Just this past winter I went to a Stanford basketball game. Bill Walsh, the greatest football coach of at least the past 40 years, was sitting in the stands a few rows over. He didn’t look good, but I think I recall saying hello. Over the years, I’d run into him a couple of other times around town. When my godson came out from Boston to look at Stanford several Februarys ago, he checked out the tennis courts. There was Hall of Famer Walsh swatting the ball in the Palo Alto sunshine even while Boston was buried in slush. It was almost enough to convince him to come to school out here.
Now, as some of you know, I’m a long-suffering San Francisco Giants fan. Even the Chicago Cubs can look back to a championship team in 1907 and again in 1908. The S.F. Giants have never won a World Series.
But even for a Bay Area sports masochist like me, there are consolations, moments to savor, and Bill Walsh gets credit for most of them. He built a 49’er team that won five Super Bowls and coached them to wins in three of them. The best moment in Bay Area pro sports history was when Dwight Clark reached toward the heavens and gathered in Joe Montana’s pass to beat the Dallas Cowboys. I still remember sitting in my parents’ family room with a crowd of friends and neighbors and watching in suspicious euphoria. Bill Walsh was an innovator, a coach of coaches, and the mentor to perhaps the greatest quarterback ever and the greatest wide receiver. He recruited Steve Young, the most accurate quarterback ever (an awfully nice guy whom I see regularly around the ‘hood), to replace Saint Joe.
Coach Walsh died today from leukemia.
Thanks for the memories, Bill.