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How Ho w pro pro soccer soccer lifted lifted d San San Jose Jose out ou ut of of the minor min nor leagues—then leagues—then — imploded. implod ded. Fans Quakes Fans a and original o Quak kes rrecall ecall the e glory days. days. BBYY GARY GARY SIN SINGH GH P1 P14 4


[14]   COVER STORY

JULY 29-AUGUST 4, 2009 M E T R O S I L I C O N VA L L E Y

Summer The Earthquakes, San Jose’s first pro sports team, got up-close and personal with fans in the 1970s. Now, 35 years later, the players and their followers remember the glory days. By Gary Singh


M E T R O S I L I C O N VA L L E Y    JULY 29-AUGUST 4, 2009   COVER STORY

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The San Jose Earthquakes 35th reunion weekend takes place Thursday–Sunday, July 30– Aug. 2. See page 26 for details.

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Shakers N 1974, the population of San Jose was just over a half-million. Norman Mineta was mayor. Most of what’s now the far southern portion of the city didn’t exist yet. The buses cost a quarter for adults and 10 cents for kids. Eastridge, a huge, trilevel shopping mall, had just opened a few years earlier. And in 1974, before ESPN, before million-dollar sports contracts, before

I

cable TV and when landing a helicopter in Spartan Stadium was still legal—the San Jose Earthquakes of the North American Soccer League (NASL) played their inaugural season, becoming San Jose’s first professional sports franchise. Those first few seasons saw sellout after sellout, and the team branded itself as a bunch of players who occupied exactly the same social level as their fans

and the community—all the way down to partying with everyone after each and every game. This weekend, 35 years later, 10 of the original starting Earthquakes squad, as well as 30 other players and dozens of staff members from throughout the team’s 10-year run, will descend upon San Jose for a four-day reunion. 17


M E T R O S I L I C O N VA L L E Y    JULY 29-AUGUST 4, 2009   COVER STORY

EARTHQUAKES 15

PARTY LIKE IT’S 1979 !

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Some of the original Quakes still live in the area, while many others are flying in from across the country. There will be parties, a golf game, a highprofile gala dinner at the Fairmont on Saturday and a special ceremony during halftime of Sunday’s contest between the current incarnation of the Quakes and the Seattle Sounders. The reunion is intended for any previous NASL Earthquakes and their fans, but the special emphasis is on that original squad from 1974. The entire reunion is the doing of one Mr. Ron Gilmore and his brother, Rob. The brothers were Branham High School Bruins who grew up with and worked as equipment kids for the team, and who now want to humbly give back to the heroes who inspired them during their youth. As folks from across the land gathered their thoughts in preparation for the event, I picked a few of their brains on just what it was like for a group of players, many of whom were European, to arrive in a relatively unknown suburban bedroom community and suddenly launch what became the hugest thing in town, at least for a few years. What I heard was a combination of oldschool sports camaraderie, a passion for the fans, a fond remembrance of being San Jose’s first pro team and some of the most cherished memories of certain peoples’ careers. Since this author spent some of his own childhood following these characters, yakking with them now feels like a local miniversion of The Boys of Summer.

Seismic Shift The NASL was the first premier soccer league of both the United States and

Canada. Beginning in 1968, the league went through many ups and downs before eventually folding after the 1984 season. “The league collapsed. Every team was underwater,” recalls serial technology entrepreneur Michael D’Addio, who along with real estate developer Carl Berg and several other investors owned the Earthquakes in the early 1980s. Under Berg and D’Addio, the Earthquakes invested in talent, and the team appeared certain to bring glory to Northern California at the Soccer Bowl in Vancouver, but Toronto pulled a lastminute semifinal upset in a 1983 game at Spartan Stadium. That season, the Quakes were undefeated at home until that match, and Don Popovic was named the coach of the year. “We had a lot of solid international players,” D’Addio said. The international movement had gotten started in 1975, when Pelé, the Brazilian star, came out of retirement to join the New York Cosmos. As a result, every other team in the league tried to bring in its own superstar foreign players, and the league added expansion teams too quickly for its own good. Investors jumped on board to 18

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[18]   COVER STORY

JULY 29-AUGUST 4, 2009 M E T R O S I L I C O N VA L L E Y

EARTHQUAKES 17 make a quick buck with no regard for the future, and teams continued to purchase expensive players with no extra revenue coming in. Inevitably, as the early ’80s rolled around, the league began to circle the drain. Teams folded left and right. The league didn’t last long, by any standards, but those who were there got to see some of the world’s greatest-ever players, including Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, Gerd Müller and especially George Best, who occasionally showed up in San Jose for two seasons.

