UNUSUAL REDLANDS MATCHUP … IN BALTIMORE?

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

It was Sept. 9, 1979.

City of Baltimore, Md. Site was Memorial Stadium.

Second week of the NFL season.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers in town to play the Colts.

The Colts’ Ted Marchibroda were taking on John McKay’s Bucs.

Among all the other pre-game notes was this zany little matchup:

Two kids from Redlands High School were playing against each other.

Brian De Roo, a second-year wide receiver who had been traded from the New York Giants, was standing on one sideline.

Brian DeRoo (Photo by Canadian Football League)
Brian De Roo

On the other sideline was none other than Greg Horton, whose NFL career had gone from Chicago to Los Angeles and, eventually, to the Bucs.

Greg Horton II
Greg Horton

Final score that day: Tampa Bay 29, Baltimore 26. It took overtime to pull it off.

There might’ve been a curious thing that took place.

Baltimore, trailing 26-17, sent its second-year receiver, De Roo, down the right sideline. Colts’ QB Greg Landry delivered the pass.

Caught.

Down the sideline.

Chased by defenders.

Touchdown.

One night later, that Landry-to-DeRoo touchdown made the Monday Night Football halftime highlights. Legendary ABC-TV sportscaster Howard Cosell delivered the words from that highlight.

Howard_cosell_1975
Howard Cosell put Brian De Roo’s name on national TV on September 10, 1979. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)

Cosell: “De Roo … could … go … all … the … way!”

He did.

When the game concluded, the Bucs had themselves a 29-26 overtime win that might have lifted this team’s confidence. Now into their fourth season after entering via a 1976 expansion – along with the Seattle Seahawks – McKay’s steady was starting to make its mark.

Tampa Bay was a possible playoff team.

First, though, they had to start winning games. Baltimore, a perennial contender, was standing in their way at Week 2.

The two Redlanders had gotten into the NFL by far different paths.

Horton, a 1969 Redlands High grad, chose Colorado as his collegiate destination. It was in that raucous, hard-hitting Big Eight Conference – dominated for years by Nebraska and Oklahoma – that helped develop his game.

Enough so that in 1974, George “Papa Bear” Halas chose Horton in the third round of the NFL draft.

Unlike Horton, who had long been a Redlands High prize, De Roo didn’t make the Terrier varsity until halfway through his senior season. Since Redlands rarely put the ball in the air, it should’ve been a complete surprise that he’d wind up leading Redlands in receptions that season.

At college selection time, De Roo wasn’t even planning on football. He’d chosen Cal Poly San Luis Obispo before University of Redlands coach Frank Serrao convinced him to play for the Bulldogs.

That he would eventually elevate himself into the NFL draft, 1978, was extraordinary.

A year after that, Horton v De Roo was taking place in Baltimore.

In that game, DeRoo snagged three passes for 81 yards in that game – perhaps his best game ever.

Horton, meanwhile, was part of the Bucs’ strength – an offensive line that propelled the likes of Ricky Bell to a thousand-yard season. In that game, however, Baltimore held him to 34 yards, plus another 56 yards on three receptions.

Bell racked up 1,263 yards that season, helping Tampa Bay into the NFL playoffs for the first time ever.

Horton also blocked for Doug Williams, the ex-Grambling QB taken in the first round of the 1977 draft. Eventually, Williams would follow Bucs’ offensive coordinator Joe Gibbs to the Washington Redskins.

On that date, Sept. 9, 1979, Redlands stood tall in the NFL when De Roo and Horton connected.

It was, said DeRoo, “the only time Greg and I ever played against each other in an NFL game. The only thing was that he only lasted one play. He shoved one of the referees and got thrown out of the game.”

DeRoo, for his part, caught only one pass the rest of the season.

Footnote: Baltimore continued to a Redlands connection, especially when Brian Billick turned up to coach the Baltimore Ravens to the 2001 Super Bowl championship. On that team was yet another Redlands connection, speedy wide receiver Patrick Johnson.

