College

30 Years Later: The Play Remembered

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"The Play" from Cal-Stanford's 1982 Big Game (CBS)

“The Play” from Cal-Stanford’s 1982 Big Game (CBS)

BERKELEY (CBS 5) – On Saturday, Stanford and Cal will play the 115th Big Game at UC Berkeley’s refurbished Memorial Stadium. For those who don’t know, the “Big Game” is the biggest college football event in the Bay Area, celebrating the historic rivalry between two great universities.

But 30 years ago, one of the biggest “Big Game” moments unfolded at Memorial Stadium, resulting in one of the most remarkable, if not recognizable, plays in college football history. It’s called “the Play.”

Most folks have seen the version that aired during the broadcast of the 1982 game. But few have seen the footage shot by CBS 5. And fewer yet know the true story of how that footage got shot.

CBS 5 has uncovered a treasure trove of rarely seen, unedited videotape of what went down that day, including the half time show, raw footage of interviews with the football players and what’s called “The Play” in its entirety. We spoke to then CBS 5 sports producer Steve Kroner; former CBS 5 photographer Al Lopez, Cal football player and “The Play” game changer Kevin Moen, and Stanford band trombonist Gary Tyrrell.

BONUS FOOTAGE:
Raw Video: Halftime Show At 1982 Big Game Between Stanford & Cal
Raw Video: Cal Head Coach Joe Kapp After 1982 Big Game & The Play
Raw Video: Cal TE David Lewis On 1982 Big Game vs. Stanford & The Play
Raw Video: Cal S Kevin Moen On 1982 Big Game vs. Stanford & The Play
Raw Video: Cal DT Reggie Camp Talks After 1982 Big Game & The Play
Raw Video: Cal Head Coach Joe Kapp Leads Cheer After 1982 Big Game

The date was November 20, 1982. Kroner remembered that it has rained all week, but that morning had dawned beautifully. “It was sort of a classic, cold, crisp November day,” recalled Kroner.

“It looked like a movie set,” said Lopez, who was called in to shoot the game because the regular staff photographer took a day off to attend his daughter’s wedding. Lopez had never been at Memorial Stadium before. He had to get directions from Kroner. While he has shot sporting events for a Sacramento station, this was the first time that Lopez would shoot sports for CBS 5. Since it was such a privilege to shoot sports at the local CBS station, “It was very important to me to do a good job that day,” said the Central Valley native.

At CBS 5, the sports department was renowned for its expertise and intense dedication to the art of sports reporting. Steve Kroner and his colleague Art Dlugach would insist that the photographer never stop taping a game, unless they had a tight deadline. That was their motto, and it proved to make a big difference on this fateful day.

As Lopez was driving across the Bay Bridge on this way to Cal, a huge bus showed up at Memorial Stadium to dislodge its passengers. Inside was the Stanford band. Trombonist Gary Tyrrell was among them and he said they were tired but excited. “That Friday night, we had a rally in San Francisco and then got back to campus about 2 AM, and then enough time to go back to our dorm rooms, get a little sleep, get a shower, put our uniforms back on, then head on down to the band shack for breakfast before getting on the bus,”. Breakfast, Tyrrell remembered was beer and donuts. Tyrrell doesn’t know why he as a child that he was drawn to play the trombone, but he says “it was a good fit”.

Tyrell also remembered how the colors inside the stadium really stood out: that Cal has recently added Astroturf which is a bright green; the south side of the stadium was packed with the Stanford Cardinal, all wearing bright red; and the Cal fans were decked out in yellow and blue. “It was packed to the gills,” said Tyrrell.

Stanford also had the remarkable young quarterback John Elway: a Heisman Trophy finalist and one of the best quarterbacks to come down the pike in many years. If Stanford were to win the Big Game, they would be going to the Hall of Fame Bowl  on Christmas Day in Birmingham, Alabama. Stanford was, according to Kroner, a slight favorite to win.

Kevin Moen was also at Memorial Stadium. He was a strong safety for the California Golden Bears. He also remembers how the stadium was packed and how exciting it was to be playing at the Big Game. But what led up to the Big Game also became a crucial factor. Moen said all year, Cal head coach Joe Kapp had the team participate in an event after their practice games called “Grabass.” It was a warm-up drill to loosen them up and break a sweat. With Grabass, the players, according to Moen, would line up on each side of the ball, and lateral the ball to move it forward. This exercise would come in handy.

The CBS 5 footage shows Cal was ahead for most of the game but also documented by Elway was such a threat. At halftime, as the Stanford band took to the field and spelled out “Grow up” to the Cal Fans, Cal fans responded with flip cards. One turn of the cards revealed “ET”, the extraterrestrial from Steven Spielberg’s new movie that had been released that year. The next set of cards revealed “Leland Stanford University,” and then, instead of E.T’s famous mantra to “Phone Home,” the cards spelled out to the Stanford Band, to “Go Home.”

When the second half resumed, Stanford took the lead in the late third quarter. Early fourth quarter, Cal went back ahead. For most of the fourth quarter, Cal looked like it was going to win, but then Stanford’s Mark Harmon kicked a 35-yard field goal with four seconds left, and the air came out of the Cal fans as well as the players. “To be honest with you, I sat on the bench with my head down, knowing that we had just lost the game,” said defensive lineman Reggie Camp in the newly recovered CBS 5 videotape.

