That doesn’t mean other coaches don’t feel the same who have many other backgrounds.

“We kind of came through the school of hard knocks. In that form of education, it’s the roughest educational form there is. It is a series of falls and recoveries. Almost everything you know is as a result of something you’ve done wrong. That’s tough.”

Garrido said he never strayed from the right side of the law during his childhood.

“I was deeply grounded to sports — all sports. I was with my dad every night at the community building. And I was always involved in sports. I fought Golden Gloves and did it because my friends did it on Wednesday nights. In basketball season, we played basketball. In football season, we played football. We also played baseball and other sports. It was a way of life.”

After a stint in the Army following college at Fresno State, he set his sights on coaching.

“I was trying to figure out what I was going to do,” said Garrido.

“I didn’t do a great job in school. I did what I had to do in high school.

“Basically, I went to school to play ball. I went to school because of baseball and basketball. I was very good at both of them. I didn’t know anything about the value of an education. My mom went as far as third grade. I don’t know if my dad ever finished high school. My brother didn’t.

“I didn’t know much about school. I knew about athletics. If I didn’t go to school, there was no place to play. And I didn’t want to give up something I loved so much. That is why I know about the value of athletics.”

Garrido said his fulfillment with coaching comes from other people and not from wins.

“When I was in the Army, I made a decision I wanted to be a coach. My dad said I couldn’t be a coach because there is no money in coaching.

“He was fearful that I wouldn’t get a job. He was a great guy. But he was a no risk guy. I am the opposite. Almost everything he was, I am the opposite. Our whole mind set is opposite. I was Augie, Jr., and I was fighting for an identity. I had to defy him because he was living his life through me like a Little League father.”

Turns To Ed Sullivan
As strange as this seems, Ed Sullivan played a role in defining how talented a coach he would eventually be.

“I realized by watching television that the best of everything was on the Ed Sullivan show. The best magician, the best yo-yo guy, the best of anything that was on that program. I brought with my coaching an entertainer’s mentality.

“But my dad wanted me to take a job in the ship yard in Vallejo, Calif. so I would be safe with a steady income. He wanted control. He wanted me to be secure. I told him I would never work in that ship yard, which was defiance. I felt if you are the best in your occupation, you will have work.

“My measurement for being the best is not about winning. At first it was as a coach. But I have always, probably because of my own personal needs, had a strong desire to give my players all that I have and let them pick and choose from that so they can be themselves. I don’t spend much time listening to what people think about my personal life. I genuinely and sincerely love people.”

Some coaches have openly snickered at the finely tailored suits Garrido routinely wears to coaching conventions and his affinity for gourmet food, art and the finer things in life which reflect success. It is rare to see a baseball coach wear a suit and tie except in formal settings.

“I don’t know why there is a negative perception when I choose to wear nice clothes,” said Garrido.

“The way I appear comes from a lot of things. People don’t realize my mother managed men’s clothing stores throughout her life. I was in there during the day folding t-shirts when I was 5-years-old after I did my paper route. I have worked at a lot of jobs. Everybody chipped in and tried to help.

“I went to Fresno State University and worked at one of the finest clothing stores. That’s how I worked my way through school.”

Supreme Innovator
Garrido has been an innovator in the game of baseball.

He was responsible for starting a new procedure at the University of Illinois when he started “weekenders.” In early February, the team would travel to warm climates on the weekends to play three-game series until the traditional spring break. After that series of games, then Illinois would return home to begin Big Ten Conference action as the weather became nice and warm. This is done routinely by several Big Ten teams today.

In addition, he is considered the guru of the short game in offensive baseball strategy with the bunting game. Hundreds of coaches in college baseball have attempted to copy his high pressure offensive style which includes bunting, push bunts, drag bunts and stealing bases — including home. Defenses never feel safe with a Garrido coached team.

When Garrido was asked about his futuristic ideas concerning baseball, he sidestepped the question and discussed another subject — winning. He does not accept accolades easily.

“In high school, I could never get things into perspective because everything to me was about winning. One day I drew a circle and put the name ‘players’ in it. Once I put that word player in the middle of the circle, everything fit. Coaching to me is a major part of my lifestyle. I keep people away from me with quips and short comments and for some the clothes I wear.

“But I am the luckiest guy alive. I have never had to work a day in my life, and that is the way I feel. Winning is important to the educational process. But people are more important. Success is best taught in and environment of success. Learning takes place in those conditions better than a negative environment. That is why winning is important. It’s learning the knowledge that is important.

“Another thing about me is that I have been into every art museum in every town I have been in because art captures the spirit and essence of the soul of civilizations that know more than we do about themselves.”

Verbal & Visual Man
Garrido is a verbal and visual person, and English was his major at Fresno State as he was forced to read a great deal during his college days.

Garrido played for one of the greatest teachers the game has ever seen in Pete Beiden, retired baseball coach at Fresno State.

“He was the best teacher/coach besides John Scolinos,” said Garrido.

“He was a fabulous, fabulous teacher. I have the highest respect for him. He was gruff and rough, and personality-wise, we were about as far apart as people may imagine.”