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Sports then

 

Southern California was a great place to be a sports fanatic in the 1950s and 1960s. If we  were interested enough, we could occasionally persuade our parents to take us to see an event like a USC swim meet with, say, Stanford and Cal. Or a UCLA baseball game against Texas or Michigan. Maybe a wrestling meet at Cal State LA with San Jose State and Santa Clara. As we grew older and got drivers licenses, our sports menu was unlimited.
 
Some NFL football early, yes. Bob Waterfield! Elroy (Crazy Legs) Hirsch! Frank Gifford! Del Shofner! Don Paul! On other teams, Johnny Unitas! Jim Brown! Milton (“Big Daddy”) Lipscomb!
 
UCLA and USC football! Don Moomaw! Big Ben Wilson! The McKeever Twins! The enormous hugeness of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, parking your family DeSoto or Hudson on a Negro family’s front yard for $5 six strestssouthf Sand Barbara Avenue (Martin Luther King Boulevard) and walking north to the stadium with thousands of oter fans.
 
Walking through a tunnel to see the emerald green field for the first time: UNFORGETTABLE!
 
A ten-minute line to buy a hot dog and a Coke!  
 
Being in the Coliseum when 100,000 people cheer; INFORGETTABLE!
 
The USC college baseball games would occasionally be televised on local LA independent station KTLA on Saturday morning, Even more rarely USC tennis matches. 
 
Well into the 1970s, the only Dodgers games normally televised were with the Giants at Candlestick Park. Those were sports ecstasy: Koufax versus Marichal!  Drysdae versus Sad Sam Jones! Willie McCovey, who had Drysdale’s number. The immortal Willie Mays who made the highest level of baseball excellence look not only easy but casual and fun! As if he’d play for nothing, just to be there!
 
The names! Clem Labine! Don Demeter! Johnny Podres! Norm Larker! Junior Gilliam! Joe Pignatano! Wally Moon! On the Angels, Ken Aspromonte! Eli Grba! Tex Clevenger! Joe Koppe and Bill Moran! Bob Cerv! Steve Bilko! TED KLUZSEWSKI, with his sleeves cut off at the shoulder to accommodate his bulging  biceps! Art Fowler! Marv Grissom! Bo Belinsky! Ed Sadowski! Leon Wagner!
 
NBA basketball was few and far between before the Lakers arrived. Then — wasn’t it one or two home games a week  on TV at the Sports Arena? Rudy LaRusso! Mel Counts the 7- Footer! Hot Rod HuNDley!  Tommy Hawkins! The imperial jerry west! And the most underrated superstar in nba history, Elgin Baylor! Dr. J never did anything elg hadn’t done already.
 
Track and died meets occasionally. The Mt. Sac and  San Jose Invitationals. I think they televised a few SC-UCLA meets .. is that my imagination?
 
There are hardly any Sunny Hills boxing fans between 1962 and 1970 beside me and my big bro Dave Meier, ’62. But we had one boxing program on TV every week from the Olympic Auditorium at 18th and Grand, with a new kid named Dick Enberg and a “color commentator”,  “match-maker” Mickey Davies. Good boxers by the hundreds!  Raul Rojas .. Mando Ramos .. George (“Scrap Iron”) Johnson .. Amos (‘Big Train”) Lincoln .. Joey Orbillo Jerry Quarry .. Indian Red Lopez .. Frankie Crawford .. Hedgemon Lewis .. Ramon Navarro .. No weekly card in the nation was better week after week.
 
A golf tournament once in a while, usually from Palm Springs or Pebble Beach. network golf telecast on Sunday afternoon where the announcers whispered!
 
“ .. now Dow Finsterwald will line up his putt. It’s 18 feet slightly downhill with a right break .. Don January stroked a double bogey here 15 minutes ago.. Julius Boros notched an eagle 3 yesterday .. big George Bayer waits by his bag .. Chi Chi Rodriquez is at par 4 number 7 with the lead .. now Dow is ready .. he addresses the ball .. no, a Gust of wind .. “
 
Do they still whisper?
 
.Jim Hobson beat Stan Smith many times and then when they both started at USC, well, the Trojans were loaded, UCLA was loaded, Stanford was loaded and featured our own Charlie  Herlands, ’64 on varsity.  Tennis was beginning to be recognized as “commercially viable” in the us. 
 
