The greatest game he ever played

The greatest game he ever played
(Jon Krause / For The Times)

I went to UC Santa Barbara on a baseball scholarship after transferring from Cerritos College. I was a speech major and had a radio show on college station KCSB called "Sleep's Sports Shorts." I wanted to play pro ball or replace Vin Scully when he retired. (Take all the time you need, Vinny.)

Professional baseball scouts' criteria for judging prospects are run, throw, field, hit and hit for power. If there were such a thing for finding the perfect partner in life, my list as a college student would have included great chemistry, ethics, values, intelligence, a good sense of humor and a love of sports.


That last category — sports — was the deal breaker. Most of the young women I knew thought a Hail Mary was a pregame cocktail and "illegal use of hands" referred to fresh frat guys on a first date.

The first time I saw Ruth Randall was the last day of my senior season. She was a Kershaw curveball — the kind who leaves you weak in the knees and in danger of losing your confidence. She looked right through me. I didn't exist for her. Yet.

I had been accepted to grad school and was pumped for a great summer. I had met a wonderful retired gentleman with a 10-acre beachfront mansion in Santa Barbara's Hope Ranch. I moved into the servants' quarters there and worked at the estate to pay my way. I told my dates he was my grandfather and that "someday all of this will be yours." (A couple of them even bought that line.)

That fall I saw Ruth again at a football game, and she was even more stunning. We went to a movie on our first date. Our goodnight kiss remains the single most erotic and sensual moment of my life.

On our second date, she rattled off the Lakers starting lineup. She liked to body surf, hike, bike and play tennis. This was starting to take the form of a rout.

We went to high school football games, jumping the fence with a six-pack and a bag of chips. We went bowling. We watched the Super Bowl at her sorority house. We sat in the nosebleed section at Dodger Stadium. We threw Frisbees in the Infield at Santa Anita Park. We saw UC Santa Barbara basketball and volleyball games.

Her vetting process for me was thorough. I had to learn every word to the Michigan fight song before she would introduce me to her parents. I was placed on waivers and sent to the penalty box on more than one occasion. She even called a couple of timeouts due to my lack of team play. Who said winning the pennant was easy?

Three years later, in 1971, we were married. My wedding gift to her was season tickets to the Los Angeles Rams. She loved it! I had found the perfect woman. Some weekends, we'd do the trifecta — a high school game on Friday night, a UCLA game on Saturday and then a Rams game on Sunday.

Over the years, we attended the Winter and Summer Olympics. We went to Super Bowls, Rose Bowls and Salad Bowls. Sat through rainstorms and scorching sun. Sipped overpriced beer and dined on day-old dogs. Endured drunks, the disorderly and gang-bangers. Celebrated walk-offs and touchdowns with strangers and best friends. Sat in private boxes and stood in long lines. Walked in bragging and walked out in silence.

We also engaged in sports ourselves. We swam, golfed and played tennis. Hiked many of the national parks. Skied some of the best slopes in the 13 Western states. I tore a meniscus, an anterior cruciate ligament and an Achilles'. She broke her pelvis and had plantar fasciitis. Real togetherness.

After 19 years, we had kids. It took us that long to figure out what caused them. I won't bore you with the millions of hours (and dollars) we spent coaching, refereeing, driving and cheering them on. And, yes, all three are infected with the same sports disease. They're in college now, and we're game-ready for parent weekends, homecoming and alumni bashes.

These days we've reduced the contact sports and replaced them with power walks, mountain bikes, weights and light beer.

You can probably tell we're on the back nine. Heading toward the last few holes together. Hand in hand — a couple of buds — more in love than we were on opening day. And we're still out there enjoying our favorite sports. We recently attended a college softball tournament in Palm Springs and the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, and we have plans to visit Angels spring training in Tempe, Ariz.

I don't know if you believe in the hereafter. I do, and I have two simple hopes: One is that there is a game going on up there, and the other is that she and I have good seats.


Sleep is president of Lawrence Group, a Santa Barbara-based company.

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