DAVID HUGHES: Recalling 1979 moments: Bird, South, Carew ... Larry Harlow?

ROD CAREW (circa 1979)

I know this may shock some of you, but I am old enough to remember stuff that happened 41 years ago.


I really am, especially stuff involving major sporting events.

For example, my favorite major-league baseball game ever took place in 1979 after the cheapskate Minnesota Twins (cheap at that time) had traded my favorite player Rod Carew to the California Angels during the offseason. Carew, a seven-time American League batting champion, joined a loaded lineup that included eventual '79 AL Most Valuable Player Don Baylor and former Twin "Disco" Danny Ford.

I was a junior majoring in journalism at Indiana State University and I had caught a bad cold (legit, I swear) in early October. So I stayed home for a few days and watched the AL West champion Angels play the AL East's Baltimore Orioles in a best-of-five series for the right to advance to the World Series.

The Orioles won the first two games in Baltimore in dramatic fashion, putting the Angels on the verge of elimination as they returned home to Anaheim for Game 3 on Oct. 5. (Yes, I had to look up the exact date and a few of the details below.)

The Angels fell behind 3-2 as Game 3 headed into the bottom of the ninth inning. After Baylor opened with a flyout, Carew doubled, causing me to fly out of my living-room chair with a crazed yell of hope that made my mother wonder who shot me out of a cannon.

She should have been accustomed to such joyful insanity by then, because 1979 had become my favorite year ever for watching sports.

Anyway, Baltimore manager Earl Weaver responded to Carew's double by replacing pitcher Dennis Martinez with ace reliever Don Stanhouse, who walked Brian Downing to put the lead run on first base with one out. Then Bobby Grich hit a flyball that Orioles center fielder Al Bumbry misplayed for an error, enabling Carew to score the tying run. But the muscular Downing remained cautious and held up at second as little-used Larry Harlow, batting No. 8 in this game, stepped up to the plate.

Weaver left Stanhouse on the mound and Harlow delivered a line-drive double to left, allowing Downing to race home like a Mack Truck with the winning run.

Of course the Orioles won 8-0 the next day to take the series, but we won't talk about that. Game 3 was still the most exciting baseball I had ever watched and my description probably didn't do it justice.

The AL Championship Series wasn't my only memorable sports moment from 1979 ... and I don't need to look up the date for this. Tuesday (March 24) marked the 41-year anniversary that Indiana State battled DePaul in the NCAA Final Four for men's basketball in Salt Lake City and Terre Haute South faced Muncie Central in the IHSAA state finals for boys basketball in Indianapolis on the same day.

At the age of 19, I woke up that Saturday morning confidently declaring Terre Haute as "The Basketball Capital of the World."

For that year, I wasn't too far off.

South, coached by Gordon Neff, had lost to Muncie Central in overtime in the dramatic championship game one year earlier. So fans of the Braves were realistically hoping for revenge.

But Muncie Central guard Ray McCallum made sure that didn't happen, scoring 26 points as the Bearcats secured a 60-55 OT victory in the daytime semifinals inside Market Square Arena. It didn't seem fair that South guards Cam Cameron and Richard Wilson had gone to the state finals three straight years but came home with zero championships to show for their efforts.

Meanwhile, ISU vs. DePaul was set to start a little bit later than the South game. So Terre Haute could still root for coach Bill Hodges' Sycamores to salvage the day and remain undefeated.

Larry Bird, perhaps you've heard of him, might have played his most spectacular college game ever against DePaul. He finished with 35 points — hitting 16 of 19 from the field — 16 points and nine assists as ISU edged the Ray Meyer-coached Blue Demons 76-74 and earned the right to take on Michigan State and Magic Johnson in the most memorable NCAA championship game ever two nights later.

Note that I didn't say it was the best NCAA championship game, just the most memorable.

Don't think it was? Fight me. It's my column (insert "wink" symbol here).

Stay safe out there.

David Hughes can be reached by phone after 3:30 p.m. at 1-800-783-8742, Option 5, or at 812-231-4224; by email at david.hughes@tribstar.com; or by fax at 812-231-4321. Follow Hughes on Twitter @TribStarDavid. 

General reporter/Sports reporter

David is a longtime Tribune-Star sportswriter whose primary duties were switched to the news department in late 2015. A cancer survivor, he enjoys hanging out with his family and staying fit with regular trips to the gym.

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