Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
Now those are some bell bottoms. If you don't remember them, ask your mom.
"We had about eight real good brawls at Ogden last year," Tom Lasorda told The Times' Mitch Chortkoff. "I like a good scrapping team. ... We led the league in wins, fights and police escorts."
Lasorda was headed to Spokane to take over the Dodgers' Pacific Coast League team, expected to be filled with such prospects as Bill Buckner, Steve Garvey (still considered a third baseman) and Bobby Valentine. Lasorda was no stranger to the PCL, having played in the league back when the Los Angeles Angels and Hollywood Stars were feuding.
Lasorda told Chortkoff about an incident pitching for the Angels against the Stars' Forrest Jacobs.
"He was sore at me and he laid a bunt down the first-base line, " he said. "You've seen it so many times. The pitcher comes over to field the ball and the bunter runs him down. Only I played it a little different. Instead of going for the ball I threw a body block at Jacobs. All hell broke loose after that."
Chortkoff had an interesting line about Lasoda's future: "There are some baseball people who believe that Lasorda will be the successor to Walter Alston as the Dodger manager--if, that is, he can control his temper."
Lasorda's response? "I only know that I have to be myself. ... I want my team to develop a dislike for the opponents. That's the only way they'll play to their potential."
Nancy Sinatra ... in WAX!
A Navy inquiry into the Pueblo incident, Gabby Hayes dies, a landslide closes the Pomona Freeway and the State Board of Education decides that a school is racially imbalanced if there's a 15% difference from the racial makeup of youngsters in the surrounding neighborhood.
The prosecution makes opening statements in the trial of Sirhan B. Sirhan in the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Out of curiosity, how many Daily Mirror readers would be interested in following his trial? I hadn't planned on it, but it's possible.
Jim Murray and Mormon golfer Bill Casper visit the Joseph Smith farm in New York.
Schaal, a promising young player on some bad Angel teams, had been beaned in 1968 by Boston's Jose Santiago and spent 12 days in the hospital and months trying to get his balance back. The Times' Mitch Chortkoff visited with Schaal as he worked out at Huntington Beach High, readying for the Kansas City Royals' first spring training.
"The count was 0-2. Both pitches were outside curves, but I had swung at one," Schaal said. "I had looked pretty bad. I thought [Santiago] would throw me another one." Schaal said he leaned out over the plate and Santiago threw a fastball.
Schaal's 1968 season actually ended as a pinch-hitter against Boston. "I hit a fly ball to right field and as I ran down the baseline I tried to look at the ball," Schaal said. "Suddenly I began wobbling. That kind of scared me."
"I'm sorry to leave the Angels, but expansion brings a lot of opportunities for ballplayers," he told Chortkoff. "I'm happy to be getting another chance."
-- Keith Thursby
Los Angeles Times file photo
Antiwar demonstrators fight with Chicago police during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
|At left, former Vice President Richard M. Nixon wins the Republican nomination for the 1968 presidential race. He selects Maryland Gov. Spiro T. Agnew as his |
Los Angeles Times file photo
The 1968 Democratic ticket: Vice President Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine.
Humphrey wins the nomination, provoking boos and catcalls when he mentions President Lyndon Johnson. Humphrey says of the violence in Chicago: "We do not want a police state, but we do need a state of law and order. Neither mob violence nor police brutality have any place in America."
Los Angeles Times file photo
Richard Nixon is elected president, Nov. 9, 1968, promising peace with honor in Vietnam.
|| Sirhan Bishara Sirhan is convicted and sentenced to the gas chamber May 21, 1969. His sentence is commuted to life in prison when the California Supreme Court overturns the death penalty in 1972.|
Los Angeles Times file photo
Vice President Spiro T. Agnew and President Richard M. Nixon are reelected in 1972. Agnew is charged with income tax evasion and resigns Oct. 10, 1973, to be replaced by Rep. Gerald R. Ford. Nixon resigns Aug. 8, 1974, over the Watergate scandal, making Ford president. On April 23, 1975, Ford declares the Vietnam War over. Saigon falls to the North Vietnamese on April 30, 1975.
Los Angeles Times Photograph
|In 2006, the Los Angeles Unified School District finishes demolition of the Ambassador Hotel despite efforts by the Los Angeles Conservancy to save the landmark. A $4-million settlement with the Conservancy clears the way for destruction of the Cocoanut Grove. |
|Beginning June 1, the Daily Mirror will follow Robert F. Kennedy in the final days of his campaign for the American presidency, from hope and triumph at the polls to tragedy in a cramped corridor in a kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel.|
We want you to share your recollections of this day that changed the course of U.S. history. Please share your comments below (all posts must be approved before they are published) or send them to me by e-mail.
Drawing by Paul Conrad / Los Angeles Times
Photograph by Steve Fontanini / Los Angeles Times
Shot in the head, union official Paul Schrade lies on the pantry floor at the Ambassador Hotel, one of Sirhan Bishara Sirhan's other victims.
Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn.), left, suspends his campaign. Secret Service agents are sent to guard political candidates. Below right, Jack Smith writes about Kennedy's quiet day leading up to the shooting.
Below left, Kennedy's injuries and prayers for him among people at Resurrection City in Washington, D.C. Below right, the continuation of Jack Smith's story on Kennedy's evening leading up to the shooting.
Photograph by Ben Olender / Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Police Chief Tom Reddin holds a news conference to discuss the latest developments in the shooting.
Below left, many Arabs viewed Kennedy favorably and said U.S.-Arab relations would have been better if President John F. Kennedy had lived. Sirhan is under guard to prevent anyone from killing him. And an interview with busboy Juan Romero. Below right, a description of the shooting.
Photograph by George R. Fry / Los Angeles Times
Kennedy's children, Kathleen, Matthew, Michael, Mary Kerry, Christopher and Mary Courtney and the family dog Freckles leave the Beverly Hills Hotel to return to Virginia after Vice President Hubert Humphrey sent a plane to get them.
Below left, California Gov. Ronald Reagan blames the shooting on "demagogism." Below right, Latin America is stunned by the shooting.
Photograph by Charles O'Rear / Los Angeles Times
Patricia Lawford, Kennedy's sister, is escorted from Good Samaritan Hospital by family friend Jim Whitaker.
Below left, Kennedy receives last rites from the Rev. Thomas Peacha. The hospital chaplain, the Rev. Laurence Joy, also administers last rites. Jimmy Breslin describes the shooting and officials call for tighter gun controls. Below right, Kennedy's victory speech was upbeat, Times staff writer Daryl E. Lembke says.
Photograph by Ben Olender / Los Angeles Times
Patricia Lawford picks up her brother, Atty. Gen. Robert F. Kennedy, at Los Angeles International Airport in a photo dated Feb. 12, 1963. Notice the complete lack of any security personnel.
Below left, hundreds of people gather at Good Samaritan in a vigil for the wounded candidate.
Drawing by Frank Interlandi / Los Angeles Times
Below, The Times' editorial and op-ed pages.
Photograph by Bruce Cox / Los Angeles Times
Busboy Juan Romero describes the shooting.
Below left, sports columnist Jim Murray and below right, Charles Maher.
Photograph by Michael Edwards / Los Angeles Times
Paul Schrade points to where he was shot in the head by Sirhan, Feb. 4, 1986.
Below, Kennedy's shooting sends the stock market down slightly, with the Dow closing at 907.42. Standard and Poor's 500 closes at 99.89, off 0.49.
Photograph by Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley displays Kennedy's jacket, kept as evidence in Sirhan's trial, in the prosecutor's vault, 2007.
Below, Charles Champlin describes the live TV drama of the Kennedy shooting.
"It is hard to understand. I did nothing. It just happened. Mr. Kennedy was there and he needed someone with him, that's all."
--Juan Romero in a 1968 interview with Ted Thackrey Jr.
By Steve Lopez
Times staff writer
Photograph by Steve Fontanini
Los Angeles Times
Juan Romero is led into the courtroom to testify against Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, in a photo dated Feb. 15, 1969.
When you write stories for three decades, occasionally someone asks if you had a favorite. I never did until five years ago, when I met Juan Romero.
An editor at Life magazine had asked if I remembered the busboy who knelt at Bobby Kennedy's side on June 5, 1968, when he was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Of course I remembered. The photos of that skinny kid in the angelic white service coat, cradling Kennedy, were searing.
Go find him, said the editor.
Romero wasn't hard to track down. I found him doing hard labor in San Jose, his strong hands callused by years of toil for a paving company.
But 30 years after the assassination, he was still haunted by that night, and talking about it was not one of his favorite things to do. We went out for a couple of beers, and Romero began squirming and twisting himself up. When he finally found a way to let it out, it was for his own sake as much as mine.
Thursday marks the 35th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, so last week, I went to visit Romero again in San Jose. The father of four, now 53, was pouring concrete under a merciless sun. When he got off duty, we went out for a cold one, just like last time, and Juan Romero revisited the day that has shaped his life.
It was Juan's stepfather, an Ambassador waiter, who got him the job. Juan, whose family moved to L.A. from Mexico when he was 10, had been flirting with trouble in his East L.A. neighborhood, and his stepdad's solution was to get him off the streets.
"I wore black pants and a white shirt to Hollenbeck Junior High every day," says Juan, who caught the bus for the Ambassador after school. The routine continued when he moved on to Roosevelt High.
Juan worked room service and met scads of celebrities in the Ambassador's glory days, but for him, the arrival of presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy during the 1968 California primary topped the charts.
Juan remembered photos of a Catholic John F. Kennedy on the walls of homes in Mexico -- "next to Pope John Paul and the crucifix" -- and he knew Bobby Kennedy had championed the cause of California farm workers.
