It’s finally happened. After years of talk, securing funds, and sometimes downright political bickering, shovels have finally been turned on the Memorial Field rebuilding project at Burroughs High School.
It was a who’s who of Burbank schools, government and business in attendance at the ceremonies that featured the Burroughs Band, fresh off their performance in the recent Sugar Bowl.
When City Manager Mike Flad got up to give his comments, he recounted his senior year in 1983, remembering every detail of the game in which Burroughs quarterback Sean Spring hit Bret Mersola on a 61-yard touchdown pass to tie the score late in the fourth quarter. But Bulldog quarterback and legend Gary Lotka had enough time on the clock to march Burbank down for a field goal attempt.
As Flad agonizingly went ahead with his story of suffering, he remembered that kicker Alfredo Velasco at first missed the winning field goal and as he and his friends celebrated, they saw a flag for defensive holding that gave Velasco one more shot. He nailed the 21-yard field goal with no time on the clock and snapped the Indians’ six-game winning streak.
So there was our city manager, recounting a story that had happened 27 years earlier as though he had just come home from the game, and thus, one of the reasons that the rebuilding of Memorial Field is important, and personal, to so many residents.
I am sure anyone who grew up here in Burbank can always tell you which side of the stadium they sat on their senior year and who won the game. Many of them will also have a story or two from the week before the game when there were a couple of shenanigans perpetrated toward the opposing school.
There was very little different in 1975 when we had our senior year at Burroughs. We had won our first two games against Burbank during our high school time (Burroughs was a three-year school back then), but it was now the task of our seniors to keep the streak alive.
Now, I have no knowledge of any activity that took place that week, although one day when we came to school, there was a large amount of blue paint all around the campus. But my understanding was that the pool at Burbank had mysteriously had its water turned red. Imagine that.
On game day, there was nothing new about having to get there early if you wanted a seat. “Bobby D” was no longer coaching Burroughs, as Craig Bell took over, and at Burbank, Pete LiPera was coaching his last game. Burroughs was a heavy favorite and the series at the time was tied 13-13 between the schools.
The Burroughs class of ’76 was filled with talented players. Quarterback Bob Pastora was solid and his running back, Pat Hickman, was in a class by himself (he was fearless, as well as feared). Other names that still standout in Burroughs history from the class of ’76 include Jairo Penaranda, Bob Frishette, John Carignan, Jeff Orlando, Kirk Morales, Scott McCaskill, Louis Lanteri, Steve Patronette, Robert Yanes, Art Yanez, Gary Witt, Garry Williams, Jeff Orlando, Dave Ramos, John Clement, and Mike McDonald.
Playing linebacker that night, Mike intercepted a pass and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown. He later went on to USC and played for the Rams. You can still see him on a high school football field, now as a CIF referee.
That year, Burroughs went on to defeat Burbank 40-0, completing three straight shutout years for our class. Burbank was outscored 82-0 in those three years.
Everyone has those memories through the years, as either a player in the game or just one of us fans who packed the stadium — a stadium that we ruled that year. It was also a stadium that we grew up in as we first attended games when going to Jordan Jr. High, a stadium that we continued to go back to every year to reattach to our memories of a great time in our lives.
Seats may be replaced, natural grass may be replaced, and the stadium may change on the side of modernization, but what it represents will never change in the years to come.
And one final note, now that the $12 million has been raised and the project started, let’s make sure we save all of the receipts and put them somewhere that can be found at a moment’s notice so that 20 years from now we can see how a project was properly done.
CRAIG SHERWOOD is the executive editor of BurbankNBeyond.com and a baseball coach at Burbank High School. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.