Such an unusual, odd duck he must have been -- a James Dean-like ballplayer with home run power and a ninety mile an hour fastball by day; a philosophical bookworm by night ... all the while, cruising the Sierra foothills in his hopped-up Model A with the sounds of the Moody Blues blasting away from his 8-track stereo. The sheer power of his Cadillac-powered hot rod combined with the sounds of the times provided an adrenalin-fed rush that motivated his performance on the ball field while a British logician kept it all under control. Put on some upbeat songs. May all your troubles be gone. Let’s ride.

   What a difference a year can make -- from soul searching and near suicide to taking back his role as one of Northern Californiaʼs top ballplayers. Inclusively, for the year 1969, the nineteen-year-old struck out 176 batters, compiled a 17-4 win-loss record (.810 win percentage) including three shutouts, and recorded a combined 1.61 ERA. His journals indicate that he was more at ease and confident but still out to prove himself after a successful first-year at college. Teammate “Few Clothes” Hughes stated he played the game mad, as if packing baggage and carrying a subconscious chip on his shoulder. What would he accomplish for an encore?

   The brothers Van Roth were traveling on two different highways. Younger brother Davie was on a path to rewriting the record books, climbing higher and higher, while cruising the Sierra foothills and celebrating after every conquest. The Moody Blues blasted from his eight-track stereo, taking him to a magnificent perfection, where he thought of himself in ideal balance.

“Has conquered the wayward breezes

Climbing to tranquility
Far above the cloud

Conceiving the heavens
Clear of misty shroud
Higher and higher
Now we've learned to play with fire”

(The Moody Blues. To Our Childrenʼs Childrenʼs Children. Threshold, 1969)

   Bobby was headed down Eternity Road, still wandering in abstracted dreams of unworldliness with no hope of ever returning home.

“A gypsy of a strange and distant time

Aching for the warmth of a burning sun

Freezing in the emptiness of where he'd come from

Left without a hope of coming home

Speeding through a shadow of a million years

Darkness is the only sound to reach his ears

Screaming for the future that can never be

Left without a hope of coming home” (Ibid)

“Speeding through a charcoal sky

Observe the truth we cannot hide

Traveling eternity road

What will you find there?

You're so very far from home

And so very much alone”


   Davie Van Roth was a year older and a year stronger. In the off-season, he developed another pitch -- a tempting pitch that looked like a fastball but broke away at the last split second. His ability to control a sharp, late-breaking slider to complement his overhand curveball and four-seam fastball seemed to make a difference. He would paint his own portrait.

“...and then he taught me how to pitch by taking a piece of chalk and drawing a strike zone on the side of Popsʼ shop building. He tested me by keeping track of balls and strikes and logging the results in a notebook; over and over until I could throw ten strikes in a row. The process continued after I developed an overhand curveball which we called 'the drop'. Eventually, just tossing strikes wasnʼt good enough, so he drew two circles, each about the size of a cantaloupe, at the bottom corners of the strike zone. Now hit those targets, he would say. Then, you will be a Picasso. Thatʼs when I first began locating my pitches and started painting the corners of the strike zone... The pitching philosophy was fairly simple--pound the low outside corner of the plate with four-seam fastballs, overhand curves, and late-breaking sliders until the batter begins to lean in that direction or crowd the plate; then bust him inside with heat just below the belt, and occasionally deliver a little chin music, just to keep the hitter honest.” (Van Roth, Davie. Recollections & Journals of a Ballplayer)

   Van Roth continued with his private philosophical studies; albeit, almost exclusively Bertrand Russell. Russellʼs Principia, that mind-boggling, massive three-volume set of symbolic logic along with his Mathematical Philosophy and Analysis of Mind provided structure while his 895-page History of Western Philosophy often provided knowledge and inspiration.

“Many times it has happened: Lifted out of the body into myself; becoming external to all other things and self-encentered; beholding a marvelous beauty; then, more than ever, assured of community with the loftiest order; enacting the noblest life, acquiring identity with the divine; stationing within It by having attained that activity; poised above whatsoever in the Intellectual is less than the Supreme: yet, there comes the moment of descent from intellection to reasoning, and after that sojourn in the divine, I ask myself how it happens that I can now be descending, and how did the Soul ever enter into my body, the Soul which even within the body, is the high thing it has shown itself to be.” (Russell, Bertrand. A History of Western Philosophy. NY: Simon and Schuster. pp. 290. From Plotinus. Enneads lV, 8, l (McKenna translation).

