Hometown Report

Ex-Sac State coach Cal Boyes, whose ‘stamp is on this entire community,’ dies at 89

Cal Boyes was the head baseball coach at Sacramento State for 17 years, ending in 1977. Boyes died Tuesday after a long illness. He was 89.
Cal Boyes was the head baseball coach at Sacramento State for 17 years, ending in 1977. Boyes died Tuesday after a long illness. He was 89. Courtesy of Sacramento State

His players ribbed him for some of his practice garb and revered him for everything else.

Those same players also adored his wife, including her culinary skills, especially cake.

Cal Boyes was a coach, not a bodybuilder, but he could roll with the punches. Scores of people who played baseball for Boyes at Sacramento State from the late 1950s throughout the 1970s recalled stories and the legacy of a man who shaped their lives.

Boyes died Tuesday after a long illness. He was 89.

In 17 years as head baseball coach, ending in 1977, the Hornets won 11 Far West Conference titles and produced 13 winning seasons. He won 358 games, a program record at the time.

Boyes’ wife, Eileen, often made German chocolate cake for the players. No one laughed about those treats. As for the coach in shorts?

“Sometimes Cal would come to practice in shorts and we kidded him for his skinny white legs, but he could sure coach,” said Ben Bodding, who went 11-4 over two seasons as a pitcher under Boyes in the late 1960s and also coached with him for two seasons. “He was a great coach, a great family man.

“Coach invited the team over to his house after games. We’d have team parties and he’d show up with his wife, probably to see if we were staying out of trouble. He’d have a beer with us and we’d have one at his house, too.”

Boyes, known for his calm approach and warm people skills, also filled in three times as Sac State’s interim athletic director, seemingly putting out fires or maintaining order amid chaos of administrative change and fundraising headaches. Boyes conducted a study on the feasibility of offering athletic scholarships and his plan was a blueprint when the school started offering scholarships in 1985.

Boyes was beloved by those who played for him or coached under him, including football, where he was on the Hornets coaching staff for 12 seasons. He was a main draw at any awards banquet he attended and he was a man of the hour when he ceremonially turned on the lights for Sac State’s first night game on campus in 2016.

Boyes’ jersey No. 37 was retired in 2017 and a plaque that commemorates his accomplishments hangs outside the team’s locker room.

Boyes influenced a lot of area coaches, including Al Manfredi and Spider Thomas, both of whom became all-time great area basketball coaches. He also made an impact on a lot of his players who wound up becoming championship baseball coaches, including Mike Alberghini, Bernie Church, Don Moak, John Smith, Joe Soto and countless others.

Alberghini played second base for Boyes in the late 1960s and hoped to play baseball forever. Boyes encouraged Alberghini to get into education, to coach, to work with young people. He did, and Alberghini is synonymous with area coaching excellence over his decades of work as the Grant football coach (and also as baseball coach in the 1980s).

“He was a great guy, a great person,” Alberghini said. “He was the rock when I was a pebble. He helped me with a lot of decision making. He was always there for me. I’ll really miss him.”

Smith wanted to play for Boyes but was limited with a bad shoulder from his time with the U.S. Army Special Forces. So Boyes had Smith coach the Sac State junior varsity program to keep him in the game.

Smith eventually became Sac State’s head baseball coach, winning a program-record 879 games over 32 seasons.

“The number of people Cal touched is incredible,” Smith said. “He left a positive impact on so many people, so many coaches. His stamp is on this entire community in a million ways.

“He was the ultimate player’s coach. He knew how to discipline you and he knew how to love you. You don’t just develop that. It’s genuine or it’s not. He knew how to push the right buttons without pushing you over the edge. People would run through a wall for him because of his sincere empathy for people. It’s a great gift and he he had it, a one-in-a-kind guy. There’s no one else like him.”

Current Sac State baseball coach Reggie Christiansen has also praised Boyes’ impact. Boyes was the father of the baseball program, coaching the Hornets when they were in small-college NAIA and then into the Division II ranks. The Hornets are now a Division I program that has twice made an NCAA regional in recent seasons under Christiansen.

A native of Washington, Boyes was a three-sport athlete at Whitman College in Walla Walla. He served two years as a lieutenant in the Coast Guard and joined the Sac State staff in 1956.

Boyes retired as a Coast Guard Reserves commander in 1980. Boyes would take Sac State teams to Treasure Island in the Bay Area for dinners after games in the Bay Area.

In 1968 after a Cal game in Berkeley, Boyes asked his team if they wanted to attend the first home game in Oakland A’s history later that night.

“We found out that there were tickets available in the bleachers so we used our meal money, $3, to get tickets,” Bodding said. “We got tickets for the left-field seats. What a thrill. That was Cal.”

Boyes is survived by his wife of 67 years, Eileen, daughters Carol and Cheryl and son Bob. Services are pending.

Follow The Bee’s Joe Davidson: jdavidson@sacbee.com, @SacBee_JoeD