Thomas Ranson: Clifford’s passion brought 1974 championship team back together
Danny Clifford meticulously searched through newspapers first published 46 years ago, looking for any article that mentioned his band of brothers.
Back when the Greenwave played their baseball games at the park on North Maine Street, which has since been converted to an adult softball field, Clifford and his teammates had something special. Under head coach Dave Lumos, Fallon won the state baseball championship in 1974 in the AA division, sweeping Boulder City in two games. Clifford, who started the year with some jitters, improved throughout the season and pitched the Greenwave to the championship.
For most high school athletes, the journey ends here. And Clifford treated that season as if his team won the World Series.
“From my earliest memories, I can remember him talking about that 1974 team and how he considered it such an accomplishment in his life,” said Danny’s oldest son, Eric, who also played for the Greenwave and was an assistant coach this past decade. “He always spoke so vividly about the season, the games he pitched, and the guidance from Coach Lumos, and it wasn’t until I was a part of Lester’s (de Braga) staff that I realized how monumental a state championship was.”
When the Greenwave Hall of Fame was created three years ago, Danny contemplated whether to nominate the 1974 team. This team didn’t win the school’s first state baseball title or the last. Fallon was dominant from start to finish, winning 19 of its 21 games and producing five first-team all-state selections, as well as a Coach of the Year honor for Lumos.
After some convincing and thorough research, Danny completed an application last year and six months later, the team was inducted into the third class.
“The 1974 season was a unique year for the Fallon Greenwave varsity baseball team,” Danny wrote in the application. “The previous year had seen us suffer through injuries and suspensions that completely derailed our campaign. The spring of 1974 brought a new optimism as our team was a great blend of seniors and lower classmen. Many of us had played together on youth baseball leagues and local all-stars previously, so we were very familiar with each other.”
His application, with the help of his coach, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame during the inaugural ceremony, left no room for questions.
“When he was passionate about something, he would pour his whole heart and soul into it and that proved to be true during that time,” his daughter, Sheila, said. “He would stay up late looking through old yearbooks, scouring Facebook to reconnect with old teammates and reminiscing on every single memory that he could think of.
“He enjoyed reconnecting with old teammates, one as far away as Florida, and rekindled several bonds throughout the process,” Eric added. “When he found out they were selected, he was proud, his hard work had paid off and his team that he was so proud of was finally gaining ‘Greenwave Immortality.’”
The smile on Danny’s face during the induction ceremony stretched from one side of the room to the other – bigger than when he watched his beloved Giants win three World Series. Surrounded by his family, including his wife, Debra, that fall night would be one of the highlights of his life.
“The smile on his face on the night of the induction dinner was one I will never forget,” Sheila said. “His big brown eyes had a sparkle to them that you could see from across the gym and the ear-to-ear grin never left his face.”
A year later, Danny became ill and was admitted to Banner Churchill Community Hospital last month. After a 12-day stay to treat his COVID-19 diagnosis, Danny was wheeled out with nurses cheering him on after conquering this new, deadly disease that has swept the world. Five days later, though, his condition deteriorated quickly but this time, Danny didn’t make it.
“I’m going to miss him talking about how well he pitched and how his team bonded in Vegas once they won state. It was well deserved for the whole team, but the whole process wouldn’t have been the same without his dedication,” Sheila said.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.