January 26, 2012

Mark Patton: The Gauchos Once Had a Hammer




Some kids never grow up. And sometimes that's a good thing.

It is for UCSB baseball, which is benefitting again from some alumni that held their kegger parties at Gaucho games a quarter century ago.

The Hammerheads are about to strike again during the Gauchos' Baseball Reunion Weekend.

"It all started in 1983 with some water polo guys, I think, who had been mistreated by Pepperdine's baseball team down there," former UCSB coach Al Ferrer said. "They decided to get back at them, and boy, did they jump on board."

They're jumping aboard for Friday's hot stove dinner at Earl Warren Showgrounds and Saturday's golf tournament at Glen Annie. About 40 former Hammerheads are coming, Ferrer said.

"I've been involved with them on Facebook and stuff, they've already raised a lot of money for the program," Ferrer said. "They're very successful guys in many different careers, and what this says is that it was a major part of their lives."

They began a media sensation during the early 1980s.

They stirred UCSB's 1983 team into countless comebacks, including the league title win over Cal State Fullerton. Their props included a dead chicken hooked to the end of a fishing pole to protest any "foul calls."

The Gauchos felt the magic, rallying for the win during a big seventh inning.

"I used five pinch-hitters that inning, if you can imagine, and they all came through," Ferrer recalled. "When (Kent) McBride hit his bases-loaded double, the place erupted."

Another big moment came two years later during a home victory over USC's Randy Johnson. The Hammerheads kept the Gauchos loose by casting a bag of Doritos over the fence at the end of the infamous fishing pole, trying to lure burly Trojan Pops Mitchell toward them whenever he was on-deck.

Dave Stewart knocked a game-winning double off the right-field fence, and then the Hammerheads knocked down the backstop fence while celebrating with the Gauchos.

"I loved the relationship," Ferrer said.

The university wasn't so thrilled, however, when a student wearing a styrofoam hammerhead told a television interviewer about the "beer milkshakes" they'd all been imbibing at the game.

"The next day, alcohol was banned at the field," Ferrer recalled.

They merely made their adjustments like any good hitter, stashing the kegs outside the park while running a tube through the fence.

But they did make a good impression on Stanford's president at one of the NCAA Regionals.

"There were about 4,000 people there, and the stands were trashed," Ferrer said. "But where the Hammerheads had sat was clean - they'd picked up everything. He went, 'Wow, what a classy group.'"

Sometimes, kids can act like grownups, too.

Mark Patton's column appears on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays. Email: mpatton@newspress.com

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