Some mark the times of their lives with music. They can hear a song on the radio and instantly tell you what year it came out and the memories surrounding that song. For others, it’s films or television. For me it has always been sports.
I can turn on ESPN Classic and instantly be taken back in time. Watching a classic sporting event isn’t only about reliving the thrill of the event or appreciating the skill of a Pete Rose or Michael Jordan. For me, it conjures up memories of times gone by, of cherished people and places forever etched in my soul.
I invite you to indulge me and travel with me if you will, back in time. This series of posts will attempt to capture the seminal moments of my youth as marked by the major sporting events of the time. Along the way, I’ll attempt to explain the significance of the event, exactly why this event is so special in my memory.
This is my list, it follows my life. It won’t exactly mirror most of my readers, but I hope that many of these events trigger similar memories for you. Throughout, I hope that you’ll share any special thoughts you have about these games and what they meant to you as well.
Although I remember bits and pieces of events prior, I pick up this trip in 1975. I was 9 years-old, just entering into that part of my cognitive development when my “fandom” became my own and not just rooting for the teams my parents did. I’ll follow it throughout the rest of my school years to 1984. After that came college and then “life” when the events of sports, though still important, didn’t quite hold that magical spot in my life.
1975 This year not only marked the beginning of my “awareness” as a fan, but it also occurred during a period of unprecedented success for my teams. This would ultimately “spoil” me for a time, as I came to expect that every year the Reds would win the division and Ohio State would play Michigan for the Rose Bowl. That’s just how it was supposed to be.
Game 6, 1975 World Series. Reds v. Red Sox
Called by many the greatest baseball game ever played, it has a special place in my memory. It was the first time I can remember my parents allowing me to stay up to watch a game. The Reds held a 3-2 series advantage and were looking to close out the Red Sox to secure their first World Series title since 1940. Ironically, that 35 year-old lens that seemed so ancient when I was 9 is one year less than that which I am currently recounting my memories of this game.
The Reds seemingly had the game in hand, with a three run lead and their all but invincible bullpen tandem of Eastwick and McEnaney waiting to set down the Sox in the final two innings. But Bernie Carbo, in the midst of looking helpless against Rawley Eastwick, somehow connected and tied the game sending it to extra innings.
I fondly remember my parents saying “one more inning” in hopes that I would be able to see the Reds’ clinching moment. But with Dewey Evans amazing catch doubling up Ken Griffey (yes, I told my son, Ken Griffey’s dad played for the Reds, too!), it was left for Carlton Fisk to send one off the foul pole next to the Green Monster to tie up the series 3-3. Although I was tired the next morning and had to wait an evening for the Reds to win it all, this game remains a fixture in my mind.
Archie Griffin’s second Heisman season. Ohio State beats Michigan to go to the Rose Bowl.
1975 was the first year I really followed the Buckeyes from start to finish. Growing up in a house full of Kentuckians, football was an afterthought. But watching Archie Griffin’s Heisman campaign in 1974 along with Woody Hayes’ coaching show on Sunday mornings hooked me and I became a full-fledged Buckeye fan. OSU and Michigan entered the final game in Ann Arbor both unbeaten. Michigan had been tied twice, however, meaning that a tie in their game meant the Buckeyes would go to Pasadena.
It looked bad for most of the game. Inexplicably, the potent Buckeye offense had been controlled by Michigan’s defense. But then in the 4th quarter, Woody Hayes amazingly allowed Corny Greene to go to the air and Ohio State started to move the ball. Pete Johnson would barrel in on the goal line (sadly we’ll see another highlight later in this series when he couldn’t do that as a Bengal) and Ohio State had the game tied. With time running out, Michigan’s equally pass-phobic Bo Schembechler had to allow his freshman QB Rick Leach to pass. That’s when Archie’s less heralded brother, Ray, picked him off and put the Buckeyes in position to run to the Rose Bowl.
Sadly, Dick Vermeil’s UCLA Bruins would deprive the Buckeyes of the national title by defeating them in that Rose Bowl. I would have to wait until 2002 to see that out of the Buckeyes.
Please share your memories of these games or even link to other events of 1975 that were special to you. Thanks for sharing these games of my life.