Twenty years ago, when Guy Anderson was courting the woman he still calls “that sweet blonde,” she brokered a deal to ensure a blissful union with the timeless Cordova High School baseball coach.
Karen Callen said she would learn to appreciate baseball – even love it – if Anderson took up long-distance bike rides with her and embraced yoga. Anderson accepted the conditions, they married in 1994, and a new chapter in their lives began.
On Friday, Karen anxiously watched Cordova beat Antelope 10-1 in a Capital Athletic League game, twisting and turning as much as Anderson did while manning the third-base box. The coach’s voice – equal parts nasal and gravel – bounced across the infield, and it continued afterward as he celebrated a milestone with players, coaches and family. It was Anderson’s 900th victory, all at Cordova since 1970.
Though just 5-foot-7 and 156 pounds, Anderson keeps growing in stature. The 81-year-old is second in California career wins, and he’s become synonymous with baseball. He was a charter member at Cordova 50 years ago, and it’s the only school for which he’s worked.
On Sunday, the Andersons attended a sermon at the First Covenant Church of Sacramento in Rancho Cordova, where pastors Jesse Smith and Mark Shetler acknowledged Anderson’s achievement. That got to the coach’s wife.
“That part was really overwhelming,” she said. “Guy’s received cards, calls, praise, pats on the back and hugs, but this really meant something, a message that it wasn’t just Guy winning games, but the influence this man has had on so many kids over so many years. It’s so true.”
Karen paused to reflect and reminded that her husband, even with all of his good cheer, never denies he’s big on ego. And he readily admits, “You bet I still love to win.”
“Oh,” Karen assured, “we’ll have to mellow Guy out a little now. I’ll make him ride it off on a long bike ride.”
Anderson continues to defy aging, according to daughters Amy Jacobson, Kerry Koontz and Kellie McNair, and kids keep him feeling young. Anderson’s 10-year-old grandson, Matthew Koontz, was so excited with the milestone that he raced from third to slide into home plate. Another grandson, 7-year-old Ryan Jacobson, is so into baseball that he announces Giants games like a broadcaster in the family’s living room. He told Anderson after win No. 900, “Papa, you did good!”
What pleases Anderson most is that the Lancers are 6-5 entering this week and in first place in the league, led by the versatility of Riley Robson, Tylor Myers, Nigel Robinson and Dominc Gentry.
“The neat thing is we’re really playing good baseball right now,” Anderson said, “and I have two great assistant coaches who are dear friends of mine in Chad Parker and Ralph Rago. My family was glad we got the 900th taken care of quickly. They were putting pressure on me. And it’s a real thrill for this old coach.”
Anderson coached the Sac-Joaquin Section’s most dominant program in the 1970s and ’80s. By the mid-1990s, the Lancers had won four section titles and 18 league championships and sent scores of players to college and/or the major leagues, including Max Venable, Chris Bosio and Geoff Jenkins. Then things changed – Cordova High, the town and the kids. Mather Air Force Base closed in the early ’90s and Cordova’s enrollment declined. Cordova, a regional power in all sports for three-plus decades, became just another school.
But one thing that didn’t change was Anderson. His zest for teaching through baseball never waned. And Anderson said he never would have lasted this long without his wife.
“She means the world to me,” Anderson said. “It’s still baseball and they’re still kids and it’s still fun. It’s still a kick for me. I used to ask Max Miller (the area’s winningest football coach, mostly with Cordova) what he was going to do in retirement. You don’t hunt, you don’t fish, you don’t play cards and you’re terrible at golf. Well, I don’t hunt or play cards or golf. But I do baseball, and I still get butterflies before every game.”
Anderson, a man in perpetual motion, arrives two hours before practice to set up the pitching machine. He used to plan his practices with a typewriter; now he does it with a desk-top printout. He’s big on effort, fundamentals and accountability, and time hasn’t mellowed him a bit.
At Callen Pool Supply, which Karen runs in Rancho Cordova, an Anderson Wall of Fame features Lancers teams dating to the 1970s. She’s still charmed by the old coach.
“Oh, my gosh, I still see stars when I think of Guy and see him,” she said with a laugh. “He’s wonderful. And he’s become such a good bike rider, but I won’t let him beat me. His ego is big enough.”
The Andersons have ridden throughout France, Cape Cod, Michigan, Vermont, Niagara Falls and the Napa wine country, with more treks planned this summer and fall. Of course, they sprinkle in baseball games during their travels.
On Monday, Anderson played shortstop in a senior softball doubleheader before hustling to Rocklin to coach his Lancers against Whitney.
Energy? Anderson has redefined that, too.
“Yoga helps me with softball, and my body has held up pretty well,” Anderson said. “It’s great to enjoy life.”
Anderson appreciates the small things in life because he was one. As a 119-pound infielder for Napa High in the early 1950s, he was eager to attack the pitch count and the bases. His father, Guy Sr., was a musician who wanted Anderson to hold an instrument, not a bat. The elder Anderson was a drummer in four-piece bands who performed in symphonies. Anderson gave music a try, but three years of private clarinet lessons didn’t win his heart. So he stuck to baseball, which is what his heart is no doubt shaped after.
“Dad’s looking down, proud, forgiving me for giving up clarinet,” Anderson said. “I found the right passion, and I’ve got this sweet blonde to keep up with, too.”