In that game, 22 years ago, the local Bulldogs defeated Lincoln of Stockton, 35-6, during the regular season and then downed the Trojans again in the playoffs on their way to the 1987 Sac-Joaquin Section championship.
And just about the time the Remember When photo ran, this year’s Bulldog team defeated Lincoln, 37-21, the first time in 12 years that Tracy had won over a team long considered an archrival.
The 2009 Tracy High Bulldogs are obviously headed to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. Whether they will duplicate the championship feat of their 1987 predecessors is yet to be seen, but the photo of Todd reminds them that the championship legacy (1982 and 1987) is alive and well.
I had not yet returned from my trip to eastern Canada when responses to the Todd Rickets photo were recorded on my office answering machine. One of the first to register was a small voice, which said, “This is Rachel, and Todd Rickets is my daddy.”
A number of former Tracy High students, including teammates of Rickets, responded. One e-mail came from Arizona. It read: “Todd played wide receiver. We played Lincoln twice that year — one game during the SJAA season and another in the second round of the playoffs. We beat them both times. Todd is one of the best athletes I have ever played with. Danly Daniel.”
Danly, as veteran Tracy High fans will quickly recall, was the star running back of the 1987 championship team. In fact, after Rickets ran the punt back 62 yards to the 4-yard line against Lincoln, Danly carried the ball into the end zone on the next play.
In the section title game against Yuba City, Danly scored the winning touchdown to give Tracy High the 17-16 win and the section championship. I remember clearly sitting in the stands that cold December night at Sacramento State as Danly ran 18 yards down the left sideline into the end zone with one minute, 18 seconds left in the game.
This year’s Tracy High team, as of Friday afternoon and no doubt by today, too, remains undefeated. Kelly Jones, former Press staffer and now a sports writer with the Modesto Bee, reported that the last time a Tracy High team started this well was 23 years ago — in 1986. The team went 12-0 before losing to Vintage, 7-6, in the third round of the playoffs. The next year, Tracy lost early in the season but went 13-1 to win the section title.
The last undefeated Tracy High team: 1968, when there were no playoffs.
He loved this town
It seems nearly every time I’m away on a trip, I learn on my return that a friend has died. Such was the case this year, when I traveled to eastern Canada. Back in Tracy, I learned that John C. Rickman, the longtime Tracy stockbroker, had lost his fight with cancer.
Before I had left on the tip, I was told John was in the Palo Alto Veterans Hospital. I called his wife, Joan, and she gave me his phone number. I called John, and he sounded very upbeat. He had completed radiation at Stanford and was beginning chemotherapy. The doctors seemed encouraged, and that buoyed John’s spirits.
Over the phone, we hashed over some the old times in Tracy, as we had for years in person. Several times a week, for several decades at least, I stopped by the Beckman & Co. office in the Tracy Inn lobby to check stock prices and chat with John and stockbroker sidekick Vern Fleck, whom my brother, for obvious look-alike reasons, called Jerry Colonna.
I’d often find Pete Ritter, Jim Stroup, Mike “Guru” Obad, Bob Hedrick or Fred Cook there, too. The conversation was always lively, punctuated by a lot of laughs.
On the phone several weeks ago, John and I talked and chuckled again about somebody or something connected to the town he loved unabashedly. I mentioned talking a number of years ago to Emma Baumgardner, the legendary Tracy High drama and English teacher. I said to John that she told me that among the students she had coached in Tracy High drama productions, John Rickman was the most talented. “A natural,” she said.
“Did Mrs. B really say that?” John responded. “Well, what do you know.”
Hollywood’s loss was Tracy’s gain. John Rickman added so much to our town for all those years. It won’t be quite the same without him.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.