 

 

 

PAYTON JORDAN: OLYMPIC COACH STARTED AT REDLANDS JUNIOR HIGH

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

It was May, 1984 – an Olympic year.

Jim Sloan, celebrity photographer from Redlands, really pushed the invitation on me.

There was a group of guys getting together for a reunion, of sorts. It was at the home of Robert Scholton, who was truly a pioneer of Redlands. Citrus groves and all. Scholton had married into the Walter Hentschke family – one more Redlands-area pioneer.

At this reunion, however, the guest of honor was a guy named Payton Jordan.

paytonjordan
Payton Jordan’s Hall of Fame coaching career began in Redlands in 1939 at Redlands Junior High School (photo by Occidental College).

One night earlier, it had been “Olympic Night” at Redlands Country Club. Naturally, Jordan was the featured speaker. He didn’t speak on golf. The “club” was directly across the street from Scholton’s home.

Scholton, Sloan and a bunch of buddies had invited Jordan to Redlands. He’d been around more than a few times. This visit, however, was special. Plenty of guys had been summoned for this reunion. It was an Olympic year, after all. Jordan had plenty of connections to the Olympic games.

Way back in 1939, before World War II, Jordan had coached at Redlands Junior High School. He’d just graduated from USC.

That junior high campus had been located right across Citrus Ave. from Redlands Senior High – that is, before the two campuses were merged into one full high school. After the war, Jordan returned.

Briefly.

Little did I know then that Jordan had been a high-achieving two-sports star at USC – part of an illustrious Trojans’ football team, later starring on their nationally prominent track team as a sprinter. He was from nearby Pasadena, the same city that produced the Robinson brothers, Jackie and Mack, who went to USC’s rival, UCLA.

Jordan had been coached in football by the illustrious Howard Jones (121-36-13, record), who’d been Trojans’ coach from 1925-1940.

Track coach Dean Cromwell, the U.S. Olympic coach in 1948, might’ve been even more prominent. The USC guys that he coached, including Jordan, were too numerous to highlight.

Jones and Cromwell are both Hall of Famers in multiple spots, not just USC.

JORDAN’S CONNECTION TO REDLANDS

It’s important to note the scintillating connection between Jordan, USC and Redlands.

It was easy to see why Jordan was so highly favored around Redlands. Scholton, Sloan & Co. were his boys. When Jordan showed up just before the war, his background must’ve seemed spectacular in this small-town haven.

A USC guy in Redlands?

Years later, Jordan had only added to his lengthy list of achievements.

Talk about a Redlands “connection.”

Once I’d arrived at this glorious Redlands Junior High reunion, held at Scholton’s old-century, country club-style residence, I was only aware that Jordan had been 1968 Olympic coach – nothing else.

If only I’d known his remarkable record.

Jordan, splendidly dressed and warmly received by about a dozen older men – now retired, some with money, nice careers – couldn’t have been more gracious.

Jordan personally knew 1936 Olympic hero Jesse Owens.

Athletically, he was remarkable.

  • In 1938 and 1939, Jordan shined on USC’s national championship track team.
  • He was part of a world record 4 x 110 (yards) relay, 40.3, in 1939.
  • Also in 1939, Jordan played on USC’s Rose Bowl-winning team, 7-3 winners over Duke.
  • In 1941, Jordan won the AAU 100-yard title.
  • By his senior years up to age 80, Jordan was an age-group champion and record holder – refusing to stop competing.

As an athlete, Jordan missed out on the 1940 and 1944 Olympics due to World War II.

This guy had history.

Sloan, Scholton & Co. wanted this reunion covered in the newspaper.

Jordan’s career had been phenomenal, to say the least.

His collegiate football exploits were spectacular. On the track, he’d been a whiz. After World War II, where he served in the U.S. Navy, it was time to get rolling in a career.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS TOO NUMEROUS

After coaching those guys at Redlands Junior High, Jordan landed at venerable small-college Occidental, located in Eagle Rock, next to Pasadena. It was like a hometown job for him. After a decade (1946-57), after nine outright conference track titles and one tie, he’d been whisked away to take the track program at Stanford over next 23 years.

