John Moreno

John Moreno delivers a pitch for Carpinteria High ca. 1974.

By the 1930s, Carpinterians had a keen interest in their local baseball “nines” and the players attached to them. We are not talking about high school teams, now. No, we are talking about semi-pro ball clubs and the pride that was attached to them by communities, large and small.    

Volumns I and II of the Carpinteria Chronicle covering the years 1933–35 gave box score information for every game, with detailed game and player decriptions. One of the players, Pete Sanchez, became something of a legend spanning a career of 30 years. A Los Angeles sports page observed his brilliance and dubbed him “El Surdo Sanchez,” that is, Southpaw Sanchez. Sanchez was a crafty left-handed pitcher. He broke segregated norms of the era in Carpinteria well before their time was over. He was too good not to be included on any baseball club. A second left-handed pitching phenom was in Carpinteria’s future, set to leave his mark on the Carpinteria sports scene in the 1970s, this time at the high school level.  For the sake of fun, let’s call him “El Surdo Moreno.”

By the 1960s, high school athletics in all the major sports—football, basketball, baseball and track—were wildly popular in Carpinteria. The teams were loaded with great athletes that regularly made the CIF playoffs vying for state championships. However, the closest they had come was a football state title game in 1948, losing in the finals. Moreno would be the key to changing that.

John Moreno was mentored by his father, Tony, in the backyard, and groomed on Carpinteria little league fields. By the time he graduated from Carpinteria High School, he would hold a slew of records, both team and personal. He would cap off his baseball career by helping his CHS Warrior team win the 1974 CIF championship, Division A.

John Cerda, writing for the CHS El Rincon newspaper, noted that the championship opponent, Brethern, came from a heavily populated Los Angeles area. Furthermore, their star athlete, Les Pearsey, a physical specimen at 6’3” and 190 pounds, had been named the state’s first team All-CIF pitcher in the previous year. Coming into the championship game, Pearsey was undefeated pitching, and sporting a .400 batting average. Earlier in the year, Brethern had won the Carpinteria Lions Baseball Tournament, Pearsey named its Most Valuable Player.

Carp High was facing a tall order, metaphorically and physically, but as Moreno reminisced, “We were in a zone, pumped. We were not going to lose.” On its way to the championship game, the Warriors had won a series of squeakers by scores of 2-1, 2-1 and 2-0. The championship game would be no different, another 2-0 victory. Pearsey would go on to win the CIF Player of the Year award for all sports in 1974. But, against Moreno, he went hitless. CHS coach, Lou Panizzon, relates the key play of the game, “With runners on first and second, and two outs, Brethern sent the lightning-fast  Darwin Harris to pinch run at second base.

Moreno struck out the man at the plate with a swooping curve that bounced away from our catcher, John Leighty, thus a play was in order, the ball live. Incredibly, the pinch-runner at second failed to dash to third and was easily thrown out.” Moreno was stellar in pitching the Warriors to four-straight playoff victories. The school had its first CIF championship in any sport. Coach Panizzon had his first, too, adding four more in football later, for a total of five CIF championships in his outstanding coaching career.

If you have a story or photo that tells a unique part of Carpinteria’s history, please contact Jim at drsjcampos@gmail.com. To learn more about Carpinteria’s unique and interesting past, visit the Carpinteria Valley Museum of History, open Tuesday through Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at 956 Maple Ave.

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