Saturday, December 28, 2013

Hanging With A Few Heisman Winners and Hall of Famers Was A Totally Unexpected Experience!

Watching our favorite sports heroes in person or on television is an exciting past time for most people. Getting to meet one or two them in person, maybe even getting their autograph and or even being photographed together, is a rarity for most individuals, one that most folks will cherish forever, as they boast about that special moment while they point to photographic proof that is placed on their mantel or hanging on their living room walls.
My experience with today’s modern gladiators represents not only meeting them and getting their autograph, but in actually working with them on special and prestigious projects, as well as developing special long-term friendships.
By virtue of working with many youth and community service-oriented organizations, I have been fortunate to have worked with many major league baseball players and NFL Hall of Fame sports figures, like Jim Otto and David “Deacon” Jones, as well as with several Heisman Trophy winners such as Jim Plunkett, Marcus Allen, Mike Garrett and O.J. Simpson.

Actually, my first exposure to a famous sports figure was when I went to work for Los Angeles City Councilman
John Ferraro, who gained much fame and notoriety playing tackle for the University of Southern California between 1943-47, a tremendously successful  career partially interrupted by service in the US Navy in 1945. I joined Ferraro’s staff in 1972 as an administrative assistant, working in his press and community affairs department. It was during that time that I also got to know Ferraro’s close friend and fellow teammate, Jim Hardy, the former USC and seven-year NFL quarterback who led USC to consecutive victories in the 1944 and 1945 Rose Bowls. The Trojans beat Washington in the 1944 game, 29-0, and Tennessee in 1945, 25-0. He was the Rose Bowl MVP in 1945. Jim was serving as a member of the LA Coliseum Commission when we first met at that time in 1972. According to Oldest Living Pro Football Player Still living web site, Hardy (at 90) is still alive!
It was the Ferraro press team that put together all the data needed to submit John Ferraro's name for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, which he was admitted to that select group in 1974.
"While working for John Ferraro, I also was appointed as member of the board of directors along with NFL great Rosey Grier on Mayor Tom Bradley's "Project Heavy," a program designed to help inner-city youth. Rosey (who was one of the members of Los Angeles Rams' "The Fearsome Foursome" along with David Deacon Jones) was also one of my guests on my TV show ("Bienvenidos") on KNXT Television, Channel 2."
That (Ferraro) experience was the last time I ever thought I would be around sport legends; however, that was soon to change when I became the first Latino member of the board of directors of the Boys Scouts of America, Los Angeles Area Council, in 1987. I was asked to join the board to help the scouting organization in recruiting Hispanics as active members. Having been a boy scout during my youth, and remembering the invaluable lessons I learned from that experience, I thought it would help young Latino men grow stronger. Soon thereafter, I was appointed as the public relations chair of the board, alongside many corporate giants such as Lod Cook, the Chairman and CEO of ARCO (Atlantic Richfield Company),

The Boy Scouting organization held many fund raising events, including a joint venture with the Los Angeles Raiders football team, and its twice-winning Super Bowl coach, Tom Flores. Flores the first Mexican American to quarterback a professional football team, while becoming the Oakland Raiders first slinger in 1960. Flores coached the Oakland Raiders to one of its Super Bowl Championships in 1981 and repeated that feat in 1985 after the team moved to Los Angeles. While in Los Angeles, the Boy Scouts of America connected with the Los Angeles Raiders to hold a fund raising golf tournament and named it “The Tom Flores Celebrity Golf Invitational.” The event featured one NFL super star being included in each foursome sold to various corporate sponsors. It became an instant hit and raised millions of dollars for the scouting program. 
Jim Otto, the legendary center and NFL Hall of Fame inductee for the Oakland Raiders, was one of the event’s biggest supporters.
Marcus Allen, Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Hall of Fame player from USC was one of the regular participants at the celebrity golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club. One of the classiest (if not the most friendliest and affable) sports figure I ever met.
Joe Ortiz is pictured with Al Locasale, assistant to Al Davis, owner and general manager of the Oakland Raiders. Both Joe and “lokey” were members of the committee that coordinated both the Tom Flores Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament, which was named the Los Angeles Raiders/ Boy Scouts Invitation Golf Tournament after Tom Flores was hired as the General Manager of the Seattle Seahawks in 1985. After serving as Seattle’s general manager and later as its head coach from 1991 to 1994, Flores became even more active in the golf tournament well into the early 2000’s. After the Raiders moved back to Oakland, Al Locasale, continued his leadership with the tournament and the scouting program in the Bay area.

