Written by: Colin Grylls/Co-Sports Editor (The Southwestern Sun)
LEGENDARY BASEBALL COACH RETIRE AFTER 39 YEARS AND A GRANDSLAM FINAL SEASON
Jerry Bartow did not go out a state champion, but he went out a role model, a source of inspiration and a hero.
Southwestern College’s iconic baseball coach is likely the best-known Jaguar in America and probably the most beloved. Mention the colorful, irascible coach and grown men will cry.
“Forty,” as his players know him, is retiring after his 39th season as one of only three coaches in California community college baseball history to have recorded more than 900 wins. His players, however, are more likely to remember his quirks than his records. Bartow is known for his ability to whistle as loud as a tugboat, his ritual of sliding headfirst into home after victories as a septuagenarian and his colorful vernacular that combines Yogi Berra and Bob Uecker.
“He did some things that you just never forget,” said Joe McWilliams, who played for Bartow in 1991 and 1992 and was on his coaching staff in 1994 and 1995. “The whistle, the heat, the slide into second, he was just that guy. Forty will always be remembered.”
Mike Dole played for SWC in 1993 and 1994. He said he had many memories of Bartow.
“We learned about business, customer service, how to carry ourselves on and off the baseball field,” he said. “I’ve got a million stories. If you had 20 pages we could fill that newspaper up.”
Rudy Bautista, the varsity pitching coach at West Hills High School and SWC player in ’91 and ’92, recalled a game against Pima Community College of Tucson, Arizona.
Bartow pitches for Washington State University in the College World Series in 1956. Photo by Russell ScoffinBartow pitches for Washington State University in the College World Series in 1956. Courtesy Photo.
“Play at the plate,” he said. “(Bartow) believed (the umpire) called it wrong. So Forty storms out to the field
and lays into him. He literally came around third base and did a hook slide at home plate to show how the runner had eluded the tag in that situation.”
Members of Bartow’s current team agreed that they are proud to have played for him.
“I look up to Forty,” said freshman pitcher Deandre Simpson. “He’s a wise old man and I appreciate everything he does for us. I really love him.”
Sophomore centerfielder Chris Allen agreed.
“He’s just such a positive guy,” he said. “It’s so infectious when you come to the baseball park. It’s hard to feel bad when you are around him. He’s just such an awesome, loving guy. He’s just amazing.”
This year’s team used Bartow’s looming retirement as motivation during their playoff run. It made it all the way to the Southern California Sectionals, just one round away from the Final Four.
“I’ve been putting number 40 on my tape,” said outfielder Daniel Macias. “Just to think that I have to do it for him, for his last games. It’s been a hell of a rollercoaster with him. It’s been good.”
In honor of his “victory slide,” Bartow was presented with second base, signed by his current players and many former players at Bartow’s last Saturday home game. SWC cheerleading advisor Patti Moore has been going to baseball games for 21 years and worked with Bartow when he was the instructor of record for the cheerleading squad. She said she was excited to see so many of the players return.
“I think it’s amazing, he’s so deserving of [his player’s admiration],” she said. “He’s put so much into the school and his players, above and beyond just being a coach. He means so much to them that they come back for him.”
During Bartow’s final home game against Mt. San Jacinto there was another surprise. Head football coach Ed Carberry led his team to Jaguar Junction and started cheers of “Forty! Forty! Forty!”
“We knew it was his last home game and I just wanted to give him a bit of a good send off and some respect for all his hard work,” said Carberry. “With everything that goes on in the world today it’s going to be hard to see anybody coach for 40 years. Probably not going to happen very much in the future.”
Bartow’s co-head coach, Jay Martel, said he believes one of the reasons for Bartow’s longevity is his relationship with players.
“Players love to play for him,” he said. “He does a lot of things for the players to put them in a position to do well on the field and to make sure that they had baseballs, oranges and apples. He made sure that when they came to Southwestern College it was a very enjoyable time for them.”
Bautista said he is most impressed by Bartow’s integrity.
“The one major thing I remember about him is that he’s always a man of his word,” he said. “And that’s something he taught the rest of us.”
Bartow (l) shakes a boy's hand before a game against Rio Hondo. Bartow was presented with an award before the game. Photo by Russell Scoffin.Bartow (l) shakes a boy’s hand before a game against Rio Hondo. Bartow was presented with an award before the game. Photo by Russell Scoffin.
Ken Salazar played for the Apaches from 1990-93 and coached the Jaguars in 2011 and 2012. He said Bartow has been near retirement for years.
“It’s funny because when I was playing here it was supposed to be his last year,” he said. “It was always his last year every year. He just kept on coming out here because was never happier than when he was on the baseball field.”
Bartow said he genuinely appreciated that so many alumni players stopped by to visit him this season.
“It makes tears come to your eyes to see all of the former players we had over the years,” he said. “They date back from all the teams I’ve had here. Some of them were Apaches, not Jaguars. A lot of them came from when I used to have that teepee up on the roof. It makes you kind of think back through all of the years.”
Hundreds of players have laced up their cleats under Bartow. Some went on to play professionally, many moved on to play at four-year universities, and others saw their careers end at Bartow’s field of dreams. Salazar said the 79-year-old coach left a lasting imprint on all of them.
“He used to always say, ‘You know guys, one day you’re gonna be gone and you’re gonna miss it,’” said Salazar. “‘You’re gonna wish you worked hard. You’re gonna wish you played like it was your last day. It’s gonna happen.’ And I can honestly say I didn’t have many regrets because I know I always worked hard just like he told us to.”