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Manteca High celebrating stadium’s 50th year

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Manteca High celebrating stadium’s 50th year

Former Buffaloes Gary Heaton, from left, Joel Linker, Mike Erdman, Wayne Dias and Roy Rea were a part of the 1959 Manteca High football team that played the first-ever game at Guss Schmiedt Field.

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin


POSTED September 24, 2009 12:53 a.m.
Field turf. State-of-the-art lighting and sound systems. Roomy press boxes with restrooms and elevator access. And  scoreboards that can light up and entire town.

Manteca High’s Guss Schmiedt Field may not measure up to some high school football facilities these days, but back in 1959 it stuck out like the Colosseum in Rome.

Before Guss Schmiedt Field was dedicated on Monday, September 21, 1959, football was played on Pennebaker Field where the varsity softball diamond currently sits on the southwestern end of campus.

“It was like a cow field,” said Mike Erdman, who was a part of the 1960 team that won the Valley Oak League championship and went undefeated at home in the second year of Guss Schmiedt Field under head coach Phil Harmon.

“The bleachers were all made out of wood and falling apart. You could sit on it, but you’d get splinters.”

The difference was monumental to Erdman’s fellow 1961 graduate Joel Linker.

“It was like going from the Little Leagues to the big leagues,” Linker said Wednesday while taking a quick 360-degree glance at Guss Schmiedt Field. “The old field had a track around it, but it wasn’t much. I wasn’t impressed with it at all, but this was impressive.”

Erdman, Linker and nine others who played for the 1959 team will serve as honorary captains Friday when the Buffaloes host their first home game of the season against Enochs of Modesto. Members of the Schmiedt family will also be honored.

Also expected to make an appearance are Jim Cunningham, Tim Brumly, Wayne Dias, Leon Thomason, John Holbrook, Casey Stagno, Larry Scharmann, Gary Heaton and Ron Rea.

Dias and Erdman still live in town. Erdman, in fact, still lives at the same house he grew up in, and Dias’ cousin, Cody Dias, stars on Sierra High’s football team.

Second-year athletic director Ron Inderbitzin is overseeing the on-field reunion with help from his mother, Joanne, a 1961 graduate of Manteca High.

Groundskeeper Steve Marleau brought it to Inderbitzin’s attention that Guss Schmiedt Field will be entering its 50th year of existence, and it has since been a project that he’s taken to heart.

Though Inderbitzin and his brother, Rick, are East Union High alumni, their family is rooted deeply into the town’s first high school. Their grandfather, Al Fagundes, played football at Manteca High in the 1930s.

“I remember all of this,” Ron Inderbitzin said while flipping through pages of the school’s 1960 yearbook. “I remember sitting in the stadium and watching games as a kid. I had been going to games myself since about 1972 because I lived right across the street, so back then it was still fairly new.”

Manteca was victorious, 14-6, against hated rival Tracy High at its new home in 1959. Brumley scored the first touchdown at the stadium with a 6-yard quarterback keeper.

Heaton, now a resident of Stockton, has fond memories of the game, but the one that sticks out the most isn’t remembered so fondly.

“I remember catching about a 35-40-yard pass, and the only between me and the end zone was Loyce Singleton,” he said. “He hit me and I flipped in the air.

“I saw the ground, then the sky, the lights, the fans and the ground again.”

Guss Schmiedt was a member of the original Board of Trustees and was elected president in 1937. The 10-year process of the stadium’s birth began in 1949 when the board secured property east of Garfield Ave. for future expansion.

The stadium sat 2,400 and expanded to 3,640 after it was renovated in 1996.

“I hadn’t been here since I graduated in 1960,” said Rea, who recently moved back to town after living in Tracy and Modesto for over 30 years. “It was quite interesting to come back here and see the old stadium. It’s just amazing how time flies.”

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