   The 1970 Forty Niners started the season by reeling off five straight victories with Van Roth opening the campaign with a 7-1 win over Menlo College at Atherton. After winning two games against Ohlone College of Fremont, California, the Niners traveled to Santa Rosa for the Santa Rosa Baseball Tournament which featured four of Northern Californiaʼs top Junior College baseball teams. In the opening game of the two-day, round-robin tournament, Van Roth stopped former California State champion Santa Rosa 5-3. Santa Rosa would go on to win the Camino Norte Conference. In game two, later that day, Ron “Few Clothes” Hughes, with his knuckleball, pitched the first six innings and got credit for the 4-1 victory over the College of Marin Mariners. Van Roth pitched the final three innings to pick up his first save of the season.

   In the semifinals, Van Roth fired a two-hitter but took a tough 2-0 loss against Barry Sbragia and Barry Woodruff who split the pitching duties for the Bulldogs of San Mateo, the Stateʼs fifth-ranked team at the time. A few months later, Sbragia would pitch for the Mobridge Lakers of the prestigious Basin League where his 8-0 record still stands as an all-time BL record for winning percentage. After pitching at Washington State and for the Humboldt Crabs, Sbragia signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox organization where he would spend four years in the minors compiling a career 15-11 record and 3.31 ERA, advancing as high as the AAA level. His best year was 1973 when he went 9-2 with a 2.69 ERA for Winston-Salem of the Single-A Carolina League. Woodruff would also sign a pro contract and spend four years in professional baseball where he amassed a 22-15 record with a 2.89 earned run average, mostly at the single-A level.

   Ron Goodman got credited with the 49er's 3-2 championship victory over San Mateo in the final of the double-elimination tournament, working the first four innings while Van Roth pitched the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings to notch his second save of the tournament to go with his win in the opener. The Bulldogs moved on to win the Golden Gate Conference with their 18-3 league mark. Head coach John Noce became fourth all-time among California Junior College coaches with his 772-412 record, all at San Mateo. Overall, Van Roth pitched in all four games logging twenty-four innings -- a foreshadowing of things to come.

   After a doubleheader loss to Fremontʼs Ohlone College where the 49ers committed ten errors in the two games, the Niners began another five-game winning streak with a twin-bill killing of their own over arch-rival Sierra College. Van Roth struck out thirteen in the 7-1 first-game victory and picked up another save, his third of the year, by slamming the door with three scoreless innings during the 5-3 win in the seven-inning second game. The Niners recorded another doubleheader sweep when Van Roth shutout the Napa Valley Chiefs 5-0 in the opener while Goodman won the second game 5-3. Two days later, while pitching with one day of rest, Van Roth picked up a 4-2 complete-game victory over the Eagles of Siskiyous on opening day of the Golden Valley Conference Tournament. It would be their only win of the tournament as Van Roth started and tried to win his third game in four days, this time with no days rest. He got shelled, allowing four earned runs including a grand slam in just two innings pitched. The Forty Niners committed another ten errors during the four-game tourney and was now 12-6 at the halfway mark of the season.

                                                                 ET TU, BRUTE? YOU TOO COACH?

   The “Animal” became a beast of burden -- a mule-horse who carried the heavy load. He had survived the steely knife of coach McCrackin, but was now facing a different kind of stabbing betrayal. He had pitched in eleven of his team's first eighteen games, including seven complete games as a starter while playing second base when not on the mound. The coach had him pitching non-conference games on Wednesday nights and the nine-inning, first-game of league doubleheaders the following Saturday morning on just two days rest; often relieving in the second game for three or more innings if they had the lead. He was being used even more during tournament play. No one held a gun to his head but Van Roth was being overworked and abused; was a fool for doing the coach's dirty work; a fool for risking his career every time he took the mound. Would his arm hold up? The following Saturday, they embarked upon a 150-mile road trip for a doubleheader against the Cougars of Lassen College.

