Monday, August 13, 2012

Lifeguard Olszewski had two saves

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

Considering the stereotypical propensity of high school and jocks to hang out together and exhibit daredevil behavior it is probably not all that unbelievable that former pro fullback Johnny Olszewski was credited with saving the lives of two contemporary quarterbacks while he was in college.

During the summer months, Olszewski was a life guard at Corona Del-Mar. Sportswriter Bob McKinney in 1951 described the beach as a place “where the clear waters of the cove invite swimming, but the rip-tides often prove disastrous.”

McKinney wrote in the Nov. 14, 1951, issue of The Sporting News, “Shortly before the start of the 1950 season, (Loyola Marymount quarterback and future Baltimore Colts executive) Don Klosterman was caught in the sucking currents and was being carried under when Johnny spotted him and brought him to shore.”

“I couldn’t swim and shouldn’t have been out there,” Klosterman was quoted.

The previous year, according to Klosterman, in nearly the same spot, Olszewski had similarly rescued first-string California quarterback Billy Mais.

Mais had been a teammate of Olszewski’s at St. Anthony’s High School in Long Beach; Klosterman and Olszewski were described as ‘boyhood pals” growing up in Compton

"Johnny O" had a 10-year career in the NFL (1953-57 Chicago-St. Louis Cardinals, 1958-60 Redskins, 1961 Lions) and AFL (1962 Broncos).

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