'Both teams just kept playing'
By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Michael Tsai
When the Radford and Pearl City baseball teams took the field for their O'ahu Interscholastic Association West playoff game at newly opened Aloha Stadium on April 14, 1976, they did so amid a swirl of history the likes of which would not be realized until decades later.
As incumbent president Gerald Ford was doing his best to stiff-arm a challenge by California Gov. Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination, an upstart peanut farmer from Georgia, Jimmy Carter, coming off a victory at the Iowa Caucus, was capturing the imagination of a curious political establishment.
Just two weeks before the game, a trio of unknown computer geeks — Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne — had founded Apple Inc. Not that the general populace cared much, not with public debate still swirling around the recent conviction of kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst on armed robbery charges or the decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court to allowing right-to-die icon Karen Ann Quinlan to be removed from life support.
The players from Radford and Pearl City would co-write their own tiny bit of history that night, exchanging exquisite pitching performances and stellar defensive plays inning after inning for nearly 5 1/2 hours before Radford's Kenny Moore finally scored from second base on a line single by junior Chris Tatum to end the game, 1-0.
STILL FEELS EFFECTS
Lasting an interminable 19 innings, the game — played on a Wednesday night — might not be the longest in modern Hawai'i prep history, but it certainly was the most exhaustive in OIA playoff history.
"I know it's the longest I've been involved in as a coach," said Don Kimura, who coached Radford for 32 years, had the school's baseball field named after him, and continues to coach for the Police Activities League.
"I was exhausted. I had to ice my knees for a couple days (after)," said Tatum, who caught the entire game and tagged three Pearl City runners at the plate.
Tatum, now 48 and the general manager of the Waikiki Beach Marriott, says he feels the effects of that game. "I can squat ... I just can't get up," he joked.
Despite the score, the game was not a display of offensive ineptitude, rather a sublime duel between two outstanding prep pitchers and the defenses that supported them.
Radford's Mark Olmos worked 15 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up 13 hits but also striking out 13 and walking seven.
Pearl City's Kevin Kamai was even more spectacular, giving up just three hits in 13 scoreless innings and recording 18 Ks.
"I hate to say it, but (Kamai) kept us baffled pretty well for most of the game," said Tatum.
Tatum said he and his teammates were initially awed not by the scale and pressure of the OIA playoffs or by the prospect of playing a tough, smart Pearl City team, but by being one of the first prep teams to play in Aloha Stadium, which had opened just six months earlier.
"It was really exciting for the whole team to be out there on that big field," Tatum recalled. "Up until then we had only played at the school fields, and at UH, which was a lot different back then."
KAMAI WAS BRILLIANT
Pearl City took control early behind a dominant performance by Kamai, who during one stretch retired 18 straight batters and went 28 consecutive batters without allowing a hit, using mostly fastballs and curveballs. Kamai eventually tired and was moved to the outfield for the remaining innings, handing the ball to Ross Yamaguchi in the 14th.
The Rams were in prime position to end the game in the 14th with the bases loaded and only one out, but Pearl City third baseman Stan Abe snatched a line drive, initiating an inning-ending double play.
The Chargers had plenty of opportunities of their own but wound up stranding 26 runners — leaving the bases loaded in the second, sixth, 13th and 18th innings — and watching as three others were tagged at home. On one play, Warren Seta, who played an outstanding game in center, tried to stretch a triple into a home run in the 15th but was thrown out.
"That's what I remember most," Tatum said. "They had a lot of guys on base, but then they hit into a double (play). They kept trying to make it around. They kept taking chances and taking chances, but fortunately we had strong arms on our team."
The crowd of 2,076, many of whom turned out to watch a pitcher named Derek Tatsuno lead 'Aiea against Waipahu in the West championship game to follow, grew restless as the night wore on.
"The other teams were waiting for us to get done," Kimura said. "When runners would get on base and it looked like they might score, they'd get up and start warming up. Then when we got out of the inning, they'd sit back down again."
The Rams threatened again in the 18th with runners on first and third and no outs. Again the Chargers defense held on as Seta snagged a flyball by Brian Sechler and threw home to Vance Maruyama, who tagged Craig Kamiya at the plate. Murayama then picked off the Rams' Steve Jarvi, who was trying to advance to third on the throw home, to complete a game-prolonging triple play.
"The crowd didn't care who won the game at that point," said Tatum. "They just wanted it to end."
MOORE SCORES WINNER
And, finally, in the bottom of the 19th, it did.
Moore, who started at shortstop then replaced Olmos on the mound in the 16th, singled to left then advanced to second when Bobby George got to first on an error.
But the Chargers and pitcher Yamaguchi weren't ready to fold. Yamaguchi got the next two batters on fielder's choice grounders.
Then Tatum stepped to the plate. On a 2-2 count, he ripped a line drive between first and second.
"I knew that was it," Tatum said. "Kenny was a big boy — he was a quarterback in football — but the field was so big I knew there was no way they were going to get to it before Kenny got home."
Moore raced past third, intent, he would later say, on ending the game right then and there. Moore's safe slide at home elicited as much relief as elation for the Rams.
Though physically spent, the teams' collective adrenaline rush wouldn't allow for rest. They bused back to their school to take showers, then returned to Aloha Stadium to watch the 'Aiea-Waipahu game, which started three hours late and didn't finish until 2 in the morning.
'WE WERE FORTUNATE'
The Rams would lose to Castle in the next round, but the memory of their historic victory over a gritty Pearl City team lingers.
Tatum went on to Michigan State, where he played on the practice team for a few seasons. Upon his return to Hawai'i six years ago, he bumped into Olmos, now a minister.
More recently, he ran into third baseman Michael Dos Santos, now an electrician, and the two relived their days playing for the Rams.
"Both teams just kept playing that night," coach Kimura said. "We both played as hard as we could and we were fortunate to come up with that one run."
The Advertiser is beginning a summertime feature, looking back at some of the more memorable events and teams that still hold a place in Hawai'i high school lore. If you have a suggestion, e-mail us at: email@example.com
Reach Michael Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org.