   Van Rothʼs 9-1 victory over Lassen was an away game but it wasnʼt held on the Cougarʼs home field. Instead, it took place inside the gates of Susanvilleʼs State Prison as a form of entertainment for the inmates; not uncommon at the time as Folsom and San Quentin State Prisons had their own prison teams and routinely brought in top-notch semi-pro and college teams for league and exhibition games. Folsom Prison, best known as home to Johnny Cash, was once a member of the semi-pro Sacramento Rural League. Twelve-foot-high prison walls with rolled barbed wire on top, served as outfield fences. The heap of dirt, or makeshift pitcherʼs mound, was funky, but Van Rothʼs “Uncle Charlie” was sharp and dropping three to four feet, straight down, becoming an unhittable yakker. The atmosphere was intense and the first time that Van Roth had seen the insides of a hoosegow. Would it be his last?

“It was a strange game. We were told not to talk to or mingle with the prisoners. I didnʼt dare say hello, but nodded a few times. Prison life didnʼt seem to have changed him a bit. Roscoe was still Roscoe. He cheered my every pitch and got the other inmates to join in even though Lassen was the home team. The convicts with Roscoe acting as head cheerleader were going wild and cheering me on. It was legal chaos inside those prison walls and I was psyched. When it was all over, I had my twenty strikeouts.” (Van Roth, Davie. Recollections & Journals of a Ballplayer. April, 1970. pp. 70).

   The 20 Kʼs shattered the school's strikeout record for a single game previously held by Danny Wright. Wright had struck out fifteen during a game in 1967 and was drafted by the Atlanta Braves later that year. The win kicked off another winning streak, this time a stretch run of seven games with Van Roth starting and winning five of those games including a five-inning, no-hit performance with eight strikeouts against Sacramento State. Was his arm made of steel? Perhaps “The Animal” should have been more suitably dubbed “Iron Man” Van Roth.

   Sierra College had been the Niner's main rival and nemesis for decades, and the upcoming doubleheader against the Wolverines would determine who wins the Golden Valley Conference South Division title. The Community College was once known as Placer College and located in the mountain town of Auburn. In 1961, the school moved to the quaint Sierra foothill town of Rocklin, halfway between Lincoln and Roseville, California, and just a few miles from Folsom and Grass Valley. Van Roth took the mound in the nine-inning opening contest and a victory would most assuredly guarantee the 49ers another Division crown. A journal entry, posted the night before, noted that Van Roth was reading chapter thirty of Russellʼs History of Western Philosophy -- “Plotinus” -- the founder of Neoplatonism and the last of the great philosophers of antiquity. Page 289 of the massive tome was heavily underlined and might have provided additional inspiration ... that and serve notice to an alter ego.

“To know the Divine Mind, we must study our own soul when it is most god-like: we must put aside the body, and the part of the soul that moulded the body, and sense with desires and impulses and every such futility; what is then left is an image of the Divine Intellect...Those divinely possessed and inspired have at least the knowledge that they hold some greater thing within them, though they cannot tell what it is; from the movements that stir them and the utterances that come from them they perceive the power, not themselves, that moves them...” (Russell, Bertrand. History of Western Philosophy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1945. pp. 289).

“The championship was on the line. I got two quick outs and only Tommy Tucker stood between me and our winning a second straight title. I hated Tucker; always stepping in and out of the batter's box; asking for time, trying to disrupt my rhythm; trying to disrupt the flow of the game. He looked like Bluto standing up there with his huge broad shoulders, scruffy black chin, and helmet that barely fit over his giant coconut of a head. He was leading the league in homers and the long ball was the only way Sierra was going to get back in the game. I painted the low, outside corner with a crisp fastball for a called strike one. He had his chance to hit a fastball but would have had to go the other way, down the right-field line. Heʼd get another outside pitch but it would be an unhittable, sharp-breaking slider that appeared like the previous pitch, only it would break eight inches off the plate, low and outside. He tried to check his swing but couldnʼt hold up. The umpire was quick to call steeeerike two! I had him. Tucker and the title were ours for the taking. Catcher Martin Matsumoto called for another outside slider but I shook him off. Not so fast, Matsumoto.
     With the flick of my glove, I also waved off the sucker pitch--the overhand curve ball in the dirt, the outside fastball, and the crossfire sidearm curve. I was going to wave off several pitches whether I wanted to throw them or not, just to mess with Tuckerʼs head. He stepped out of the box again and while pretending to knock dirt from his spikes, I gave Matsumoto a quick, unsuspecting upward and inward flick of my head. A wry grin came over his face as he put down the middle finger--the brush back; the high hard one; the fuck-you pitch. I needed to establish the inside part of the plate in case I had to go back outside later, all the while, scrambling the brains of Tucker. I didnʼt want to hit him; didnʼt want to put the tying run on base, especially with the left-handed-hitting, cleanup-hitting Swen Ostrom waiting on deck. The easiest place to hit a guy is in the upper torso or the thigh. Those body parts move the slowest when thrown at. The head moves the fastest as a fastball to the temple could kill a guy.
     I aimed two inches above Tuckerʼs head with a little extra on the pitch so he couldnʼt tomahawk the ball. Sure enough, he was leaning towards the outside part of the plate. His head snapped back and his feet jerked out from underneath him. Down he went. I thought he was going to charge the mound; but instead, jumped up quickly, dusted himself off and dug in, more determined than ever. The last thing in the world to do next would be to throw a fastball, not in any location. I had him set up for the perfect pitch--a pitch that I saved and only threw once or twice a game; a pitch I practiced while warming up but rarely used; a strikeout pitch I saved to get me out of a jam; a pitch my brother taught me several years ago. It was the old Pittsburgh Pirate Leroy Faceʼs forkball, only I modified it by throwing it harder. Matsamoto dangled and wriggled his thumb and four fingers as I split the top of the ball with my middle and index fingers, then took my normal windup and delivered the pitch with the same arm motion as if throwing a fastball. ʻPlease donʼt hang there,ʼ I thought as the pitch came in like a big meatball served on a silver platter. Tucker must have thought it a mistake as he took a big rip. It was my “Dipsy-Doodle--the power forkball that broke down and in as Tucker swung early and over the top of the ball. Steeeeeeerike three. We were champions again.” (Van Roth, Davie. Recollections & Journals of a Ballplayer. April, 1970).