"Bobby rolled up his sleeves and walked with them," Juan says.
When Kennedy checked into the Ambassador and called for room service, Juan, then 17, cut a deal with the busboy who drew the job. Juan would retrieve all the other guy's trays that night in return for the Kennedy job.
"He wouldn't do it," Juan remembers of his stubborn colleague. "So I said, 'All right. I'll pay you too.' "
A Kennedy assistant answered the door of the Presidential Suite, and Juan, his eyes wide, pushed the food cart into the room and found himself standing next to Kennedy.
"He shook my hand as hard as anyone had ever shaken it," Juan says. "I walked out of there 20 feet tall, thinking, 'I'm not just a busboy, I'm a human being.' He made me feel that way."
The next night, Kennedy won the California primary. He made his victory speech at the Ambassador and headed through the kitchen to escape the crush of people, but there was a crowd in there too.
Juan, who wanted to congratulate him, used his skinny frame to knife through the pressed bodies. This man was going to be the next president, Juan thought, and he wanted to see if he could shake his hand once more.
"People were six and seven deep," Juan says, but he got close enough to stick out his hand. As Kennedy grabbed it, Juan heard a bang and felt a flash of heat against his face. Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin, had fired from just off Juan's shoulder.
"I thought it was firecrackers at first, or a joke in bad taste," says Juan, but then he saw Kennedy sprawled on the floor and knelt to help him up.
"He was looking up at the ceiling, and I thought he'd banged his head. I asked, 'Are you OK? Can you get up?' One eye, his left eye, was twitching, and one leg was shaking."
Juan slipped a hand under the back of Kennedy's head to lift him and felt warm blood spilling through his fingers.
"People were screaming, 'Oh my God, not another Dallas!' "
Ethel Kennedy knelt down at her husband's side and pushed Juan away. Juan looked on, angry and stunned, fingering the rosary beads in his pocket.
"When I was in trouble, I would always go and pray to God to make my stepfather forget what I'd done, or to keep me out of trouble the next time. I asked Ethel if I could give Bobby the rosary beads, and she didn't stop me. She didn't say anything.
"I pressed them into his hand but they wouldn't stay because he couldn't grip them, so I tried wrapping them around his thumb. When they were wheeling him away, I saw the rosary beads still hanging off his hand."
Juan was taken to the Rampart police station and questioned about what he saw and what he knew. He was released, still trembling, headed for home, and went to school the next day. It was at Roosevelt High that he saw Kennedy's blood under his fingernails, and decided not to wash his hands.
"Then the mail started coming to the hotel," Juan says. "Sacks and sacks of mail. You couldn't believe the amount of it."
Most of it was supportive, addressed to the anonymous busboy. It was a kind of celebrity Juan never asked for or wanted, and he grew apprehensive about hotel guests asking to see him. He also heard from a handful of lunatics asking why he didn't take the bullet himself, or telling him Kennedy would still be alive if he hadn't stopped to shake Juan's hand.
Juan left Los Angeles for Santa Barbara. He returned briefly to the Ambassador, but was finally driven away by ghosts. He worked at a hotel in Wyoming, then relocated to San Jose and married.
He settled comfortably into family life but lived with the cruel, nagging conviction that he'd been thrown into the path of history for a reason, and he hadn't been up to the challenge.
Juan was convinced he was supposed to find a way to express the hope Kennedy represented for him, but he couldn't find the words.
During the debate over California's Proposition 187, he felt that people were taking one look at his brown skin and figuring him for a freeloader. He wanted to scream that the ballot initiative was proof we needed another Kennedy, but he couldn't find a stage.
And that was just fine, because to remember that day in 1968, Juan ended up doing something more elegant and true. He took the faith expressed in that first handshake from Kennedy and honored the memory by working hard, providing for his family and living a life of tolerance and good deeds.
He doesn't always get it right. Juan's wife tells him he does so many odd jobs for others, it often comes at the expense of time with the family.
Maybe so, but Juan has to help those he can. And he has to keep moving, hurrying from one job to another like a man being chased. Especially around this time of year.
"For words to come out of my mouth that express how I really feel is so hard," Juan says, his eyes filling. "After years and years and years to think about what to say about that night, I can't figure out anything that does justice."
I tell him, once again, that he has said all the right things.
--Paul Houston, Times reporter, describing attack on Sirhan B. Sirhan
Above, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, beaten after shooting Robert F. Kennedy. Police scuffled with the crowd to protect Sirhan, The Times says.
"Some people said: 'Kill him, don't let him get away.' "
-- Pat Murphy, Ambassador Hotel security guard
"As Kennedy was borne on a stretcher from the hotel to an ambulance, people pushed near him, some of them crying. The senator's shirt was unbuttoned and he appeared to be conscious and alert.
"But by the time he arrived at Central Receiving Hospital he was bundled up in blankets and wearing an oxygen mask.
"He was taken into an operating room and moments later a priest entered the hospital."