The Ripon Clarence Smit Museum is joining in a Smithsonian outreach program which develops exhibits for small-town museums and cultural institutions in rural America spanning six weeks from June 24 until Aug. 5.
Ripon Museum curator Connie Jorgensen has set up a presentation of Ripon sports history in displays at the museum on Main Street at Acacia Avenue on the edge of the downtown as part of the “Hometown Team” exhibit.
Ervin Zador is highlighted in the exhibit for the part he played in Olympic water polo when a Hungarian player hit him in the head and caused the match to be called with blood streaming down his face and into the pool.
A documentary was later made of the incident entitled, “Blood in the Water – Freedom’s Fury” that played at the Crest Theater in Sacramento under the direction of Hollywood producer Lucy Liu. Zador returned to the Valley after the Olympic event and later coached Olympic star Mark Spitz when he was a teenager.
The Ripon presentation includes past football players that includes an oil portrait of five gridiron stars of the 1940s standing on the field. Players are noted for their accomplishments from the 1950s through 2010.
Jorgensen pointed to a section in the front of the museum dedicated to Deward “Duke” Tornell who she described as the best athlete to ever come out of Ripon who later coached the community’s young athletes during his lifetime.
Tornell is remembered as a multi-sport star at Ripon High from 1932 to 1936. He became a popular volunteer football coach for some 25 years. Tornell was the only Ripon athlete to play in the National Football League, Jorgenson said.
After graduating from Ripon High School, he played football, basketball and baseball while attending Modesto Junior College and was a starting guard on the only MJC basketball team to win a junior college national championship. He continued his athletic career at San Jose State College on a football scholarship, playing basketball and baseball as well for the Spartans.
Tornell was selected to play on the All-Coast Football Team as a tackle on the 1940 squad that was the highest scoring team in the nation. He was drafted in 1941 to the NFL by the Washington Redskins but his professional career was cut short by an injury and the beginning of World War II.
During his athletic career, Tornell played for such coaches as Fred Earle and Jack Gardner at MJC and “Pop” Warner at San Jose State. He was given a one-on-one punting lesson from Jim Thorpe, played football with Bob Bronson – who mentored Bill Walsh – and Sammy Baugh considered by many as one of the finest quarterbacks in NFL history and guarded Jackie Robinson in a junior college basketball tournament.
Ripon High football fans will remember him as the football coach who was an integral part of several of the finest teams in the history of Ripon High School. Tornell died September 21, 2007, remaining an avid sports fan to the very end.
Jorgensen said the historic presentation will be kicked off on Thursday, June 22, with the Brews and Bites event in downtown Ripon.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email email@example.com.