   The competitorʼs transfixed eyes met briefly one last time before the championship dogpile. Tuckerʼs gaze was one of ... what the hell was that? Van Rothʼs a triumphant sneer as if to say ... take that Bluto! Davie Van Roth had found the zone -- a state of flow whereby concentration, focus, discipline, and unwavering confidence all come together. Add to that a fierce, unyielding competitive spirit. So, where did this laser-like focus and full sensory visualization come from -- this focused conviction and intention -- this power of a super-concentrating mind in a deeply tuned state? On the top shelf, along with the Bertrand Russell titles was a copy of Ludwig Wittgensteinʼs Tractatus Logico Philosophicus (Treatise on Logic and Philosophy) and several works pertaining to Eastern religions, including Swami Vivekanandaʼs Hinduism -- Our duty is to encourage every one in his struggle to live up to his own highest idea, and strive to make the idea as near as possible to the truth, and Allan Wattsʼ highly popular Zen books during the late fifties and early sixties -- This is the real secret of life--to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. Perhaps Van Roth had reached a brief moment of Satori and Zazen.

   In Zen Buddhism, power and strength can arise when the mind has been unified and brought to one-pointedness -- a uniqueness whereby the mind is freed from bondage to all thought-forms and no longer at the mercy of oneʼs environment. Always in command of both oneself and the surrounding circumstances, one is able to move with perfect freedom and equanimity. Supranormal powers is also made possible when the state of mind becomes like clear, still water. It is through enlightenment that supernatural powers are manifested. The entire nervous system is relaxed and soothed, inner tensions eliminated, and the tone of all organs strengthened by realigning the physical, mental, and psychic energies through proper Zen techniques, establishing a new body-mind equilibrium.

   The Niners ended league play with an 11-1 record and captured the Golden Valley Conference South Division title for the second year in a row, the only time they'd ever win back-to-back titles. The eleven league wins set a new school record, eclipsing the ten conference victories set in 1956 and their .917 league winning percentage set a school record topped only by the 1980 team. The Division title set up the Golden Valley Conference Championship Series -- a rematch against their North Division foe -- College of the Redwoods of Eureka, California.

   The coachʼs plan for the playoffs was similar to the strategy used a year earlier. Pitch your number four hurler in the opening game of the best-of-three series and save Van Roth for the next dayʼs doubleheader. Use number two and three pitchers Ron Goodman and Jim Ohrt only if needed; logical, but highly unethical. Far too often, although not uncommon, coaches and managers sacrifice the health and careers of young ballplayers for the sake of their own personal agendas. Today, pitch count (generally 100) and the amount of rest between starts (3 to 4) are monitored to prevent injuries. Managers and coaches donʼt have individual batting or earn run averages. Their legacies and often livelihood depend upon wins, losses, and championships. After the post season, Davie Van Roth would no longer be needed.