Imagine. It all started at Redlands Junior High.

Also imagine:

  • Billy Mills’ remarkable upset win at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic 10,000.
  • Bob Beamon’s world record long jump, 29-feet, 2 ½ inches at the Mexico City Olympics.
  • One of his Occidental athletes, Bob Gutowski, set a world pole vault record (15-9 ¾).
  • Discus superstar Al Oerter nailed down his third and fourth gold medals under Jordan’s watch.
  • When Jimmie Hines won the 1969 Olympic gold medal in a world record 9.9 seconds, Jordan was head coach.
  • Tommie Smith’s 200-meter gold medal in 19.8 seconds led to the “power salute” protest in those ’68 Games. It included third place finisher John Carlos.
  • Quarter-miler Lee Evans set a world record 43.8 seconds in winning the 1968 Olympic gold medal.
  • In 1960, at the Olympic Trials, Jordan ran the U.S. squad in a meet at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif. in which no fewer than seven world records were set.
  • During that 23-year career at Stanford, Jordan’s Indians (now Cardinal) had produced seven Olympians, six world record holders and six national champions.
John_Carlos,_Tommie_Smith,_Peter_Norman_1968cr
From the left, Australia’s Peter Norman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the Olympic medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics at which the two Americans were protesting the poor treatment of Blacks in the U.S. (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

This is just a small sampling of the exploits of the man I was sitting next to at Scholton’s home in spring 1984. At the time, I’d known none of all those achievements.

If I’d been paying attention to my TV set in 1968 – watching the track portion of the games more, perhaps – maybe I’d have noticed the interview with a certain ABC superstar broadcaster.

The media had treated Jordan favorably, except for one nasal-toned, often exasperating, yet highly entertaining sportscaster from New York.

“Howard Cosell,” said Jordan, “had his mike in my nose while my foot was in his fanny. He’s the only one I had trouble with. I had him escorted out of the stadium.”

Guess I’d better be careful in my interview.

Here’s some evidence on how Jordan and Scholton were close:

Scholton had once been offered by Jordan to help him coach at Stanford. The year, 1957. Scholton, a 1937 University of Redlands graduate – Pi Chi, track, cross country, biology major – was a teaching contemporary of Jordan’s at Redlands Junior High.

Scholton, according to the folklore, had served under NFL legend George “Papa Bear” Halas during his own U.S. Navy stint.

Back in Redlands, Scholton taught biology and coached the runners in both track and cross country.

More of the folklore came after Jordan took the job at Stanford, apparently offering Scholton an assistant coach’s role to his former contemporary. Scholton was a homegrown, however. He stuck around Redlands.

The association between Scholton and Jordan, however, lasted for years. Scholton retired in 1970. Jordan called it quits in 1979.

A curious note: As the Olympics were set to take place in Los Angeles, Jordan conceded he wouldn’t be attending. “I don’t have tickets.”

Scholton, however, had blocks of track & field tickets at the Coliseum. I bought a couple from him for me and my father-in-law, Dean Green – an assistant principal, of all places, in an office that was on the same side of the street where Redlands Junior High School once existed.

A portion of my 1984 interview:

“LET THE GAMES BEGIN”

Jordan says it might be a euphemism for “Troubled Times.”

“The Olympics,” he told me, “are always the focal point of politics, world unrest and controversy. All the problems of the world seem to be magnified during this period of time.”

PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS

“You can make it without steroids,” said Jordan, who knew plenty of athletes using even back in those days. “You don’t have to do it …

“If you’ve got the ability, work harder, eat better and dedicate yourself, you’ll get there.”

Footnote: Ben Johnson disproved that theory four years later in Seoul.

Jordan admitted, however, that drug-using athletes could reach their Olympic goals in maybe half the time — four years, for instance, instead of two.

