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Baseball Century Club Column Long Beach State

COLUMN: Delayed Goodbyes Still Meaningful

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My family and I had a great time at the Dirtbags game last week at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field. The game itself was a bit of a stinker, but we spent most of it hanging out in the Pavilion with a hundred friends of ours from the Long Beach Century Club, who’d gathered at the game that night in honor of Jim Herrick.

Jim was a big part of the Century Club for decades and co-founded the club’s much-loved middle school sports banquet with Sam Breuklander, his best friend. Jim was also a legendary baseball player at Poly, LBCC, and Long Beach State, where he was the catcher on the school’s first conference championship team in 1964.

Jim was also one of the best guys I’ve ever met as a sportswriter in Long Beach, a profession that gives me the opportunity to meet a lot of great people. He passed away at the age of 78 in July of 2020. It was a time when we were losing a lot of local sports legends, some to COVID-19 and some, like Jim, to other causes.

One of the things that was so painful about that year was that there was no real way to say goodbye to those we’d lost, at least not with a big public ceremony. With nothing to fill the important societal roles that funerals played, it made for uncomfortable situations. Some friends held smaller services for their lost loved ones, others held “bandit” funerals with large gatherings before they were permitted. Most people I knew decided to simply delay a service, with the hope of holding some kind of a memorial after the pandemic had ended.

I’m sure not everyone followed through with that plan, but I was so happy to be able to gather with friends and celebrate Jim. There were teammates of his from the ‘64 Long Beach State baseball team who flew into town, as well as other high school and college friends, and of course his extended Century Club family.

One thing I heard over and over again was how much everyone appreciated that the club and the school had come together to make sure that Jim was still honored. We’ve all been overwhelmed over the last two years, and it was an important night to take a breath and make sure we were properly saying goodbye to a friend. It was especially meaningful taking place at Blair, where Jim was part of the first baseball game ever played as a Jackrabbit back in 1958.

I hope that anyone who’s on the fence about holding a “delayed service” goes ahead and figures out a way to get it done. Even if it’s been a year or two, being able to celebrate someone’s life is well worth it, and I know it was a cathartic evening for me.

I was admittedly not doing my best sportswriting that night–I was just a person among other people I love, soaking in the evening. But I do have to report on one fun sports item: Jim’s wife JoAnn and their son Chris were on hand, and Chris threw out the opening pitch before the game. Chris comes from good stock, and it was a perfect evening, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the pitch was a perfect strike.

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.