1962: Earlier in the year, I attended my first SC game, vs. Navy at the Coliseum. Although I did not go to this one, I somehow got a program to it, so I have to imagine my father went. I still have it. National champs, a shutout. QB's name was Pete, so guess how I wore my hair for the rest of elementary school?
1964: My first SC-Notre Dame game in person. I was not yet 8 years old. My dad and I went together, so it was my second game, although I have some pretty vivid memories of listening to games over the radio with him in his apartment on Curson, broadcasts that later became part of a 33 LP album with Tom Kelley and Dr. Frank C. Baxter. The '64 season was an up and down affair, but we had a good shot to have a memorable season by beating Notre Dame. It was a tall order sure. Notre Dame was undefeated and ranked number one in the country after all. But the conference presidents were convinced to wait an additional week to decide which team would better represent the league in the Rose Bowl.
SC and Oregon State had played a different number of total games that year. Both had 3-1 conference marks, but did not play each other. SC had a non conference schedule that included Colorado and Oklahoma and Texas A & M (all wins, and a 10 point loss at Michigan State and a 17 point loss at then #2 Ohio State. The Conference defeat was a one-point heart breaker to Washington.
The Beavers had lost to Northwestern, won at Baylor and at home vs. Idaho (by 3) and Indiana and defeated a decent Syracuse team. The win at Colorado was 14-7, SC beat the Buffs 21-0. Soul's Conference loss was to Stanford 16-7 on the road, they topped Washington in Portland 9-7. Sc had beaten Stanford 15-10 in Palo Alto. So you can see it was pretty tight, but really no comparison when it came to the strength of schedule.
Still, the presidents decided to wait and see if the Trojans could take the measure of the mighty Irish, for certainly if they DID, they would be the best the conference had to offer and would represent the league in the Rose Bowl.
The Irish, predictably, led 17-0 at the half. I sat in the stands up high under the press box basically by myself, my dad had a press box pass, and came out a the half to ask if I would like to head home. I said "naw, let's wait and see what happens for a little while, and if SC can't do anything we'll go" Ah, the enthusiasm (not to mention naiveté) of youth!
The Trojans, on 84-Z-delay from Craig Fertig to Rod Sherman won the game, the Coliseum went wild, and we were headed to Pasadena!
Only someone forgot to pass along the score to the conference president's, who voted 5-3 to send the Beavers. UCLA voted with Oregon State. I got the news not long after the SC team got the news, celebrating the huge win, one of the greatest moments in SC history just about totally ruined by the bone-heads in the front office. SC AD Jess Hill called it the rankest injustice in CFB history. Oregon State has never been back to the Rose Bowl, and I hope they never go in my lifetime.
I went to the Rose Bowl game with my grandpa Lew and rooted for the Wolverines, who whipped em good, 34-7.
1966: I didn't go. It would be the last Trojan home game I would miss until 1988. I don't mind that one bit in retrospect. We lost 51-0. McKay vowed never to lose to them again, and it darn near happened exactly that way. I recall listening to a small piece on the radio in the car with my dad, who said " well, I wouldn't worry too much, I hear the Trojans have some new running back coming from San Francisco who's supposed to be pretty good by the name of Orange Juice or something.
1967: With Hoppe and I listening in his cold den, Orange Juice helped SC win in South Bend for the first time in 28 years. Nice.
1970: Hoppe and I rode the 91 bus down Vermont to the Coliseum, fully aware of the possibility of rain. We each had two large trash bags with us, one for our heads and upper torsos and one for our legs. We had tickets in the top row of the Coliseum, about even with he goal line across from the tunnel.
At half time, it was blue skies and a few clouds, a light wind. We tossed the trash bags over the side, and by the time they hit the ground, it rained like you were standing in the shower. Just POURED. Never been so wet. SC recovered two fumbles, one by us one by them in the end zone for scores and won. We slogged out way back to the bus stop, and the bus driver almost didn't let us back on the bus. Dripping sopping wet, and very very happy young teenage boys.
1971: my dad took me on the Kim Tours trip for my first trip back home to the city of my birth, Chicago. Got to see Wrigley, and the bar where my mom and dad met (Figaro's) and the places that were just stories. He was a comedy DJ with my namesake Peter Robinson there in the early to mid-50's. Hoppe was on the trip with his mom. We hung out a lot. The game went well enough, as Edesel Garrison, whom I met for the first time this summer, scored on a couple of long catches, SC got into a fight at ND (you know, I don't think they like us there!!) When we were leaving, we watched the SC bus pull away, and a catholic priest in front of us flipped of the SC football team bus. Gotta love it.
1972: A huge ass kicking. Greatest team in CFB history.
1974: I went with girlfriend, later USC asst AD Cami Gillies (now Smith) We sat just above the SC rooting section. When the Irish led 24-0, these ND fans behind us with rolled up programs were slapping our chair, our heads and our backs with them and cheerfully offering "how bout those Irish heh heh"
17 minutes of playing time later, they left. I have never seen the Coliseum like that before or after for that long a period of time. Maybe at game's end once in awhile for a minute or two, but for sustained craziness, you can't beat it. Maybe Gibson's home run came close, maybe the Miracle on Manchester.
We could have and maybe should have scored 60, but took a knee on the one-yard line at game's end. Another great album of highlights put out by TK and the band and quotes and speeches from McKay included.
