When taking on a new job, it’s inevitable that you will be compared to the person who last held the post. Sometimes this can be a positive thing, especially when hearing a complaint. It’s easy to say that being the new person you can’t speak to practices of the past, but in the future it will be your mission to make things right. Sometimes, however, filling the shoes left by a predecessor can be impossible.
When I was hired to be the Journal’s full-time sports reporter in the spring of 2006, I was excited about the opportunity to cover local teams and highlight the accomplishments of Turlock’s athletes. And, for the most part, I received a warm welcome by coaches, players and parents.
But if I had a quarter for every time someone mentioned former Journal sports editor Frank Godinez and the exceptional job he did covering local sports, I would be a rich woman right now — and probably enjoying the winter in Barbados.
Godinez referred to as “Mr. Bulldog” during the 15 years he covered Turlock sports from 1969 until his death in 1984, is still remembered today with fondness by former coaches and colleagues.
Godinez was a 1970 graduate of Turlock High where he was a starting lineman for the Bulldog football team his senior year. He began his sports writing career at the Journal while still a student at Turlock High. Godinez quickly became a fixture on the sidelines of any local sporting event. The Journal sports pages won two California Newspaper Publishers Association Awards while under his direction.
Godinez became friends with many coaches and was the first friendly contact of former Turlock High football coaches Rod Hollars and Ben Culala.
Culala came to Turlock from Chico in 1975. Godinez was the first person to welcome the new Bulldog coach to the area. Godinez filled Culala in on all Turlock sports, past and present.
”He was the godfather of Turlock sports,” Culala said.
“Frank was basically a repository of knowledge of all things Turlock athletics,” Hollars said. “You could tell his passion was for Turlock High athletics, but more importantly the athletes.”
Culala, who described Godinez as his “best friend,” remembered Godinez’s famous Super Bowl parties and meticulous stats he took for freshman, junior varsity and varsity games.
”He was a tremendous guy,” Culala said. “He was never critical of anybody. His writing was always on a positive plane. He made a player from eight years old to 18 feel like they were going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
When not covering a sporting event for the paper, Godinez was passing along his love of baseball to dozens of young athletes as a Little League coach. In January of 1985, he was honored posthumously by the California Park and Recreation Society for his outstanding volunteer service.
The Godinez Memorial Basketball Tournament at Turlock High began shortly after his death. Frank’s brother, Mario Godinez, is the scorekeeper at every Turlock High home game. Mario said that his brother was “a local guy” that was low-key and never went after the spotlight.
While he may have been a low-key kind of guy, his memory is still front and center. In fact just this week a local farmer mentioned Godinez and his exceptional sports coverage. While at first I was a little offended, wondering if the guy had even read the Journal sports pages since the 1980s, I was also in awe that a community newspaper reporter would leave such a legacy that he was still being talked about around town 28 years later.
Although he spent his life on the sidelines reporting on the triumphs of others, Frank Godinez’s contribution to the Turlock sporting community has not been forgotten.
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.