There were some major developments in sports in the Valley in 1985. And there were some very minor developments. There were some heartwarming stories, and there were stories that gave you heartburn. Some people earned our respect, some earned our sympathy. There were heroes and stars and dazzling performances. And there were people who tripped over their own feet or their own tongues. Now that it has come to a screeching halt, put your feet up and take a look back at the way we were.
BUT CAN SHE PUTT?
Certainly not the best athlete in the Valley. Probably not even the best athlete in her own house. But Donna Duke's achievements soar above all others. Thirteen times the 54-year-old golfer lofted a ball off a tee and watched as it dropped into the hole. The odds of ever getting one hole-in-one are 8,000 to 1. Her aces were witnessed by more than two dozen people, but she knew she still had doubters. "Maybe they think I have a trained pet gopher who picks the ball up with his teeth and drops it into the hole," she said.
Let's get a word about the streak from Norris McWhirter, editor of the Guinness Book of World Records, a man who has credited James Johnson of Terra Alta, West Virginia with the world record for a "beard of bees" when he allowed 35,000 of the insects to swarm on his face.
McWhirter's reaction to Donna Duke's 13 holes-in-one?
"Hmmm. It sounds rather freakish to me."
THE RUN-AND-SHOOT MYSELFIN THE FOOT
Tom Keele, the Cal State Northridge football coach, switched to a run-and-shoot offense for 1985 following a dismal 1984 season: "What have you got to lose?" he asked.
Four months later, Keele got the answer: Your job.
CSUN fired him after the NCAA uncovered evidence of an illegal tryout held by Keele for punters. School administrators added that other little things, like a 4-7 record this season and comments from a star player that his teammates seemed to enjoy losing, contributed to the firing.
We must, however, admire Keele's honesty when he was confronted by administrators.
"He said, 'Yeah. I did it. I broke the law. I knew it was wrong,"' said Athletic Director Bob Hiegert.
There were earlier indications that Keele's future was about to take a wrong turn. Before he installed the new offense, he bought a book on the subject, "Run And Shoot Football: The Now Attack."
The book was printed in 1965.
SUCH A TANGLED WEBB AT CS NORTHRIDGE
Another CSUN casualty. Bill Webb, the Matador men's track and field coach, was voted the 1984 California Collegiate Athletic Association Coach of the Year. His teams placed in the national Division II top 10 six consecutive seasons. On April 22, Webb received a glowing letter of praise from the CSUN athletic department. The very next day, Webb got another letter from the CSUN athletic department. This one has several paragraphs and much legal talk. It says, in essence, "You're Fired."
On May 4, CSUN won the CCAA Track and Field Championship. On May 6, CSUN announces that Webb, who it fired two weeks earlier, has been named the national javelin development coordinator for The Athletic Congress.
Webb filed a suit against the school in an effort to regain his job. The legal wrangling is still going on. And through it all, Webb, the most successful track and field coach in CSUN's history, is a confused man.
"I have no idea what the problem is," he said. "I've been trying to sort out what happened, but I just can't figure it out."
CSUN administrators refuse to say why Webb was fired. Lennin Glass, a spokesman for the university president, offered this: "We have to ask other questions beside what is his won-loss record. Does he work well with other coaches? Does he get along with other people in his department?"
NO RUNS, NO HITS, NO PERSPECTIVE
Kathy Slaten, CSUN's All-American softball pitcher, author of 18 no-hitters, announced on April 17 that she was quitting the sport.
"There's too much pressure," she said. "Just thinking about losing burns my stomach out."
Her coach, Gary Torgeson, offers this bold insight: "I think she puts too much pressure on herself."
But on Sept. 12, she's back at CSUN.
"The pressure won't be any different," she said. "I still expect to throw a no-hitter everytime I step on the mound. I feel such tremendous pressure because of the thought of letting everyone down, of letting my teammates down."
Golly, can you imagine the pressure Slaten has endured, pitching in all those Division II games? Hopefully, 1986 will bring her some relief from the unbearable stress of playing softball. But knowing her, she'll take up something just as tension-filled. Like gardening.
Yeah? I Dare You To Do It Again.
One second before halftime in a Hart vs. Burbank boys basketball game, Hart's Kevin Honaker sank a 75-foot shot. "I told my kids at halftime, 'It was just lucky,"' said Burbank Coach Russ Keith. It probably was a lucky shot. Even luckier, perhaps, than the 50-foot shot Honaker made with one second left in the game.
Gimme An 'O', gimme an 'A', gimme a Yeeowww!