Gymnast Sakamoto Inducted into LAUSD High School Sports Hall of Fame


The Nellie Oliver Award for outstanding Southland prep school athlete of 1965 was presented to gymnast Makoto Sakamoto at Kawafuku Restaurant in Little Tokyo on Nov. 6, 1965. (Photograph by Toyo Miyatake Studio, Gift of the Alan Miyatake Family, Japanese American National Museum, 96.267.870)

The installation ceremony for the inaugural class of the Los Angeles Unified School District High School Sports Hall of Fame was held Sunday at USC, with gymnastics prodigy Makoto Sakamoto among the 55 honorees.

Criteria for selection included having significant accomplishment in sports in high school and beyond, as well as good character. All honorees had to be at least 35 years old. Coaches and contributors were also recognized.

Sakamoto was a national champion gymnast while only a 10th-grader at L.A. High (Class of ’65). In 1963 and 1965, he won the L.A. City all-around title.

At USC he won the NCAA all-around title in 1968, the parallel bars in 1967-68, and the horizontal bar in 1968. Six times he was the U.S. National AAU all-around champion.

He competed in the 1964 (as a high-schooler) and 1972 Olympic Games in Tokyo and Munich, respectively, and was an assistant coach for the men’s Olympic team that competed in 1984 in Los Angeles. His coaches at USC included three-time Olympian Jack Beckner, who was also inducted on Sunday.

Sakamoto was a UCLA assistant coach and the head coach at BYU from 1987 to 2000. He is a member of the U.S. Gymnastics and USC athletic halls of fame.

Sammy Lee (Franklin, 1939) was also inducted into the Los Angeles High School Sports Hall of Fame. He was the first Asian American to win a gold medal at the Olympics. He burst onto the diving scene as the L.A. City Schools diving champion in 1938 and 1939. He became the U.S. National springboard champion in 1942 and the U.S. National platform champion in 1942 and 1946.

A graduate of Occidental College, Lee earned gold medals in platform diving at the 1948 and 1952 Olympic Games in London and Helsinki, respectively. He also brought home a bronze medal in springboard diving at the 1948 Games. The winner of the 1953 Sullivan Award, he is a member of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and the International Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame.

Lee also had great success as a coach, tutoring such outstanding divers as Pat McCormick and Greg Louganis. Along with his diving success, Lee spent many years as a doctor specializing in ear disease.

The inductees include athletes who later succeeded in professional sports, politics and other fields. Those still living include:

Pauline Betz Addie (L.A. High ’36), tennis

Amy Alcott (Palisades ’74), golf

Jack Beckner (Franklin ’48), gymnastics

Valerie Brisco-Hooks (Locke ’78), track & field

Cynthia Cooper (Locke ’81), basketball (Basketball Hall of Fame)

Sheila Cornell (Taft ’80), softball

John Elway (Granada Hills ’79), football (Pro Football Hall of Fame)

Bob Falkenburg (Fairfax ’42), tennis

Jack Fernandez (L.A. High ’48), wrestling

Mike Garrett (Roosevelt ’62), football (Heisman Trophy)

Gail Goodrich (Polytechnic ’61), basketball (Basketball Hall of Fame)

Denean Howard (Kennedy ’82), track & field

Hugh McElhenny (Washington ’48), football (Pro Football Hall of Fame)

Marques Johnson (Crenshaw ’73), basketball

Willie Naulls (San Pedro ’52), basketball

Mel Patton (University ’43), track & field

Hugo Perez (L.A. High ’82), soccer

Mary Perry (Birmingham ’61), volleyball

Bret Saberhagen (Cleveland ’82), baseball

Gene Selznick (Manual Arts ’48), volleyball

Ozzie Smith (Locke ’73), baseball (Baseball Hall of Fame)

Gayle Van Meter (Palisades (’70-’91), coach

Willie West (Crenshaw ’70-’07), coach

Mal Whitfield (Jefferson ’43), track & field

Esther Williams (Washington ’39), aquatics (swimming star/actress)

Tex Winter (Huntington Park ’40), coach (Basketball Hall of Fame)

Pat Henry Yeomans (L.A. High ’35), tennis

Those inducted posthumously are:

George “Sparky” Anderson (Dorsey ’52) coach (Baseball Hall of Fame)

Emmett Ashford (Jefferson ’34), contributor (Major League Baseball’s first African American umpire)

Lee Barnes (Hollywood ’24), track & field

Ricky Bell (Fremont ’73), football

Dick Bishop (Polytechnic ’30), gymnastics

Jim Blewett (Manual Arts ’17), coach

Tom Bradley (Polytechnic ’37), contributor (Los Angeles mayor, California gubernatorial candidate)

Mary K. Browne (Polytechnic ’09), tennis

Lillian Copeland (L.A. High ’23), track & field

Rod Dedeaux (Hollywood ’31), coach (led USC to 11 NCAA baseball championships)

Don Drysdale (Van Nuys ’54), baseball (Baseball Hall of Fame)

Charles Dumas (Jefferson ’53), contributor

Harry Edelson (Jefferson ’26), coach

Tom Fears (Manual Arts ’41), football (Pro Football Hall of Fame)

John Ferraro (Bell ’42), contributor/football (Los Angeles City Council president, mayoral candidate)

Alex Hannum (Hamilton ’42), basketball (Basketball Hall of Fame)

Larry Hanson (Jefferson ’46-’73), coach

Les Haserot (Hollywood ’23), coach

Dorothy Poynton Hill (Fairfax ’33), diving

Cornelius Johnson (L.A. High ’34), track & field

Jack Kemp (Fairfax ’53), football (U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary)

Frank Lubin (Lincoln ’27), basketball

Bill Schroeder (Hollywood ’23), contributor

Ernie Smith (Gardena ’29), basketball

Kenny Washington (Lincoln ’36), football

Bob Waterfield (Van Nuys ’38), football (Pro Football Hall of Fame)


1 Comment

  1. Guys, I may be biased, but my sister, Doe Yamashiro was one of L.A. City’s greatest gymnasts. She was on the national team for four years one of those being the ’84 Olympics. She broke her ankle in training, so wasn’t able to compete in ’84, but went on to compete in the NCAAs at Stanford where she graduated before going to medical school.

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