Hall of Famer Stan Charnofsky Has Touched All the Bases
Inside California State University, Northridge psychology professor Stan Charnofsky’s square office, room 3126 at the Michael D. Eisner College of Education, there are nearly 100 photos on display. Some are framed. Others are simply affixed to a surface by Scotch tape.
Behind a chair is a black and white photo, positioned in a way that can be easily missed. In it, Charnofsky is standing in front of a gate that reads “Dedeaux Field.”
It’s the only thing in the room you could associate with baseball. Well, not the only thing.
The pony-tailed man in the office — Charnofsky, 84 years old and the longest-serving tenured professor at CSUN — is the other. On July 24, he will be inducted into the Matador Hall of Fame.
It’s been 50 years since Charnofsky was head baseball coach for what was then known as San Fernando Valley State College.
He succeeded Phil Munroe as the second-ever head baseball coach for the Matadors. From 1962-66, Charnofsky guided Valley State to an 80-99-7 record, including a magical 1965 season in which the team won a California Collegiate Athletic Association championship and fell one game short of reaching the College World Series. Five of his players were selected in the Major League Baseball Draft — including Paul Edmondson, who pitched one season for the Chicago White Sox.
“You look at [Charnofsky] and here’s this little teeny guy with curly hair and a pony tail [and think], you’ve got to be kidding me,” said his former center fielder, Terry Craven, who was one of the five players drafted. Craven went on to become CSUN’s head baseball coach from 1985-88. “[But] he was a dynamo as a player, a dynamo as a coach. … He only coached [CSUN] five years, but his lasting imprint was on [his successor] Bob Hiegert, [his former player and CSUN baseball assistant coach] Tony Davila and myself. We used his ideas. And he doesn’t get enough credit.”
Charnofsky also was a significant influence on his former assistant coach, National Baseball Hall of Fame broadcaster Dick Enberg, who called Charnofsky’s induction into the Matador Hall of Fame “a long overdue honor.”
“I’ve said this many times — in one week’s time, I learned more about baseball than I had my entire life,” said Enberg, who was paired with Charnofsky beginning in 1962. “He was so incredibly bright about the game. I really believe with what he taught me in 1962, he could manage in the Major Leagues today and apply the same skills, the same strategies, the same teaching to players and it would be effective. And on top of that, he’s just a wonderful gentleman, a terrific person who cares about people. And that’s reflected in his lifetime of teaching and in counseling. … They should have a monument, a statue for him at the baseball field. There are not enough superlatives to describe what Stan Charnofsky means to the university and to every student he has touched.”
Charnofsky said he has a feeling he owes Craven and Enberg for getting the ball rolling on the Matador Hall of Fame honor. Baseball is well in his rearview mirror, so the recognition warms his heart.
“I didn’t expect it at all, so I’m delighted,” Charnofsky said. “It is an honor. It’s a big honor. It’s like history coming back to you.”
Charnofsky recently declined an offer from current head baseball coach Greg Moore to throw out a ceremonial first pitch at a Matador game. He had to give a final. That’s where his priorities are today.
Charnofsky walked away from baseball in 1966.
“It was time to grow up,” he said.
Psychology became Charnofsky’s passion. Judging by his longevity at CSUN — he began teaching in fall 1961 — and the fact that he is a licensed psychologist and published author in the field, it defines much of who he is.
Baseball occasionally will creep into a conversation, such as when he teaches his practicum class. Students will talk about their experiences, their upbringing, their family. Charnofsky will open the book of his life, which includes encounters with legendary names such as Rod Dedeaux, Casey Stengel and Mickey Mantle.
Stan and his twin brother Hal were stars for Dedeaux — the legendary USC baseball coach who won 11 national titles — in the early 1950s. They made such an impression while playing for the Trojans that in 2009, the twins were on the USC Athletic Hall of Fame ballot together.
Stan Charnofsky had quite the teacher in Dedeaux, a man some consider the greatest coach in college baseball history.
“He was a classic psychologist as a baseball coach, and I tried to copy that,” Charnofsky said. “Rod would say, ‘Hal, you never make a bad throw to your brother to make a double play. You can’t ever. That’s a mental mistake.’ Then he’d come to me and say, ‘Your brother’s going to make bad throws, and you have to make the double play no matter where the throw is. You can never drop that ball. It’s a mental mistake.’”
