Santa Maria High teacher and coach Bill Yanez deserves to be inducted into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame

 I recently came across the list of second year inductees to the Santa Maria High School Athletics Hall of Fame and was, once again, disappointed to find that longtime Saints’ baseball and basketball coach Bill Yanez was not included. When he was left out last year, I assumed he was simply overlooked by the committee, which has otherwise done an outstanding job establishing and organizing the hall of fame, but to be left out again is a travesty when he was easily one of the best coaches and educators in the school’s history.

Because of that, it appears the hall’s committee should be reminded of coach Yanez’s credentials. Yanez, who died in 2022, came to SMHS in the early 1960s. He had been a great athlete in both high school and college as a baseball pitcher. When he came to Santa Maria High, he first coached basketball under legendary coach Bob McCutcheon. In a story in the Santa Maria Times in 1966, McCutcheon lauded Yanez, saying, “He is an excellent student of basketball, has great desire, and is more than eager to work hard at the game.” Yanez was even considered as the next varsity basketball coach when McCutcheon left to coach at Allan Hancock College.

Instead, because of his baseball background, Yanez, only 29 at the time, was chosen to take over the Saints’ baseball program. It was a great choice. In his very first year, his team was co-champion of the old Santa Barbara County League, compiling a record of 17-6. A 1967 article in the Santa Maria Times noted the co-championship represented “one of the most successful [baseball] seasons in the school’s history.” He repeated the feat the very next year. 

The best was yet come, however. His 1973 Saints, featuring future big-leaguers Bryn Smith and Pat Kelly, won the Northern League with a 20-5 record and advanced to the semifinals of the CIF playoffs before falling to a powerful Edgewood (West Covina) team that also boasted future MLB players, brothers Ron and Gary Roenicke. During his tenure, Yanez’s baseball teams compiled an overall record of 190-105 in 11 years. Not only did three of his players go on to the major leagues, but several others went on to play minor league, college, and semi-pro.

In 1978, he moved from the diamond to the hardwood to coach a struggling basketball program, which was far removed from the glory days of the 1950s and 1960s. Within a few years, his winning ways were again on display as his 1985 team went 20-6, won the Northern League, and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. For his efforts, Yanez was named the league’s coach of the year. That was the end of his varsity career. During his second tenure as a Saints’ varsity coach, he compiled a record of 72-69. For the next six years he coached the freshman team and had three undefeated squads while winning nearly 100 games. 

He retired permanently from coaching in 1991 but was still an influential force at the school, teaching English, establishing the philanthropic Saints Varsity Club for athletes, and winning the 1999 Crystal Apple Award, the most prestigious award given to Santa Barbara County educators. 

In conclusion, I sincerely hope the Hall of Fame Committee will take another look at Coach Yanez as being more than worthy for next year’s induction.

Carolyn Sherry is a recently retired teacher who taught at Santa Maria High School for 28 years and had the pleasure of working with William Yanez. Send a letter for publication to [email protected].

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