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Sportsmen of Stanislaus honor local athletes

For nearly five decades Modesto’s Sportsmen of Stanislaus Club has honored local high school athletes throughout the 209 at the annual Outstanding Athlete Awards program. This year marks the 49th annual OAA at the SOS Club.

“The SOS Club was started in 1957 by a group of eight men to help the financially struggling California Relay, the world-class track and field meet,” said Shanale Phipps of the SOS Club.

Since its opening, the club has gone through several transformations and currently has three Olympic size pools, seven tennis courts, seven racquetball/handball courts, two basketball courts, a fitness center and aerobics studio to help members keep fit. Also featured at the club are a full bar, restaurant and full service banquet facilities. It is there in the banquet hall that athletes, coaches, family members and professional athletes gather for the annual OAA event.

“The Outstanding Athlete Award was started to recognize Stanislaus County’s top athletes and sports contributors,” said Phipps.

Over the last 49 years, each year a sellout, the SOS Club has gotten top name athletes and coaches to step up to the microphone and tell the story of their high school days, and their journey to the top of their respective sports. Such gridiron legends as John Elway, Joe Montana, Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw and most recently Eric Dickerson in 2015 have graced the halls of the SOS Club. Heroes of the diamond have also been a part of the iconic event, such as Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Tommy Lasorda, Yogi Berra and Willie Mays, all of whom took time to come to Modesto to share the story of their respective careers. Others from around the sports world have also taken part in years past including tennis legend Billie Jean King, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali and even Walter Cronkite also appeared at the SOS Club in 1982. This year the club booked former San Francisco Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky, who was scheduled to speak in front of a sellout crowd on April 6.

At the ceremony, several awards are given out including Men’s and Women’s High School Prep Division; Men’s and Women’s Open Division (local students who have gone on to succeed at the collegiate level) and Boys and Girls High School Team of the Year honors are given out. Among other awards are the Darell Phillips Award (Outstanding Coach); Jay Pattee Memorial Award (acknowledgement to an individual who has devoted his time to the sports community). Scholarships are also given out in the name of Tom Mellis.

Another unique portion of the event is the SOS Club Hall of Fame. Established in 1981, when they enshrined Cy Young who was born in Modesto, each year they present a new inductee. Hall of Fame members include Joe Rudi, Kenny Roberts, Claude Terry and Suzy Powell.

Longtime area sports journalist Ron Agostini, a member of the OAA Athlete Selection Committee since the late 1970s, serves as the emcee of the evening and has done so for the last five years. Agostini interviews the nominated athletes in a question and answer session, followed by a brief interview with the special guest speaker of the evening.

“Former Bee sports editor Darell Phillips asked me to help the selection committee all those years ago, and I’ve been a part of the OAA ever since,” Agostini said. “I like to think of OAA night as Stanislaus County’s sports version of the Academy Awards. We honor the county’s best athletes each year, and it’s always been a tribute to them. They represent their families, schools and communities so well. It’s really the least we can do to recognize their achievements.”

Agostini also said the location is ideal.

“The Sportsmen of Stanislaus Club is the perfect venue for this night. One look on its walls, with all the photos of some of the greatest athletes this nation has seen, is enough to know,” Agostini said.

Dinner is served just before the awards ceremony.

The SOS Club is at 819 Sunset Ave., Modesto. For more information on the club, log on to