Charnofsky often gets asked about one particular USC game. The Trojans played the New York Yankees in an exhibition game in 1951, and Mantle, then 19 years old, hit a mammoth home run. In baseball folklore, it was one of the most prodigious home runs ever hit, with those who were there estimating it traveled 600 feet or more.
Charnofsky played second base that game.
“A guy called me a couple of weeks ago and asked me about it, and I told him nobody hits the ball 600 feet,” Charnofsky said. “It might have gone 500 feet, which is a massive home run. Or 520 maybe. It went over my head, and it went into the football field on the other side of the fence.”
The Yankees were in the Charnofsky twins’ future. After USC, they signed with the Bronx Bombers and began their professional careers in 1952 with the club’s minor league affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y. The next season, Stan and Hal were given a look by the big league club at Yankee Stadium. They didn’t make the roster, but Stan Charnofsky has a nice memory from his five days almost being a Yankee.
“I have a picture of [Baseball Hall of Fame manager] Casey Stengel, my brother and me. Casey’s scratching his head,” Stan Charnofsky said. “What would he do if he had to tell us apart?”
Charnofsky played professionally until 1960. He also managed minor league teams in 1958 and 1960 for the Detroit Tigers and Yankees, respectively. Hal also called it quits after 1960. Both pursued education. Stan studied psychology at USC, and then San Fernando Valley State College came calling.
Charnofsky said Munroe recommended him for the baseball coaching job to then-Athletic Director Glenn Arnett. Charnofsky got the job in 1962.
The program was in its infancy. Charnofsky recalled having no scholarship money and competing against USC and UCLA, among others, for talent. It took three seasons, but Charnofsky finally had a winning team at CSUN in 1965.
“If you want to know the thing that made him different, it’s the way he broke the game down,” Craven said. “When we would practice and when we played the game, he’d take a note. He knew you’d make a physical error, but the mental part [wasn’t accepted].”
There was always something about the mind that fascinated Charnofsky, and he found an intersection between baseball and psychology.
“My players used to joke that I taught them about Abraham Maslow, the famous creative psychologist, and how to self-actualize themselves through baseball,” Charnofsky said. “Well, that wasn’t my goal. My goal was, ‘you have to want to do it. You have to believe in yourself. You have to actualize your potential.’”
Charnofsky’s last game as a head coach was a 5-2 setback to San Diego State in 1966. Though the team lost, it was the psychology department’s gain.
He left coaching and dedicated his work to making students — like his baseball players before them — better. He’s been doing that at CSUN for six decades.
There’s a saying from baseball players who never want to stop playing the game: I’ll keep playing till they take this uniform away from me.
That’s a saying Charnofsky could apply to teaching. At 84, he wants to keep going.
“People ask me, ‘Are you going to retire?’” Charnofsky said. “I live three blocks from campus. I like what I do. I can still remember things. I see no reason to quit. I love what I do.”
Baseball recently crept back into his life when he was informed that he would be inducted into the Matador Hall of Fame. He welcomed the memories with open arms. The field, the players, the assistant coaches — they’re present again.
His former assistant, Enberg, still a dear friend, said he can’t make the Matador Hall of Fame ceremony. The legendary broadcaster is in his final season calling games for the San Diego Padres and will be in Washington, D.C., on July 24. But he said Charnofsky will be with him in D.C. in spirit, as he is whenever he broadcasts a game.
“When you become a Major League announcer, you need a home run call,” Enberg said. “Red Barber used, ‘Oh doctor!’ And Mel Allen said, ‘Well, how about that!’ And Vin Scully used, ‘It’s way back, she is gone!’ And others used, ‘Going, going, gone!’ When I took over as the Angels announcer in 1969, I thought, ‘I need a home run call.’ And most of them had been taken. But I used to say when I was coaching the freshman team [at CSUN] — when we were behind and maybe had a couple of men on — I’d shout out, ‘OK, touch ’em all.’ In other words, hit a home run. So, I borrowed ‘touch ’em all’ from my days at Valley State. It’s a call I still use to this day.
“That alone connects me back to Stan and my time,” he said. “They were a really good four years at the Northridge campus. To tie this all together and put a bow on this … in 55 years, Stan has touched them all, and he has touched thousands of young people. … I love him. Everyone should.”