Oldtimer's Take: A Magical Time in L.A.

In 1967, USC was coming off two heartbreaking losses to UCLA in '65 and '66. That was the era of, "The Gutty little Bruins." McKay hated that description of UClA. It's hard for those who just started following USC/UCLA since Pete Carroll arrived to understand how competitive the USC/ULA game was in the 60's, and the attention it brought.

1967 started on a Sunday. Will Ferrell was born. The Doors, the Vietnam War, the summer of love all took place. USC lost to Purdue on Monday Jan. 2, 14- 13, when the Trojan s missed a two-point conversion try with 2:38 to go in the Rose Bowl.

In 1967 Aretha Franklin sang, "Respect." Elvis got married and Lestor Maddux was elected Governor as a segregationist in Georgia. The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The first heart transplant took place. Walter O'Malley still ran the Dodgers. Jimmy Hoffa was put in prison for 8 years and three US astronauts were killed in a fire.

1967 was a great year for football in Los Angeles. It was a great year for me. I was 20 years old. Mrs. SColdtimer was a Pantherette at Jordan HS in Long Beach, and I was going to LBCC and working on my golf game. I loved LBCC so much I went for three years. It was like 13th-15th grade and most of my friends from high school were there.

LBCC was a sport's powerhouse and like a minor league team for USC. LBCC had just sent WR Earl McCullouch and S Mike Battle up to the Trojans. Santa Monica CC was the farm club for UCLA and RB Mel Farr had gone on to UCLA. McCullouch and Farr were later teammates on the Detroit Lions along with LBCC QB Greg Barton.

The Dodgers in '67 were coming off the retirement of Sandy Koufax and losing four straight to the Baltimore Orioles in the '66 World Series. Tommy Davis had been traded. Davis played for 11 different teams over a 17 year major league career.

Davis was a career .294 hitter, and when he left baseball his .320 lifetime batting average as a pinch hitter was the highest in baseball history. In '62 and '63 Davis was on his way to being one of the major leagues all-time greats, but he tore up his ankle sliding into second base and was never the same. The Dodgers slid to a 73-89 record in '67.

The Los Angeles Rams were on a roll in '67. They went 11-1-2 under the leadership of QB Roman Gabriel. Green Bay had won the first Super Bowl at the LA Coliseum in Jan of '67 over the Kansas City, but the Rams beat Green Bay at the Coliseum in their second to last game of the season in ‘67.

The Rams blocked a Donnie Anderson punt with 35 seconds to go and scored on a 5-yard out to WR Bernie Casey. The Rams beat the undefeated Baltimore Colts in their last game 34-14 and won the Western Division.

George Allen had the Rams on a roll that was only stopped when Allen was fired in 1971 while going 49-17-4. Allen was replaced by UCLA's Tommy Prothro. Prothro was replaced in 1974 by Chuck Knox. Prothro never recovered from the loss to USC in 1969. We will talk about that loss next week.

The Lakers in 1967 were looking for a center. They finished the 67-68 season losing 4 games to 2 games to Boston in the NBA finals. After the season the Lakers picked up Wilt Chamberlain from the 76ers. The 76ers had lost to Boston after leading 3-1 in the Eastern finals.

I was 20 years old in 1967 and had just bought a '63 Chevy Impala with the 327 engine. It was white with black interior and looked as good as when it rolled off the showroom floor. It was a great year for SColdtimer.

USC in 1967 was coming off two heartbreaking losses to UCLA in '65 and '66. That was the era of, "The Gutty little Bruins." McKay hated that description of UCLA. It's hard for those who just started following USC/UCLA since Pete Carroll came to understand how competitive the USC/ULA game was in the 60's, and the attention it brought. Today we think of UCLA as the, "Gutless little Bruins." But it was different back in '67.

UCLA was coached by Tommy Prothro in '67. Prothro's dad, Doc Prothro, was a dentist until he was 27. At 27, Doc tried out for the Washington Senators and became their shortstop. Doc ended up with a lifetime batting average of .318 in the Major Leagues, and then managed the Phillies for three years before buying a minor league team in Memphis Tenn called the Chicks. Memphis Tennessee is where Tommy Prothro was born in 1920.

Tommy Prothro played QB for Wallace Wade at Duke before WW II. He was considered the smartest player and best blocker in the Southern Conference. He was drafted by the NFL's NY Giants in the 5th round, but played pro baseball before he served in the Navy in WWII. Prothro then took a coaching at Vanderbilt with Red Sanders. Red Sanders brought Prothro to UCLA in 1949 where Sanders and Prothro had a great run together until 1954.

In 1955 Tommy Prothro went to Oregon State and compiled a 63-17-2 record. Oregon State went to the Rose Bowl in '58 and '64. It was in '64 that Oregon St. was chosen over USC to play in the Rose Bowl. The AAWU said they would wait until after the USC/ND game to pick its Rose Bowl representative. USC beats top ranked Notre Dame - and then AAWU picks Oregon St.

So there is already tension between Tommy Prothro and John McKay in 1964, and then UCLA hired Prothro as their head coach in 1965. Game is on between USC/UCLA and McKay and Prothro.

Tension had been high since UCLA turned USC in during the 1955-57 PCC scandal. The USC/UCLA rivalry was already competitive. UCLA had won 8 times and USC 10 times from 1947 to 1964. And now UCLA was going to win two more games in 1965-1966. USC was a big favorite in both of those games and lost. Now the two teams were even at 10 wins a piece since 1947.

I'm going to tell you about those games in '65 and '66 and about the 1967 USC/UCLA game next week. I'm also going to tell you about the big game in 1952 when both teams came into the game undefeated and untied. I'm also going to share about big USC/UCLA games in 1968 and 1969.

After I share about the two games in 1965 and 1966 the table will be set except for the centerpiece which is the 1967 USC/UCLA football game. Stay tuned!


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