April 27, 2005

Leaving It All On The Field

April 27, 2005

By Laurence Miedema
San Jose Mercury News

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- With the opening of Stephen Schott Stadium on Saturday, Buck Shaw Stadium will become a soccer-only facility for Santa Clara University. But for many years, it was where memories were made in football and baseball.

``When both teams played there it was probably the heyday of Santa Clara athletics,'' said Terry Malley, whose lifelong association with the school includes being the Broncos' quarterback in 1973-76 and their football coach in 1985-92. ``All the sports were pretty good at the time.''

Buck Shaw Stadium, named after the coach who made SCU a football power in the late 1930s, opened Sept. 22, 1962. Since then it has been home to thousands of athletes, including Brent Jones, Dan Pastorini, Doug Cosbie, Mike Macfarlane, Randy Winn, Bruce Bochte and Nelson Briles. During the Buck Shaw Stadium era, the football team won 20 consecutive home games and the baseball team reached the NCAA tournament 10 times. Capacity crowds of 10,000 (often more) weren't unusual when St. Mary's and UC-Davis came to town to play football or for exhibition baseball games against the Giants of Willie Mays and Willie McCovey.

``What made it special was that it was ours,'' said Ron Calcagno, who played in the Buck Shaw Stadium debuts of both sports, first at quarterback and then at catcher. ``Before Buck Shaw, we had no place to play on campus.''

The first game at Buck Shaw Stadium was a 27-6 football loss to UC-Davis, but it was a victory in a larger sense.

``To even play a first game in Buck Shaw Stadium, just getting football off the ground, was a tremendous accomplishment,'' Malley said.

Santa Clara had dropped football after the 1952 season because of rising costs and the increasing popularity of the 49ers (who hired Shaw to be the first coach of a team made up primarily of SCU alums). Seven years later, Pat Malley, Terry's father and a member of SCU's 1950 Orange Bowl team, resurrected the program.

After a 2-6 record in their first season at Buck Shaw, the Broncos went 46-18 over the next six seasons. They didn't lose at home from Oct. 10, 1964, to Nov. 2, 1968.

``Pat had us convinced we were better than we were,'' said Butch Pastorini, a Broncos linebacker (1962-65) and older brother of Dan. ``I look back at a lot of the teams we beat and wonder, how the hell did we do that?''

When the baseball team made its Buck Shaw Stadium debut in spring 1963, it already had achieved national prominence. The Broncos had played for the College World Series title in 1962, losing in 15 innings to Michigan.

In 1964, the Broncos started 16-3 and opened the season No. 1 in the Collegiate Baseball rankings. The impressive start included a doubleheader split against defending national champion USC at Buck Shaw.

Santa Clara has produced 25 big leaguers in the Buck Shaw Stadium era, although the greatest players to grace its diamond had names like Mays, McCovey and Marichal.

Giants owner Horace Stoneham (a university trustee) and Broncos Coach Sal Taormina arranged a series that was played annually in 1963-78 (and also in 1980 and '85). The game in '64 drew 11,255 fans, which still is considered a record for a baseball game in the Santa Clara valley.

The exhibitions weren't popular with Giants players because they typically were played on off days during the season. But playing the Giants was a thrill for the Broncos.

``You just had them on a bubble gum card; you didn't think they were real,'' said Ric Foley, who as a freshman pitcher in 1975 struck out three Giants in a row and in 1978 threw the Broncos' last nine-inning no-hitter.

Santa Clara beat the Giants four times, but it was more than the outcomes that were memorable. The inaugural game featured Pete Magrini striking out Mays, and Briles pitching five innings of one-hit relief -- a stint that helped him land a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals that summer. In 1967, Giants ace Juan Marichal yielded home runs to two of the first three batters he faced -- Albert Strane and Rod Austin.

``We lost 7-3, but we scored three runs off him in the first inning,'' said Chris Bradford, who played three seasons at SCU (1967-69) and then coached at St. Francis High School for 31 years.

The Broncos haven't reached the College World Series since moving to Buck Shaw, but they have come close. Four years in a row, in 1969-72, their season ended in the NCAA tournament regional finals.

In 1971, Santa Clara rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat defending national champion USC before being swept in a doubleheader the next day in Los Angeles. In 1972, Santa Clara's CWS hopes were crushed when the rickety outfield fence collapsed under Glen Hofsclaw and prevented the Broncos' left fielder from robbing UC-Santa Barbara of a tiebreaking home run in the eighth inning.

Maybe the greatest week of baseball at Buck Shaw came in 1988 when the Broncos took three out of four from No. 5 Loyola Marymount, then swept a pair from No. 1 Fresno State, ending the Bulldogs' 32-game win streak.

Fresno State also was the foil in one of the greatest triumphs in SCU's modern football history. The Division II Broncos stunned the Division I Bulldogs, a three-touchdown favorite, 20-17 in 1976 at Buck Shaw Stadium on Lou Marengo 43-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining -- ``the most impressive upset that I've ever coached at Santa Clara,'' Pat Malley said after the game.

Four years later, the Broncos tied a school record with nine wins and barely missed playing for the national championship. They beat No. 2-ranked Northern Michigan at Buck Shaw in the quarterfinals but lost the next week at eventual champ Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.

When the Broncos lost to Cal Poly on Oct. 31, 1992, nobody knew it was the last football game they would play. Four months later, with the program facing rising costs and a mandatory upgrade to Division I-A or I-AA status, the school dropped football.

Friday night, after a game against Gonzaga, Broncos baseball will follow Broncos football out of Buck Shaw Stadium forever. But instead of walking into extinction, this team will merely move across the street to begin making more memories at a 1,500-seat, $8.6 million facility.

``Having something like that is all we used to talk about,'' said John Oldham, the Broncos' baseball coach in 1985-1997. ``It is definitely a new era.''