1975: Inspired by the previous year's game, Cami and I immediately started saving our money to go to ND the following year. It was quite and undertaking, but we made it and had a great time, including a win. Cam and I broke up a couple of years later, a case of bad timing perhaps, but have since become good friends and talk frequently about the games we saw together. A bond so many of us has through the Trojans.
1976: Sort of dull until we won it at the end.
1977: Green jerseys. Well, they didn't work so well last year, did they. But at least they beat Army in them last week, eh?
1978: This one was over a couple of times. We had em, then Montana drives the domers to a win, then Jordan kicks a field goal and I was so hoarse I couldn't talk for a week. Went on the field into the dog pile!!
1980: Also sort of dull, a warm afternoon, we won, but 20-3, so good job "D"!
1984: nothing worse than losing at home to Notre Dame. Unless it's losing a bad game in the rain.
1986: Had them, what the hell happened?
1988: This was my first work with the Trojan Radio Network. For the first time ever, it was decided, due to the #1 vs. #2 import of the game, we would have a sideline announcer. I was the next guy in line at KNX, so it was me!! Not like today where you have a wireless mike and a headset, I had to carry all sorts of equipment with me, along with note sheet. Modern technology it wasn't. But I was on the air. We lost. After the game, because color man Fred Gallagher was in the locker room doing post game interviews, Tom Kelley, one of my idols since I was, what, 7 years old, asked if I would come up and sit alongside for the post game show and ride shotgun.
Are you kidding me??!! Now, I'm no kid, I'm 33 years old, but still…….
And it turned out to be TK's last game for the TRN on radio. He left to be the same guy for the original Prime Ticket, Fred was more comfortable doing color, and so with a bus load of letters on my behalf coming from everyone from Tommy Lasorda to my childhood friends, one afternoon the following August, it was announced I would be what I had always dreamed of being, your "Voice of the Trojans"
1989: My first SC-ND game as the caller, other than in college.
A terrifically horrible (South Bend) spot takes the momentum away; ND steals one with some help 28-24. Oh mercy nurse.
Close in 90 and 91, not bad in 92, 93 was ugly, a tie in 94, which at the time looked just fine all things considered.
The streak was broken in 1996: I was pretty shaken up about losing the job the way it had happened, and did not go to as many games in 95-96 as usual. It hurt. I think the Rose Bowl game was the only one I saw in 95. I watched the win over the Irish on a TV in Las Vegas.
1997: I had moved to Cincinnati, so the only chance to see the Men of Troy was in this game every other year. I took K.C. to this one. The Trojans pulled it out. Stopped in to say Hi to Paul McDonald and Lee Hamilton in the booth, Lee wasn't in, but I renewed an acquaintance with Anne Beebe the director, with whom I had worked for the Clippers. Paul and I chatted a bit, no idea what the future had in store for us!
I distinctly remember a very short conversation with USC SID Tim Tessalone in the Notre Dame press box that afternoon. He asked how I was doing, and I told him I was fine, the Bengals gig was okay but I had inklings already that they were changing stations, and I might be out, and I told him "I really miss doing the SC games, and I can't wait to do them again".
Now, whether due to the program being down, or maybe he thought I would be nuts for leaving the NFL to come BACK to college he said," why would you want to do something like that?"
I was taken aback, I had never thought of it in any other way other tan being the very number one job I could possibly hope to attain, other than maybe the Lakers or Dodgers, which never come up. But I remember looking him in the eye, and after a quick catch of my breath, (I recall feeling a bit embarrassed) I said" because it's all I ever wanted to do" He shook my hand and said good luck and meant it like always.
2001: A fake punt, and PC's worst loss to date.
2002: Carson's coming out party, a whuppin, and SC is the best team in the country at season's end—never mind Ohio State. They would not have wanted any of this stuff!
2003: you do it at home, that's one thing, you beat ‘em by 31 there, it's quite another. What an enjoyable afternoon. Well, no wonder, TD Jesus can't see the games anymore!
2004: ANOTHER 31 point win, ho hum!
2005: Just before the 3rd down play I had to remind myself to call the play not become all caught up in the moment. I was getting too worked up. So I took a breath, and said "it seems impossible" and from that point forward, something happened. Magical.
When Matt scored, I looked over to the ND broadcast booth and Tony Roberts, who was fired after last season, had his head down forehead down on the desk mike in front of him. He looked up for a moment, caught my eye, we both smiled and shrugged, and went back to work.
Honestly, until I heard the call of the game, I had virtually no idea what Paul and I had said. We were so keyed up and keyed into the game, we go on automatic pilot and the game broadcasts itself to a degree. I couldn't have called it different if it had been scripted.
Why they let Roberts go is a mystery. Also, in my book a crime. Guys like Chick and Vinny and Bob Miller, TK and Tony Roberts ought to be able to announce games for as long as they want to. Period. They are the glue that binds generations together. Players come and go, coaches and administrators, owners too. Writers just like them. The long time play by play guy, the radio guy, is in so may cases the heart and should of the sporting community for which he calls every play, and tugs at every heart. He never gets a hit, scores a goal basket or touchdown. But who is your favorite all-time Dodger? LA King? Clipper? Laker?
Yeah, me too.