If you’re at least 50, and a sports fan, I want to hear from you…and compare your best sports memories with my own from a lifetime of watching what we never dreamed then we’d remember now.
I talked with a friend from Chicago the other day, a guy I spent time with during my minor league umpiring days, and one who’s always been a fascinating sports historian – his ability to recall names and dates and minutia, fascinating.
We talked for the better part of an hour, without really trying, and the topic at one point turned into a comparison of our best sports memories. Growing up outside of Pittsburgh, his, naturally, included a lot to do with the Pirates and the Steelers. He had ’em down…to the day, the hour, and the minute that Bill Mazeroski hit that home run in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the ’60 series to beat the Yankees.
The conversation was fun, as it has challenged me since to think historically about my own best sports memories since the time I began paying attention to such things. I’ll share a few here, and hope to hear from some of you as to your own…something to share on an upcoming Reader Speaks page. It will make an interesting read.
In no particular order….
1) Sure, I’ll list the 1960 Series, as well, because at the time I had my Uncle Armour Simpson who was a Pirates admirer and talked incessantly about what a great outfielder Bill Virdon was. It wasn’t Clemente that charmed him, but the little-known Virdon, who later went on to become a successful big league manager in Pittsburgh, New York, Houston and Montreal. The Mazeroski home run is etched in the minds of millions of baseball fans, though, for the iconic photos of him running the bases and the celebratory mob of teammates waiting for him as he reached home plate. In later years I got to meet Harvey Haddix, from Springfield, who won two of the games in the Series, including game 7. And when he talked about the drama of game 7 it would send chills up your spine. I think talking with him alone, just a decade removed from him actually playing in the Series, made it at the top of my list.
2) The first Super Bowl game, January 17, 1967…I remember this game for two reasons. One, I can well recall my dad’s frustration with all the pre-game “folderol”, as he called it. If you’ll remember it was the Packers vs. the Chiefs and the game came on CBS at like 4 pm, eastern time, they talked about the starting lineups for about ten minutes, and then it was time for kickoff. Compare that to this day and the six hours spent talking about useless personal backgrounds on all the players that no one cares about. I don’t know what Dad would think about it now if he was here. And 2), the “folderol” he scoffed at? They released 5,000 balloons on the floor of the LA Coliseum and let them drift off into the sky. And tickets for the game were selling for $50. Dad was amazed. He thought it was all just wasteful, showing off. He never lived to see Beyonce’.
3) I’ll go with the 1975 World Series, for sure, when the Reds won it against the Red Sox in seven games. It was a Series with a lot of twists and turns, if you’ll remember. And I remember at the time that Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant looked like an old man. Well, I saw him in a documentary on Cuban baseball recently and now he looks like he’s about 110. Everyone remembers Game 6 of that Series, when Fisk hit the home run off the foul pole to win it, but I remember it because my friend Satch Davidson, from London, Ohio, was the umpire behind home plate. I was in my second year as a minor league umpire at the time and I used to hook up with Satch during the winters. After the Series he told me a lot of stories about what was said behind the scenes, stuff between players on the field. It was fascinating, and a reason why I’ll long remember 1975. Ironically, the Reds won it all again the next year against the Yankees, in a four-game sweep, and the only thing I really remember now about that Series is that Bench was great and outplayed Thurman Munson, the Yankees’ equivalent behind home plate.
4) The 1969 Rose Bowl game is a date I well remember, because that was Ohio State against Southern Cal and O.J. Simpson, and before the game there was no way I thought the Buckeyes could possibly win against the powerful Trojans and the Heisman Trophy winner. But they did, 26-17, capping a perfect 10-0 season for a team loaded with sophomores like Rex Kern, Leo Hayden, and Jan White. And everyone thought for sure they go on to win at least a couple more national championships. For whatever reason, it never happened. But on that New Year’s day, in 1969, it sure seemed like a miracle.
5) There are a lot of things I remember as best sports memories, but this one happened just a few years ago and it centered around the 2007 Division IV state championship football game between Coldwater and Cardinal Mooney. The reason I remember the game is because Cardinal Mooney was made a prohibitive favorite to win, with about four Division I college recruits on its roster. The Mooney fans were so confident before the game that they were calling the McKinley Hotel in downtown Canton to reserve the grand ballroom for a victory celebration afterwards. And sure enough, they got off to a good start. Up 14-0 by halftime, Cardinal Mooney seemed destined to win. But Coldwater started chipping away and outscored Mooney 21-6 in the fourth quarter to come back and win, 28-27. I’ve never seen a group so crestfallen as the Mooney team and its fans. The same people who were making reservations before the game had to call and cancel from the parking lot after the game. It was, without question, one of the best football games I’ve ever seen…at any level. Unforgettable.
Now, feel free to share your own!