Friday, March 12, 2010

Remembering two L.A. legends
Los Angeles lost two stars from its Golden Age of sports this week, Willie Davis and Merlin Olsen. Both were 69 years old. Davis played center field for the Dodgers, taking over the position from Duke Snider in 1960, and Olsen was the anchor of the Rams' legendary Fearsome Foursome defensive line, starting in 1962.
I saw both men play many games during their careers in L.A. Davis is still the holder of several Dodgers records, including most triples and extra-base hits. He is also remembered for making three errors in one inning during the 1966 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. On a sun-splashed fall afternoon at Dodger Stadium, Davis dropped two fly balls that he lost in the sun and followed the muffs with a bad throw. The sell-out crowd booed Davis, which prompted a quick response from broadcaster Vin Scully, who was calling the game on radio.
Scully admonished the fans for their behavior, saying that Willie didn't deserve that kind of negative treatment. It was the only time anyone could remember Scully getting personally involved in the play on the field.
As for Olsen, I'll never forget how tired he would look after a game, almost to the point of exhaustion. I was standing outside the Rams dressing room in the early 1970s. Olsen filed in with the other players still wearing his helmet which was perched on his head like a dome. His blue and gold uniform was covered with dirt and grass stains and there was blood on his arm. His face was beet red and he stared straight ahead almost in a trance. He was nearing the end of his career then but he still played with the intensity and passion that he brought with him from Utah State as a rookie in 1962.
add Olsen: In the 1960s, he and Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel were involved in the car-selling business, at least they lent their names to the Gabriel-Olsen Porsche-VW dealership on Ventural Boulevard in Encino. Later, Gabriel's name was dropped from the marquee and it became Olsen Porsche-Audi.
The place sold the classic Porsche 911 and 912 models along with the vintage VW bugs.

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