The score was Stanford-20, Cal-19. Kroner said the photographers around the KPIX crew started packing up and heading down to the Stanford locker room, “Nothing’s going to happen in the last four seconds, right?,” laughed Kroner, “Except that something did.”

Cal had one more crack at the ball. Moen said another Cal player Richard Rodgers, said, “Hey, don’t let the ball die, keep it alive.” They then went out on the field, but with no set plan except, Moen said, “to do whatever was necessary to give it a last go at the end of the day.”

Lopez did not strike his gear, even though he thought it was pretty much over for Cal. But he recounted, he knew if you shot sports for CBS 5, you shoot till the entire game is over. With 4 seconds left, Lopez shot till the end, but did something different with his technique. He knew it was a gamble, but instead of keeping his shot wide which is traditional for highlights, he went tight on the action. “As soon as the Stanford kicker came up, I went right for the ball. I kind of stayed on it, and I stayed tight,” he said.

Stanford’s Mark Harmon squibbed the kick, and it bounced into Moen’s hands. “When I got the ball, my first intent was to score a touchdown,” said Moen, “and looking up and seeing a group of Stanford guys running at me, I didn’t have much hope of doing that.”

Moen lateraled the ball it to Rodgers, who then threw a lateral to Dwight Gardner, who then, as he was being tackled, threw the ball back to Rodgers, who then threw the ball to Mariet Ford, who then threw a no-look lateral back to Moen running a full sprint towards the end zone.

“Al Lopez is following this as well as could be followed; I mean, just think about what I’m saying,” said Kroner. “Unbelievable that he was able to do so.”

Lopez was looking with one eye through his viewfinder, but with his other eye, sees something out of his peripheral vision. “I started seeing band members on the field.”

At this time, Tyrrell and the rest of the Stanford band was out on the field, ready for their postgame celebration. But Tyrrell said he didn’t see the kickoff. He saw the clock run down to zero and then turned around to high-five a friend and celebrate. He then turned back around. “In that instant,” Tyrrell said, “I saw this football player running through the end zone, he had the ball and then the next thing I knew, I was down.”

“My little celebration in the end zone landed me on Gary Tyrrell, the trombone player,” said Moen.

Lopez continued to roll, and then, noticed a big hullabaloo in the middle of the field. He focused away from the end zone to where the referees were gathering mid-field. “I remember this one guy, this guy out of nowhere! He had on a brown jacket,” mused Lopez. Kroner added that he was “some guy who looks like a homeless guy.”

The guy with the brown jacket was listening to the referees but no one knows who he is. But 27 seconds after the refs gather to discuss Cal’s last play, he is the first to signal to the crowd that the touchdown stood and the Golden Bears won.

“Then, it’s insanity,” exclaimed Kroner. “People are pouring out of the Cal stands to mob the field, and Stanford players, coaches and fans are in disbelief.” Lopez has caught it all on tape. “Thank God that Al Lopez was the photographer to capture it,” said Kroner.

Back in the locker room, as captured on the CBS 5 videotape, the Cal players can’t believe what just happened.

Tight end David Lewis was asked if Cal should thank the Stanford band. “No, I think it’s a lot of thanks to our players for not giving up, because no one gave up,” Lewis replied.

Kroner asked Moen to describe what he was thinking as he was running down the field and he saw the entire Stanford band on the field. Moen responded “They weren’t going to stop me; they weren’t going to stop me.” Moen also revealed during this interview that there was no discussion to lateral the ball ahead of time.

Cal head coach Joe Kapp then went out on the balcony and led Cal fans in a cheer. In a post game interview, he told reporters about Grabass, touted his team and uttered the famous words, that “the Bear would not quit, the Bear would not die.”

Gary Tyrrell didn’t see footage of The Play until the next day. In fact, the first thing he noticed was the newspaper and the famous picture snapped by Oakland Tribune photographer Robert Stinnett who was in the end zone and snapped Moen plowing through the Stanford band. Tyrrell said he grabbed a few papers but knew he’d better lie low and spent a few days hiding out in the library. “I shouldn’t have been in the end zone. You know it was just one of those things. It was a very dynamic situation. I wasn’t rushing the field,” said Tyrrell.

Moen said he was glad that he didn’t fumble the ball and has no regrets about running into Tyrrell, saying “Gary, if you’re on the field, strap it on.”

Tyrrell is proud of his affiliation with Stanford University, but had this response to Moen. “You gotta hit me harder if you wanna keep me down,” he laughed.

The Rivalry continues.

Postscript: Where are they now?

Steve Kroner is now a sports writer and copy editor for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Al Lopez is director of photography for Definitive Video and shoots for national news magazine shows that include 60 minutes, Rock Center with Brian Williams, and 20-20.

Kevin Moen is a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker in Southern California.

Gary Tyrrell is Chief Financial Officer for a Venture Capital Firm on the Peninsula.

Guy in the Brown Coat? Fan X? No one knows.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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