‘I went to banquets for football, baseball, basketball, anything that he could get me—dinners, lunches, Kiwanis Clubs, everything to promote the game. And that completely changed everything for me. I was used to just going to the games.That was something that was really strange to us— doing appearances, getting up in front of people.’ —Paul Child The San Jose Earthquakes began when Milan Mandaric—a Yugoslavian transplant to Saratoga and a local entrepreneur in the printed circuit-board business—decided to start a franchise in the Bay Area to fill the void left by the Oakland Clippers team, which had lasted only three years before folding. Mandaric hired Dick Berg away from the San Francisco 49ers to be his general manager. The two men insisted that the team locate in San Jose. The league wanted the team to be in San

Francisco or Oakland, but Mandaric and Berg prevailed. Scottish expat Johnny Moore, then 26, came on board as both a player and assistant general manager. “We started the club at the Hyatt Hotel on North First Street,” Moore recalled. “Dick and I, we went in, and we took two beds out of the room and put in two desks. And that was the start of the club.” Berg, who had been the Niners’ promotions director, came up with a marketing plan to saturate the general public with player appearances and create an environment where all the fans could get to know the team personally. Each person the player met on the street, anywhere, was considered a potential new fan. It was guerrilla marketing before that term was even invented. “My job from the first day was to take it to the streets, take it to the schools,” Moore recalled, “just try to expose as many people in the community to the club. And we started signing players, and every guy who was brought in—that was the way we were going to build it. All the guys agreed to it, and I think that was the reason for our success. We had a few months before the season started, and the guys were just everywhere, they were in shopping centers Friday night before the game juggling balls, they went to schools, and every day they went to see people in hospitals, Rotary Clubs and Kiwanis Clubs. That was just the deal.” Birmingham, England, native Paul Child arrived by way of Atlanta to play center striker for the Earthquakes’ inaugural season at age 21. He was the NASL’s leading scorer that year and remained the team’s primary goal scorer for six seasons. Now a U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer employed at Allegheny Millworks in Pittsburgh, Pa., Child, when recalling those days, he says he hadn’t experienced the concept of professional players going out into the general public to promote the game. “Dick Berg, for six months straight, took me to every sporting event,” Child told me. “I went to banquets for football, baseball, basketball, anything that he could get me—dinners, lunches, Kiwanis Clubs, everything to promote the game. And that completely changed everything for me. I was used to just going to the games. That was something that was really strange to us—doing appearances, getting up in front of people.” Fan favorite Mike Hewitt, the Quakes goalkeeper from 1976 to 1982, went on to work in the mortgage business for 25 years and now sets up shop in Phoenix, Ariz. Also originally from Scotland, Hewitt grew to enjoy the constant interaction with the fans. “I think that’s what was part of the success of the NASL,” Hewitt said. 21


M E T R O S I L I C O N VA L L E Y    JULY 29-AUGUST 4, 2009   COVER STORY

EARTHQUAKES 18

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“Whether it was the soccer camps, or going to all these events that the players do to bring the name of the game to kids and such, after-game parties, and just being accessible and not being aloof and such. I think that’s what it takes.” Another Birmingham native, Laurie Calloway, was a tough defender who came to the Quakes at age 28, after years of playing with lower-division English teams. Calloway became one of San Jose’s main disciples of the sport during the ’70s, constantly spreading the gospel of the game to locals. “I would do a school appearance in the morning, then I’d go off to a Lion’s Club luncheon, and then I’d probably go on to a clinic with a youth team in the afternoon,” Calloway recalled. “And then perhaps some sort of an awards ceremony for a youth team, pizza parties in the evening, things like that. I’d sometimes make as many as four appearances in one day.” Fred Guzman covered the team on a regular basis for the San Jose Mercury News and traveled with the squad to all the road games. In those days, it seemed like he was always on the front page of the sports section.

