A view many would pay for opens up from my vantage point in the press box at San Marino High School’s Titan Stadium, and on clear fall afternoons the sight is nothing short of spectacular. One of these beautiful Thursdays last year was most memorable, but this time not for the clear blue sky or stunning San Gabriel Mountains.
On this day, a steady stream of football fans, walking along the top row of the stadium just below the press box, entered my field of vision for just a brief period of time, bent down, then temporarily reappeared and exited in the same direction they had entered.
As the Titan freshman football team went through its pregame routine on the field below, this pattern replayed itself over and over again, one parent after another seemingly visiting a shrine.
Curiosity got the better of me and I finally stood up to ascertain the object of all this attention. There, sitting directly below my perch on the fifty-yard line, was a gentleman I quickly learned was Steve Herren, the father of Jackson, one of the mighty Titans. Given so many had just bowed before the man to either give him a hug or kiss him on the cheek, I immediately dubbed him Pope Stephen, a name which ended up sticking in certain circles. I learned that Steve had recently undergone a round of chemotherapy which had apparently attracted all of the well-wishers.
Herren and I had a humorous history. I had once been asked if I could get a camera crew to publicize a local human interest story and I was funneled in Steve’s direction, given he was an Assignment Editor for FOX 11 News in Los Angeles. A well-produced segment soon appeared on the station, highlighting San Marino High School student Tony Rodela’s efforts to get Taylor Swift to escort him to prom.
A couple weeks later, a FOX 11 camera crew showed up at McNamee Field to film a special on JT McDonnell, a pitcher on the Titan baseball team who could throw with either hand and had a specially-made glove to facilitate his ambidextrousness. Coincidentally, I had written a story about JT in the previous week’s San Marino Tribune, providing me with ample fodder with which to tease Steve. How dare he pilfer from the little local weekly.
It would be more than presumptuous to say that Steve and I became good friends, but no leap at all to say we were friends before he lost his battle with colon cancer last week.
It was a fight that Steve chose to courageously wage in view of the public.
Community members rallied behind Steve. Local families pitched in to make sure there was food on the Herren table while Lisa worked and Steve fought. In one of the more memorable tributes, San Marino National Little League President Jay Fuerst punted the traditional first pitch ceremony on Opening Day to Steve and his son, Carson, a member of the Astros. The first pitch duties are typically handled by the president and his family members. Fuerst thought otherwise. The sports memorabilia fanatic even had custom jerseys made for Steve and Carson: A Madison Bumgarner for Carson, who threw out the first pitch, and Buster Posey for Steve, who was behind the plate on that memorable day. Double plaudits to Fuerst for honoring Steve’s allegiance to the San Francisco Giants here in Dodgerland.
“When Steve started going through what he was going through, I just wanted to give him a bright moment,” Fuerst said. “I went to my son Jack and we talked about it. Jack said ‘that’s so cool,’ which made me proud of my son. They’re huge Giants fans and I thought how neat it would be to put them in Giants jerseys for the ceremony. Also, Steve was the only person I knew who could wear a Giants jersey around here and not get booed.”
Tom Lieb, who coached Carson’s Little League Astros team, had an orange “SH” embroidered onto the back of each team member’s cap.
“I wanted to honor Steve in a way that he knew he had our support,” Lieb told The Tribune. “I spoke to the team about hard work, looking forward, fighting to the next goal, which were all things Steve Herren was doing day in and day out while battling to the end. I discussed the idea with Jay Fuerst and he was totally behind it. Every time we wore that hat and I saw the kids with the ‘SH’ on the back, it immediately put the game and life in perspective. Hopefully, the boys will all learn from that and know Steve was our biggest fan.”
Stephen Douglas Herren was born in Fort Knox, Kentucky, to Harold and Lorraine Herren on October 10, 1955. His youth was spent in Burlingame, California, where he graduated from Mills High School. He attended college in Santa Barbara and was proudly affiliated with the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. He spent many years in the restaurant business in Santa Monica until his career led him to the news industry and FOX 11 News. He married Lisa Gee on September 22, 2001 and the couple went on to have two wonderful sons, Jackson Dane, 15, and Carson Grant, 12.
Through his boys, Steve was an avid fan of San Marino National Little League. Local and long-term friends will remember Steve’s devotion to his family and wonderful sense of humor for a long time to come. Steve was preceded in death by his mother, Lorraine; father, Harold, and his eldest brother, Gary.
Steve is survived by his wife, Lisa; sons Jackson and Carson; brother Chuck (Ruth); sister Shannon (Keith), sister and brother-in-law Gigi and Adolph Lusinsky; sister and brother-in-law Daniel and Jenny Gee; sister-in-law Sandra Gee; mother and father-in-law Andy and Pat Gee and numerous nieces and nephews.
Stephen’s family is appreciative of the many friends and caregivers who provided support in the past year.
A celebration of life will be held on Thursday, June 28 at 2:30 p.m. at San Marino Community Church. A memorial college trust fund has been established for Steve’s sons. Gifts may be given to The Herren Home Run Fund; 539 Stone Street; Benicia, CA, 94510.
Pope Stephen would certainly unbless me if I didn’t add one last phrase to this epistle: Get checked. If you are looking for another way to honor Steve: Get checked. It’s as simple as that.