The UWL 2014 Championship Finals took place on January 24th to the 25th, 2015 at SC Village. And with the Master Blasters, SOF, Dirt Bags and The Good, the Bad and the Deadly (GBD) competing I knew it would be a great chance to talk to some long time players on their paintball history.
Gilbert Martinez, playing for the Dirt Bags, had told me that Rick Cendejas, of the Ironmen and GBD would be there. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to have Rick, who played with the Ironmen from 1987 to the mid 90s, to identify some team photos from old Front Line and Paintcheck magazines.
Over the last year I’d talked with Rick on the phone and we’ve communicated through email while working on a few articles, so I was excited to meet him in person.
Find an article on Rick’s early paintball history and the Ironmen’s transition from pumps to semis at:
When I did get out to SC Village on the 24th, I was surprised to also meet Michael “Machine Gun Mike” Baird, son of the Ironmen’s founder, Rick “General Rick” Baird.
Mike, along side Rick Cendejas, had played with GBD after they left the Ironmen in the mid 1990s and both were once again picking up their masks and markers for the UWL Championship Finals.
One of the magazines I grabbed and talked to Rick and Mike about, was the February 1992 issue of Paintcheck, which featured an article by Steve Davidson titled, “Weekend Warriors: The Ironmen.”
Although the article contains some inaccuracies (on the Ironmen’s beginnings), Davidson does list the Ironmen’s wins for the 1991 season, and his research as to why the Ironmen didn’t make finals at the 1991 Masters. Davidson’s also discusses with Bob Long the state of the team going into the 1992 season.
But I can’t post Davidson’s article without adding in corrections to avoid the spread of inaccuracies. Davidson writes that the Ironmen “formed in 1987 at S.C. Village and quickly became an all constant air team…”
Although Bob Long and Rick Cendejas joined the Ironmen in 1987, the team was actually founded, as Mike Baird explained to me, back in 1984-85. So I emailed Baird and asked him about their early days of paintball and how he and his father, “General Rick” Baird, began the Ironmen.
Mike explains to me:
“My dad and I started at the same time, Sept ’84. Early ’85 the team was formed to play “against other organized teams”. We were from the [National Survival Games] field in Pinole, CA. (Bay Area). NOT SC Village!
The original members were all Ironworkers and family members [(and family friends)].”
Mike goes on to write that “General Rick” Baird was “in the Ironworkers Union for 40 years (construction).”
And for another perspective on the Ironmen’s early years, I called up Michael Leon, who operated Mt. Diablo Venture Games Paintball. Michael is another great source of Bay Area paintball history, and he also played with the Ironmen on and off from 1985/86 to 1987.
Leon is actually the designer of mid 80s to roughly mid 90s Ironmen patch seen above. He writes about this patch on mcarterbrown in this thread:
Leon recalls the original core group of Ironmen players when he first met them at the National Survival Games field in Pinole, California, run by Alex Jason. Leon explained that Jason’s field was known as the Donut Hole because it was a circular playing field, surrounded in poison oak.
Leon recalls the original core group of Ironmen members as:
1. “General Rick” Baird
2. Michael “Machine Gun Mike” Baird
3. Laurie Baird, Rick wife and Mike’s step-mother.
4. Flynt Smith
5. Dan Gormic (another worker in the Iron Industry)
6. Tom Lenz, Mike Baird’s friend, who was an Airline Steward.
At the time, Leon enjoyed being more of a mercenary, playing with his Sheridan K2 bolt action rifle, and he wasn’t really looking to join a team. But after he had played with and against the Ironmen weekend after weekend he finally considered it. Leon remembers Mike Baird asking him to “Come on out and play.”
Leon joined with the Ironmen and in April of 1986 they helped him start his own field, Diablo Venture Games.
Above is a video clip, courtesy Michael Leon’s youtube channel, Diablo Venture Games, recorded on April 5th, 1986. In this clip the Ironmen are playing against the Killer Bees, out of San Jose, and as Mike told me, the Ironmen “clobbered them.” Shortly after this match up, Chip Hyde, captain of the Killer Bees, defected to the Ironmen. Hyde remained one of the Ironmen’s core players with the team until the early 90s.
