Opinions and arguments as to whom the best athlete to come out of the Pasadena area can be found around town from barbershops to basketball courts.
Recently, the CIF Southern Section entered the debate, at least on the high school level, when the regulating body released its list of “100 athletes for 100 years.”
Jackie Robinson and Pasadena High’s Charles Paddock and Stan Smith.
“There are a lot of people you could have put on that list,” said George Terzian, who played tennis and basketball at Pasadena High and Pasadena City College. “I’m surprised with some of the people left off the list.”
Perhaps there should be no shock with the inclusion of Robinson, one of the most influential and successful American sports icons of all time.
Robinson, who passed away in 1972, played baseball, football, basketball and ran track for the Terriers (later changed to Mustangs) and would later do the same at Pasadena Junior College and UCLA. Robinson was also a solid tennis player and captured the Pacific Coast Negro Tennis Championship Tournament singles title in 1936.
“A lot of people don’t remember that Jackie played more sports than just baseball. He and [older brother] Mack [Robinson] were true athletes who just wanted to go out and play,” said Delano Robinson, the wife of Mack and sister-in-law of Jackie Robinson, at a recent movie premiere of “42,” the film based on Jackie Robinson.
Robinson is, of course, most famously known for breaking the Major League Baseball color line in 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
A few decades later across town, Bulldogs standout Smith made a name for himself on the tennis court.
A current resident of Hilton Head Island, S.C., Smith played both basketball and tennis at Pasadena and excelled in each.
“Stan is certainly remembered as a tennis player, but he was a great 6-foot-4 off guard who was deadly from 15 feet and closer,” said Terzian, who coached the Pasadena boys’ basketball team at the time. “He played with us until his junior year, when he played CIF tennis full-time.”
Smith defeated Sunny Hills’ Jim Hobson 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to win the 1964 CIF Southern Section singles championship and later was a star in the pro ranks.
Smith, who had a brand of Adidas shoe named after him, won both the U.S. Open in 1971 and Wimbledon in 1972 as a singles player, while combining with partner Robert Lutz to win the doubles U.S. Open crown in 1968, 1974, 1978 and 1980. The duo also won the 1970 Australian Open.
Perhaps the lesser known trio of greats was Charles “Charley” Paddock, an early track and field icon who attended Pasadena High nearly 100 years ago and who was first dubbed “The world’s fastest man.”
Paddock excelled in track and field for the Bulldogs, where he was the CIF Southern Section champion in the 100-yard dash from 1915-1917 with corresponding times of 10.6 seconds, 10.4 seconds and 10 seconds flat, respectively. Paddock’s was the 100 state champion in 1915 and 1917.
Paddock was also a Southern Section and state champion in the 200 during those three years, with his fastest time coming in at 22.4.
Three years after his graduation from Pasadena, Paddock won a gold medal at the 1920 Olympic Games in the 100 and a silver in the 200.
Paddock later won a silver in the 200 in the 1924 Olympic Games.
Paddock, who served in World War I between attending Pasadena High and USC, did not survive World War II as he died in plane crash in Alaska in 1943.