Once upon a time, we took on the task of compiling the All-Time Southern California Sports roster — bestowing ownership to a particular number that a player is best remembered for wearing. Retired or not.
We’ve revived that here to honor the Top 12 players from So Cal who have worn No. 12, based only on our own criteria of impact, longevity and whatever else we decided was intangible:
His bio on a now defunct Rose Bowl legends website noted that the TV show, “American Gladiators,” once held a special “Pro Football Challenge of Champions” show in its third and fourth seasons — and White won both of them, coming from behind in the Eliminator “thanks to slip-ups by his opponents.” The former San Fernando High star didn’t do things the easy way. (And why isn’t he wearing a facemask in this 1979 College Football preview issue)?
Even though he was the backup to Ricky Bell as a freshman, White gained 858 yards and ran for 10 touchdowns (Bell had 1,417 yards and 14 scores). As a sophomore, White had 1,478 yards. As a junior, he had 1,859 yards. As a senior, it was a magical 2,050 yards — a Pac-10 record. He finished with 5,598 yards (not including bowl games) and ended up setting or tying 22 NCAA, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl records, while using the wall of Anthony Munoz, Brad Budde, Keith Van Horn, Pat Howell and Roy Foster to lead the way.
In the Rose Bowl, White became white hot.
In the ’77 game against Michigan, he replaced the injured Bell and ran for 122 yards and a TD. In the ’79 win over Michigan, he had 99 yards and a phantom 3-yard dive for a score. In ’80, he ripped off 247 yards (a record, which included 71 yards during an 83-yard drive on eight plays with 5:21 left).
“Charlie is simply the most competitive athlete I’ve ever seen,” said USC coach John Robinson.
The Heisman was his, preventing Billy Sims from becoming a two-time winner. A College Football Hall of Fame entry came in 1996, a year after he was enshrined into the USC Hall of Fame.
The Cleveland Browns made him the 27th overall choice in the 1980 draft. He eventually hooked up with coach Robinson with the Rams in 1987 and had a league-best 1,387 yards and 11 touchdowns and NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors and a Pro Bowl selection.
== Dusty Baker, Dodgers (1976-’83)
When Johnny B. Baker hit his 30th homer on the last day of the 1977 season, it meant the Dodgers were the first team with four players to hit the milestone (along with Reggie Smith, Ron Cey and Steve Garvey). What else made that homer off Houston’s J.R. Richard special? Teammate Glenn Burke greeted him at the on-deck circle with his hands over his head. Baker slapped them. That moment is considered to be the first “high five.” “I reached up and hit his hand,” said Baker. “It seemed like the thing to do.” His first eight seasons in the big were with the Braves. His last three were with San Francisco and Oakland. But the eight in between were pretty special – 114 homers and 586 RBIs in 1,117 games, including key roles on the ’77 and ’78 NL championship teams and the ’81 World Series squad.
== Pete Beathard, USC football (1961-’63), Rams (1972)
The starting QB for the Trojans’ 1962 national title team and co-Player of the Game for the 1963 Rose Bowl, where he threw four TD passes in the USC win. He still ranks on the school’s career Top 20 lists in passing and total offense before becoming a first round draft choice in 1964 by the NFL’s Lions and AFL’s Chiefs — the later of which he signed and played in Super Bowl I. Started two games for the L.A. Rams (where he went back to wearing No. 12) in 1972.
==Mark Langston, Angels (1990-’97)
In his first Angels start after coming over from Seattle/Montreal, Langston threw the first seven hitless innings against the Mariners at Anaheim Stadium, then saw Mike Witt finish it off for a combined no-no. Went 88-74 with the Angels with a 3.97 ERA in 210 starts (34 complete games), highlighted by a 19-8 season in ’91. Three All-Star appearances and five consecutive Gold Glove Awards in his Angels career.
== Tommy Davis, Dodgers (1960-’66)
Third in the NL MVP voting in ’62 (behind teammate and winner Maury Wills) after he lead the league in batting average (.346), RBIs and hits. He broke the franchise record with 153 RBI and it stands today. His 230 hits are the most by a right-handed hitter in the team annals. He also hit 27 homers with 120 runs that season. He led the league in hitting again in ’63 (.326), a key ingredient to the Dodgers’ World Series squad.
== Denise Curry, UCLA women’s basketball (1978-’81)
Leading the Bruins to the AIAW national title in ’78, the three-time All-American set 14 school records and was all-time leading scorer (3,198 points) and rebounder (1,310 points) when she graduated, averaging 24.6 points a game and setting a collegiate record by scoring in double figures in all of her 130 career games. UCLA retired her number, put her in the school’s Hall of Fame in 1994, and she’s been in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., since ’97.
