Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Benson’s favorite son ‘too fiery’

CORKY SIMPSON Citizen Staff Writer

Chad Curtis was a ”great kid” at Benson High School, but so competitive his basketball coach had to kick him off the squad.

”There never were hard feelings,” said Jerry Lee, who coached the Benson Bobcats in basketball and track, ”but Chad was just too fiery and there were some fights. We had to make a decision.”

Nearly 15 years later, he is the hero of this small city east of Tucson.

”The whole town is excited!” Bertie Hoops, manager of the Horseshoe Cafe, said this morning. ”Wouldn’t'cha know, our own boy, Chad Curtis, hits two home runs for the New York Yankees to win a World Series game,”

Hoops said the Benson Chamber of Commerce ought to hold a parade for Curtis, whose 10th-inning blast gave New York a 6-5 victory over Atlanta in Game 3.

”People who come in here, that’s all they’re talking about, Chad hitting those homers,” said Angie Molina, who works the day shift at the Horseshoe, on Fourth Street in downtown Benson.

For Lee, it was difficult to remove Curtis from the basketball squad because, ”he was really good, especially under pressure. Late in the game when the other team would start fouling, Chad would put the ball in the hole.”

James Driggers, Curtis’ junior varsity football coach, said he remembers the player’s competitiveness. ”One year we went to play Willcox, our big rival. We didn’t have an exceptional team, just average. Chad was our quarterback and he just took control of the game. He took it upon himself to beat Willcox and we did.

”We ran the veer and he was our quarterback. He also intercepted a pass on defense.”

Ken Smith, now retired, coached Curtis in baseball.

”He was a real utility player for me,” Smith said. ”Chad played mainly in the outfield, but I also played him at shortstop, pitched him and even put him behind the plate to catch.

”He had a lot of potential. You couldn’t tell he’d be a major leaguer, but it was evident he could play at the next level.”

After high school, Curtis played a year each at Yavapai College in Prescott, Cochise College in Douglas and Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, before signing with the California Angels in 1989.

”One time we were playing St. David in baseball,” Smith recalled, ”and they had a real good pitcher named Troy Bradford, who went on to Cochise College and the University of Arizona.

”Well, we were locked in a 3-3 game in the eighth inning and Troy was pitching. He walked a kid named Devon Finn – loaded the bases – to pitch to Chad.

”Chad hit a grand-slam home run.”

Mary Jo Smith, wife of Chad’s baseball coach, taught Curtis and Candace Reynolds, who would become his wife, in English class at Benson High.

”They were both really good kids,” she said. ”We’re all very proud of what Chad did last night. He came from a really strong family, very religious, just very good people.”

The high school sweethearts were married on May 7, 1990, Curtis’ first year in professional baseball.

The ceremony took place in the courthouse at Davenport, Iowa, at 1:30 in the afternoon – and Chad was wearing his Davenport Angels baseball uniform.

”That’s because we had a game at 2 o’clock,” Curtis told the Citizen in a 1993 interview.

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