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Toppled Trombonist, Cal Runner Talk 30 Years After 'The Play'

A Stanford trombonist and Cal football player – two people virtually immortalized by the famous, chaotic, astonishing end of the 1982 Big Game – talked 30 years later to the Daily Cal about their peculiar fame and roles in the "The Play."

You don't have to be a serious fan of Cal or Stanford football to know about "The Play" – possibly the most unbelievable and dramatic end of a college football game ever seen.

Quite a few Stanford fans still don't believe it.

The Play is making headlines again this year, especially for the Big Game today, Oct. 20, since it's the 30th anniversary of the most famous climax in the longstanding UC Berkeley-Stanford football rivalry.

It was the Big Game of 1982, and Cal was behind 19-20 with but four seconds to go in the game. Stanford kicked off, a squib kick, to prevent Cal from having a deep running start on the return.

Cal player Kevin Moen grabbed it as a swarm of determined Stanford tacklers converged on him. Sure of victory, members of the Stanford Marching Band had already begun to move onto the field from the end zone.

But wait. Moen lateraled to another player, who, about to be tackled, lateraled to to another teammate. Before the play was over, in just a few blinks of the eye, there were five laterals, the last one a blind toss up amid a confusing mass of players and band members that Moen grabbed for the dash through the throng at the end of the field.

As Moen entered the end zone for the winning touchdown, he crashed into a Stanford trombone player, Gary Tyrrell, sending him sprawling.

It was a split-second collision that has given both men a peculiar kind of fame. The Daily Californian, Cal's student newspaper, decided to track both men down and interview them for a special edition, The 30th Anniversary of the Big Play, published in cooperation with the Stanford Daily for this year's Big Game. 

"When I'm introduced to someone new," Tyrrell told the Daily Cal," and the person doing the introducing says I was the trombone player in The Play, there's a recognition all around the world."

Moen told the paper that he, and many others on the field at the time, weren't quite sure what had happened amid the closing chaos.

"No one fully understood who scored or how we scored," he said.

Both Tyrrell, who lives in Half Moon Bay and is chief financial officer for a venture capital firm, and Moen, who is director of the estates division for Coldwell Banker in Palos Verdes, said they have probably watched a replay of The Play hundreds of times, the Daily Cal said.

The full articles about Tyrrell and Moen are accessible on the Daily Cal website.

The final call of The Play by announcer Joe Starkey also has become legendary, with Moen saying that it "always brings a smile to my face."

Starkey, also interviewed by Daily Cal, rapidly grows excited as his call quickly swells into an emotionally fueled, nearly shouting series of exclamations of pure astonishment.

"The band is out on the field. He's going to go into the end zone!...

"The Bears have won!! The Bears have won!! Oh, my god!

"The most amazing! Sensational! Dramatic! Heart-rending! Exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football!"

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You can see The Play and hear Starkey's final call on the accompanying video.

Dorothy Coakley October 20, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Defnitely one of Calis' finest hours! I was listening on the radio in my car. Almost drove off the road! Go Bears!
Carey Sanchez Para October 21, 2012 at 01:42 AM
I was a freshman, John Elway was a senior. This was his last game in a Stanford football uniform. We Stanford student spectators, who were pushed down onto the field in the celebration crush, also didn't realize what had happened. Then we watched the Cal student section rush onto the field. Bottles and cans were hurled overhead. We got the heck out of there, still in disbelief, all the way to Palo Alto.
Michael Austin October 21, 2012 at 02:15 AM
I met John Elway and Gary Cubiac when they were at Broncos summer camp in Greeley Colorado. We played a couple of games of nine ball in a downtown restaurant and bar, not far from the University of Northern Colorado campus.
Toni Mayer October 21, 2012 at 03:55 AM
I was sitting in my car on Solano Avenue listening to the end of the game. I could not believe it!
Kathy A. October 21, 2012 at 04:28 AM
I uploaded a photo of The Play, which obviously was not one that I took myself; it was used widely in the media. Via Sports Illustrated, here is the caption and credit: "Kevin Moen's touchdown to beat Stanford in 1982 capped what is still considered the most famous finish in college football history. Robert Stinnett/Oakland Tribune/AP"

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