The Super Bowl marks the end of the football season, but I have a bonus “game” this month for San Pedrans, courtesy of Richard “Whitey” Campbell.
This story was originally posted on the San Pedro Born and Raised Facebook page, where Campbell is a frequent contributor. While I wouldn’t normally use something like this in my column, it is such a delightful vignette and so ‘Pedro’ in so many ways, I asked Campbell if I could use it here. Besides, many of those mentioned in the story are of a generation not linked with social media and may only see it on the printed page.
Campbell graduated from San Pedro High in W`61. He was the Pirates’ starting quarterback in 1960 and was the Pepperdine quarterback when that school dropped the sport. He married his high school sweetheart, Barbara Troy (S`62), and had a long career as a principal in the Capistrano school district before retiring. He has lived in South Orange County for more than 40 years. Here’s his story:
It was 1957, and our Boys Club football team that year was good… real good. We beat everyone seriously. Teams from Santa Barbara to Manhattan Beach to the prisoner kids in Chino could not stand up to us. We had some good players and two great coaches in Nick Trani and Ray Martinez.
As the very successful season ended, we were informed there would be one more game. Our eighth- and ninth-grade team was going to be matched up with a team of former Boys Clubbers who were now in the 10th grade, some having had experience that year on the SPHS varsity and some on the B team. Nov. 27 was to be the night for this game and it would be played with all the trappings, including a game queen and her court, Tiger Reese with his mic in hand calling out the play-by-play from the sidelines. and there would be a big crowd at Daniels Field.
This game was a bit intimidating. We were good, but now we were expected to be good against the likes of Dennis Lane, Lee Valenzuela, the Oreb twins, Darrell (Rushie) Dudley, Paul Loveridge, Jim Skefich, Johnny Lukin, Eddie Ryono, Rich Doyle, Dennis Metzger, Winston Buchan, Doug Nichols and one of the toughest of all, Kenny Potter, a real crushing runner. There were others on that squad, and it was a daunting cast of characters who were already shaving, had deep voices, and some were probably driving cars, too, while most of us had just discovered the benefits of deodorant.
Our team had a sturdy front line of Joe Teora, Bobby Frias, Tony Perkov, Art Zamudio, Danny Mardesich, Jerry Rodich, Frank Morales, Gus Bouza, Joe Zuanich, Todd Androvich and big Leon Svetlik. All were bruising players but at least a year younger than the guys they would face. In the backfield, we had speed in halfbacks Angel Garcia and Frank McAteer, strength at fullback in tough Tony Olguin, and I was the QB, a skinny white-haired kid who had just begun to master the quarterback’s job.
This game would make for some scary times, but we had prepared as well as the coaches could prepare us. Now for the good part of the story. I don’t recall much about the first three quarters, but I can tell you that with only minutes left in the game, the score was 6-0 in their favor. We had the ball, and we were working down the field toward the end zone, with the Boys Club building across the street.
Coach Trani had coached all the kids on that older team before, and he knew that they knew all of our plays. In the week leading up to the game, our practice sessions involved learning some new plays that Coach Trani wanted to install. He was a great teacher, and he did his homework for this important game. He gave us a new series of plays for use at just the right moment that he hoped might come as a surprise for those older guys. He called it the “belly series” of plays. There were basically three options to it. From the sideline, he could have me call the belly dive, the belly toss or the belly pass.
We were down the field and getting close to the red zone when out of the blue, the coach started directing me to run the belly series. On the dive, I put the ball in Olguin’s belly and rode alongside him into the dive hole, and I let him keep it. It worked for good yards so we did it again and again.
On the next series, the dive was followed by the belly toss to either Garcia or McAteer, and it also worked. I put the ball in Olguin’s belly but pulled it out as we hit the line and tossed the ball into the backfield to the running halfback of the moment. We got good yardage on both of those options, and we found ourselves on about the 25-yard line. On our third down, now in the red zone, Coach Trani called for the nail in the coffin, the belly pass.
My great friend Joe Teora was at left end. He hates this part of the story, but to this day we talk about it and laugh every time we see one another. At the time, we didn’t know how well the play would work because they had good defensive backs. Coach Trani could, however, already see how the safety and outside backs were tending to move up toward the belly series runs every time we showed them those plays. So on third down, I bellied into the line again with Olguin, but this time I pulled the ball back and hid it on my right hip as I faded back to pass. The protection was good. I looked downfield and there he was, Joe Teora, wide open behind the defense at about the 10-yard line.
I threw a clean pass right to his waiting hands up above his head. He had it as he turned his head toward the Boys Club and turned his body in the same direction. The problem was, his size-12 feet didn’t follow directions, and as he took a step or so, he got tangled up, fell down and lost the ball.
It was in that second that a legend was born. We didn’t make a TD, we didn’t get another first down, and the game we could have won, we lost, 6-0. It had been frustrating for us, but this football game and the tale of it became known around some circles in San Pedro as the “Legend of Twinkle Toes Teora.”
All in all, it sounds like it was a better game than the Super Bowl.
Steve Marconi can be reached at email@example.com.