Patterico's Pontifications


Naturally Gavin Newsom Has Been Fibbing about His College Baseball Career

Filed under: General — JVW @ 7:07 am

[guest post by JVW]

This story is one week old; somehow I missed it when it was published in CalMatters last Thursday. I heard about it today on the wonderful “Radio Free California” podcast and found the story too insightful not to share it with everyone. As usual, bolded emphasis comes from me:

For their 2004 home opener, the San Francisco Giants invited a special guest to throw the ceremonial first pitch: Gavin Newsom, then just a few months into his first term as mayor of San Francisco.

As Newsom took the pitcher’s mound, wearing dress shoes and a button-down shirt underneath his custom Giants jersey, the announcer informed the crowd that “he played first base for the University of Santa Clara and was drafted by the Texas Rangers.”

The introduction was quickly overshadowed by Newsom nearly hitting a photographer with the ball. But it left a lasting impact on a few attendees that day — a group of former Santa Clara University baseball players who were struck by the glowing treatment of Newsom’s resume.

“It’s kind of the standing joke that Newsom played on the team,” said Vince Machi, who arrived at Santa Clara in 1985, the same year as Newsom, and played baseball for three years. “There’s always been kind of a joke between the guys who stay in touch.”

[. . .]

Through his rise over the intervening two decades, his baseball career has provided Newsom a triumphant narrative to push back on the perception that his upbringing was privileged and easy: The high school standout scouted by the major leagues, who overcame his dyslexia and academic shortcomings to earn a partial scholarship to Santa Clara University before an injury forced him to find a new purpose.

[. . .]

Newsom told the story himself again in January on the podcast Pod Save America: Because of poor test scores, he was headed to community college until he got a call from the Santa Clara University baseball coaches. “It was literally the ticket to a four-year university. It changed my life, my trajectory,” he said.

But former coaches and teammates said that biography, repeated again and again through interviews and glossy magazine profiles and coverage of his 2021 baseball-themed children’s book on overcoming dyslexia, has inflated Newsom’s baseball credentials, giving the impression that he was a more accomplished player than he was.

Most notably, Newsom never played an official game for Santa Clara University; he was a junior varsity recruit who played only during the fall tryouts his freshman and sophomore years, then left the baseball program before the regular season began. He does not appear on the Broncos’ all-time roster or in media guides published by the athletic department to preview the upcoming season.

Gavin Newsom is a liar about things both great and small. He is, I will remind you, a man who claimed to have gone into alcohol rehabilitation when his first marriage floundered in the aftermath of reports of his infidelity, only to later acknowledge that he had not actually checked into a rehab facility and remained a social drinker. He is the poster boy for the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do stereotype of obnoxious politician, repeatedly being discovered engaging in actions he has otherwise denounced. And of course, contrary to his stories of being raised by a single mom (after she and his father divorced) and barely being able to make ends meet, we hear a story about how he really managed to get into Santa Clara University despite a mediocre academic record (spoiler alert: it likely was not for his prowess as a ballplayer):

A deeper look at his recruitment also reveals that Newsom’s admission to Santa Clara University — like so many of his formative opportunities — was substantially boosted by friends and acquaintances of his father, William Newsom, a San Francisco judge and financial adviser to the Gettys, the wealthy oil family. One associate connected Newsom to the baseball program when he was in high school, while his father’s best friend, then a member of the university’s board of regents, wrote him a letter of recommendation.

The man is the walking, talking embodiment of the “privileged white male” whom progressives (especially feminists and the racial grievances crowd) are forever demonizing. Only Gavin actually deserves it. And his “ex-teammates” — or, you know, the guys with whom he attended a few practices and perhaps played a few scrimmage games — have a none-too-forgiving view of the governor’s decades-long habit of allowing his baseball history to be so grossly inflated:

Some Broncos players from the era, who said they still regularly get asked about Newsom when people find out they played baseball at Santa Clara, wanted to correct the record.

“He didn’t earn it. He didn’t earn the right to say it,” said Kevin Schneider, who pitched for two seasons and now runs a pitching academy in San Francisco. “I worked my ass off. So did everyone else on that team. For him to just go all these years, to say he did something he didn’t that takes not just talent but also dedication and effort and sacrifice, it’s not right.”

The story goes on with more detail about young Gavin’s high school baseball career. He was likely “scouted” by some Bay Area baseball talent evaluators who scouted hundreds of kids throughout Northern California each year, but was nowhere talented enough to be drafted or signed as a free agent straight out of high school. The story of his acceptance to SCU weaves between the coaching staff’s very moderate interest in him as an athlete and the important people who contacted the university on the boy’s behalf with letters of recommendation, including ex- and future-governor Jerry Brown and Newsom Family friend John Mallen, who just so happened to be on the Board of Regents of the university. Another family friend, investment banker and former SCU ballplayer Bill Connolly is thought to be the person who first contacted the coaching staff and encouraged them to recruit the Redwood City high schooler. Mr. Connolly just so happened to be a major financial supporter of SCU baseball, which may have helped Gavin secure a $500 athletic scholarship.

Read the whole story if so inclined. The governor has for years refused any and all requests to talk in detail about his baseball past, and his press agents repeatedly claim that their boss has consistently been truthful about his playing days (he hasn’t), that he was a legitimate recruit (he might have been, but 13 freshmen were on the roster for SCU in the 1985-86 season and none of them were named Gavin Newsom), and that any misconceptions about the length and breadth of the governor’s baseball career at SCU is somebody else’s mistake, but not theirs. In that latter claim, Team Newsom uses the same excuse that Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut trotted out to explain away how he managed to build a political career being described as “a Vietnam War combat veteran” when his whole military service had been performed statewide: somebody else said it, and I just never corrected the record.

Actually, the story as told by CalMatters suggests a lot which comports with what we know about Gavin Newsom’s character. At least one former SCU ballplayer of that era remembers Newsom as a fairly gifted athlete, but one who didn’t really seem to apply himself to the rigor of NCAA athletics, hoping instead to get by on natural ability and luck. Newsom would undergo ulnar nerve surgery in the fall of 1985, yet for whatever reason didn’t bother to rehabilitate his arm under the supervision of the SCU training staff or coaches, which suggests he was already disassociating from the team. Perhaps he determined that the grind of college athletics was just too much in those days before the NCAA placed limits on the amount of practice time to which athletes could be subjected. But if that’s the case then he’s been dishonest for years in claiming that the end of his baseball career was traumatic and left him lacking a sense of purpose.

Either way, it’s an interesting story and continues to paint a picture of a person who places far more stock in being somebody than in doing something. In our messed up times a chronic narcissist like him will probably eventually end up in the White House, perhaps sooner rather than later.


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