The 1980s began with the Rams in the Super Bowl and ended with them still trying to win it.
The ‘80s began with the Angels pushing a 16-14 pitcher named Nolan Ryan out the door and ended with them giving a 16-14 pitcher named Mark Langston the door, the house, the backyard and everything else in the zip code.
The ‘80s began with Janet Evans and Michael Chang in third grade and ended with them first in Seoul and first in Paris.
The ‘80s began with Cal State Fullerton hoping to build a football stadium and ended with Cal State Fullerton hoping to build a football stadium.
That’s pretty much how the ‘80s went down in the world of sports in the county colored orange. Some change, some static, some progress, some regress, some milestones, some millstones.
Some memories . . .
Pro football at Anaheim Stadium in 1980. The Rams beat the University of Texas there by four years.
The birth of the Freedom Bowl. The game gets its name from a newspaper chain, Texas and Iowa as its first contestants, rain on its first kickoff and a mid-decade financial bailout from the city of Anaheim.
It also gets six touchdown passes by Chuck Long, 266 yards by Gaston Green, the Colorado Buffaloes in their formative years and an NBC contract by 1989.
Youth soccer. Everybody plays, but nobody watches the California Surf, which fades into the tide pools of oblivion in 1981.
Gene Murphy’s Erector Set. With elbow grease and borrowed bleachers from the Long Beach Grand Prix, Cal State Fullerton’s football vagabonds actually had a place to call home from 1980 to 1982.
Orange County Law. The adults run amok with the Sue Me, Sue You Blues and drag high-school athletics into the courtroom far too often for the good of anyone. Clearly a case of too many parents with too much money and too much time on their hands.
Luis Sanchez to Cecil Cooper. Donnie Moore to Dave Henderson.
Ray Malavasi falls asleep during an early-morning drive-time radio interview. Ram fans do the same during 6-10 and 2-7 finishes in 1981 and 1982.
Vince Ferragamo’s 500-yard game in 1982.
Jim Everett’s 4,300-yard season in 1989.
Dieter Brock’s 365 whiffle balls in between Ferragamo and Everett.
Eric Dickerson. The rookie rushing record in 1983. The O.J. Odyssey in 1984. The contract wars in 1987.
“Let him run 47-Gap.”
Trades of the decade: Dickerson to Indianapolis for Greg Bell and a slew of draft choices, a slew of draft choices to Houston for Everett. They can’t draft in the first round, but the Rams do some things right.
Bill Travers, Bruce Kison, John D’Acquisto, Frank LaCorte and some other reasons why the Angels chose to collude against free agents.
Reggie’s 500th, Carew’s 3,000th, Sutton’s 300th.
Gene Mauch’s first, which, due to technical difficulties in ’82 and ’86, never came.
Bill Mulligan’s perennial laments that he can’t get any players at UC Irvine.
Mulligan’s 1985-86 team, which beats Las Vegas twice in 13 days and UCLA in the NIT with a roster that includes Tod Murphy, Johnny Rogers, Scott Brooks and Wayne Engelstad--all of them with NBA contracts in their futures.
George McQuarn quits. And comes back. And quits. And doesn’t come back.
The miracle of the decade: Cal State Fullerton’s football team goes 12-0 in 1984 on a wing, a prayer, a shoestring and a forfeit by Las Vegas.
The shame of the decade: The bomb threats phoned in by Cal State Fullerton boosters when the 1984 Freedom Bowl picks Iowa and Texas instead of the Titans.
Tom Lewis, Todd Marinovich, Steve Beuerlein, Bret Johnson, Clayton Olivier.
Greg Louganis, Janet Evans, Edwin Moses, Mary Decker, Tiffany Cohen.
Mater Dei wins the modern way, bending the parochial-school enrollment rules just enough in 1983 to become Orange County’s first 4-A basketball champion in 46 years.
Cal State Fullerton wins its second College World Series with Augie Garrido in 1984 and almost a third without him in 1988.
The most under-appreciated athletic achievement of the decade: Chang wins the French Open. A 17-year-old with leg cramps beats Lendl and Edberg to become the first American male in 34 years to win at Paris . . . and Sports Illustrated puts two boxers on the cover.
Chang, Evans, Michelle Granger, Ray Pallares. Placentia, city of champions.
Leon Wood, All-American, Journeyman. From Fullerton to the Olympics to Philadelphia to Washington to New Jersey to San Antonio to the Santa Barbara Islanders of the CBA.
Kevin Magee. Tel Aviv, tell a friend. The man could play.
Mulligan’s grand quest for the Bren Center, the on-campus arena he promised would help attract a better brand of basketball player to UC Irvine.
Mulligan’s yearly records since the opening of the Bren Center: 14-14, 16-14, 12-17 and, so far this season, 2-7.
No-hitters: Fullerton’s Mike Warren pitches one for the Oakland A’s in 1983 and Servite’s Mike Witt goes one better in 1984, throwing a perfect game for the Angels.
Wally World. A nice place to visit and a better place to live if Joyner stays out of a hospital bed during the 1986 American League playoffs.
Donnie Moore. They said things couldn’t get worse after his pitch to Henderson.
Charles White. He outrushes Dickerson in 1987.
Greg Bell. The little dwarf gets back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
Gene Mauch’s bronchitis, which first gave us a scare and then Cookie Ball, which gave the Angels laughs and losses and four managers during the calendar year of 1988.
Taiwan 21, Irvine 1.
Edison football (1981), Mater Dei basketball (1984) and Esperanza baseball (1986) are ranked No. 1 in the nation.
The Mike Pringle Lost and Found Dept. Cal State Fullerton film-making at its finest.
A promise for the ‘90s: A 20,000-seat arena to be built in Anaheim for the purpose of bringing an NBA team to Orange County.
A prediction for the ‘90s: Anaheim will have a nice arena for REM, U2, BAD and Run-DMC. NBA? The Clippers love L.A., so stamp this plan DOA.