Orange Coast College's football team captured the National Junior College Championship 50 years ago this season.
The Pirates beat Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, 21-0, at the 1963 Junior Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena. I was an 18-year-old OCC student at the time and attended the game along with 44,000 other fans.
A reunion will be held on campus for OCC's 1963 players, coaches and cheerleaders Sept. 21. For information, call (714) 432-5707.
Dick Tucker became OCC's head football coach in 1962, coming to the college from Brea-Olinda High School. In 11 seasons at Brea, his football teams won eight Orange League championships and two CIF titles.
In his first year at Coast, the Pirates went 9-1. The following season — 1963 — he led the Coasters to a 10-0 record. Tucker's Pirates captured a second national crown in 1975 when they went 11-0.
Dick coached Coast for 24 seasons and served as athletic director for a decade. He retired in 1995. Today, at 87, he lives in Corona del Mar with his wife, Philippa.
In 1962, the 36-year-old Tucker and his assistants, Dale Wonacott and Fred Owens, turned OCC's football program around. The Pirates had gone 7-19-1 the three previous seasons. Tucker and his staff hit the recruiting trail, and high school recruits from all over Orange County flocked to OCC's campus.
The underdog Pirates shocked Southland sportswriters in the '62 lid-lifter, easily defeating Chaffey College, 34-14. OCC concluded the season with a 23-16 win over Glendale College in the Orange Show Bowl in San Bernardino.
In '63, Tucker's former Brea assistant, George Mattias, joined OCC's coaching staff. Ninety players turned out for the team, and many were sophomores who'd seen plenty of action the previous year.
LeBard Stadium (then known as Pirate Stadium) was packed for every 1963 home game –- including hundreds of fans seated in the ivy above the end zones. The OCC faithful were not disappointed. JC All-American quarterback Billy White led the Bucs to an unblemished record.
The Pirates fused a high-octane offense with a bone-crushing defense. They didn't allow a touchdown until October. The first three games were blowouts: OCC beat Southwestern, 24-0, Citrus, 40-0, and San Bernardino, 48-0. The Bucs logged six shutouts in 10 games and overwhelmed the opposition by an average score of 33-4.
The fourth game proved to be OCC's toughest of the season. The Pirates nipped archrival Fullerton Junior College, 13-6, on the road.
"We were lucky," Tucker told me years later. "Fullerton dropped a pass in the end zone in the closing moments."
Luck had no bearing on the remaining contests, however. The Bucs hammered Grossmont College the following week, 48-7. That set up a shootout with Mt. San Antonio College's Mounties. Both teams were 5-0.
Mt. SAC boasted All-American quarterback Joe Keough, who possessed a Division I arm. More than 20,000 fans jammed Mountie Stadium in Walnut, and the Pirates jumped out to a 21-0 first quarter lead. OCC cruised to a 50-24 victory.
The following week, the 6-0 Bucs faced defending national champion Santa Ana College in Pirate Stadium. OCC had waited 12 long months to avenge its only loss of '62. Payback was sweet; Orange Coast throttled the Dons, 20-0.
The next week, OCC beat Riverside, 20-6, and then shut out Chaffey, 46-0, to clinch a Junior Rose Bowl bid.
On Saturday, Dec. 14, 1963, Orange Coast beat Northeastern Oklahoma A&M by three touchdowns in Pasadena's famed Arroyo Seco saucer to win the 18th annual Junior Rose Bowl Game.
The town of Costa Mesa emptied out by about 11 a.m., and it was a sparkling fall afternoon at the foot of the San Gabriels. NBC broadcast the game to a national television audience, and Chick Hearn called the play-by-play.
Northeastern Oklahoma, at 9-0, was ranked No. 1 in the nation before the game and OCC, at 9-0, was second. It promised to be a classic struggle, but the Pirates dominated.
The Bucs were named national champs the following Monday morning. It seemed now that everyone in the country knew of little Orange Coast College (4,000 students) in Costa Mesa.
"It was a thrill to win that game and to be crowned national champions," Tucker said. "It's something I've savored for decades."
In March of 2004, in the crowning achievement of his storied career, Dick Tucker was inducted into the California Community College Football Coaches Assn. Hall of Fame during ceremonies in Visalia.
He'll forever remain an OCC icon.
JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Wednesdays.