San Bruno Legend Tom Lara Passes Away – Reprint John Murphy Prep 2 Prep

San Bruno baseball legend Tom Lara passes away


July 18, 2014

Tom Lara was diminutive in stature, slightly bow-legged and soft-spoken — but a giant in terms of San Bruno and Bay Area baseball.

Lara,89, died around 8 p.m. Thursday night, according to multiple sources including past and present Jim DiMaggio League baseball coaches.

The main baseball field at San Bruno Park — originally known as “Diamond 1″ — was named Tom Lara Field in a ceremony in June of 1988. He spoke at that ceremony and his wife, Connie Lara, was also honored that day.

“He was San Bruno baseball,” said Mountain View’s Greg Quigley, who assisted Lara with the San Bruno DiMaggio League team from 1986 through 1990. “He dedicated his life to youth baseball, as a city commissioner, as a coach, as a league official.”

Said Jim Murphy of Burlingame who as a 15-year-old played for Lara’s first San Bruno DiMaggio League team: “He was the dean of San Bruno baseball, who coached at every age level. He was largely responsible for expanding playing opportunities for players of all ability levels at a time when the population in San Bruno was exploding. He was fair, had a sense of humor and was a good judge of talent.”

Several current and past DiMaggio coaches were informed Thursday night of Lara’s passing by league president Paul Cunnie, including Pacifica Joe D. coach Donni “Baseball” Rodriguez.

“I played for Pacifica Joe D. as a kid and took over the program from the Hughes family five years ago with the help of Tom,” Rodriguez said. “He helped me out a bunch and I am grateful just to have known him and call him a friend through his final years.”

Also aided by Lara’s tutelage was longtime El Camino High baseball coach Carlos Roman, who also coached the South San Francisco DiMaggio team.

“(The year) 1979 was my first year as the head SSF DiMaggio coach,” Roman said. “I attend our preseason coaches’ meeting. I am 23 years old. The room was full of legendary coaches — Tom King, Tony Santora, Bob Rosselli, Carl Vallero and Dino Rastelli. Tom Lara greets me and tells me ‘Young man, if if you are willing to listen to us we will teach you baseball the right way.’ Only Tom King is left from that group of great men. I will always be grateful to all of them for teaching me ‘the right way to play the game.'”

The DiMaggio League for ages 16 through 18 began in the late 1960s. Lara was one of the league’s founding fathers and coached one of San Bruno’s original two teams (the city later fielded just one). When the first Joe D. games were played at San Bruno Park, Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio himself showed up and threw the ceremonial first pitch and signed autographs for children.

Standouts for Lara’s first squad sponsored by Flying Goose Sporting Goods included George Gladius, Matt Kriletich, Bob Bjorner, Frank Schaukowtich and 15-year-olds Don Benedetti and Jim Murphy.

The field named after Lara, of course, has long been a hub of peninsula baseball activity. It is where future San Bruno major leaguers Wally Bunker and Dan Serafini played. Ducky Mahoney (the father of actress Suzanne Somers) was a groundskeeper there.

Lara’s son, Tom Jr., was an outstanding athlete who assisted his father as a coach and guided teams of his own around the city. Besides excelling in baseball, Tom Lara Jr. played football for Serra High’s 1962 league champions.

The elder Lara was a member of the San Bruno Park and Rec Commission and, along with his wife, was involved with the San Bruno Lions Club for many years.

Lara’s services are pending, according to the Chapel of the Highlands (Millbrae) web site.

Coaches (L-R) John Quintell, Dan Bonetti and Tom Lara guided the San Bruno Joe DiMaggio team.  San Bruno baseball

Coaches (L-R) John Quintell, Dan Bonetti and Tom Lara guided the San Bruno Joe DiMaggio team.
San Bruno baseball

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