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PINE NUTS – My 49er Hero

January 31, 2024 | McAvoy Lane

What Would Mark Twain Say?

Back when the Niners were training pre-season at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, I would ride my bike over there to watch them scrimmage. This was 1956 or so, and at 12 years old I quickly got to know their names by their faces…what fun!

One bright St. Mary’s morning our center, Frank Morze, knocked a contact lens right out of the eye of linebacker Matt Hazeltine. Play was stopped and we kids were invited out onto the field to look for that contact. Knowing exactly where it happened, I found it, and Matt Hazeltine insisted I join the team for lunch there at the college. Wow!

I sat between Matt and Frank, but it was Frank who took an interest in me and asked all kinds of questions about my grades, my girlfriend, even my bike. He was a true gentleman.

Fast forwarding 30 years, I was training for the Hawaiian Ironman, and in my exhilaration of beating my personal time racing up Mt. Rose on my bike, I threw my arms into the air like they do in the Alps, sailed off the road onto the rocks, and flatted both tires.

So I stuck out my thumb and was happy to accept a ride in the back of a pickup. The driver was a big guy who asked through an empty window, “What are you doing up here?”

I told him and he boasted, “I used to play football.”

“Oh yeah? What team?

“Forty Niners.”

“When did you come up?” I asked with growing interest.

“Fifty-six or so.”

“You came up with Frank Morze?”

He shot a look at me through the empty window, swerved a little across the line, and shouted back, “I AM Frank Morze!

Frank took me right to my front door while I rattled off the names of his teammates from those days so long ago.

“He shook my hand and said, “You remember more of my mates than I do, son.”

“And you were the best center the Niners ever had, Frank.” I extoled.

“Thanks, kid.” And he gave me a broad smile.

So here was a Forty Niner who showed a kindness to the same kid thirty years apart. Though Frank has since been promoted to the gridiron in the sky, I hope he will take comfort in knowing he is remembered as an all-star gentleman all these years later…

As is our custom, we shall leave the last word to Mark Twain…

“There are a few matters of peculiarity here on earth which I wish to describe.  One of them comes from the diary of Methuselah -on baseball: He that bore the club did suffer the ball to be flung at him divers times, but did always bend in his body and so save himself, whilst the others spat upon their hands. Yet he failed to avoid the next ball, which cracked his skull. I shall visit this sport no more, as the game doth lack excitement.” 

Audio: https://anchor.fm/mcavoy-layne

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