John Strohmayer, a former Major League Baseball player and Central Valley principal, died Thursday, Nov. 28, after a short illness. He was 73.
Services are pending.
Strohmayer pitched for seven years in the big leagues for the Montreal Expos and New York Mets, compiling an 11-9 record, four saves with 200 strikeouts. He was on the Mets’ 1973 World Series roster, playing alongside Hall of Famers Tom Seaver and Willie Mays and manager Yogi Berra.
After his playing career was over, Strohmayer returned to the North State where he worked in education for 34 years as a teacher and principal at Central Valley High School and ended his career as Superintendent of the Gateway Unified School District.
“I think it’s every kid’s dream to be around a professional athlete, let along to have your dad as one,” said his youngest son, Kevin, an assistant principal at Enterprise High School. “Growing up it was the biggest deal in the world, but he didn’t spend a lot of time talking about it.”
It was only later, Kevin said, that his father would reminisce about his playing days.
“I never got to see him play, but I’ve seen video of him pitching,” Kevin said. “When we all got older, he began to tell stories and show us all the signed baseballs and photos.”
John Strohmayer was born Oct. 13, 1946 in Belle Fourche, S.D. and moved to the North State when he was 3, his son said.
“His dad was a concrete guy who came here to finish work on the dam and they just stayed,” Kevin said.
John Strohmayer went to Central Valley and graduated in 1964 with a football scholarship offer from Stanford and a baseball offer from the University of the Pacific.
“He was 6-1 and 150 pounds so he turned down football and went to play baseball,” Kevin said.
He was drafted in 1968 by the A’s franchise, which had moved from Kansas City to Oakland that year. His rights were sold to Montreal in 1969 and he made his major league debut in 1970, throwing two innings of one-hit and one-run ball against San Diego on April 29. He played for the Expos until 1973 when he was picked up on waivers by the Mets for their postseason run.
A shoulder injury forced his retirement, where he returned to his hometown and began his 34-year career in education.
“I think it’s a testament to the Central Valley and Shasta Lake community,” Kevin Strohmayer said. “He’d traveled all over the world, played winter ball in Puerto Rico and chose to come back to a new career and give back to the community that helped raise him.”
As an educator, John Strohmayer also coached, leading the CV boys basketball team to a CIF state title in 1989, the first time a North State team had won a boys title.
“I remember I was in sixth grade and on the bench and in the locker room for every game,” Kevin said. “At the time I didn’t want to coach and didn’t care about Xs and Os, but just loved being with my dad while he’s doing what he loved.”
He remembers the 1989 team as having a ton of talent, but also that his father knew how to get the most from that group.
“His attention to detail and getting kids to believe in themselves was the difference,” Kevin said.
John Strohmayer taught for 17 years and worked as an assistant principal for several years before becoming principal of his alma mater in 2000. He became the district’s superintendent in 2005 and retired in 2012.
He is survived by his wife, Connie; sons, Steve, Tim and Kevin; sister, Natalie Crowder; and grandchildren Carese, Andrew and Carson.