Joe is picture here with friend Jim Gott, former pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. They met through Jim’s wife (Kathy) who worked with Joe on several projects for the Hollenbeck Youth Center in East Los Angeles.
Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL Hall of Fame player, O.J. Simpson, was among many of the NFL super stars that participated at the Tom Flores Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament held annually at the famous Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. Pictured here in 1993 photo, Joe Ortiz, the event publicist, first became friends with O.J. Simpson after they first met at the 1976 news conference where OJ announced he had received a contract to represent “Treesweet” Orange juice. Joe was the first newsman to interview OJ concerning that endorsement.

Joe Ortiz (center) is flanked by several Los Angeles Raiderettes at the Tom Flores Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament held annually at the famous Riviera Country Club. Ortiz (a veteran radio and television personality and public relations guru in Los Angeles) served as the event publicist for 12 years. He also coordinated the silent auction with the Raiderettes.

Another Heisman Trophy (1965) winner Joe had the privilege of knowing and working with was USC running back Mike Garrett, when both served on the Hollenbeck Business Police Council board of directors, the parent company of the Hollenbeck Youth center, founders of the Los Angeles Inner-City Games. This was during Garrett's tenure as Athletic Director of USC, where he was appointed in 1993. Unfortunately, due to NCAA violations, Garrett was released in 2010. Nevertheless, he was a legendary athlete and a great civic leader.

Joe Ortiz (lower left center) is joined by NFL Hall of Fame player, David "Deacon" Jones (center) by a few of the Los Angeles Raiderettes at the award ceremonies for the Tom Flores Celebrity Invitational Golf Invitational Tournament held annually at the famous Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. The most popular and successful non-PGA tournament raised millions of dollars for the Boy Scouts of America’s handicap program.
Joe actually met Jones (one of the members of the "Fearsome Foursome") with the Los Angeles Rams in November, 1969, while Joe was going through orientation as a new Job Agent for the California State Employment Department. The week-long training was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Long Beach, the same facility that the Los Angeles Rams used to party at during football season.

“I met Deacon at the Hyatt one night and we hit it off right away. We sort of partied together until the wee hours of the morning. We never saw each other again until 1988 while participating at the Tom Flores Celebrity Golf Tournament. Obviously he didn’t remember that first evening, but we partied again for many years thereafter.”

Joe became close friends with legendary defensive end Ben Davidson. They first met at an event in Irwindale sponsored by his client the Miller Brewing Company. Being that Davidson was born and raised in the East Los Angeles community (and he spoke Spanish); they both hit it off real quickly. However, it wasn’t until Big Ben became a regular at the Tom Flores Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament that their friendship grew stronger.

Davidson was born in Los AngelesCalifornia, the son of Avis (née Wheat) and Benjamin Earl Franklin, Senior.  He attended Woodrow Wilson High School in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles, but did not play football in high school; because of his height (6 feet 8 inches), basketball and track were more to his liking. While attending East Los Angeles Community College, he was spotted by the football coach and asked to join the team. He was subsequently recruited to play at the University of Washington where he flourished as a member of two Rose Bowl winning teams and gained entry into professional football. Davidson was selected in the fourth round of the 1961 NFL Draft by the New York Giants, but was traded before the season started to the Green Bay Packers.

He was part of the 1961 champion Packers, who beat the Giants 37-0 in the championship game.[2] He was then traded to the Washington Redskins for a fifth round draft choice, playing there in 1962 and 1963, until he was waived in 1964 after not meeting the team's strict weight guidelines.[3]
Davidson is best remembered for playing in the American Football League with the Oakland Raiders, who signed him as a free agent and where he thrived as a pass rusher under Coach John Madden. He played in Oakland from 1964 through 1972, and was part of the league merger in 1970. He was an AFL All-Star in 1966, 1967, and 1968. In mid 1970s, he also played for the Portland Storm in the World Football League.
Joe Ortiz was on hand to greet and congratulate Lakers’ coach Pat Riley at a special reception held at Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley’s office after the basketball team had won the NBA Championship in 1985.
The 1985 NBA World Championship Series was the championship round of the 1984–85 NBA season. The Boston Celtics were looking to repeat as NBA Champions for the first time since the 1968–69. The Celtics had home court advantage for the second year in a row as they finished the regular season with a 63-19 record while the Los Angeles Lakers compiled a 62-20 record. The Lakers looked to bounce back from the previous year's painful loss to the Celtics in the championship series, and were still seeking to beat Boston for the first time ever in NBA Finals history. Also for the first time, the Finals went to a 2-3-2 format with Games 1 and 2 in Boston while the next three games were in Los Angeles. The final two games of the series would be played in Boston, if required. This change of format came after David had a conversation with Celtics legend Red Auerbach in 1984, who didn't like the frequent traveling between games.[1] The 2-3-2 format would be used until the 2013 NBA Finals, after which the 2-2-1-1-1 format returned the following year.
"I didn’t get the opportunity to work as closely with the Lakers as I did with the Raiders and the Dodgers; however, I did host an event where I got the opportunity to interview Lakers greats such as Jerry West,  The "Iron Man" A.C. Green and Byron Scott. A friend of mine has the only remaining copy of that interview, although she says she can’t find it!"
Joe Ortiz (second from left) is seen here with members of the board of directors of the Manny Mota International Youth Organization. Manny Mota (center with uniform), the legendary designated hitter formerly with the Pittsburgh Pirates, was a Los Angeles Dodgers coach for many years. His youth organization raised scholarship funds to build a baseball complex in his hometown in the Dominican Republic, as well as scholarships for local Los Angeles youth. Joe served as the public relations director for the organization for over ten years.
Through that relationship, Joe met numerous Los Angeles Dodgers including Mike Piazza, Steve Garvey, Jim Gott and many others. The photo above is with Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza, with Joe's daughter Christen (left) and her friend Claudia during a special fund raiser for the Manny Mota Youth Foundation. "The 'Pizza Man' (Mike Piazza) was my favorite LA Dodger," beams Christen.
Tom Flores (far left) legendary NFL player and twice Super Bowl winning coach for the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders, is joined by publicist Joe Ortiz (center) and Budweiser chairman John Anderson, along with several Los Angeles Raiderettes, at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. The prestigious country club annually hosted the Tom Flores Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament to raise funds for the Boy Scouts of America, Los Angeles Area Council. The unique event featured at least one current or former NFL superstar among the foursome participants.

