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The marching band refused to yield

I missed it earlier this week, but November 20 was the 20th anniversary of The Play, California’s amazing game-winning kick return against Stanford that culminated with a trombone player getting flattened in the end zone.

Kevin Moen, the player who scored the touchdown, and Gary Tyrrell, the flattened trombone player, fondly recall their place in history. Both have also capitalized on it – for example, Tyrrell is an amateur brewer whose homebrew is called Trombone Guy Pale Ale.

Here’s a story about Joe Sharkey, the radio announcer who made the historic play-by-play call. In the Right-Place-Right-Time Department, Sharkey made the key decision to actually pay attention to the kickoff, even as many of his colleagues were leaving the stadium:

“Normally in TV and radio,” Starkey says, “when you know it’s the last play of the game, you don’t call it as it occurs. You wait until it’s played out, then give a recap. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to stick with it.”

Many reporters covering the game that day didn’t even see The Play, he says. Thinking Stanford’s field goal had ended the game, they went to the locker room or left the stadium to beat the traffic.

“One colleague of mine was in his car at a red light when he heard me calling out Cal’s last play,” says Starkey. “When the light turned green, he didn’t move, and neither did any of the other cars at the intersection. It was obvious everyone was listening to the same thing; he said the light changed twice before anyone moved.”

Another friend driving home during The Play, Starkey remembers, tried to pull over to listen to the broadcast, but was so distracted by what was transpiring that he ended up in a nearby ditch.

A fuller description of The Play and the events that led up to it are here. For a slightly different view of The Play, check out this parody edition of The Daily Californian put out by some disgruntled Stanford fans a few days after the game. You can hear a recording of the play-by-play here. My buddy Dan Wallach has a trascript of the play-by-play on his home page. Finally, here’s a link to a page that has Real Player clips for download of the The Play, and the Stanford drive that preceded The Play.

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One Comment

  1. jeff says:

    Is there any way I could recieve the short clip of “the play” to save it onto my computer?