ALAMEDA -- While growing up, James Francis McGee went to school on the Island and ultimately graduated from Alameda High School in 1982. Along the way, he gained a great appreciation for the city and the many things connected to it.
Today, McGee no longer lives in Alameda. But Alameda still lives in him.
As does a love for sports. And for popular culture. For everyday people, too.
Oh ... and for writing. Now, McGee plans to put all these elements together in the form of a book -- or maybe even books -- about what he calls Alameda legends.
"I love to write, I love to tell stories and I love to pass it on," McGee said. "I don't want these people (I'm writing about) to be forgotten."
Surely, any book about Alameda sports stars would include 1958 Encinal High graduate and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Stargell, and, of course, 1920s Alameda High graduate Dick Bartell, who went on to a major league career that many also believe deserves recognition from Cooperstown.
But not all of McGee's stories will be about baseball -- boxing great "Gentleman" Jim Corbett once trained behind Croll's Bar, McGee said -- or even about any sports figure. The late comic Phyllis Diller and late exercise guru Jack LaLanne resided in Alameda. Fact is, McGee has so much material that his biggest challenge might be to organize it in the best possible manner.
A first volume of "Alameda Legends," McGee said, might concentrate on sports people. Or it might not. Then, there's the possibility of a second volume.
"Most chapters are one paragraph -- one medium-to-long paragraph, perhaps two paragraphs," McGee said. "I might flesh it out later."
McGee, 49, currently a Fremont resident and former educator in Hayward and Newark, has plenty of information to work with -- plus plenty of firsthand experience with Alameda and its culture from which to gather material.
"Ninety-five percent of it has been from memory," McGee said. "I have a pretty good memory."
McGee no doubt has seen much as an adult through his career as an educator, in 15 years of helping coach football and three more coaching basketball. It also helped to have had a father-in-law -- the late Jack "Lucky" Lohrke -- who played baseball in the major leagues and the Pacific Coast League in its heyday. But many of McGee's recollections also stem in large part from playing scholastic sports while growing up in Alameda.
As a student of St. Philip Neri Elementary School, McGee played five years of Catholic Youth Organization basketball. Later, he played football in each of his four years at Alameda High and was part of the Hornets basketball team as a junior and senior. McGee also developed a passion for writing and literature during his formative years. As a member of Alameda Poets Society in the 1980s, he had three of his works published.
"I tended to read short stories or poetry, as they don't take too long," McGee said, adding that he also gained inspiration from a pair of sportswriting greats -- the renowned Grantland Rice and Alameda's own Win Currier -- and most especially, from his wife, Kristina.
McGee's knowledge, experiences and inspirations have carried him far. He has written for newspapers. And in addition to "Alameda Legends," McGee already had one book awaiting publication and a couple others in the works. Currently, he also has a Facebook page filled with tributes to people connected to Alameda -- and beyond. In addition to Alameda tributes, McGee also speaks of possible books about Oakland, the rest of the East Bay and even Los Angeles.
"I envision this as something that high school kids and junior high school kids, as well as adults, would be interested in," McGee said.
As for Alameda legends, McGee is still uncovering more of them. A volume three, perhaps? Don't put it past this most energetic and intrepid educator/coach/writer.
Those wishing to pass along any anecdotes or tips about Alameda sports figures can contact James McGee at firstname.lastname@example.org.