AMATEUR VS. PROFESSIONAL

“There is no such thing,” he said, “as amateurism.”

All of the normal workings of the Olympic disagreements are simply the workings of non-athletes seeking to control the athletic world.

JESSE OWENS

History records that Hitler turned his back on the onetime Ohio State star at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Said Jordan: “Actually, it wasn’t Owens that Hitler had turned his back on. He’d shunned Cornelius Johnson after he won the high jump the day before.”

Germany long jumper Lutz Long, Jordan proclaimed, had given Owens a tip that helped lift him to win that fourth gold medal in Berlin.

Jesse_Owens_1936
Jesse Owens, the hero of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, was a strong acquaintance of Payton Jordan, the onetime U.S. Olympic coach who began his coaching career in Redlands. Owens showed up to support Jordan during the black protest movement during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

“Those types of incidents,” said Jordan, “were left under-publicized, in comparison to what activities existed between non-athletes.”

In 1968, Owens had been summoned to Mexico City for a bull session with the team.

“There’s nobody I know who’s less of a racist than you,” he told Jordan. “Anything I can do, just ask.”

BLACK POWER MOVEMENT

Smith and Carlos, it had long been rumored, were set to protest at an Olympics in which several black U.S. athletes had decided not to participate – perhaps in their own protests.

It’s one reason why Cosell was so blatantly in Jordan’s face.

“They would’ve come to me to discuss (the protest),” he said, “and I would’ve vetoed that idea. They did come in and asked, ‘What should we do?’ I said, ‘Let me and my staff handle it.’

“Thank God it worked out beautifully.”

Part of that was that Smith and Carlos were suspended from the Olympic team and sent home.

It was a team, Jordan said, that was very close. “I never experienced that kind of closeness in spite of all the distractions. It was a group of people … who didn’t get hysterical about it and lose sight of our mission.”

Jordan says he took no part in the protest movement.

“I was part of it, though. I was the coach.”

Evans, Carlos and Smith, he confided, “were probably more loyal to me.”

The U.S. came out of 1968 with more gold medals and Olympic records than any Olympic before or since, he said.

After several minutes of Olympic protest chatter, Jordan leaned back in his Scholton-home chair, frowned and said, “I think that’s enough talk about 1968.”

 

 

 

 

PART 2 – IN ONE DAY, REDLANDS HAD TWO TAKEN INTO NFL

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

A telephone call? From the NFL? To a University of Redlands player?

Can’t be. It never happened before. It never happened again.

The deliverer of that message, University of Redlands’ John Rebenstorf, said Brian De Roo, was among those “most unlikely to be believed” by team members.

De Roo eventually returned the phone call to Giants’ head coach John McVey.

MCVAY_3
John McVay, who called Redlands’ Brian De Roo to tell him that he’d been drafted by the New York Giants in 1978, left after that season. So did De Roo (Photo courtesy of San Francisco 49ers.)

The exciting news: Fifth round selection. Mini-camp information. Dates. Flight arrangements. De Roo was a pro.

Bruce Gibson, for his part, was taken by the Detroit Lions two rounds later.

Axelrod, meanwhile, was De Roo’s agent throughout his four-year stint in the NFL.

“Needless to say,” said De Roo, “(my family) needed to move the party up.”

Draft day had conflicted with the school’s academic finals. De Roo left his party early to sleep and prepare for a final one day later.

“I was surprised to a certain extent,” said De Roo, “but with the information given to me by Mr. Axelrod, not totally. (I was) just excited that it was on the first day of the draft.”

Redlands, never having had a drafted football player, didn’t quite know how to handle it, said De Roo. “In the end, they didn’t do anything (to celebrate).”

There was a Bulldog inner circle, however. De Roo said being drafted was a “team victory as all of them were.”

Serrao had returned telephone calls from NFL personnel people, providing film, guiding scouts and general managers throughout the process. Noting that UC Riverside receiver Butch Johnson, selected by Dallas, along with Butch Edge, a Bulldog linebacker, had probably brought additional spotlight to De Roo.