As great as Arthur Ashe and the Australians were, I think it was Jimmy Connors at UCLA and Billie Jean King, Chris Evert and Evonne Goolagong in the Virginia Slims who carried tennis into the big money for good.
 
So we always had great sports here, ever since Father Junipero Serra and Hermando Cortez chose up sides for some show-down hoops at the main beach courts in Laguna, no harm no foul, shoot for first outs.
 
But the thing is, the main thing, none of it equals, not even the total aggregate of it all, 1955-1975 — sweat, blisters, jock straps, charley horses, tape, goggles, gatorade, shin splints and liniment — doesn’t compare to one day or even one hour of sports on tv and cable and videotape, 2022.
 
But I’m glad. I’m grateful it happened that way. We had to go outside and choose sides for flag football at Nicolas .. sign up at Jimmy Smith’s .. shoot 15-footers at Golden Hill .. organize touch football games on Fern Drive and East Las Palmas .. Over The Line at Adlena in Basque Tract .. show up at Fullerton Recreational Riders .. haul our 9-foot boards down to Huntington and Doheny .. or walk out to the front yard to see what was cookin’ In the neighborhood!
 
We played close to 365 days a year. Almost dawn to dark sometimes!
 
Ok, what did I forget to mention?
 
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The West Fullerton Little League directors allowed 8 year-old Gary Carter to play in the Little League Majors his first year, and he socked 12 homers to lead the league!
 
 
Duke Snider injured his arm trying to throw a baseball OUT of the Coliseum.
At least once while running the 880 for Sunny Hills, John Carlisle, ’65 LAPS an opponent. (That is, runs ahead of him by a full length the track, passes him and runs ahead.) (Dude!)
 
Dr. Jim Schlotthauer of Nicolas Junior High was 5’6” and none of the 6-foot coaches there ever beat him at H.O.R.S.E.
 
Our old friend Dave Stough, Buena Park, ’67 was an outstanding first basenman at Nicolas and a wise guy of a smart aleck, too! Ha ha! One day Dr. Schlotthauer decided he would strike out David in 5 pitches with Tom McCutchen, ’67 catching — after school. Did they do it?
 
At old Wrigley Field at 43rd & Avalon in LA (capacity maybe 25,000), home run balls battered the old 1920s frame houses with green tar paper on the roof beyond the left field fence. The residents put mesh screens on their windows, and that helped some! Here comes a ball Leon Wagner slammed off knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm off the Baltimore Orioles! LOOK OUT! Oh, he DRILLED that pill!
 
Paul Westphal of Aviation High in Redondo Beach scores 47 points in one game, 52 in the next, then 43, 51, 38, 42, etc all season long!
 
5’8” Valery Brumel of the USSR clearing 7 feet in the high jump.
 
Heavyweight contender Jerry Quarry spraining his ankle sliding into second base at a family picnic game, 2 weeks before a big match.
 
Young Cassius Clay coming to LA and defeating Alejandro Lavorante, who died months later after a KO by another boxer.
 
The evening before Cassius Clay knocked roti Sonny Liston the first time, LA TV news sportscaster Jim Healey ended his segment by smiling and saying, “Good night, Cassius, wherever you are!”
 
For years, Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals was the best pitcher in baseball Admit it! Oh, Gibby was mean on the mound.
 
Another hurler who deserved more credit was El Jefe himself, Juan Marichal. He had maybe 9 pitches he could throw at different speeds, rotations and places with superb control, and that bewilderingly wicked high leg kick in his delivery. 
 
But he lost all chance for future recognition when hit John Roseboro with a bat after Johnny returned a pitch and nicked Juan’s ear. Oh, a gruesome incident on live West Coast TV. Willie Mays ran in to help Johnny. Did Roseboro do it deliberately? We’ll never know .. Sandy was on the mound, appalled. 1965. Vinny was, too.
 
Curveballer Ken McBride was the best right-handed pitcher in the American League for two years.
 
Those were the days when tennis players wore only white on the court, groomed themselves beforehand and didn’t throw tantrums of any kind. No one older than 6  held their racquet with both hands to hit a backhand, except Pancho Segura. It was a game of finesse, touch, strategy, feints, intelligence and controlled power then. Some players could blast the fuzz off the ball — Rod Laver comes to mind —but that was not how they played the game.
 
Things I remember, recollections tender ..

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