(Another) Hall Call For Bass

By Richard Freeman, Courtesy of The Times-Herald
Updated: December 26, 2005

BASHOF Induction Added To Former Vallejo High Running Back’s Legend

VALLEJO NATIVE DICK BASS, middle, joined tennis great John McEnroe and former San Francisco 49er quarterback Steve Young as inductees in the 26th annual Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame enshrinement banquet. Shawn Miller file photo

CALIFORNIA—Dick Bass was the Reggie Bush of his day. And then some: Untouchable for two years at Vallejo High School, a two-time All-American at the University of the Pacific, a No. 1 draft choice of the then-Los Angeles Rams when he was a junior, and a four-time Pro Bowl back during a stellar 11-year career with the Rams.

Bass was a charter member of the UOP Sports Hall of Fame in 1982. He was a charter member of the Vallejo Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.

But it wasn’t until this year that Bass, in the Times-Herald’s No. 6 sports story of the year, turned in a terrific trifecta.

Bass was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall and the African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame early in 2005 and on Dec. 1, CalHi Sports selected Bass to the prestigious “Top 100 Male Athletes in State History.”

Next up: A push to get the humble 72-year-old into the College Hall of Fame at worst and Pro Football Hall of Fame at best.

A spot in the college Hall is possible, especially since Bass is one of only two players in history to lead the NCAA in rushing, scoring and total offense in the same season. The pros, however, could be a longshot since Bass isn’t in the Top 50 in any statistic, though he was the Rams’ first 1,000-yard rusher in 1962.

Leading the public relations blitz, naturally, is his devoted sister, Dorothy Bass Atkins, a South Bay resident who toiled for a decade to get her brother into the Bay Area Hall.

“We’re trying to get him in the NFL Hall now and that’s going to be tough,” Atkins said.

Atkins has hardly any time to cool the engines after five years of letter-writing and calls to the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, year after year, as her brother was ignored.

“He was lawyers nominated, but nothing would happen,” Atkins said. “I guess I got into someone’s ear.”

Though the Hall would induct golfers who spent only a few years in the Bay Area and others who seemingly didn’t challenge Bass’ local legendary status, Atkins said she never pitted her brother against others.

She didn’t have to.

“All they had to do was look at what he did and look at what he achieved,” Atkins said.

In 1954, Bass led the Apaches to one of the greatest seasons in state history and CalHi Sports named him the state’s Player of the Year. His 27.4 points and 4.2 touchdowns a game that year

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are the fifth-best nationally in each category.

And with VHS steamrolling opponents, Bass was usually removed by half-time.

The stats were always there, if the votes into the BASHOF weren’t.

“My thing was that whatever I did (on the field) was forever in print and everlasting,” Bass said. “I can go back and look it up.”

Though as humble today as he was when he played – Bass was never one to do any dance or jump into the stands – he was undoubtedly grateful about the BASHOF honor.

“Deep down, Dick wanted it to happen,” Atkins said. “I can tell he was thrilled.”

It turned out to be a bittersweet 2005 for the Bass family. Norman Bass Sr., father of Dick, Dorothy and Norm Jr., died at age 90 on Aug. 15, four months after his son joined tennis great John McEnroe and former 49er quarterback Steve Young as inductees into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame.

“He waited a long time for me to get inducted,” Bass said. “He finally got his wish.”

It was the elder Bass that pushed his talented sons to sports greatness.

“I could run for five, six touchdowns and when I got home, we would go over my mistakes,” Bass said. “My dad would say, ‘You can improve here.’ He would always say, ‘You’re going to be the best, but in order to be the best, you have to clean up your mistakes.’ ”

“I think my dad was most proud of Dick because he never got a big head,” Atkins said. “And he didn’t do a lot of showboating on the field. He just played the game.”

It was all about setting goals, Dick would say.

“You set it and you try and reach it,” he said. “If you can’t reach it, you get as close as you can to it. My thing was that it was all about the team.”

And a key member to the Bass team, Dorothy Bass Atkins, believes the College Hall of Fame is next in line.

“My husband and I just thought he needs to be in this one,” Atkins said.

The persistence will be there as it was in the BASHOF quest, she said.

“But I’m hoping it will be easier,” Atkins said. “I have the reason to do it, though.”