De Roo, out of Redlands, was off anyone’s draft charts. Surrounded in the draft by players from USC, Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, Syracuse, the Bulldogs couldn’t have been on anyone’s map.

Pacific had to be. The Tigers had been the ticket for Tom Flores, Eddie Le Baron, All-Pro linebacker Mike Merriweather, plus Dick Bass, among dozens of others, who had been plucked by the NFL.

Even Hall of Fame coach Amos Alonzo Stagg had coached at UOP. Future coaches like Jon Gruden, Bob Toledo, Mike Martz, Hue Jackson and Pete Carroll were connected to the Stockton-based campus.

Redlands was full of wonderful players – too small, too slow, too inexperienced – that didn’t play tough enough opponents to make a pro scout even take notice. De Roo, who snagged 156 passes as a Bulldog, might have been the exception.

Gibson, meanwhile, was playing for a Tigers’ team that numbered 13 total wins during his 1975-77 stint. Playing the likes of Fresno State, Hawaii, Air Force, San Diego State, plus 17th-ranked Arizona in Gibson’s sophomore season, Pacific was certainly on NFL scouts’ radar.

Arizona stopped Pacific, 16-0.

Pacific was miles ahead of Redlands.

But Gibson, for whom Redlands High was built around a few years earlier, was cut by the Lions in training camp, never to play in an NFL game.

Other Redlands-based draftees:

1974 – Greg Horton was selected by George “Papa Bear” Halas, the longtime owner and coach of the Chicago Bears. Third round, out of Colorado.

1999 – Patrick Johnson, a world class sprinter who chose football over track & field, was taken by the old Cleveland Browns, now known as the Baltimore Ravens. Second round, out of Oregon.

That’s the entire list from Redlands. Kylie Fitts, a defensive end from Redlands East Valley, was expected to be taken in 2018.

As for the NFL draft, consider that eventual Hall of Fame QB Warren Moon, from Washington, wasn’t even selected. Moon, like De Roo eventually, wound up playing in Canada.

As for any University of Redlands celebration: Consider that De Roo’s jersey No. 2 is the only football one ever to be retired.

Footnote: De Roo points out that McVey is the grandfather of current Rams’ coach Sean McVey.

 

PART 2 – GREG HORTON WAS A SUPERIOR REDLANDS FORCE

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Greg Horton had been drafted by the Chicago Bears. It was 1974. Third round, 56th pick overall. Papa Bear himself, George Halas, supervised the selection of Horton, a third-round selection out of Colorado.

By 1976, Greg was a member of the Los Angeles Rams. Papa Bear had traded him there on April 2, 1974 for the Rams’ third round (Mike Fuller) and 10th round (Mike Julius) picks in 1975.

At L.A., Greg was teammates with Joe Namath, Ron Jaworski, Pat Haden, Lawrence McCutcheon, Heisman winner John Cappelletti, blocking against guys like Jack Reynolds, Isaiah Robertson and Jack Youngblood in practice.

Playing mostly special teams, Greg eventually took over for injured right guard Dennis Harrah midway through the 1977 season.

He played 63 NFL games, starting 34. Most of those came after he got traded to the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers midway through the 1978 season.

Greg was part of football lore.

Tampa Bay coach John McKay, who coached USC to four national championships over 16 seasons, watched the Bucs start off losing their first 26 games beginning in their first season, 1976. Little by little, though, McKay started building a strong defense.

JOhn McKay
John McKay, whose career was built on great success at USC, coached Redlands’ Greg Horton in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Photo provided by USC/Wikipedia.

QB Doug Williams, who would eventually lead Washington to a Super Bowl about a decade later, took snaps for the Bucs. Side note: Tampa’s offensive coordinator in those early years was none other than Joe Gibbs, the Redskins’ head coach when Williams QB’d them to the Super Bowl.

