Bob Herlocker grew up in Vallejo, on the corner of Mayfair Avenue and Lassen Street, just east of Interstate 80. He grew up playing football, baseball and basketball with a close circle of friends. They went all day, from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., and sometimes stayed later, playing under the street lights.
“The neighborhood that I lived in, that’s what we did,” said Herlocker, who was born and raised in Vallejo. “We constantly were out playing in the street, trying to hone our games. We organized a sandlot-type baseball team and we’d go play other neighborhoods.
“We still are friends to this day, all the guys in the neighborhood. It was a total thrill to grow up in Vallejo in those days and be a part of that.”
He played Peanut League baseball and American Legion baseball. He played football and baseball at Hogan High School and Solano Community College. He played baseball at San Francisco State.
He taught and coached in the Vallejo City Unified School District and Napa Valley Unified School District, retiring in 2010 after 39 years in education.
He won as a head football coach and a golf coach.
“That era of people and athletes and teams, I saw it all,” said Steve Mortara. “It was one of the best eras ever. It was extremely competitive, whether it was high school, whether it was the city leagues. Everyone played to win. It was just a continual flow of athletes in different levels — and the best obviously moved on.
“Bob was damn good.”
Herlocker, a Napa resident, will be honored for his successful career as an athlete and coach when he is inducted into the Vallejo Sports Hall of Fame on March 2. A dinner and ceremonies honoring the 10th annual class are at the Dan Foley Cultural Center. A social hour and silent auction start at 3:30 p.m. and will be followed by a dinner and awards program at 6 p.m. Proceeds benefit Greater Vallejo Recreation District youth sports.
Tickets are $40 per person ($25 for those under the age of 17). RSVP in person or by mailing a check to GVRD, 395 Amador St., Vallejo, CA 94590, or by registering at gvrd.org.
The 2013 Hall of Fame also has Don Wouda, Gent Davis, Jerry Hinton, John Eaton, Joe Rasler and Julie Gonzales. Abe Hobbs enters the Hall of Fame in the coach category and the 1964 St. Vincent baseball team will be enshrined.
Mike Kollar and Harry Diavatis will be honored for special achievement.
Hall of Fame has North Bay legends
The Vallejo Sports Hall of Fame is like a Who’s Who of North Bay legends. Those in the HOF include CC Sabathia, Tug McGraw, Dick Bass, Norm Bass, Vic Bottari, Bill Corbus, Augie Garrido, Fulton Kuykendall, Colon Kilby, Dante Magnani, Stan McWilliams, Mike Merriweather, Bob Patterson, Bruno Pellegrini, Jeff Gordon, Ted Albrecht, Bill Nunes, Fred Faucet, Jack Renfro and Jeff Wilson.
Other HOF members are Dick Biama, Ted Gebhardt, D.L. Hurd, Dave Plump, Bob Coronado, Jim Upchurch, Albert Vidaurreta, Anthony Daigle, Bob Mansfield, Martin Wyatt, Bob Albrecht, Gary Coronado, Hank McGraw, Ed Sowash, Mike Minahen and Bobby Russell.
“It’s a great Hall of Fame,” said Mortara. “There’s tremendous athletes.”
It was Mortara who nominated Herlocker, who is in the Napa High Athletic Hall of Fame.
“He’s going in for his body of work — as a high school athlete, college athlete, and his coaching,” said Mortara, who has known Herlocker since 1963. “He did it in two sports. He did it at a high level. In those days, they hand-picked you for the Legion teams. Everybody knew who could play. You got a phone call that said, ‘We want you to play for us. Period.’”
Herlocker is a 1966 Hogan graduate who played quarterback and defensive back in football and was a pitcher-first baseman in baseball for the Spartans. He was All-City and second-team All-North Bay League as a quarterback, playing for Vidaurreta. He was an All-NBL pitcher for Hogan, playing for Harold Stanford and Ed Sarna.
“He could run and he made the offense go,” said Mortara. “They had some good ballplayers there. They were a real good high school football team.”
Herlocker had Mike Scrivner and Mike Koontz as running backs in the Hogan offense, which used an unbalanced line and ran an inside belly game. Koontz is a former Vintage head coach and Scrivner is a former Vintage assistant.
“In those days, I got to call the plays,” said Herlocker, 64.
There was a lot that he took from Vidaurreta — attention to detail and how a team practices, in particular.
“Everything had to be perfect. We couldn’t leave the field without running 10 perfect plays in a row,” said Herlocker. “He just wouldn’t let us leave the field unless we were getting everything down the way he wanted it. I took a lot of that from him. We did a lot of that during my career as a coach as well.”
Herlocker played football and baseball for two years at Solano. He was a running back-safety on the football team, playing for Biama, and was an All-Conference pitcher on the baseball team, coached by McWilliams.
He played a year of baseball at San Francisco State for Garrido and graduated with a degree in P.E. from Sacramento State.
“I worked hard for everything that I did,” he said. “Those are the things that I took with me into my coaching career, that hard work does pay off. I’m very grateful. This is one hell of an honor to be grouped with some of the people that have come before me.
“If it wasn’t for my family and the coaches that I played for, I wouldn’t be sitting here, talking to you right now.”
Successful career in education
Herlocker carved out a successful career in education, winning three Monticello Empire League championships in six years as Napa High’s head football coach (1990-1996), leading the Indians to a 13-win season and a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section runner-up finish in 1994, and also coaching other sports as a staff member for 25 years (1985-2010). He’s one of just eight coaches in the Napa High Hall of Fame.
He compiled a record of 47-26-1 as head football coach.
His stay in Napa also included participation in the baseball and golf programs. He was an assistant coach to Mike Brown on the baseball team from 1988-1991 and during that tenure the Indians won the school’s first section title in 1988. Herlocker also coached the boys golf team from 1993 to 2010.
Herlocker was at Hogan for five years, serving as offensive coordinator for two years and defensive coordinator for two years.
He worked for Vintage High coach Burl Autry as the Crushers’ offensive coordinator from 1979-1983. Vintage went 13-0 in 1980 and won the Sac-Joaquin title, beating Highlands-North Highlands in the title game at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento. In 1983, the Crushers lost in the section finals to Christian Brothers-Sacramento in overtime.
He was also Vallejo High’s offensive coordinator for a year. He had 12 years with the Vallejo City Unified School District.
“For them to recognize me not as a coach, but as a player, really kind of got me to thinking that somebody thought enough of me as a player to put my name in there. I was really grateful to (Mortara) for doing that,” said Herlocker. “The committee thought well enough of me as a player to put me in there. I’m really thrilled to be remembered as a player. I’m sure that my career after my playing days might have had a little something to do with it, too. But I was extremely pleased to be thought of as a pretty good player in my day.”
Herlocker is known for his work with the Napa football program. He was an assistant to coach Les Franco for three years, working as offensive coordinator for two of those seasons. He was an assistant on coach Jerry Dunlap’s staff for three years and coach Troy Mott’s staff for four years. He was an assistant coach on Napa’s 2007 section title-winning team that went 13-1 and beat St. Mary’s-Stockton in the championship game at University of the Pacific.
Herlocker and his wife, Debbie, make their home in the Browns Valley area of Napa.