In 1987, the Ironmen first met Bob Long’s Archery group, who were playing as the team Delta, at Diablo Venture Game.
Mike Baird remembers:
“[The Ironmen] knew Bob and his group ([Delta]) from Mike Leon’s field, Venture Games, where I helped Mike [Leon] run games.”
Baird remembers when, in 1987 when he asked Rick Cendejas, Rick’s friend and Mutant Ninja Turtle team member, Dennis Wolfe and Bob Long to join with the Ironmen.
“There was a 15 man tournament at Paint Ball Sams, in Sacramento, and we, the Ironmen, were entering 2 teams but some members couldn’t make it so my dad had me ask Bob Long and his group from Delta Archery (Bob’s store) to join us. Rick Cendejas and Dennis Wolfe were still on the Ninja Turtles still but Rick was part of the Delta Archery group [as well].”
Mike Baird continues, explaining how the combined team performed:
“Rick brought Dennis and another Turtle along. They played with us on Ironmen 1. We took 1st place and after the tourney my father invited then to join the Ironmen.”
Leon played on and off with the team until around the time of the 1987 Air Pistol Open, which he explains caused “a lot of people [to] split ways.”
Both Rick Cendejas and Mike played with the Ironmen until sometime in the mid 1990s when Cendejas left to join the California Diamonds (a reformation of some of the original Black Diamonds) and Mike left soon after to once again band up with Rick. Both players later joined with GBD.
Both Cendejas and Baird played throughout the 1991 season with the Ironmen and are pictured in Davidson’s group photo. Davidson’s article does list the Ironmen’s wins throughout the 1991 season. Steve writes:
“…The Ironmen have won FIVE [events finishing in first place]: two 15-man “limited” events (The Western Classic and the World Cup) and three 10-man events (Lone Star Open, Bay City Open and Windy City Open).”
Davidson’s article also featured two great photos, one of Bob Long with Jim Livey and Ross Alexander. Alexander, owner of Line SI, was a sponsor of the Ironmen leading up to the 1990 season but after that Bud Orr and Worr Game Products took over. Up until this point many of the players were shooting Line SI Bushmaster. Rick Cendejas’ Bushmaster is pictured above.
Talking with Rick at SC Village for the UWL, he identifies the players pictured at the Bay City Open in the photo above.
And the numbered photo below the list:
Ironmen – ’91 Bay City Open – Feb 1992
1. Rick Cendejas
2. Bob Long
3. Clayton Kyle
4. Alexander Rose
5. Carpet Bob
6. James ___
7. Darryl Trent
8. Steve Pilcher – Navarone Player
10. Marty Bush
11. Mike Baird
I asked Randy Kamiya, editor of Action Pursuit Games, and a player on Navarone, if he could identify the player pictured as number 8, and Randy wrote that it looked like Steve Pilcher.
Relaying the name to Rick, he responded, “Steve Pilcher is the person that played with us after moving to Northern Ca. He was an awesome player who was never afraid to go when it was time.”
As Rick explains in the video, Pilcher had played on Navarone and was just guesting with the Ironmen for the Bay City Open event after moving to Northern California.
Rick remembers Pilcher by his name nickname from Navarone, the Mad Hobbit, or as Randy Kamiya explains, one of the two “Mad Hobbits.”
Randy Kamiya wrote me on June 14th of 2014:
“Mark Christian and Steve Pilcher were two amazing players. They were both about 5’4” and we called them the “Mad Hobbits”. They were experts at assaulting a flag station. One of them would always get the pull.”
Giant thanks to Rick Cendejas, Michael Baird, Michael Leon and Randy Kamiya for their help with this article. I’ll be posting additional videos with Rick and Mike showing them sifting through the January 1988 issue of Front Line Magazine and examining the relevant photos. That future article will include the numbered list for the two Front Line team photos from January 1988 which are included above.
Find more of Rick’s images and photo restoration projects online at http://www.rr-images.com