Laughter part of local sports lore


One rich element that could be found in yesteryear sports was humor.

One occasion in 1938 found two Harbor High footballers, Al Irwin

and Walt Kelly, returning on a long drive from Newport Beach to

College of the Pacific in Stockton.

In reflecting back once, Kelly, a cousin to Irwin, said, "We

agreed to take turns driving every two hours. That way, one could

sleep and the other could drive."

Kelly, a 6-foot-4 wingman, recalled, "After a long haul, I was

becoming increasingly tired and I guess my turn was becoming shorter

and shorter."

Kelly said, "It dawned on Al once when he took over the wheel. He

finally peered closely at the dashboard panel and exclaimed, 'But,

Walt, you only drove 10 miles.' "

In later years, Irwin returned to Newport to become the grid coach

from 1948-55, then took the grid reins at Orange Coast College and

led the Pirates to a championship in '56.

The late Jack Bell, a one-time CIF diver and a '49 halfback, had a

treasure of humor from his years of travel, but one who amused him

most in early days was Clint Eastwood.

Bell and Eastwood both served as lifeguards once at the Fort Ord

swimming pool in 1952.

Bell once said, "Clint was the craziest son-of-a-gun in the world.

He pulled a lot of pranks during Army days. One day, I asked him,

'Clint, what are you going to do when you get out of the Army?' "

Bell said, "He answered, 'I'm going to go into the movies.' That

made me laugh, but he was every bit a man's man, and a great guy.' "

Eastwood made it to the movies.

One rare episode arose one night in the early 1950s when Orange

Coast College line coach Johnny Owens swore he could see the Chaffey

College coach on the field and entering his team's huddle in the

fog-filled stadium at Huntington Beach High.

And Owens sensed the game officials didn't see what was happening.

Hence, the stocky Owens rushed on to the field in the sweep of fog

and started yelling his protest.

Unfortunately, he was badly mistaken and the officials encouraged

him to return to the sidelines.

The late Les Miller once recalled officiating a high school game

in the country and observed a talented young player drop-kicking the

ball for a field goal.

As he ran past one of the defending players, one of them

exclaimed, "Hey, Coach, what does that mean?"

During another game that season, Miller noted a referee named Bill

Foote of Santa Ana stretching away to the sidelines to cover a long


Miller said, "He was doing a good job until he assumed the lofty

pass was going way out of bounds. Hence, he reached up and caught the

ball, much to the shock of the coaches and players." It is assumed

Foote allowed the offensive team to take another play since it is

illegal for a referee to interfere with a forward or backward pass.

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