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Monday, Jan 20 2014 09:09 PM

Sam Barton, 1928-2014: Coach led strong North baseball program

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    Sam Barton led a strong North High School program.

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BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer jevans@bakersfield.com

Sam Barton had a simple requirement for the high school boys he coached: Work hard and do what you're supposed to do.

"He ran practices right," said George Culver, who played as a junior varsity player for Barton at North and eventually played nine seasons in the major leagues. "When we played the games, we were ready to play."

Tony Silver, who succeeded Barton as North's varsity baseball coach in 1979, said Barton expected nothing but the best.

"If you didn't work hard, if you weren't disciplined, he wouldn't put you on the field," he said.

Barton, 85, died Sunday night after a lengthy illness.

He won more than 200 games as North's varsity baseball coach from 1965-1978. His 1976 team went 23-4 and won the school's first Central Section baseball championship.

In an interview with The Californian in 2000, before his induction into the Bob Elias Kern County Sports Hall of Fame, Barton called the section title his career highlight.

"Winning a Valley championship has to be way up there," Barton said. "That's what you play for."

Barton played baseball for legendary Ray Frederick at Delano High. Frederick was an Elias inductee in 1968, the second year of the Hall of Fame's existence.

"(Frederick) was my model for coaching," Barton said. "He was a very intense man but he was a fair guy."

Including all levels, Barton coached 21 years at North, but he is best known for his varsity baseball coaching career.

The Stars won outright or shared South Yosemite League baseball championships six straight seasons from 1972-77.

"A father figure," said Jimmy Thomas, who played for Barton from 1974-76, then played at UCLA and professionally. "He was a perfectionist. He demanded a lot and made you work for it. A fundamental coach. Personally, he was a good man, straight-forward. He told you how it is. He'd talk with you about life. ... He'll be missed, that's for sure."

Barton's won-lost record is incomplete, according to Central Section historian Bob Barnett, with several seasons' won-lost records unavailable.

Barton was also elected into the Delano High football and North High athletics halls of fame.

A 1946 Delano High graduate, Barton was a four-year letterwinner in football and baseball for the Tigers.

He played football and baseball at Bakersfield College and played one year of pro baseball in 1949. He led BC by batting .375 in 1948.

"The only time I led anything in my life," Barton told The Californian in 2000.

Silver said there's a photograph at the Noriega Hotel with Barton playing quarterback at BC in 1947. Frank Gifford, the future NFL star, was a running back at BC that year and is also in the photo.

"He was my mentor," Silver said. "What he really did for me was help teach me how to run a program, how to run a disciplined program.

"He was a very disciplined coach. His kids knew the game because he taught the game."

Silver added: "His biggest legacy is he was super knowledgeable. But he disciplined guys and made guys grow up to become men. Making guys accountable. A lot of that I learned from Sam."

Silver said Barton continued supporting North's baseball program after retiring as the coach.

"The first time we won the league championship, he ran down the right field line to be the first one to congratulate me," Silver said.

Culver said Barton treated all of his players the same, whether they were stars or backups.

"He got the most out of his teams," Culver said. "You knew you couldn't cross the line against him.

"It was not about winning. It was about doing things right, acting right. He figured if you did that, the wins would take care of themselves."

Barton joined the North High faculty in the fall of 1957 and was an assistant football coach and D class basketball coach that school year.

He taught physical education, math and In the Opportunity program at North, which helps youngsters with difficulties, until retiring in 1992. He also started the school's ceramic department.

Barton was in the U.S. Army and stationed in Korea during the Korean War. He then completed his education at San Jose State before joining the North faculty.

Funeral plans are pending.

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