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Major Dennis, the colorful and highly successful coach who was also the baseball coach at Crenshaw High for 22 years until his retirement after the 2009 season, died on Saturday in Artesia after a heart attack. He was 74.
Dennis also coached Crenshaw's girls' basketball team to six City Section championships. He was an important contributor in helping top male and female athletes move on to college and the pro level.
He is survived by his wife, Stella, and six children. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Dennis retired after 22 seasons at the helm.
During his final Sentinel interview with the Sentinel he sat in the athletics office after the team's last regular season home game, a 12-3 win over Manual Arts, he had no regrets and said it was time to move onto retirement.
"I just want to step down and let somebody else run it," Dennis said.
In previous years, the school had already seen longtime boys basketball coach Willie West retire in 2007 and track-and-field coach Willie Deckard leave after last season. And Dennis is another legendary figure at a school rich with tradition.
Dennis also coached the freshman-sophomore boys' basketball team as well as varsity girls basketball, where he won six City titles - most recently in 2004 - and helped the team reach the 1997 CIF state finals.
With the baseball team, he's won the last four Coliseum League titles and will be one of the favorites to contend for the Division II playoffs when seedings are announced this weekend.
But the time is right for Dennis, who said that all of the various coaching jobs left him worn out and ready to move on with his life. He already retired from teaching at the school two years ago but stayed with the baseball team out of love for the program.
"I'm going to miss my boys," he said.
When he took as head coach in the mid-1980's, the program was starting to gain more prominence after former Cougar Darryl Strawberry was fresh off winning Rookie of the Year. Under his watch, many players have gone on to play college ball and a few have gotten drafted - including Trayvon Robinson, currently in the Dodgers organization.
His commitment to the program was made all the more surprising in light of the success in basketball. Dennis said he only missed one week of practice.
"I'm pretty satisfied with all I've done, I've fulfilled my dreams."
He rattled off the great players he coached just this decade -Robinson, Jhiovanni Garcia and C.J. Johnson just to name a few. But he was just as glad to help players find direction on a future outside of baseball.
To him, that means just as much as the many City or league titles that he's won. A fitting tribute for a man who walked silently but produced mightily when he stepped up to the plate.