“The players may not have been world class in talent, but they bought into that marketing game plan and executed it to perfection,” Guzman said. “It was almost like they were on a crusade for their sport. They conducted clinics all over the Bay Area; they signed autographs until they got writer’s cramp; they attended the post-game parties; they wore the sweat tops in public, which if it was any another place, players wouldn’t do that. They’d be wearing Armanis, you know?” A major component of the fan interaction was the tailgate parties on the grass parking lot outside the stadium. The players always showed up. People sang songs, drank, barbecued and kicked soccer balls around. 23

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M E T R O S I L I C O N VA L L E Y    JULY 29-AUGUST 4, 2009   COVER STORY

EARTHQUAKES 21 “The tailgating was unbelievable,” said Mark Demling, the Quakes’ vocal defenseman. “I never had to buy a drink, and I never had to worry about eating anything after a game. We would go, and there would be a Mexican group, and you’d get a Dos Equis or a Tecate and you’d get tacos. And you’d go over a little bit more, and there’d be a German guy there, and he’d give you a Beck’s, and you’d get a bratwurst or something.”

‘My job from the first day was to take it to the streets, take it to the schools, just try to expose as many people in the community to the club. And we started signing players, and every guy who was brought in—that was the way we were going to build it. All the guys agreed to it, and I think that was the reason for our success.’ —Johnny Moore According to Demling, the Quakes players always hung out with each other in public, much more than teams do today. For example, in 1977, when the hockey film Slap Shot premiered, 15 Earthquakes players went out and saw the film together, primarily because the team in the film reminded the Quakes of themselves. “You just don’t see that in Major League Soccer today,” Demling said.

No-Fault Zone The timing of all of the above was perfect for a relatively unknown city with nothing but a vapid Dionne Warwick song to put it

on the map. In fact, some folks didn’t want San Jose to be on the map. The Earthquakes changed all of that rather quickly. “San Jose had an inferiority complex to San Francisco,” Moore explained. “And suddenly San Jose was playing New York and Chicago on national TV. Suddenly, it was, ‘Whoa, this is San Jose.’ I think the fans in San Jose were ready for a professional sports franchise, and it just so happened that we were suddenly in their face every single day, and at schools every day, and suddenly kids wanted to see us, and then it just took off.” Guzman agreed: “At that time, San Jose was a community in search of an identity. The Silicon Valley mystique was only beginning to evolve. There were still some orchards along Blossom Hill Road. The lyrics to the song ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose’—they alluded to a small-town feel, comparing itself to L.A. I remember downtown; a lot of it was boarded up at the time.” For players coming from other parts of the world, to see fans in some town called San Jose suddenly taking to a team and a new sport was thrilling. Krazy George, everyone’s favorite snare-drum-bashing cheerleader, pretty much began his proteam rooting career with the San Jose Earthquakes. For each match, the crowd would wait in anticipation to see how George would enter Spartan Stadium—whether it was on the back of a camel, landing in a helicopter, arriving in a police car or flying in a hang glider—antics completely unheard of in pro sports at that time. “Some of the things in the show that they put on at the stadium was really rather unique for the time,” recalled Guzman. “That was considered a bush league—having all this loud garish music and Krazy George leading people in mass cheers. [Now] that’s all become part of the custom in professional sports, but, truly, it was rather unique then.” The players had never seen anything like it. Paul Child had just spent two years playing for a dismal Atlanta club in the Fulton County Stadium in front of crowds of just a few thousand in a place that held 60,000, so he relished in the jam-packed, close-knit environs of Spartan Stadium. “The atmosphere, Krazy George and a gorgeous city weatherwise, you couldn’t want any more,” Child recalled. “It’s kind of like a picture book thing. . . . It was a great feeling for that group of guys to come into a place and know that you’re the only professional team, and you knew when we went out there, the place was 19,000 [fans], packed solid every game we played. I can’t put it into words, I don’t know what it was.” Even though the field at Spartan was ridiculously narrow for soccer, the close confines enabled the crowd to be almost 24

