The Wright Call

By Dave Wright

For two guys who grew up near each other but have never met, Rob Worthington and Jim Goldman have several things in common. Both went to grade schools just a few miles apart. Both competed in state high school tournaments. Both competed against the other’s high school, albeit some 20 years apart. And both have now been selected to their school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

Worthington, a 1998 Saint Thomas Academy graduate, was inducted during a ceremony at halftime of the Cadets’ homecoming football game against Cretin-Derham Hall on September 16. (The list of inductees also included Richard Hanousek, a 1922 grad who played football for Knute Rockne at Notre Dame; John Knip and Leo Kelly, three-sport stars in the 1950s; Earl Wetzel, a 1965 grad who went on to a long coaching career at Farmington; John Baskfield, a 1983 alum who was later an Olympic speed skater; Nick Flood, a two-sport captain in the ’80s; Zavier Smith, a three-sport star from the late ’90s; and Tom Vannelli, who helped coach STA to hockey prominence.) 

A return to the campus where you spent much of your teenage years tends to bring back a flood of memories. In Worthington’s case, it was a mixture of early apprehension that turned into great joy. Worthington attended grade school at Capitol Hill. When he arrived at STA for ninth grade, he was one of just four from his public school on campus. “By my junior year, I was the only one left from that group,” he recalled. “It was quite an adjustment.”

What helped considerably was Worthington’s skills on the basketball court and baseball diamond. At 6-foot-6, he was a towering presence on excellent STA hoops teams. In 1997, the Cadets were knocked out of the sections by a Highland Park team that had won the Saint Paul City Conference championship. The next year, Worthington was the team captain when the Cadets turned things around and eliminated the Scots en route to winning the Class AAA title over Patrick Henry.

By then, Worthington was on the radar of several college recruiters. He chose to go to Lafayette in eastern Pennsylvania. “I had a cousin who played at Princeton, plus family in New Jersey and Pennsylvania,” he said.

A return to the campus where you spent much of your teenage years tends to bring back a flood of memories. In Worthington’s case, it was a mixture of early apprehension that turned into great joy.

At the time, the Leopards were on their way up the Division I basketball ladder. In 1999, Worthington found himself in the starting lineup on a team that won the conference playoffs and made a rare appearance in the NCAA tournament.

But being a Minnesotan in the East did have its drawbacks. Worthington recalled being on the team bus when the Vikings lost the NFC championship game to Atlanta. “They made me get up and do the Dirty Bird dance,” he said with a laugh.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in English from Lafayette, he came home to get a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota and currently works as a senior recruiter at US Bank. “It was a great choice to go to Saint Thomas,” he said. “I still have a lot of friends from there.”

Highland induction is October 15

Goldman, a 1981 graduate of Highland Park High School, will be inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame on October 15 during the Scots’ football game versus North Saint Paul. More than two decades ago, Goldman was spending part of his winters sneaking out of class to go over to the field house at the U of M. There, a friend would let him in and Goldman would get pitching lessons in preparation for the next baseball season. At the time, the Scots were battling with Cretin-Derham Hall for Saint Paul City Conference honors. The teams tied for first in 1979 with 13-1 league records.

The City Conference was still a 10-team circuit at the time and the Raiders won the only head-to-head meeting with the Scots. Thus, CDH earned the berth in the Twin Cities game. However, the Scots got the last word, making the Class AA state tournament that spring and finishing third.

“That was my sophomore year,” Goldman recalled. “We were a very close-knit bunch. P.J. McGrath pitched us to a win over Mounds View in the first round. I lost a close semifinal game to Little Falls (which went on to win the state championship), but we recovered to win the third-place game.”

Goldman and McGrath will be inducted into Highland’s hall along with 2012 grad Kionda Nicks, who netted 1,000 career points in basketball and made four all-city teams, and the 1971 football team, which tied for first in the City and allowed just 25 points in eight games.

Goldman and McGrath remained strong arms for the Scots. However, CDH started its lengthy stretch of baseball dominance the next spring and proved too tough to overcome.

Goldman remembers his youth baseball days fondly. “I went to Mattocks Grade School,” he said. “We played ball at Groveland Playground all the time. It turned out a bunch of us played together at Highland too and we clicked. I’m still in touch with a lot of them.” 

That’s not as easy as it sounds. After high school, Goldman ended up at a junior college in Texas. Playing in a warmer climate than Minnesota’s suited him well. “When you’re young, you don’t notice the cold as much,” he said. “I remember playing against STA one day and it started snowing. The game had to be stopped. In Texas, it feels cold when it’s 50.” 

Goldman went on to play Division I baseball at Centenary College in Louisiana. From there, he had a brief pro career in Butte, Montana, before returning to Texas to teach and coach baseball. His first stop was at Uvalde High School, where he spent nine years. He went on to Carthage High School, where he won a state championship, and is now at Longview, about 90 miles from Dallas.

The prep baseball season there is a bit longer than here. “We start practice on January 20 with our first game set for February 10,” Goldman said. “We’ll play 35-40 games before we’re done.”

Still, Saint Paul and his Highland Park pals and memories are never far away from Goldman’s mind. He’s looking forward to going back to his prep alma mater so much that he plans on driving from Texas to attend the ceremonies. “That way, I’ll have more time to spend with friends and family and I can go at my own pace,” he said.

Dave Wright can be reached at dwright53@msn.com.

COMMENTS TERMS OF SERVICE

MyVillager welcomes comments from readers. Please include your full name and the neighborhood in which you live. Be respectful of others and stay on topic. We reserve the right to remove any comment we deem to be profane, rude, insulting or hateful. Comments will be reviewed before being published.

 

house ad

 

Leave a Reply