It was an "Old Man and the Sea" story, with a Southern California angle.
In fact, the real-life fisherman, Larry Litvinoff, wondered several times if he wasn't dreaming, wondering if he was the old Cuban in the Hemingway novel who had caught a huge marlin by himself from a small boat.
But he didn't have to pinch himself. Nineteen years ago today, Litvinoff, 36, fishing alone in his 17-foot boat, hooked a swordfish--an extremely unusual occurrence in the Southland's big game fishing history, dating to the days of Zane Grey and the Tuna Club of Avalon.
There are sportfishermen who have been fishing for swordfish for years and never caught one. Far more uncommon and infinitely more difficult to catch with a rod and reel than a marlin, the swordfish is the supreme achievement in big-game fishing.
Litvinoff knew all this. He'd seen a swordfish finning about 15 miles off Dana Point on a previous weekend and at 6 a.m. returned to the same spot.
He saw a swordfish, and threw out a weighted, frozen giant squid, on 80-pound test line. "He approached the bait twice and then swam away each time," Litvinoff said.
"On the third approach, he whacked it three times with his bill, and took it. It was 45 seconds before he knew he was hooked. He took out 300 yards of line so fast I couldn't believe it."
What followed was a 3-hour 55-minute fight. At one point, Litvinoff was fighting his 336-pound fish, steering his boat and trying to fix a broken chair mount simultaneously.
When he finally brought the swordfish to his boat, it was tail-wrapped, and dead. Exhausted, he took it to the Balboa Angling Club and had it photographed.
Also on this date: In 1933, 18-year-old Joe DiMaggio of the San Francisco Seals had his 61-game hitting streak stopped when he went 0 for 5 against the Oakland Oaks. . . . In 1978, Pete Rose broke Tommy Holmes' National League batting streak record by getting a hit in his 38th straight game. . . . In 1996, the Lakers signed high school phenom Kobe Bryant. . . . In 1958, K.C. Jones, drafted by both the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Rams, reported to the Rams' preseason camp at Redlands University.