Hook ‘Em, History

by

Bill Tune

bctune@gmail.com


I am a humble man of humble means, but I have been fortunate enough to play a small part in some historical events. An extremely small part, mind you, but I was there, and band was my “ticket” in.


With a last name of “Tune,” it is appropriate that music has always been a large part of my life. Whether by accident or destiny, to this day it continues to shape many of my most meaningful experiences. My father played piano so I've had a piano in my home for the vast majority of my life. In fact, the piano I still play daily is the one my Dad purchased in 1955 (I think) for our family. Beverly and I inherited it when he retired in 1977. I am still sobered by the thought that the family piano that graced my parents' homes for 22 years has now been a part of my household for 38+ years. But I digress…


I graduated Andrews High School in 1969. I was a total band geek and, due to a close association between band and FOOTBALL, a huge football fan. I enthusiastically cheered the Mustangs on to a four-year record of 20-20, with trombone in hand. However, my passion for football was equaled only by my naiveté about anything beyond my high school experience. One of my friends had a sister attending Texas Tech, and his family took me to a Tech-Arkansas game in Lubbock. Wow! I was amazed by the size and sounds of the college bands.


The ASVAB test told me I could be an engineer, so when it came time to pick a college, my future roommate John, also an aspiring engineer, decided that UT Austin would be the best place for us. [Ironically, neither of us finished school as engineers, but now I know that college is all about finding out what else is out there.] I figured a big school like that was bound to have a band program so I planned to try out for it. As seniors in high school, John and I thought we should start following UT's football team, but in the Fall of 1968 after a loss and a tie in September we lost interest and started focusing on the Mustang's eventual 5-5 season. I was oblivious to college football.


On New Year's Day, 1969, I was flipping channels on the TV and happened onto the Cotton Bowl in Dallas where UT was playing UT! The University of Texas beat The University of Tennessee for its 9th straight win, and I got my first glimpse of the University of Texas Longhorn Band!


Being in Longhorn Band was a life-changing experience for this simple boy from West Texas. In addition to broadening my horizons, meeting my future wife, and an amazing trip to Peru, LHB was also following and supporting a pretty amazing football team.


The 1969 season began with high hopes and expectations. Darrell Royal and Emory Bellard had installed a new-fangled offense called the “wishbone” in '68 and after a couple of stumbles in September, James Street took over as quarterback and with a bevy of running backs, UT rattled off nine consecutive wins including the Southwest Conference championship and a Cotton Bowl victory over Tennessee. Much of that team returned for '69 and the season began with a #4 national ranking. Arkansas began as the #2 team; defending National Champion (and pre-season #1) Ohio State was the overwhelming favorite to repeat. To add to this excitement, College Football was celebrating the 100th year of its existence.


In my second ever college football game I was marching in the LHB! It would be nearly six years before I would attend a UT game as a “regular” fan. Most of the games that season were delightfully boring blowouts. The band back then had nearly 400 members, but due to expenses only about 200 people got to travel to out-of-town games. Fortunately for me, brass players got priority when the numbers were cut, so as a freshman, I marched in every game except for the game at UCLA which was the only game the band did not attend.


Texas easily won its first nine games, as did our conference rival Arkansas. In the SMU game Street, Bertleson, Koy, and Wooster each rushed for 100+ yards. TV executives decided before the season began to move the UT-Arkansas game to the first week in December thinking that it might be a significant matchup at the end of the season. They were right. Thanks to a late season upset of Michigan over Ohio State, UT was #1 in the polls and Arkansas was #2.


As arrogant over-zealous college kids, we took great joy in chanting, “We're Number One!” - especially when by all measures it was literally true! By the end of November the UT-Arkansas game was being billed as “The Shoot-out.”


As a lowly freshman, I had little knowledge of the plans and preparation for taking a 200-piece band to a game in “enemy” territory. When a rivalry reaches this level of competition between flagship schools of two states, battle lines are clearly drawn. While I know most people from Arkansas are generous, hospitable people, the “football fan” mindset can make people do crazy things. I heard stories of people who had difficulty getting gasoline (and other services) if their cars bore Texas plates.


As I recall, we left Austin Friday on a fleet of charter buses and headed for a hotel in a city in eastern Oklahoma, not far from Fayetteville, AK where the game was to be played. On Saturday we crossed the Arkansas border and drove to the UA campus and unloaded our equipment. Once in formation we marched to the stadium to drum cadence chanting, “We're Number One, You're Number Two, We're gonna beat the Whoopie Outta You!” (or something equally clever).


When we got to the stadium we were surprised at how small it was - about half the size of the Memorial Stadium in Austin. [Note: Arkansas played half their home games at the stadium on campus at Fayetteville, and the other half in a larger stadium located in Little Rock.] There may have been less than 50,000 fans at that game, but when they started calling the pigs one would swear there were more than 100,000 present! It was deafening. Then the Shootout began!


