I talked at some length to Garry, who has been smart (?) enough to allow me to begin and maintain this space for the season. My friend Clay was gracious enough to help with my "situation" and purchase a strong piece of sports memorabilia for a hefty sum. We talked, and later with the help of what looked like a song girl (if she isn't, she oughtta be) took a few pictures. I signed one of those pictures of me as a little kid reaching out to touch Mike Garrett during his Coliseum farewell in 1965.
I guess there may still be six people who have not heard the story, and since Clay was actually one of them, I might as well go into it here and now.
If you'll take out your yearbooks, and turn to page 141, we'll get started. The week before, we had lost to UCLA after leading 16-6 late in the fourth. Choked a bit, and they took full advantage with Gary F'ing Beban throwing long to Kurt F'ing Altenburg. I have cried twice after SC games, and that was one of them. For a nickel and a free trip to feed the ducks in Echo Park, can you guess the other (yeah, I was a kid in both cases)
Coach McKay said that the only regret he had as SC head man was not getting Mike to the Rose Bowl.
I started my SC viewing life at the '62 SC-Navy game. My dad worked at the old KMPC-710 (ironic that WE are on 710 now, huh?) and they had free SC tickets, and since everyone there was a Bruin including him (not much has changed), he took the freebies and took me to a game. We had been attending Marshall High games since 1960, so I sort of had as much of a clue as a 7 year old can have. SC won, I saw the horse and the band, and was hooked. He took me to a Friday night UCLA game to see if he could bring me back, but it was too late, and sitting with him, I unabashedly rooted against his team.
I went to the '63 Rose Bowl Classic with Wisconsin, and went on the field to celebrate afterwards. I even got a piece of the wooden goal post, which I still have in a box in storage….along with every program of every game I have every been to. That's a LOT of storage. I'm trying to get John Hamilton to take ‘em all and display them for the world at his museum in Newport. I even patted Hal Bedsole on the ass when he ran by after the game. Very cool. For a then 8 year old.
So the week after the'65 UCLA debacle was pretty miserable. I had become ill during the game with swollen neck glands, but losing made it seem worse. Was just sick enough that week to miss some school, but not the season ending oddity-of-a-game against Wyoming. SC won 56-6, and as was the custom then (and we should do it again this way) the seniors were honored AFTER their final game, usually in front of the student section.
This time was different, as it was Mike's last game; people swarmed the field, so they had to put up a makeshift podium out in the middle of the pandemonium. I was with my now departed Grandpa Lew. He and his wife Christine were champion tennis players in their age group. Lew once was a chair umpire for the LA Open tournament, but made a bad call when Connors was playing, got chewed out, and never wanted to do that again. Christine was a mixed doubles partner of Lou Wheeler, who coached basketball and tennis at Marshall, and also tennis at USC. The LA City high school tennis championship trophy was named for him.
As the seniors were announced we all cheered, but it was obvious who they were saving for last. When Mike ran through the gauntlet, as you can see, I was still trying to maintain physical contact with my Grandpa, but the thrill was too much, and I had to break away and reach out and touch my hero going by. It's not often you get the chance. I was not the only one, for sure, but as luck would have it, the photog did his thing, and there it is. I did not know of this picture for many years, until my Mom, when shopping for a Christmas gift for me (she, after divorcing my Dad, became an even bigger Trojan fan than before, perhaps just to goad him further).
She found a USC coffee table book with a color version of the picture in it, and called me FROM THE STORE to tell me. Pretty bitchen! But there's more!
Mike spoke, and then he had to run back through the same way to get off of the field. He had been given a towel to wipe away the sweat (and tears for sure), and as he ran by, for no particular reason, he tossed the towel right to me. And I ALSO have THAT in a box.
Mike's my boss now. He has done a hell of a job putting our Athletic Department back on top across the board, with the help of so many great Assistant and Associate Directors, and donors and fans. He has been thought of as aloof, difficult to get along with, mysterious. I find that when I do get the chance to talk to him, which is not all that often, he is friendly, gentle and kind. He is easily approachable. He is no nonsense. Among groups of friends he is a man's man, and very funny and down to earth. He is a tenacious businessman and negotiator. He is tremendously loyal to his University. And, he is, at age 60-something, the father of twin boys, and step father to two older children. And he's still my one of my top all time sports heroes.
I talked with a little kid with a USC golf shirt on. He's 11. He shot a hole in one today. His dad is taking him to Arkansas. He went to South Bend last year. Lucky kid.
I talked to Joe SC, and the big guy, and Ed, to Doc, to Jared Blank, trainer Russ, Big Dave Baker, Dave Sells, Lawrence and Frank (where's Eddie?), Dr. Semmel, Coaches Anno and Seto, Glenn Cooper of KSPN sales, who is the only person from the radio station I have seen out here, Kris Richard, Jason Mitchell, Lee Webb (how is he NOT playing in the NFL?), Ryan Abraham of the "other" site.
Brandon Hancock, Dallas Sartz and Will Collins each had reasonably lengthy conversations with me. Not as reporter-subject, but as friend-friend. Equipment manager Pops, Director of Football Ops Dennis Slutak and I chatted for a good long while about his life, and how he loves his job, but misses coaching, too.
**** Enough for now. Run last night did me in, I feel terrible for a human, pretty good for being 51. And I checked and last night was supposed to be a day off from running, so that's what today is instead.
Off to try and find work, then maybe a little bodysurfing before practice. Scrimmage day today, oh yeaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!