   Brian Haddock pitched the game of his life in a complete-game effort; however, Redwood pitcher Bob Wilson tossed a no-hitter and the Corsairs escaped with the victory. With Wilson out of the way, Van Roth won game two with a twelve-strikeout, 3-2 victory, setting the stage for the finale with their ace still available. Goodman started the game, but gave up two runs in the first and was in trouble again in the fourth, giving way to Jim Ohrt. The lefty proved no better and Van Roth was brought in from his second base position and stopped the bleeding; however, the Niners trailed 7-2 heading into the fifth. The unflagging Van Roth held the Corsairs scoreless while the team battled back and tied the game at seven apiece with a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth when “The Animal” came to the plate with one out and a man on second base. He had already gone 3-5 and first base was open, so why pitch to the leagueʼs best hitter in a situation like this with the game and championship on the line?

“I walked up to the plate mad at the whole damn world--intense but under control. The first pitch was an overhand curveball that bounced in the dirt. Ball one. I was focused. The next pitch was much the same and I took it for ball two. Get that fucking pitch over the plate where I can get at it, I grumbled. He was pitching around me, hoping that Iʼd go fishing but the next curveball stayed up and I nailed it; so solid that there was no feeling when the bat hit the ball; the kind of contact that is made maybe only a few times a year.” (ibid. May, 1970. pp. 72).

   The frozen rope went right back to where it came from, only twelve to fifteen feet higher. The center fielder froze and played the ball on a hop. Pinch-runner Bob Bloom hesitated to make sure the ball didnʼt get caught before heading to third base only to see the coach windmilling his left arm and shouting: Score! Score! Score! The throw was short, hit the pitcherʼs mound, and bounced high in the air. Half of the Forty Niners were out of the dugout and ready to dog-pile just like they did a year ago when they mobbed Van Roth after getting the last out in game three against these same Corsairs. The peg might have been weak but it was luckily accurate and bounced straight to the awaiting catcher. Bloom was out by ten feet. After a scoreless tenth, Van Roth eventually tired in the emotionally packed game and gave up the winning run in the eleventh inning. The championship was lost. For the day, he pitched sixteen and a third innings, striking out sixteen. On May 4, 1970, Appeal-Democrat sportswriter Bob Magnetti summed up the weekend action. “Van Roth went 4-6 in the final and 2-4 in the first game going 6-10 in the twin-bill raising his average to .380 and will become the best hitter in school history with the breaking of Dan Whiteʼs previous top average of .378 set in 1968.”

   By the time his two years were completed, Van Roth had broken or established twenty school records: Batting average (.380), Doubles (10), On-base percentage (.549), Slugging percentage (.613), Stolen base percentage (15-15), Most complete games in a single season (15), Most career complete games (26), Victories in a season (12), Career victories (22), Career winning percentage (.769), Most strikeouts in a game (20), Most strikeouts in a season (160), Most career strikeouts (269), Single-season Kʼs/9inn. (11.08), Career Kʼs/9 inn. (10.85), Innings pitched in a season (130), Career Innings pitched (223), Most post season victories (2), Post season innings pitched (25.3), and Post season strikeouts (26).

   It was the 160 strikeouts and 269 for a two-year career that caught my attention. I juxtaposed Van Rothʼs strikeout records to other college record-holders by contacting all 110 Junior Colleges in California by telephone, e-mail, and logging onto their baseball websites that included all-time records. I also checked California Community College Conference records and SPINCO stats.

   The Falcons of Cerritos College have won nine state baseball titles, most by any California Community College. In 1966, in the midst of a sixty-game winning streak that spanned three years, Cerritos won a state championship with a perfect 40-0 record, a California State milestone, as well as a national record for win percentage. Dan Boone holds the Falconʼs school record for most strikeouts in a season with 127, set in 1974. Sacramento City College has won five state championships although none of their pitchers have come close to striking out 160 batters in a single season, or 269 in a career. Ventura College pitcher Gary Anglin struck out 143 in 1971. I then compared Van Rothʼs stats next to all college pitchers, paying special attention to those from Northern California. Sacramento Stateʼs Erik Bennett struck out 119 in 1989 and Mike Eby equaled the record in 1995. Chico Stateʼs J.E. Hernandez struck out 108 batters in 1999. In 1970, Van Roth led the entire nation in strikeouts. Only one other pitcher in the history of California Junior College baseball has struck out more batters than Davie Van Roth, either in a season or a career -- Fresno Cityʼs fireballing right-hander Dick Selma during the 1962 and 1963 seasons.