It was very cool and slightly damp, but no one was feeling the weather. LHB had clear raincoats so that our burnt orange uniforms still showed. The game proved to be a defensive struggle, as is often the case when two great teams meet. Both prolific offenses were kept in check for much of the game. UT got off to a shaky start with multiple turnovers and by the end of the 3rd quarter we were staring at an inconceivable 14-0 deficit. The misery of our plight was captured on camera in the downcast face of one of our clarinets, Marilyn Edwards. On the first play of the 4th quarter, quarterback James Street ran 42 yards on a broken pass play to score UT's first points. Coach Royal opted to go for two points and Street scored again on a keeper to close the score to 14-8.  Our defense continued to keep the Arkansas offense in check and with just over 3 minutes left in the game, Texas was faced with a 4th down and 3 yards to go near mid-field. Texas had to go for it and hoped Arkansas would be expecting a run play. Randy Peschel was covered by two Arkansas defenders but still managed to catch Street's long pass at the 13 yard line to set up the eventual tying touchdown by Jim Bertlesen.  Happy Feller kicked the extra point to give the Longhorns the lead. [Camera cue to Marilyn celebrating to the point of not even trying to play the fight song!] Of course, with three minutes left the game was not over. Arkansas moved the ball to within field goal range, but an interception by Tom Campbell sealed the win for UT. Tom's twin brother Mike also played for the Longhorns and their Dad was one of Royal's top assistants.


We had just won what would soon be called “The Game of the Century,” but the band's jubilation quickly turned to confusion and concern. As was (and still is) our tradition, we began playing “The Eyes” at the end of the game, but instead of a smiling and jubilant Vincent R. DiNino directing us, we slowly became aware of alarm in his eyes. As he started pointing to the stands behind us we realized that projectiles were being hurled at the band from the angry crowd. As more and more of us turned to dodge bottles and cups filled with questionable liquids, fewer and fewer continued playing until the song faded to a whimper at the end. We quickly exchanged our exuberance for survival mode awareness. Fortunately, no one in our band suffered injury but I was told later that a bottle intended for our group over shot and hit a girl in the Arkansas band. We quietly and inconspicuously lined up on the track to leave - as inconspicuous as 200 people dressed in orange and wearing cowboy hats can, that is. A line of official looking people temporarily blocked our exit and that's when I saw it: the top of Richard Nixon's head!! He was on his way to the winning locker room to congratulate Royal and the team on their amazing come-from-behind victory. I was not impressed. I wanted out of that stadium! We loaded the buses as quickly as we could and headed to the hotel in Oklahoma. I don't think anyone breathed easy until we crossed over the state line. Safely back at the hotel, we were finally able to relax, celebrate, and savor the highlights of the amazing game we had witnessed. However, nothing prepared me for the pandemonium that had broken out in Austin. They were still cleaning up Guadalupe street by the campus when we returned home on Sunday.


Lest you be overly impressed with my memory for details of the game, I must confess to having help. One of the books written about this event is entitled, “Horns, Hogs, & Nixon Coming” by
Terry Frei. My former roommate John was able to acquire a copy for me AND have James Street autograph it! What a treasure it is! Also, one of my Facebook friends, and former coworker at Caldwell ISD, is also a big fan of the game. Stephen watched the game on a black and white TV when he was eight. He alerted me to the fact that the game was being rebroadcast on LHN (the 46th anniversary of the game) so I taped it. Watching the game still evokes a lot of emotion, especially recognizing people I know in the shots of the band. I don't know why the trombones were split up, but one group was on the front row and my group was up several rows from the bottom. Maybe the upper classmen got privileged seating!


We had no idea at the time that one of our junior safeties was playing through the pain of bone cancer. Freddie Steinmark's leg was amputated six days after the game. He told no one of the pain he was in until after the game. If I remember correctly, the Longhorn Band was invited to the UT Football Banquet as special guests a few weeks later.  Freddie desperately wanted to be there in spite of his recent surgery, and sure enough, when he made his way across the stage on his crutches and single leg, there was not a dry eye in the house. Within two years he had succumbed to the disease. Freddie Steinmark's courageous story is now being told in movie form: My All American. I have not seen the movie yet.  I don't even know who they got to play me - maybe Zac Ephron? It will be fascinating to watch Juston Street play his father, James. I hear he did a great job. Watching the trailer brought me to tears. When I do see it I may do so with my own box of Kleenex, or better yet - a towel.


Those were truly glory days for UT football. The '69 team went on to beat Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl to claim an undisputed National Championship and extend their winning streak to 20 games. They won all 10 regular season games of 1970 to extend the streak to 30, but then lost to Notre Dame in a Cotton Bowl rematch. We've had our ups and downs since then, but lately we've become one of those “wait until next year” teams. I'm still waiting, but that waiting is made much easier with the wonderful memories I have of those years. What a privilege it was to be a part of that history!

enough

 
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