BUILDING BUCS’ OFFENSIVE LINE

Gibbs and McKay built Tampa’s offense from scratch. Its real strength might’ve been its offensive line.

Left tackle Dave Reavis had played for Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh – drafted in 1973 by the Steelers.

Center Steve Wilson, right guard Greg Roberts and right tackle Charlie Hannah were original Bucs. Good enough to stick around for the upgrades.

McKay and Gibbs built that left side – Williams’ blind side – with Reavis and Greg, who blocked blitzing linebackers and safeties up the middle, nose guards and defensive tackles on every snap.

Williams, incidentally, had gone down just 12 times that season. Twelve sacks over 16 games! Incredible. Onetime Trojan Ricky Bell was racking up over 1,000 yards behind that stud line, too.

It had to be one of football’s greatest ironies that Tampa Bay would host the Rams for the right to play in the 1980 Super Bowl. It would be played in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl, of all places.

McKay, who probably figured to be the Rams’ coach at one point due to his proximity with USC, watched the likes of George Allen and Chuck Knox coach the Rams during his Trojan years. Ray Malavasi had taken over from Knox.

Bell, of course, was the ex-Trojan playing against the pro team from his former college home town. Also for his former college coach.

newRickyBell-1
Ricky Bell, runner-up to Tony Dorsett in the 1976 Heisman Trophy race, was picked No. 1 overall in the NFL draft by Tampa Bay. He was the man that Redlands product Greg Horton blocked for when both became Buccaneer teammates in 1978 and 1979. Photo by Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Then there was Greg, a 6-foot, 4-inch, 260-pounder who grew up in Redlands – Rams’ country – before eventually getting shipped to L.A. by Chicago in 1976. He never played for the Bears. Eventually, he was traded by the Rams two games into the 1978 season, Greg found a home in Tampa.

This was a “worst to first” ride, one of pro football’s biggest turnarounds.

When Greg arrived in Tampa, the line consisted of Garry Puetz, a 12th round pick by the Jets in 1973, with 1975 Miami first rounder Darryl Carlton occupying right tackle. By 1979, Puetz and Carlton were no longer around.

Greg started out by playing left guard, eventually shifted to right guard to accommodate injuries to Hannah, plus any rebuilding taking shape under Gibbs and McKay.

Any team’s best defense is a good offense. During that era of ball control, clock-killing, run-oriented offenses is what kept the other team’s attacks on the sideline. It’s exactly what McKay had in mind with the Reavis-Horton-Wilson-Hannah-Roberts corps blocking for Williams and Bell (1,263 yards).

The Bucs were no different than Earl Campbell’s Houston Oilers. Or Walter Payton’s early days in Chicago. Line play had been huge around the likes of O.J. Simpson in Buffalo, Franco Harris in Pittsburgh, not to mention Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris in Miami.

In Tampa Bay, Bell had been taken in the 1976 NFL draft ahead of Tony Dorsett, the Pittsburgh All-American selected by the Dallas Cowboys.

Defensively, onetime Oklahoma Sooner defensive end Lee Roy Selmon was named Associated Press MVP that season. Linebacker Richard Wood, another ex-Trojan that was originally drafted by the Jets, also played a key role on the Bucs’ defense.

BUCS’ PLAYOFF RUN

After a 10-6 regular season, it was Tampa Bay 24, Philadelphia 16 in the divisional playoff round – Bell bashing for 142 yards on 38 carries behind that Bucs’ line.

Suddenly, Tampa Bay, Bell, McKay, Greg, Wood & Co. had found themselves staring face to face with the Los Angeles Rams. The NFC championship was on the line.

From a 7-37 beginning to an 11-6 record heading into the NFC Championship, McKay had lifted the Bucs to pro football’s pinnacle.

Malavasi’s Rams finished 9-7, but stunned Dallas, 21-19, in the divisional round.

Their featured running back was UCLA product Wendell Tyler.

