Bob Bennett, longtime Fresno State’s baseball dies at 86

Local News

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) — Bob Bennett was Oklahoma-born, but Fresno-raised. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1951 and then went on to play for Pete Beiden at Fresno State.

Bennett’s coaching career began in 1956 at Kingsburg High School. From there, he went to Bullard High School.

In 1967, Beiden took a one-year sabbatical and Bennett coached the Bulldogs. They went 38-10 that season. When Beiden came back the next season, Bennett went back to Bullard. A couple of years later, Beiden retired and Bennett officially took over at Fresno State.

That was in 1970. He stayed until 2002, when he retired.

During that time, the Bulldogs only had two losing seasons. And they rattled off 26 consecutive winning seasons under Bennett, from 1977 until his last season in 2002.

“You know, I’ve spent over half of my lifetime here at Fresno State,” said Bennett on the day of his retirement. “Four years as a player, was a graduate student and 34 as a coach. And they told me I have seven minutes (laughing).”

Bob Bennett won 1,302 games. He took Fresno State to two College World Series, 1988 and 1991. His teams went to 21 NCAA Regionals, hosting eight of them. And they won 17 conference championships.

Bennett, a Hall of Famer, was a conference coach of the year 14 times. He was NCAA Coach of the Year in 1988, the year the Bulldogs were the No. 1 team in the nation. They won 32 games in a row that year and finished 56-12.

Fresno State also led the nation in attendance in 1988, as well as in 1989.

In 2000, Bob Bennett won the Lefty Gomez Award, given annually by the American Baseball Coaches Association to an individual with significant contributions to the game of baseball.

In his 34 seasons, Bob Bennett coached 27 all-Americans, nine players who became first-round draft picks and three players who won Olympic medals.

In May of 2016, 14 years after he retired, the stadium at Fresno State was named after him.

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