Why I Love Sports: A lost blanket at the Game of the Century
WHY I LOVE SPORTS, by Terry Maxon
I started at OU in 1970, so I was able to see some pretty good wishbone football. But here are two plays that have stuck with me, for different reasons. In October 1971, Southern Cal played OU in Norman. OU was trailing 7-6 in the first quarter and was sitting on USC’s 42-year-line and traveling south.
From my not-so-good student seats in the northeast corner, I watched through binoculars as Greg Pruitt took a pitch and headed left. Two USC players thought they had Pruitt trapped against the left sideline. Instead, he leapt right, as no human should be able to do, and scampered past them as they continued eastward and out of bounds. Touchdown, 42 yards, OU up 13-6 on its way to a 33-20 win.
Two months later, I’m at the “Game of the Century,” covered up in my only dorm blanket on a pretty cold day. Jack Mildren hits Jon Harrison with a 24-yard touchdown pass right before halftime to give OU a 17-14 lead, the only time Nebraska had trailed that season.
In joy, I threw my blanket up in the air. In dismay, I saw it blow over the north end of the stadium. As other Sooner fans were jumping up and down, I was hurrying down the stairs and out of the stadium to retrieve my only blanket. I found it under the arm of a woman who was walking away with it and wondering why someone would throw away a perfectly good blanket.
I still rate it as the greatest OU game I’ve attended even though Oklahoma lost – or ran out of time, as we tell ourselves.
The thing about sports is that it’s the little moments that stick with you as much as the big ones.
Living less than two miles from the Texas Rangers, I’ve taken my son and daughter to plenty of games. I’ve told them to try to find one thing at every game to remember, to savor.
I recall a 1983 game between the Rangers and the Baltimore Orioles in which first-base umpire Ken Kaiser – described as a barrel with arms by fellow umpire Ron Luciano – called Orioles batter Eddie Murray out on a close call.
I told a friend watching the game with me to keep an eye on Murray and Kaiser when Murray went out to first base after the Orioles’ third out. Sure enough, Murray began walking around the first base area with his stomach stuck out, mocking Kaiser, who promptly tossed him from the game.
In 1982, Lamar Johnson was finishing up his career in Texas as designated hitter and wasn’t having a great year. My friend was yelling at him during an at-bat: “Lamar, you’re not good. You’re a bum.” Johnson promptly hit a home run. As Johnson rounded third base and headed for home, he looked up in the stands at my friend. “You’re still a bum,” the friend shouted. Johnson gave a big smile.
One last memory: In June 1990, my wife got four tickets to an Oakland-Rangers game in Oakland (we were living in the area at the time). I took a friend from work, his 10-year-old son and the son’s 11-year-old buddy. It was the son’s first Major League game ever and only the friend’s second game.
Of course, that was the June 11 game at which Nolan Ryan became the oldest MLB player to throw a no-hitter, his sixth. But the two boys weren’t impressed because what did they know? It wasn’t until they arrived back home that night and saw the excitement on the late TV news that they accepted that they had seen something really big.
And then less than three weeks later, on June 29, 1990, both Fernando Valenzuela of the LA Dodgers and Dave Stewart of the Oakland A’s threw no-hitters on the same day. The boys were once again unimpressed by no-hitters.