Vince Ferragamo had taken over as Rams’ QB from onetime USC shooter Pat Haden, who combined 24 interceptions with 16 TD passes.

Williams’ 24 picks and 18 TDs weren’t much better.

Each side would try and counter the other with ground games and staunch defense.

Surely, the Bucs’ defense would devour the Rams.

L.A. had a defense of its own – the Youngbloods, Reynolds, Fred Dryer, you name it.

The date was Jan. 6, 1980.

Both teams scored touchdowns.

Both were called back because of penalties.

It was a defensive slugfest.

Or an offensive bust.

The Rams’ defense stole the show, limiting the Bucs to a mere 177 total yards.

By contrast, L.A.’s Cullen Bryant ran for 106 yards. Tyler racked up 86 more. Ferragamo threw for 163 yards – no interceptions.

Williams gave way to backup Mike Rae, the pair combining for a total of 54 yards passing.

Rams’ placekicker Frank Corral hit field goals of 19, 21 and 23 yards.

Final score, Rams 9, Bucs 0.

After a dozen years of seeing the Packers, Colts, Vikings and Cowboys reach the Super Bowl, the Rams became the first NFC Western Division team to advance to the NFL’s title game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Part 3 next week.

SCHACHTER: FLAGGED FOR BAD CALL BY ROZELLE

NFL head referee Norm Schachter, whose early beginnings in education and officiating took place in Redlands, is shown at halftime with Kansas City Chiefs’ coach Hank Stram at the first Super Bowl at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Note: Schachter was known for wearing jersey No. 56, so it’s unclear why he’s wearing No. 60. Unknown photo credit, most likely by Associated Press.

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Norm Schachter, it should be noted, was suspended along with his entire six-man crew, by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. During a crucial game between Los Angeles and Chicago on Dec. 8, 1968, Schachter’s crew denied the Rams a crucial down in a 17-16 loss to the Bears.

You never hear about stuff like that. Fifteen years later, I had a chance to ask Schachter about the play. About the call. About the suspension.

Rozelle, who played his part in Redlands during his days as the Rams’ public relations man, called the crew “competent.”

The Rams, though, had thrown three incomplete passes in the late stages of that game. A penalty flag was thrown into the mix. The down, however, was not replayed.

“The ball was turned over to Chicago,” Rozelle said in his statement, “thus depriving Los Angeles of a fourth down play to which it was entitled.”

Five seconds were remaining. Ball at L.A.’s 47. Thirty-one yards were needed for a first down.

Schachter was a class act. He came to Redlands a few times during my years at the local newspaper. Most of those visits came in the 1980s and 1990s. Seems he had some remaining “connections” there that continued for many years despite such a brief stay in Redlands during his early days.

I think guys like former student Jim Sloan, a photographer who, among others, were happy to pronounce a connection to a guy that had a bird’s eye view of pro football.

OTHER REFS FROM LOCAL AREA

There were other officials from the area, including Redlands’ John Fouch, Sr. Down the road a bit, from Rialto, was Al Jury.

Fouch, a major high school star at Santa Ana High School turned into a superstar at Santa Ana Junior College before heading off to USC, where he shared the 1949 Trojan backfield with future NFL Hall of Famer Frank Gifford.

JOhn Fouch, Sr
John Fouch, Sr., a Santa Ana product who moved to Redlands to raise his family, played in the same USC backfield as Frank Gifford, eventually spending 15 years as an NFL referee (photo by Santa Ana College).

Fouch wore NFL zebra stripes for 15 years. The head referee in his crew was Red Cashion, the guy with the enthusiastically signature, “first dowwwwwwn” call. Eventually, Fouch moved to Redlands.

After all those years away, Schachter still seemed impressed with Redlands despite moving from the small orange grove-covered community.

Schachter was generous to me with his time and comments.

Redlands, he said, “was a very nice little community when I taught and reffed here.”

Schachter carried around a significant sense of humor. He proved it with some of his responses.

