Fifty years ago the City College men’s soccer team would walk over a small two-lane bridge to play their games at nearby Balboa Stadium. As the 1961 season progressed the Rams started winning. And they kept winning. Although the Rams defeated teams from Cal Berkeley, San Jose State, Stanford and USF, they were named ineligible by the NCAA to play in the postseason. Why? Because they were “just” a community college team.
Now, 50 years later, the 1961 team has finally been recognized for its winning season.
A celebration was held on Nov. 8 before the Rams soccer game against Chabot College. All-Americans Cesar Pina, Al Korbus, Dave Fromer and their coach Roy Diedrichsen sat in attendance as they took a trip down memory lane.
“It was a wonderful thing,” Pina said. “This team was a big part of my life.”
Diedrichsen started coaching at City College in 1948. Looking back over his 36-year career as coach he said that the 1961 team was close to his heart.
“What made it so special is the three All-Americans, Cesar, Al and Dave,” Deidrichsen said.
Coming into that 1961 season the Rams had three returning players: goalie Gary Delong, Flavio Valiente and Korbus, the team’s leading scorer. Fromer and Pina who were newcomers to the team back then said they hadn’t known what to expect.
“I was very excited to join the team and it was quite interesting because I had been playing against Al and Gary, who were archrivals at James Denman Junior High and Balboa High School,” Fromer said. “I had great respect for their talent but when they became [my] teammates, I was much more impressed.”
After losing to Cal in the preseason, the Rams went on to win every game after that. They found redemption against the Bears when they won their rematch 5-2 on Oct. 21, 1961.
Reminiscing about a game against Stanford, Deidrichen and his players recalled how Korbus had scored three goals in a period of only seven minutes to win the game.
“I scored three goals?” Korbus said, with a stunned look on his face. “I don’t remember that at all.”
The City College men’s soccer program began their tradition of winning when they tied Cal in 1960 for the conference title. For six straight years following that they were named conference champions.
With few community college soccer teams in existence back then, City College played as a member of the Northern California Intercollegiate Soccer Conference. The conference was mostly made up of four-year universities, whose coaches found it embarrassing to lose to a community college.
“They hated it because we were winning,” Deidrichsen said. “The coach at Cal, Bob DeGrazia, was instrumental in getting City College out of the conference.”
In 1963, DeGrazia finally got his wish and the Rams were placed into a league with other community colleges like College of San Mateo and Foothill College. But the 1961 team still remembers those seasons where they played against four-year universities.
For them it was special time. Although now living their own lives, Korbus retired from IBM; Fromer running his own soccer camp; Pina working for the International Soccer Federation and Deidrichsen in his nineties, the time they spent together on the playing field will always be in their minds and in their hearts.
Co-athletic director Peg Grady said she is nominating the team to be inducted to the California Community College Athletic Association Hall of Fame to join the likes of other City College athletes like football stars Ollie Matson and OJ Simpson.