To the Editor:
Gene Rossides was someone I looked forward to meeting one day. I was saddened to have recently read in The National Herald of his death. The news however reminded me of my connection with Gene and it gave me the opportunity to tell my son, my Gene Rossides story. The story of the winning quarterback for the Columbia Lions.
I first learned about Gene Rossides when he was the quarterback for the Columbia football team back in1947. That was the year that the Columbia Lions upset and beat the powerful Army football team at Baker Field by a score of 21-20 on Saturday, October 25, 1947.
As it happened, the following day, on Sunday, October 26,1947, I was in uniform, playing left/ end for the Kobe Base football team in Japan.
Our base team was playing the Army 11th Airborne Division team at Neil Kinnig stadium in Yokohama, Japan.
The Airborne team was in great shape. They were combat ready and were all fired up with their special brand of esprit d’corp. Our defense held the Airborne team to three touch downs in the first half while we only scored once on a long pass play.
The Kobe team was unable to contain the powerful 11th Airborne offense. During the half time, locker room intermission, our coach went through his drill but the team was less than inspired. I recognized the general feeling myself and felt that the team needed to hear something more positive. Something to inspire them with a positive attitude for the second half.
That was when I stood up and told them about Gene Rossides and how the Ivy League Columbia University quarterback held and defeated the powerful Army football team in the 21-20 victory just the day before.
As I think about that event now, I was not exactly the imposing figure of Knute Rockne making that halftime pep talk. Nor did I make reference to winning one for the “Gipper.” I just wanted the team to leave the locker room with positive thoughts based on Gene’s upset victory over the heavily favored West Point team.
Over the many years since, I had read about Gene’s career world successes in TNH and imagined that one day our paths would cross in the New York, Greek-American community we were both a part of. I would then share an event in my life that related directly to a high point he had experienced in his youth playing football for the Lions, some 73 years earlier. He and I were probably the same age, both born in 1928.
I believe Gene would have enjoyed meeting a contemporary who remembered him for the football prowess of his youth rather than for his successful and noteworthy professional career.
Spring Hill, FL