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Inductee Art McRae a model of consistency
Art McRae ended his varsity baseball coaching career at Ceres High School with a 4-2 win over visiting Bear Creek in May of 1996.

Bulldog players hoisted him in the air to celebrate his 550th victory.

"It wasn't something I was anticipating," he said. "It was a sense of pride."

On Sept. 14 at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium, McRae will be inducted into Ceres High's Hall of Fame. The Bulldogs' inaugural class includes former players (35), coaches (2) and teams (2). Art coached the 1990 baseball team that's being recognized as well.

"I just think it's an unbelievable honor," said McRae, who turns 74 on Sept. 4. "I didn't think I'd see it in my lifetime."

Art amassed a 550-427 record in 37 years. The Bulldogs won one section championship in three tries and nine conference titles. Ceres High placed second in league 10 times.

McRae missed just several games during his tenure, including one when his father passed away.

"It's something I enjoyed doing," said McRae, who was 24 when he took over Ceres High's baseball program. "I was pretty fortunate to have a lot of great athletes. We were very competitive. I also have to give credit to George Costa (longtime youth baseball coach in Ceres who passed away in January )."

McRae singled out more than one team when asked to select his greatest.

Ceres High won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II crown, finished first in the Valley Oak League and amassed a program-record 24 victories in 1990. The Bulldogs sustained just seven losses.

Ceres finished as runner-up in the section playoffs and claimed conference titles in 1985 (20-13) and 1984 (19-17).

"We had a good run in 1968 (18-5), 1969 (19-6) and 1970 (17-5) too," McRae said. The Bulldogs went 54-16, won two league championships (1968, 1969) and placed second once over those three seasons.

Sac-Joaquin Section baseball playoffs didn't begin until the mid-1970s.

Five of McRae's players signed contracts with Major League Baseball teams, including Dick Davey (Giants), Osvaldo Bertolotti (Red Sox), Fulvio Bertolotti (Cardinals), Dave Murphy (Athletics) and Rick Arnold (Reds).

"When I went to play pro ball, I knew more than the other kids because of what Art McRae taught me," said Osvaldo Bertolotti, who spent three seasons in Boston's minor-league farm system. "He's the best coach I ever had. I loved playing for him. He was a perfectionist. He preached fundamentals everyday."

"The biggest thing was his commitment," said Chris Howard, a standout pitcher on McRae's 1990 section title squad. "He really tried to get the most out of his players. He wanted you to become a better person."

McRae made sure all of his players understood it was a privilege to put on a Bulldog uniform.

Foul language wasn't tolerated.

"We always had to have a clean dugout, our shirts tucked in and our hats on the right way," Chris said. "He discouraged us to talk back to umpires. It was a gentleman's game. That's the way he expected us to play."

Added Osvaldo: "Everybody respected him."

The Bulldogs' varsity baseball field was named in honor of McRae in 2004.

Besides coaching, Art taught science for 35 years (1959-1994) at Ceres High School. He's presently a substitute for Ceres Unified School District.

McRae and Donna, his wife of 45 years, still reside in Ceres. She backed his passion for baseball.

"She was very supportive," Art said.