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[24]   COVER STORY

JULY 29-AUGUST 4, 2009 M E T R O S I L I C O N VA L L E Y

EARTHQUAKES 23 on top of the players. You could hear the players talking to each other, see the scrapes on their shins and even lean over the railing and verbally taunt the visiting team within a few feet of their ears. Although the Quakes weren’t necessarily a spectacular side at the time, they led the NASL in attendance during their first two seasons. “Suddenly, every player in the league wanted to play here,” Moore said. “Because it was big crowds, and it was noisy, and they were right on top of you; it was like a big-time European game to them. This was the atmosphere you wanted to see. Krazy George was part of that gig, and the whole noise and the excitement were all part of it.” Mani Hernandez scored the first Earthquakes goal. Before and during his days with the Quakes, Hernandez taught Spanish at Leland High School. Now, after a staggering 27 years of coaching soccer at Presentation High School, he just watches from the sidelines. But he still fondly remembers those original days with the Quakes, how it was the only game in town. “At first, we didn’t know how we were going to perform,” he said. “But once the first goal came, then it was enjoyable. Then we knew. It went from people saying, ‘Oh, you play that sport with the ball with the black spots,’ to an entire city behind that ball with the black spots.”

But the 2009 reunion looks to be the most extravagant affair yet. There will be a golf tournament, an old-timers game for those who can still play and also a dinner gala at the Fairmont featuring dedications and acknowledgements from a variety of participants. Bob Ray, the morning-drive DJ on KLIV during the ’70s and a former Earthquakes public-address announcer, will be the master of ceremonies. On Sunday at noon, the current Earthquakes will play against the Seattle Sounders at Buck Shaw Stadium. All former NASL players in town for the reunion will be brought onto the field during halftime.

‘The players may not have been world class in talent, but they bought into that marketing game plan and executed it to perfection’ —Fred Guzman

Heritage Game During the first season, Ron Gilmore was 8 years old and began showing up at the Earthquakes’ public practices with his brother, Rob. They developed an immediate liking for the team and started helping out to collect loose soccer balls. They continued to show up, and as the ’70s drew to a close, both came on board as official equipment kids for the team, getting to know many of the players and the staff. When the league folded, they were heartbroken. But it was not until about 2000, right after San Jose’s Major League Soccer (MLS) team, the Clash, changed its name to the Earthquakes that the idea for a full-blown reunion emerged. “I just started writing peoples’ names down and remembering everyone I could,” Gilmore said. “And I sent my list around to everyone I knew to see if they still had contact with any of these guys.” Slowly but surely, Gilmore found enough folks to take part in a reunion game before a San Jose Earthquakes home match during the 2001 season. Another get-together was held in 2004 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the original 1974 squad. For that celebratory weekend, the MLS San Jose Earthquakes even wore retro 1970s kits with the original NASL logo and colors during a 3-0 stomping of Dallas. Krazy George fired up the crowd, and it was easily the best game San Jose played all season.

As of right now, Seattle is the only other MLS squad using an original name from the NASL days, so a new competition, instigated by Earthquakes fans and called the NASL Heritage Cup, debuts this season. Every year from now on, the winning side will take home the trophy, which was conceived and designed by Earthquakes fan Rob Stevenson and commissioned by the Soccer Silicon Valley Community Foundation in collaboration with Seattle supporters. All in all, the entire weekend’s events will be documented for a special DVD to be released at a later date. Gilmore himself currently resides in Glendale, Ariz., and works as a regional sales manager for Rothenberger USA, a German tool company. Although he spent hundreds of hours and a lot of his own money to make all this happen, he insists on remaining extraordinarily humble. “If there’s any one thing I want to say, it’s that this is just my way of giving back,” he said. “These players meant so much to me as a kid, and I just want to repay them for it. That’s all. There’s nothing else I really need to say, in the end.” But Gilmore did admit that he was approached by other original fans in Seattle and Tampa Bay wanting him to organize reunions for those NASL teams as well. He turned them down, declaring his passion for the San Jose Earthquakes.


M E T R O S I L I C O N VA L L E Y    JULY 29-AUGUST 4, 2009   COVER STORY

HAIL TO THE CHIEF!!Uif!2:85!trvbe!diffst!gps!dpbdi!Jwbo!Upqmbl/

“If he had done that, we would never have spoken to him again,” said Child, laughing. Moore added that the whole scenario is a quintessential example of what the San Jose Earthquakes were all about. “The kids and the families and the connections to the fans made the club work,” he said. Then, beginning to chuckle, “And it built this kind of sincerity that is probably best exhibited by the fact that Ron has done all this work to pull all the guys back together after all these years.”

