California Lacrosse on National Television

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MaxlaxOC shield March is here and our high school players finally get to play real games that count.  February, although the shortest month on the calendar, can seem like forever with endless practices and scrimmages for young boys eager to play real games.

But to the NBC TV Network, February was a financial and ratings success.  The Winter Olympics dominated our TV screens.  But for the long range view, Jimmy Fallon took over as host of the Tonight Show, one of the longest running and most lucrative shows on television.  He replaced Jay Leno, who took over for Johnny Carson, who replaced Jack Parr, who took over for the original host, Steve Allen (who may have been the funniest comedian of the bunch).

What does all of this have to do with Lacrosse you ask?  Well, on December 26, 1962, a small group of those Lacrosse pioneers from the still fledgling California Lacrosse Association would appear on the Steve Allen Show.  This appearance is believed to be the first major exposure on national television for Lacrosse.

1962 Steve Allen Show
From left to right: Ed Smith, Bill Shoop and Steve Allen

In a March 1965 issue of International Lacrosse Magazine, a writer had this to say about the leadership of the California Lacrosse Association: “Isolated from the mainstream of Lacrosse, these West Coast enthusiasts make up in spirit what they lack in numbers”.  This was never more evident than in their appearance on the Steve Allen Show.

Bill Shoop, Ed Smith (the Father of Orange County Lacrosse) and others appeared in Cal All Star uniforms while Steve Allen and his team (mostly the band members) dressed as Indians in loin cloths and headdresses. I should point out; this was 1962, long before political correctness was invented.  They dressed as Hollywood perceived Indians at that time.

A mini Lacrosse “field” was set up for a “game” in an alley behind the NBC Studio.  Special rule changes were implemented to accommodate the unique playing conditions.  A soft rubber ball was used.  One of Allen’s players, the drummer in the band, refused to play unless everyone agreed not to hit him on his hands.

Allen would first interview the players who explained the history of the sport and its growth in California.  Then they played the game.  The game would be a pre-arranged tie going into the last minute.  Allen would call for a substitute who turned out to be a very scantily clad, attractive young starlet.  All the Cal All Stars surrounded her and began an argument about who would guard her.  The referee would blow the whistle and Allen scored the winning goal in the unattended cage.  After the show, Allen was installed as an honorary lifetime member of the CLA.

Many years later, Bill Shoop, the founder of the Los Angeles L.C. and longtime president of the CLA, would say words to the effect of:  If it’s true that everyone gets fifteen minutes of fame, appearing on that show would be mine.  It was the most fun I’ve ever had in this sport

— Courtesy Bob Davis