Sports Watch

Bill Kwon

By Bill Kwon

Tuesday, January 26, 1999

Wedemeyer a true
Hawaii sports legend

See also: Revered isle athlete Wedemeyer...

HERMAN Wedemeyer always had a big heart.

He showed it on the football field, first as the best high school player in Hawaii in 1942 with the St. Louis Crusaders and then later as an All-American tailback for St. Mary's College.

Not, all conference. But a consensus All-American. In the same backfield with Wedemeyer in 1945 were Army's Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, and Bob Fenimore of Oklahoma A&M.

Wedemeyer and Fenimore wound up facing each other in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans that season with Oklahoma A&M, now Oklahoma State, winning, 33-14.

Wedemeyer accounted for the game's first score, throwing an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game.

In was during that game that Wedemeyer exhibited another kind of heart, a truly unselfish one that characterized him throughout the rest of his life.

Wedemeyer was about to cross the goal line unmolested after a razzle-dazzle play when a teammate running along side asked if he could score the touchdown instead. Wedemeyer lateraled the football so that the other guy could score.

WELL, Wedemeyer's big heart finally gave out yesterday. He died at the age of 74.

"He lived a full life. He did so much," said his widow, Carol.

Wedemeyer played minor league baseball briefly for the San Francisco Seals organization.

And what a remarkable coincidence it turned out to be that Wedemeyer and Wally Yonamine, another great prep running back from Farrington, played in the same outfield for the Salt Lake City Bees during World War II. Yonamine went on to be inducted in the Japan baseball hall of fame.

Wedemeyer played to a single-digit handicap in golf as a member of the Waialae Country Club since 1964, taking part in 13 Hawaiian Open pro-ams, where he was one of the celebrities.

That he was because of his role as a regular in "Hawaii 5-0." He was, first, a lieutenant named "Lukela," and then a detective named "Duke" helping "McGarrett" get the bad guys.

Despite his accomplishments, Wedemeyer never talked about them unless asked.

My favorite Herman Wedemeyer story is the time he made the headlines in New York papers because of one play against Fordham in the Polo Grounds in 1946.

The Rams had quick-kicked the football over his head. Wedemeyer retreated to his own 25 and with Fordham tacklers ready to converge on him, he kicked the ball right back over their heads.

They stood dumbfounded and later argued that the play was illegal as Wedey's punt rolled dead at their own 15-yard line.

THE fans went absolutely nuts, according to Wedemeyer.

"They threw a interception soon after that and we scored," Wedemeyer recalled years later. St. Mary's went on to win, 33-2.

"The Fordham players were confused and even the guys in the press box didn't know if the play was legal," said former Star-Bulletin writer Jim Becker, who was covering his first sports assignment for the Associated Press.

Doing the broadcast for Fordham radio was one of its students, Vin Scully. In the stands was a student from Iona, named Bill Bachran, the media relations director for the Hawaiian and now Sony Open. Bachran rooted for the Gaels because they had practiced at his campus in New Rochelle.

Years later, they all shared that remarkable moment in time with Wedemeyer during one of the Hawaiian Open tournaments.

And, if you must know, Wedemeyer is the only player from Hawaii in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

E-mail to Sports Editor

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