The Brotherhood At the end of our conversation, Child reflected on the true meaning of it all: the camaraderie. “We didn’t have the greatest players in the world, but we had some great chemistry,” he said. “The Chelseas of the world, the Real Madrids, can spend all the money in the world, but sometimes that doesn’t do it. Most times, it doesn’t. It’s just getting the right group of guys together, and I thought that in San Jose we had the perfect group of guys for a professional franchise, the first one ever to be in that city, and we kind of took it over. People loved us. . . . I’ve gone on to other teams, but I’ve never found one quite like what we had in San Jose.” Mike Hewitt took that riff and vamped on it even more. For these former players, he said, the upcoming reunion far transcends the 1970s bedroom communities of San Jose or even the sport of soccer, really. “It’s not just that it’s San Jose, it’s that we were a team, we were teammates,” he emphasized. “You’ve got that camaraderie, togetherness, the kind of thing that most people don’t experience, and when you

leave a sport, any team sport, there’s a certain part of your body that leaves as well. Because you can’t replace that kind of camaraderie, and we’re always looking for that again, and so this [reunion] is part of it.” Laurie Calloway went on to a decadeslong coaching career—his current position is technical director of Rochester FC in New York—and still cites the NASL Earthquakes as the highlight of his playing days. “Most of my career, probably 300 of the 450 games I played [in England], were for third- and fourth-division teams,” he said. “You’re a small fish in a big ocean. And in San Jose, I got to be a big fish in a little ocean. It was nice reward towards the end of my career as a player. And the league, at that time, was pretty big-time—Pelé, Beckenbauer and the others. I never would have played against those guys in England.” Moore added that anyone who played for the Earthquakes is a brother to him, even if that person played long after Moore was gone. Consequently, Moore even came on board with the MLS Earthquakes and was the general manager when they won the championship in 2003. For San Jose pro sports, that’s as much of a tradition as the city’s ever had. “I felt as much a part of the guys [in 2003], because I knew there was guys 30 years ago that busted their ass to create that,” he said. “And all those guys 30 years ago were watching that game on television jumping up and down, because they had been there and part of that name, that club. I don’t think that’s any different than a guy at Manchester United who played 30 years ago who still feels Manchester United is his club. As soon as he walks in the door, he’s part of a brotherhood.” M 26

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[26]   COVER STORY

JULY 29-AUGUST 4, 2009 M E T R O S I L I C O N VA L L E Y

EARTHQUAKES 25

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Thursday July 30 Training Session West Valley College 14000 Fruitvale Ave., Saratoga 5:30–7pm Those participating in the reunion game on Saturday can have a chance for workout prior to the reunion game. Contact Dave “Obie” Obenour at: dobie731@aol.com.

Post Training Session— Dinner/Drinks Duke of Edinburgh Pub 10801 N. Wolfe Road, Cupertino 7:30pm Immediately following the training session, everyone will proceed to the Duke of Edinburgh Pub in Cupertino. Stan Gamble of the Duke has reserved a private area for the reunion group.

Friday July 31 Reunion Kick-off Celebration Britannia Arms Downtown 173 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose 7pm All former players and fans are encouraged to attend. Televisions will be showing old NASL games throughout the evening.

Saturday Aug. 1 Old-timers Game

Optometrists!

San Jose State University, Soccer Practice Fields (across 10th Street from Spartan Stadium)

1257 S. 10th St., San Jose 11am–1:30pm The plan is to evenly split the former NASL Earthquakes into two teams. As the match progresses, family and friends will be able to get out as well. Bring a lawn chair.

Anniversary Dinner The Fairmont Hotel, Gold Room 170 S. Market St., San Jose 6–7pm cocktail Hour (no host) 7pm dinner Celebration A night to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the San Jose Earthquakes and professional soccer in San Jose. The evening will begin with a no-host cocktail hour at 6pm. Following will be a dinner and ceremony to honor the NASL Earthquakes. Sold-out.

Sunday Aug. 2 MLS San Jose Earthquakes Match Earthquakes vs. Seattle Sounders FC Kickoff: noon Buck Shaw Stadium, SCU, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara Tickets: 1.877.QUAKE.01

MLS Match Post-Game Party Double D’s Sports Grille 354 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos Following the match, the NASL group will go to Double D’s Sports Grille in Los Gatos to join the MLS Earthquakes players and coaching staff.


Metro Silicon Valley, 29 July, 2009