Heisman Trophy winner and two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback for the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders, Jim Plunkett, was a regular at the celebrity golf tournament. Jim joins his close friend and twice Super Bowl-winning coach, Tom Flores, during one of the few times the event was held at the Pelican Hills Country Club. No two Latino NFL greats have ever distinguished themselves on the grid iron as have Flores and Plunkett. Sadly, no two Latino sports figures have been shunned by the NFL Hall of Fame as these two professional football players, which still remains a shame in the annals of sports history.
"In addition to meeting and working with legendary and major league athletes, developing close and strong working relationships and personal friendship with great sports leaders like Tom Flores, Manny Mota and Ben Davidson, has been the opportunity to know that I may have played a minor role with enhancing their leadership efforts."
One of the athletes Joe is most proud to have met throughout his career was a young football player from the East Los Angeles community that is a shining example of what he considers true “commitment to Excellence.”
Randy Garcia was voted the “CIF High School Football Player of the Year (1972)” and was interviewed by Joe on his TV Show (Bienvenidos) that year. Garcia, a Wilson High School graduate, went on to play quarterback at Nebraska behind 1980 LA Rams' Super Bowl quarterback, Vince Ferragamo. Garcia is now a member of the Los Angeles Police Department, and also quarterbacked LAPD Centurions, the LAPD's football team. Joe and Randy were reunited after many years at one of the team's games at the LA Coliseum, which was sponsored by his client, The Miller Brewing Co
During the so-called 1992 “Rodney King” Riots of Los Angeles, two of the most highly visible African American leaders were Senator Diane Watson and NFL Superstar Jim Brown, who were constantly on media urging community residents to remain peaceful and calm.

Senator Watson, who was currently campaigning for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, immediately brought her campaign to a halt and converted her office into an emergency food and supply center. " "As her campaign press deputy, it was my responsibility to book her on as many media outlets as possible to giver her and her dear friend Jim Brown the opportunity to speak to other community leaders to promote peace and calm." While Jim Brown, the Hall of Fame running back for the Cleveland Browns has been hailed as the number one football player in the history of the NFL, few fans realize that he has been a civic and community leader in Los Angeles for many decades. Brown, who also made his presence felt in the motion picture arena, founded
Amer-I-can, an organization designed to enable individuals to excel in academic achievements.

The riots broke out within minutes after  a verdict came in that exonerated a group of Los Angeles police officers for the much publicized beating of Rodney King. Senator Watson and her campaign staff met at Jim Brown's home in the Hollywood hills throughout the period that Los Angeles was in flames.
Members of the “Official Tom Flores Fan Club” include its president, media personality and publicist Joe Ortiz (above left), Coachella Valley High School football legend and school leader, Richard Ramirez(above right); legendary Super Bowl winning coach (twice for the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders) Tom Flores (lower left), and CV High Alum Lori Lara Rabago.

"One thing is certain, we will never stop working toward achieving one of our major goals, which is to get Tom Flores inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame!"


  1. Brother Joe Ortiz, the ultimate publicist, organizer, pioneer, net-worker, media king and fundraising guru! Loved by All who really know him <3 I feel honored to call him my Amigo. Sending you Loving and healing Energy. Your eternal loving Hermana <3 Irma Garcia-Sinclair ;)

    1. I Love my sister Irma! Thank you for your love, support, health advice and moral support. You are one of a kind!