   In an article written by David E. Skelton: “His potential was glimpsed when future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, months removed from his Rookie League debut in 1965, was said to have the ability to “throw as hard as Dick Selma.”--“Young Ideas by Dick Young,” The Sporting News, January 22, 1966, pg. 14.

   Richard Jay “Dick” Selma was born on November 4, 1943, in Santa Ana, California, where he grew up alongside childhood friend and Little League rival Tom Seaver. Under the tutelage of coach Fred Bartels, Selma attracted attention from at least 15 major-league teams during his high school days, however, his lack of physical size caused scouts to question whether he possessed the stamina for the majors. He had no offers so he enrolled at Fresno City College where he set records that still stand today -- most strikeouts in a season and career strikeouts. The lowly New York Mets took notice and inked him as a free agent with a $20,000 bonus on May 28, 1963. Other scouts didnʼt think he was strong enough to make it in the majors.

   Selma began his pro career at age 19 with the last-place Salinas Mets of the Class A California League where he received Rookie of the Year honors. At age 20, Selma was promoted to Triple-A Buffalo of the International League where league managers credited him as possessing the leagueʼs best fastball. Arm problems soon followed and surgery took place to remove calcium deposits below his shoulder in January of 1965. He recovered and made his major league debut that September by beating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-3 at Busch Stadium. Nine days later, he held the hard-hitting Braves to just four hits while tossing a ten-inning shutout and establishing a team-record 13 strikeouts.

   Dick Selma would go on to log ten years in the majors while bouncing around from team to team including stints in the minors. His best season was 1970 when he averaged 10.3 Kʼs per nine innings with a stingy 2.75 ERA for the Phillies. He reported to spring training the following year with a tender elbow and pitched only 11 innings before being placed on the disabled list with a torn muscle in his right forearm. He was never the same and ended his career as a player at age 34 with the college-laden 1978 Alaska Goldpanners where he tallied five saves without a decision and 5.33 ERA.


His tastes were baseball, philosophy, fast cars, and rock and roll. The sheer power of his Cadillac-powered Model A hot rod combined with the sounds of The Stones and Moody Blues provided an adrenalin-fed rush that motivated his performance on the field while the British logician Bertrand Russell kept it all under control and in perspective. In his journals, Van Roth likened his mountain cruises after ballgames to Kierkegaard's buggy rides around Copenhagen's environs where the Danish philosopher contemplated repeatedly, that which he would write. “So too would I take long drives contemplating the game. There was little time for fun during the game itself. I played the game as if in a fistfight, intense with a controlled anger. Focus and concentration eliminated any pleasure while competing.” (ibid)

   It would be afterward, during these rides, upon reflection, when Van Roth first found a paradise of inward tranquility followed by Bacchic exultation, elation, euphoria ... even bliss. The transition from self-responsibility to equanimity, or the shifting of inner equilibrium, must have produced experiences of intense joy, wholeheartedness, and utter freedom -- first involving contemplation and ascetic mental practice that could shed the earthbound layers of the self. It was through these reflections of the mind where he visioned life the way it ought to be. It was then that he savored the afterglow of an adrenalin-fed high.

"I downshift into first gear, turn up the Stonesʼ “Gimme Shelter,” then floor it. Whoa! The power of four-hundred horses. Supernatural." (Van Roth, Davie. Recollections & Journals of a Ballplayer. Spring of 1970. pp.69)

   Nirvana lay just ahead at the speed of light. He could feel the inner glory after emerging from a hard-fought game with a sense of gladness while keeping the feeling alive. Not unlike the Olympians of East Germany during the 1980s, he took mental snapshots that produced eidetic images of the ideal performance, like planting visions inside his brain, repeatedly, often before going to sleep, embedding the perfect game into his mind. The thought of the strikeout manifests itself. Ahhh ... the power of focused thought.

   Davie Van Roth is the only player in 49er history to win both the pitching and batting titles in the same year and he accomplished the feat twice. He is the only player to twice record more than 100 strikeouts in a season, and along with Jim McDonald, the only Niner pitcher to twice record ERAʼs under two for a season (minimum 50 innings pitched). Van Roth has set more school records than any Forty Niner while his ten records that still stand are also the most held by any Niner athlete. He was an unanimous All-League selection for the second straight year, named Golden Valley Southern Conference MVP, and selected to the California All-State team.

