San Francisco’s Mariners


October 2015


The signs are up. Pacifica Tigersharks, Daly City Titans and Redwood City’s Jr. 49ers are among the many I’ve seen lately. Pop Warner Football and Cheer will be kicking off another season. Soon it will be time to suit up and hit the field. Yet, when I think of Pop Warner Football, I don’t move down the field with the current lineup; no, I spiral back to a past season, a season when I was the young daughter of a Pop Warner Football coach.

My father, Bob Moore, along with John Shea and San Francisco Police Department’s Steve Spelman assembled the first Mariners team over 50 years ago in the fall of 1961. Spelman was coaching PAL’s Happy Hibernian Warriors at Douglas Park while my dad and John Shea were coaching Park and Rec’s flag football teams at South Sunset Park. Together, along with Sully Cassou, they created a football machine that equipped, trained and prepared a generation of young men for high school, college and even professional ball playing.

Initially they played down at 26th and Vicente and then moved to SFPD’s Taraval Station whose garage served as their locker room. They practiced across the street at McCoppin Square and played their home games at Lincoln High’s football field. The turnout was so great that eventually the Mariners formed two minor teams, the Mariner Mates and the Mariner Seaweeds for the younger boys.

For the next fifteen years, the Mariners contended for the top spot in the league’s standings. Joe MacKenzie remarked that the 1964 Mariner team was one of the best he’d seen; he even remembered my father shouting instructions through his green and white Mariner bullhorn. In 1966, the Mariners lost the championship to the San Francisco Steelers. But in 1968, they took all the wins. According to Tom MacKenzie, assistant coach at the time, “the Mariners won the San Francisco City Championship at the Junior Bantam level. They beat the San Ramon Thunderbirds 14-0 in the Joe Lacy Memorial Bowl.” As head coach, MacKenzie outfitted two strong teams in 1970 and 1971. At the year-end banquet, guest speaker 49er Charlie Krueger admired the 1971 Mariner record.

Many of the players went on to help coach the Mates and/or the Mariners. Many Mariner coaches, like John Shea and Tom MacKenzie, went on to coaching careers; but most of these men, Hank Espinal, Jack Olson, Merle Peacock, Larry Kaaha, Dick Galliani, and a host of others, were regular businessmen, construction workers and policemen. Bill Morgan and his family were folks we visited on our Sunday afternoon drives; both his sons, Jack and Craig, were Mariners.

Despite the tumultuous societal and political storms of these fifteen years, especially in San Francisco, these men quietly gave of their free time and their talent. The motto from many of the Mariners’ programs was “A man never stands so tall as when he stoops to help a boy.” These men stood very tall helping a generation of young men understand that the rules on the field can easily be translated to the game of life. Hard work, teamwork, respect and good sportsmanship are qualities that can be applicable in any endeavor.

By 1976, the Mariners organization had folded. The lockers were cleared out of Taraval Station’s garage, the green and white jackets and the Mariner memorabilia found their way to many Sunset District attics. As a native San Franciscan, the trinkets in my mental treasure chest include memories of the rickety bridge at Playland, ice cream at Polly Ann’s, A.P. Giannini’s insurmountable chain link fence, the long walk up 40th Avenue to Holy Name, and— that green and white Mariner bullhorn.

I would like to thank my dad, John Shea, Mrs. Joan Spelman, Bob Mahoney, Rob Helmstreit, Tom MacKenzie, Joe MacKenzie and Joe Hession for their contributions.

Mariners coachesSF Mariners Pop Warner football team coaches. Sully Cassou standing second from right. Steve Spelman kneeling second from left with Bob Moore and John Shea on his left.

12 thoughts on “San Francisco’s Mariners”

  1. 1971 thru 1974 I started with the Junior mates (I guess were the seaweeds at one time) Coach O’Brien and Coach Braun,,, Dave Mackenzie talked me into playing,, we had a game inside San Quentin that year,, the next year they changed the name to the Dolphins(same age range team) then the mates, then the Mariners where Joe Mackenzie was our head coach,,, we didn’t win much but we had fun, memories for a lifetime

  2. I played for the Mates in ’63 and the Mariners in ’64. Hank Espinal was head coach of the Mariners assisted by Bob Moore. Coach Brooks was head coach of the Mates. We dressed out at the police station and practiced at McCoppin. We scrimmaged against the Seaweeds. We won the city championship in ’64 beating the Crocker Amazon Bears. Great times and a lot of fun!

