A contribution by Eagle Rock High School Sports Hall of Fame President Gale Fullerton:
When I met Joe Conte at Eagle Rock High School last year, he was excited and appreciative to just be nominated to the Eagle Rock Sports Hall of Fame. He said that from his era, Eagle Rock High School’s ace quarterback Curt Clinite was his choice for the Hall of Fame. That evening, Joe was overjoyed to meet so many great athletes. But he never expected to join them as a member of the ER Sports Hall of Fame.
My next contact with Joe was on May 25, 2012—the date I notified him that he had been selected for the Hall of Fame. Joe was in very poor health, but his voice changed and I could tell how appreciative he was. Unfortunately, Joe passed away on June 18. I am sure, however, that if he were present to receive the medal, he would modestly say he was not worthy of it.
The following will clearly show how deserving he was:
Although Joe participated in five sports (baseball, football, track, gymnastics, and basketball), he was best known for football and baseball. As a football player, he was known as an elusive runner and reliable receiver. Three quotes from the 1951 yearbook illustrate Joe’s prowess:
• “The Eagles were led by the hard running of Joe Conte.”
• “Clinite passed to Conte, who outran the defending Huskies.”
• “The Eagles seemed to be lost” (Joe had suffered a broken leg and was not on the team).
Although Eagle Rock High’s 1950 baseball team was not one of the best, Joe clearly was. His speed on the base paths, great defense and superior batting eye overshadowed his teammates and others in L.A. City. His coach was Kerry Hodnett (the English teacher many alumni knew from the 1950s and 1960s).
Mr. Hodnett told me in 1962 that he still remembers the remarkable play of Joe Conte. Joe’s talent also caught the eye of local college and major league scouts. He attended Pasadena City College and then became a USC Trojan. At USC, he was the starter in several positions and was known as the “Tough Little Trojan.”
The Saint Louis Cardinals organization liked what they saw and drafted him. Unfortunately for Joe, the Cardinals were loaded with talent and he never made it to the majors. He played in the minor leagues for three years, and then joined the Navy. However, his athletic contributions did not stop.
For more than 40 years, Joe was a sports umpire, referee, and supervisor in football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, and softball. He was recently recognized by the California Football Officials Association for his 43 years of “officiating, mentoring, teaching, and most importantly, making things better for all those around him.”
Joe Conte was a special athlete on many levels, a highly recognized official of sport, and lifelong Eagle Rock supporter. He lived in ER for nearly 80 years. His children and grandchildren also attended ER (each generation participated in sports and served as sports officials). For his contributions and unique ER generational heritage, Joe is most deserving as an inductee of the 2012 Sports Hall of Fame.