Even non-college football fans seem to be familiar with the phrase “The band is out on the field!” and its connotations.
The final play of the 1982 Big Game between Cal and Stanford has become so well-known that it is simply called “The Play.” Its lengthy Wikipedia entry documents everything from the background and aftermath of the play to the manic radio call of KGO-AM’s Joe Starkey.
The Cardinal had taken a 20–19 lead on Mark Harmon’s 35-yard field goal with seconds remaining. “Only a miracle can save the Bears now,” Starkey exclaimed over the radio.
And a miracle is exactly what he and everyone at Cal’s Memorial Stadium witnessed on the ensuing kickoff. Executing a series of five lateral passes that would’ve impressed their counterparts on the Cal rugby team, the Bears scored a game-winning touchdown on the return.
Having thought that Stanford had won, the Cardinal marching band had rushed the field while the ball was still live. As a result, Cal’s Kevin Moen scored the winning touchdown and plowed into Stanford trombone player Gary Tyrrell.
Saturday’s Big Game — the 115th of the series — will be the 30th since that play for the ages. And we will never grow tired of hearing how the band was out on the field.