  3. I was a former starting linebacker, and starting offensive lineman for the San Francisco Mariners/Mates, from 1970-1971.
    In 1970, this Team had finished the regular season undefeated, and won the Joe Lacey Bowl.
    In 1971, this Team had finished the
    regular season in a three way tie for 1st place, and received an invitation
    to the Eureka Redwood Bowl.
    In 1972, this Team had produced one of the best defensive squads that I played for, winning seven games without giving up one single point.
    Thanks for the memories,
    Stephen M. DeLong

    1. Stephen, were you at Giannini.. I was there with Ralph Wilkerson, Kevin Shea who played as well.. The Mariners were great teams.

      1. Me Everett Bass:
        Yes I attended Gianinni Jr. High with Ralph Wilkerson, and we also
        played football together with the
        San Francisco Mariners/Mates from 1970-72.
        Ralph, and Kevin Shea, were as a team captais, and a inspiration to the players on the San Francisco Mariners/Mates from 1970-72.
        However, the hardest hitter of those teams was George Simmons .
        I also remember all the coaches, including Joe Mackenzie.
        Thanks for the memories.
        Stephen DeLong

      2. I remember you Stephen, it’s just been so many years,, I just wanted to make sure. Wow, those were some great teams you play on. I got to know of Pop Warner football when I was in Giannini and was to to late for me to start.. plus I was small lol So I didn’t play until high school. Ralph and I had several classes you were in some as well. Thanks for this sharing that Mariner history you were a part of Stephen.


  4. Thanks so much for the great article. I’m learning a lot of history that just went right over my head at the time. I guess at that age, (7th and 8th grade were the two seasons I played while a student at St. Gabriel’s 40th and Ulloa) I had no idea I was a part of a very special organization run by some very dedicated guys. (Coach Moore was very demanding but disciplined with a velvet hand) And I especially appreciate the ‘shout out’ from Don Sonne who I played with on the championship Mariner team in ’64 with Coaches Espinal and Moore. As I recall, Don Sonne started both ways at tackle for us and went on to become an All-City guard (?) at Lincoln High School for Coach Bill Holland. (?) All of us who started on that line knew he was going to be really good if he stuck with it. I went on to play at St, Ignatius under Coach “Goon” Tringali. Former Mariners who played at S.I. included Dan Driscoll ’69, Bob Beudoin ’68, Chris Collins ’68, Rick Arrietta ’68, Steve Laveroni ’69. Former Mariners I played against in the AAA in high school, included Don Sonne and Mike Seuakawa (?) at Lincoln, QB Jack Goebel and WR Mike Baines at Wilson, QB Vince Ainsley at Poly, and Gerald Dyson (another All-City player) at Galileo. Another former Mariner was Jim Moore C who played at Riordan. I’m sure there were more that I just don’t remember and a couple of them were really good (Al Broussard) but just disappeared from football. In interesting twist, my Mom passed away in August of ’16 and when us kids went to clean out the old family house on 34th Ave between Taraval and Santiago, I came across about 4 or 5 programs from those years that she had saved and that I still have. When I mentioned it to some of the guys I played with, I ended up having to make copies for a few of the guys. The advertisements alone are a kick and mention a lot of the local business names on Taraval and all over the Sunset from those years. In closing, I’ll just say that I hope my grandson has as many great memories and meets as many dedicated coaches as I did………………….while playing hockey and lacrosse!

    1. Dear Kevin Paul:

      A Friend Of Mine Named Chuck Armendariz, purchased on eBay, One Of Those Mariners Game Program Magazines issued in 1964.

      Shortly After He Received This Magazine,
      He Gave It To Me. I Was Suprized, The Magazine Was In Mint Condition.

      Thanks For Sharing Those Memories Of The 1964 Mariners Championship Team.

      In Closing, I Have To Reflect on The Game
      Devin O’Keefe Played At San Quinton Prison Back In 1973. Coach O’Brian of The Mates, Asked Coach O’Leary To Bring Some Players From The Mariners Team To Stand Along The Sidelines As Back Up
      To The Younger Players on The Mates, As A Safety Percaution From The Prison Inmates Freely Roaming Around The Football Field.
      I Was Selected To Attend That Game, And I Saw O’Keefe Play Defense. This Kid Was Very Tough, And He Could Have Played On The Mariners Squad.
      Four Years Later Devin
      Made The All City Team For Lincoln High.
      In Tribute To The Entire Mariners/Mates Organization.
      Stephen DeLong

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