A post once on SilverandBlackPride.com called the former USC left-hander the No. 4 all time draft bust — No. 24 in 1991, ahead of Brett Favre, signing a three-year, $2.25 million deal. His best career game: Oct. 11, ’92 in a 20-3 win over Buffalo, where he completed 11 of 21 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. But he spent just two years in the league, a 3-5 record in his eight starts, with eight TDs and nine picks and a few key failed drug tests. He tried to make a comeback with the L.A. Arena League’s Avengers, but as it turned out, it was only to pay for his drug habits. Still, he tied a league record with 10 TDs against Houston and was named to the all-rookie team. The day he received his signing bonus he was arrested for buying heroin. By the way, that self-portrait above is available from his gallery, signed and numbered. See if you can get No. 12.
His contributions to the team as a coach, and even a broadcaster with Chick Hearn, will be more remembered than the 7.5 points a game he contributed during his five-plus years as Jerry West’s backup. Still, he was part of the ’71-’72 title team. A first-round pick out of Kentucky by the San Diego Rockets, taken by Portland in the 1970 expansion draft and traded to the Lakers. It all paid off in the end.
==Vlade Divac, Lakers (1989-’96, 2004-’05 season)
The Lakers’ first Serbian draft pick and one of the first Euros to have an impact in the NBA, Divac ended up as one of six players in league statistical history to hit 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,500 blocked shots (with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan, although Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell are in there as well even though they didn’t keep blocked shot records during their time). Perhaps his greatest contribution to the franchise: Divac was traded to Charlotte in 1996 for the draft rights to teenager Kobe Bryant. He returned as a free agent but was injured most of the time. The Sacramento Kings retired his No. 21 jersey (he spent six years there, making an All-Star team, after his time in Charlotte and before coming back to L.A.).
== Rod Sherman, USC football (1964-’66)
Sherman’s catch of a 15-yard TD pass from Craig Fertig on fourth-and-8 with 1:33 to play — 85-Z Delay — clinched a 20-17 win for the Trojans over No. 1 Notre Dame at the Coliseum, erasing a 17-0 halftime deficit. Sherman, then a sophomore, came to USC as a quarterback, having played it in high school and also a year at UCLA. In the ’67 Rose Bowl, Sherman caught a 19-yard TD from Troy Winslow with 2:28 to play to bring USC to within a point of Purdue. Winslow looked for Sherman on the two-point conversion, but John Charles, the defensive Player of the Game, knocked Sherman off his route. The pass was picked off, leaving Bob Griese and the Boilermakers to celebrate the win.
== Ryan Francis, USC basketball (2005-’06)
The Trojans’ starting point guard as a freshman, his life was cut short in his hometown of Baton Rouge during a drive-by shooting in May, 2006. For the 2006-2007 season, the Trojans wore a black #12 on their jerseys and they made the NCAA tournament, playing their first game on the day before what would have been Francis’ 20th birthday, defeating Arkansas 77-60.
== Joe Namath, Rams (1977)
Four starts, three TD passes and five picks before he eventually became 24-year-old Pat Haden’s backup, watching the Rams roll to a 10-4 record and a division title. He led the Rams to two wins in their first three games, but after a poor game on a Monday night against Chicago, that was the end of it. It may not be the way Broadway Joe will want to be remembered. After 12 years (keeping with this numbered theme) with the New York Jets, Namath came West after his release when the team couldn’t trade him. At age 34, Namath would have looked like Warren Beatty from “Heaven Can Wait,” but that didn’t come out until 1978, and Joe Pendleton wore No. 16 — and the Rams made it to the Super Bowl. It was Johnny Unitas playing for the Chargers, or Bobby Orr for the Blackhawks. It didn’t fit and it was the wrong way to end a Hall of Fame career. But thanks for the Off-Broadway performance. We could almost kiss you for it.
So, who did we leave out? Purposely or not?
Aside from the Kings’ Jimmy Carson (No. 2 overall pick in ’86, scored 37 goals as an 18-year-old rookie, then was part of the deal to Edmonton for Wayne Gretzky), the Dodgers’ Jeff Kent, UCLA basketball’s Gerald Madkins, Toby Bailey and David Wear, Pepperdine two-time All-American volleyball star Craig Buck and Terry Bell, who in 1948 was Pepperdine’s Little School All-American quarterback when the Waves had a football team back on their old L.A. campus?
Any current Laker player who might be worthy someday of cracking this list?