I spent several minutes prepping for my interview with him. Was there ever a moment where you made a bad call – and knew it? (The suspension question would come later.)

“I don’t waste time second-guessing myself,” he said. “There’ll be millions who will do it for you.”

Talk on an NFL field must be pretty horrifying.

“Oh, really?” he said. “I never heard that.”

Sarcasm was a nice little exercise for Schachter, who probably heard it all.

“Listen,” he said, “when players lose it in their legs, they gain it in their mouths.”

Oh, yeah. It was Sloan who told me to ask him about the time his crew had been suspended.

Refs aren’t perfect, though they’re probably expected to be. That December 1968 game between the Rams and Bears might have been his lowest point.

“Holding call on the Rams,” he said, explaining the suspension. “Fifteen yards in those days. Spot foul, too. We didn’t replay the down. That was the issue.”

He looked at me. Anything else? It was like he was saying, “I dare you to ask me anything more about it.”

So I took the dare. “How many times have you been asked about that?”

That drew a slight chuckle. “I lost count around 20,000 …”

I hadn’t even planned this next question. “Ever think about the fact that it was Rozelle, that he used to work for the Rams, that suspended you?”

I can’t even recall Schachter’s response. Since I didn’t put it in my article, I didn’t record it for posterity.

It was only a six-man crew during that era. It wasn’t until 1978 that a side judge was added, making NFL officiating crews a seven-man unit. The afore-mentioned Jury was one of those “seventh” men hired that season.

“Pete hit us pretty hard with the suspension,” he said. “No more games for the rest of that season, including the playoffs. We were back the following season.”

Redlands: It’s where his officiating career began. Local games. There couldn’t have been many. High schools were scarce. San Bernardino and Riverside just had one campus, like Redlands. Colton. Chaffey, in Ontario. Fontana and Eisenhower, in Rialto, didn’t even have their own high schools.

CLOSE CALLS & CONFESSIONS

He’d written “Close Calls: Confessions of an NFL Referee” in the early 1980s. The guy was an author. An official of famous NFL games. Never read the book. Can only guess how it was presented.

He also wrote text books. After his on-field days concluded, he worked for the league writing referees’ exams and other data. He edited the league’s rules book.

His “Confessions” book: Stories, humorous anecdotes, nuggets about his professional career in education. After starting as a Redlands English teacher in 1941, Schachter eventually became a principal at Los Angeles High School, later surfacing as superintendent (1971-78) in the L.A. school system.

All the appropriate names were in “Confessions” – Lombardi, Starr, Butkus, Papa Bear, Shula, Madden, Paul Brown, Van Brocklin, you name it. Hired by Commissioner Bert Bell in the 1950s – $100 a game, 7-game minimum.

Pete_Rozelle_and_George_Halas
Pete Rozelle, left, who once served as a public relations specialist when the Rams trained in Redlands throughout the 1950s, shakes hands with George “Papa Bear” Halas, the longtime owner, coach and general manager of the Chicago Bears. Halas drafted Redlands’ Greg Horton in the 1974 NFL draft – third round out of Colorado. All part of a Redlands Connection. Photo by Jim Summaria

“No,” Schachter said, “none of those guys ever spent time buying me dinner and drinks.”

He retired following the 1976 Super Bowl, Pittsburgh’s 21-17 win over Dallas – Schachter’s third Super Bowl. He’d worked Green Bay’s 35-10 win over Kansas City, then Super Bowl V when Baltimore beat Dallas, 16-13, and the Steelers-Cowboys finale.

Twenty-two years in the striped shirt. Brooklyn-born, a U.S. Marine, married to Charlotte for 56 years, sired three sons, Bob, Tom and Jim. Norm Schachter studied for a doctorate at Alfred (N.Y.) University. For Schachter, the end came in San Pedro. Age 90. Died in an old folks home.

It was a long way from the famous Green Bay-Dallas “Ice Bowl” game where he was spotted wearing ear muffs in the freezing weather.

COMING – Super Bowl’s connection to Redlands.