2017: La Jolla Vikings Great Dan Berry

Dan Berry passed recently at age 72, leaving a historic legacy at La Jolla High and of significant achievements at San Diego City College and the University of California at Berkeley.

When La Jolla met San Diego High at  Scripps Field in 1961, the Vikings had not beaten the Cavemen since 1951 and were reeling from 57-0 and 59-0 knockouts in the two most recent meetings.

Berry, an all-San Diego Section first-team selection,  rushed for 153 yards in 20 carries, scored a touchdown and passed for two, and charged a three-touchdown, fourth-quarter rally as the Vikings, trailing, 19-7, defeated the Cavers, 27-19.

Lefty Berry ran, passed, and drove La Jolla to big win and niche among all-time Vikings.

The seaside team’s victory should have created some sports world buzz, but the game was played on Thursday night, a day earlier than usual.

Friday night was when the media spotlight was on the high schools.

The Evening Tribune did not send a reporter to the game and The San Diego Union‘s coverage of the contest was consigned to back pages of the sports section.

La Jollans were outraged.

Many of the  beach community’s residents flooded the nearby office of publisher James Copley with telephone calls expressing anger that Copley’s newspapers had given their team short shrift.

Copley got the message.

An order soon came down from the fourth floor at the Union-Tribune building on Second Avenue in downtown San Diego.

Henceforth the Tribune would carry a full page of prep photo coverage plus a full page of stories and reports each Saturday on games  throughout the County.

KNIGHTS THRIVE WITH DAN

Dan Berry and the Vikings had a lot to do with that emphasis on the exploits of the area’s prepsters.

Berry later led San Diego City College to a best-ever 9-1 record and come-from-behind, 28-24 victory over Orange Coast College in the 1964 San Bernardino Elks Bowl.

The 6-foot, 1-inch, 200-pounder was described by Orange Coast coach Dick Tucker as “the best junior college player in Southern California.”

MEMORIAL SCHEDULED

Berry went on to letter at quarterback and running back for two seasons at Berkeley, and was a fifth round draft selection of the NFL Philadelphia Eagles in 1967.  His career was short-circuited by injuries.

Berry’s wife, Kathy, said that on Feb. 18 a celebration of Dan’s life will be held at the family residence.

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6 Responses to 2017: La Jolla Vikings Great Dan Berry

  1. Jack R Waldvogel says:

    Rest in Peace my Friend.
    Jack Waldvogel WR OHS ’62

  2. alan segal says:

    Dan grew up in South Mission Beach in San Diego. We had a group of boys that surfed, played volleyball, and all other sports together. Dan had a basketball hoop over his garage and we often had pick up games there as teens and pre-teens. But his first football touchdown came in the 8th grade when we had a flag football team and I handed the ball off to him for his first end sweep (which became his signature play as a high school and college all star quarterback). He took the ball and held it out in front of him with both hands as if he was carrying a dozen eggs that he didn’t want to drop. But nobody on the opposing team could catch him and get his flag despite his inexperienced ball handling. And he scored a touchdown on about a 50 yard run. We all teased him and showed him how to carry it on his next run. I still have that image locked in my mind of Danny (that’s what we called him then) on his first end sweep touchdown.

    Needless to say. He quickly perfected the proper way to carry the football and became a terrific High school and college quarterback, noted for faking a left handed pass, tucking the ball in and running with power on a sweep. Rest in Peace Danny.

    • Rick says:

      A very nice remembrance, Alan. Dan was somewhat of a rarity, a lefthanded quarterback. Leonard DeSanti was the defensive player of the game in the Elks Bowl, but Leonard told me, “I got an award, but Danny Berry was our best player.”

  3. Michelle Harvey says:

    Thank you so much, Rick, for the write up on my Great-Uncle! I knew he was an incredible sportsman but was unaware of the history you described here. I grew up knowing him as Uncle “Boone”, the larger than life man who had a very witty sense of humor and was the life of the party. As a kid, I do remember a sense of awe at the sports memorabilia he displayed in his home. Thank you again, for taking the time to share this history on a great man.

    • Rick says:

      Thanks for sharing some thoughts about your uncle, Michelle. He was a terrific athlete and a gentleman, from my casual acquaintance with him. Dan’s San Diego City College teammate was Leonard DeSanti, who was named defensive player of the game in that Elks Bowl, but said to me, “Danny Berry was our best player and the reason we won that game.” You could say that for about every team Dan played for.

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