If the Rose Bowl is indeed the “Granddaddy” of all bowl games, then Jim Lineberger of Long Beach certainly must be the “Granddaddy” among its spectators.
When Lineberger, 75, heads a delegation that includes 18 family members and four friends into south endzone seats for the 1995 Rose Bowl game between Oregon and Penn State today, it will be his 60th appearance at a Rose Bowl game, the last 50 in succession.
Even more incredible, the total of 60 extends to Jan. 1, 1929, a date that will live in Rose Bowl history.
“Yes, I was there at the age of 9 with my father the day Roy Riegels of California ran the wrong way with a fumble he had picked up, and it cost Cal the game,” Lineberger says. “His teammate, Benny Lom, chased him and swung him around at the 1-yard line, but a Tech player tackled him there. Then Tech blocked a punt for a safety and won the game, 8-7. Did you know they changed the rule the season after that so you couldn’t advance a fumble recovery? They just reinstated the right to run with a recovered fumble a couple of years ago.”
On five occasions, Lineberger was an integral part of the game itself, serving as an umpire for the UCLA-Minnesota meeting in 1962 and the USC-Michigan contest in 1970. On three other occasions, he was an alternate official, stationed on the sidelines for substitute duty.
The 1970 game is vivid in his memory.
“For one thing, that was the game in which Michigan didn’t have its head coach, Bo Schembechler, who had suffered a heart attack the day before,” Lineberger says.
Secondly, Lineberger, as umpire, was in close proximity to the play that won the game, a 33-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Jones to Bob Chandler.
“Chandler caught the ball at the 20 and kind of straight-armed the safety,” Lineberger recalls. “He spun away and ran into the end zone.”
From the 59 games he has seen, there are memories piled upon memories for Lineberger, who has won worldwide acclaim, particularly in the Far East, for training thousands of football officials.
When asked to choose his top 10 games, Lineberger says “they’re all favorites.”
Pressed, he admits some stand out.
“I have to tell you that my Nos. 1 and 2 games are the ones I officiated,” he says. “Those were great thrills for a guy from Long Beach who loves football and loves officiating.”
He lists the ‘29 game and Riegels’ wrong-way run as most memorable, “because I was very young and it was such a strange incident that my father had to explain it to me.”
Among other favorites:
1934. Columbia 7, Stanford 0. “It rained that day, unusual for the Rose Bowl. Do you know it has rained only three times in the last 50 games? I remember Columbia used a trick play to beat Stanford and the Vow Boys. It was a hidden-ball play in which Cliff Montgomery handed off to Al Barabas, who went into the end zone untouched.”
1935. Alabama 29, Stanford 13. “I remember Bear Bryant was playing for Alabama and they also had that wonderful pass catcher (Don Hutson).”
1939. USC 7, Duke 3. “Did you know Duke was undefeated, untied and unscored upon going into that game? There was a guy I had played against in that game, Amby Schindler of USC. The winning touchdown in the final seconds was a pass from Doyle Nave to Antelope Al Krueger. What a game.”
1946. Alabama 34, USC 14. “It was the first game after World War II. I had been in the service and had missed some Rose Bowl games. It was great to be back, although the result was pretty bad for Southern California fans.”
1947. Illinois 45, UCLA 14. “Everybody was complaining because Army with Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis wasn’t coming out to play in the Rose Bowl game. There was a lot of controversy.”
1956. Michigan State 17, UCLA 14. “I’ll never forget all the officiating errors I saw in that one. A series of penalties put Michigan State in a position for Dave Kaiser to kick a game-winning field goal with 7 seconds remaining. When you officiate, you shouldn’t court trouble. Just use common sense and good judgment.”
1963. USC 42, Wisconsin 37. “USC had that big lead (42-14) but Wisconsin had that Ron VanderKelen, who almost passed the Badgers into a victory.”
1972. Stanford 13, Michigan 12. “There was a play in which a Stanford player (Jim Ferguson) tried to run a missed field-goal attempt out of the end zone. He got the ball out, then was driven back into the end zone. The officials called it a safety but Stanford came back to win on a field goal in the final seconds. Stanford used a trick play to score its one touchdown.”
1973. USC 42, Ohio State 17. “I remember Sam Cunningham diving into the end zone for four touchdowns.”
1975. USC 18, Ohio State 17. “I remember that kid who’s a lawyer and football commentator now (Pat Haden) throwing that touchdown pass to young Johnny McKay and that 2-point pass conversion (Haden to Shelton Diggs).”
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