   At seasonʼs end, Van Roth rejoined the local Twin Cities Giants and pitched in three ball games. He won all three without allowing an earned run and averaged 15 strikeouts per nine innings pitched against three of Northern California's top semi-pro teams -- the El Cerrito Cardinals, Navato Knickerbockers, and the Chico Colts. He tossed a complete game, 3-hit, 3-1 victory against El Cerrito. The one run was unearned. John Stam started the game against the highly touted Navato Knickerbockers and left the game in the fifth inning with the score tied at four apiece. Van Roth entered the game and didnʼt allow a ball out of the infield as he struck out nine without allowing a baserunner to pick up the 5-4 victory. It was vintage Van Roth pounding the low outside corner of the plate with four-seam fastballs and late-breaking sliders. Occasionally, he would tease hitters with sharp-breaking, overhand curveballs that hit the dirt directly behind home plate. Strikeouts and ground balls would be all that the Knicks could muster.

   Against the Chico Colts, Van Roth picked up his third win without a loss by tossing five perfect Innings including eleven strikeouts without allowing a base runner. He concluded his Twin Cities Giants' career with a .901 winning percentage and 1.39 ERA while averaging 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings -- all Yuba-Sutter career records at the semi-pro level. During his two years at College, he struck out 269 batters while issuing 54 base on balls for a 5:1 strikeout-to-base-on-ball ratio. On June the sixth, 1970, the day of Major League Baseballʼs Annual Draft, Davie Van Rothʼs name was nowhere to be found, nor was a scholarship offered. Something was amiss.

   Jim McDonald from Reno, Nevada, pitched for the Forty Niners and broke a few of Van Rothʼs records including an incredible 157.3 innings pitched in 1984 (237.3 career) that led the state of California and most likely State records that still stand today. McDonald finished the year at 14-5 with 118 strikeouts (6.73 per 9 innings) and received a scholarship to the University of Arizona; however, it would take several months of intensive rehabilitation before he would pitch for the Wildcats. Eventually, he recovered and posted a 7-0 record with four saves and 4.50 ERA in 1985. He was a member of Arizona Wildcat teams that competed in the College World Series in 1985 and 1986 and was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the twenty-sixth round of the 1986 MLB Amateur June Draft. He pitched one season as a professional with the Jamestown Expos of the New York-Pennsylvania League where he logged only 34 innings, posting an 0-3 record and 4.15 ERA.

   Like exposed pawns in a medieval game, Van Roth and McDonald were overworked and abused, then cast aside with no regard for the health or career of the young ballplayers. Neither would be needed at season's end. Nothing was adding up. Mr. Hughes painted two different portraits of the philosophical Van Roth -- one, as a loner who mostly kept to himself, and another as a fierce competitor while on the ball field. A newspaper article and photograph appeared in the Appeal-Democrat shortly after the end of the 1970 season: “Awards to pitcher-infielder Davie Van Roth highlighted the year's Spring Sports Awards Banquet last night in the college dining commons. Van Roth was named the outstanding pitcher and hitter for the 49ers; also MVP, received a trophy as co-captain, and won a silver-plated watch for being named the most popular 49er player in a vote by the fans.” The accompanying photograph showed Van Roth as clean-cut and rather dapper, sporting a dark navy, double-breasted blazer.

   “So, Mr. Hughes. If Van Roth was all that, then why wasnʼt he drafted or signed as a free agent? ... not even a scholarship offer. Why the banditry? Why not give the man his stead, his chance to prove himself at a higher level? Why no recognition?”

   “You tell me, Columbo,” snapped Rotten Ronnie.“Youʼre the spymaster. Let me know when ya come up with the answer. Maybe one his coaches had something to do with it. I canʼt put my finger on it, but there was something about Roth that coaches didnʼt like. I donʼt know why, but maybe it was that look in his eye, or maybe it was the hot rod he drove. Maybe it was because he came from West-Linda; or just maybe, it was because he refused to bow down. Maybe, it was all the above. Roth was no brown-noser, no rah-rah guy ... didnʼt say much, just kept his mouth shut and played to win.”

   Van Rothʼs name was absent from the Appeal-Democrat that summer after pitching those three games for Twin Cities. There was no mention of a free agent signing or a scholarship offer. Like Bart the bartender said, he set a ton of records, then just disappeared.