Because his career as a broadcaster is so well connected to John Wooden and his UCLA basketball championships — he did the play-by-play of the games for KTLA-Channel 5, which were later re-aired that night — Dick Enberg, who saw eight national titles in his nine years of calling Bruins games, has shared his memories in various places over the last couple of days on the Wizard of Westwood.
Some of thoughts on Wooden’s passing by Enberg, the San Fernando Valley native and former San Fernando Valley State (now Cal State Northridge) teacher and baseball coach, as he was with the San Diego Padres doing their games in Philadelphia this last weekend:
== From Saturday’s San Diego Union Tribune (linked here):
“I knew it was coming, but it is painful. I stayed up last night, crying as I watched all the tributes to him. He was, other than my father, the greatest man I’ve ever known. And his greatness was exceeded only by his goodness. I’m just proud to have been able to rub shoulders with such a man.
“Such a loving, lovely man. The bed in his little apartment (in Sherman Oaks) was still made the way (Wooden’s wife) Nell made it before she died, 20-some years ago. He still had his love letters for her on the bed.
“As you can imagine, when you walked into that apartment, it was like a museum. I remember him handing me a book of (Abraham) Lincoln quotes, then we walked around the corner, past a little place where you could hang stuff on hooks. Hanging right there was the Presidential Medal of (Freedom), just kind of hanging there with some other stuff.”
== From MLB.com (linked here):
“We were on a bus trip to Spokane to play Washington State, and I was sitting in the back of the bus when I got the word: Wooden wants to see you. And I thought, great. Two hours with John Wooden — I’ll have terrific stuff for the game on Monday night.
“So I walked up front, and he said, ‘Dick, do you like poetry?’ And I said, sure. He said, ‘Do you like Edna St. Vincent Millay?’ And I said, ‘Oh, of course.’ And he didn’t mention basketball once in the entire two hours. He just talked poetry.
“Those two hours were a little lesson in what was really important in life — and it wasn’t the game on Monday night.”
== On the FSWest website (linked here):
“I saw Coach in March at his apartment and knew it wouldn’t be long. So typical of Coach, when we first entered his apartment, his first query was and ‘how are the children?’
In saying goodbye he asked me to kiss him goodbye on the forehead. It allowed me a loving farewell. Our two hour discussion often took us to his first love, baseball.
He was a Cubs and Cardinals fan, loved Stan Musial. Few remember that he was offered the Pirates Manager’s job, but elected to stay at UCLA. He confirmed that his favorite American was Abraham Lincoln. He has more Lincoln books than basketball.
And his favorite person in his 99 years of life was Mother Theresa.
Someone in the room asked who his favorite living person was in the present. He got that twinkle in his eye, separated his lips in a wry smile, and said, “Dick Enberg.”
We all had a good laugh.”
== From CBSSports.com, he narrates a piece on Wooden (linked here).