By Rachel Singer
“My goal is to deny yours”
If you do not play or follow soccer, you may have to sit and ponder that quote for a moment…
If you are a goalkeeper on the soccer field, it makes perfect sense. If you are a 71-year-old goalkeeper, it is your mantra!
I bring to you the words and recollections of an everyday man who has a “not so everyday story” to tell. A man I have called Dad for the last 46 years.
My dad is an inspiration to the players and spectators alike who watch him at the Santa Clarita Soccer Center each week; going as they say “horizontal.”
Rodney Anthony Nelson Bayne was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela in 1938.
His father Archie worked in the oil industry while his mother Brenda was a homemaker, but, a homemaker of epic proportions. She was mother to 7 children; having given birth to the first four by the time she was 21 years old!
Feeling homesick for the “islands” where they had spent most of their lives, Archie and Brenda moved their growing family back to the island of Trinidad & Tobago, their “hometown.”
Rodney was six years old and recalled, “living in a big house with a lot of land. The back boundary was a small river and we moved stones and rocks to create a dam. A small pool formed and that is where I learned to swim.”
The boy who loved swimming in a homemade pool with his siblings could not imagine he would one day represent his island as a champion swimmer.
In 1949, Rodney began attending Fatima College, an all-boys school run by the Holy Ghost Fathers of Ireland. Fatima College schooled boys from the ages of 11 through 18 and was only one of three schools on the island for boys.
Maybe it was the “all-boys” atmosphere, but when Rodney was fourteen and a bit oblivious, a friend’s sister had to tell him, “Patricia Plummer likes you!” “Who is Patricia”, he thought. He looked down the road and saw a beautiful girl sitting on her bike. She had hair down to her waist. “Oh that Patricia!”
Rodney was 14 and Patricia was 11. They married 10 years later and this past February celebrated 47 years of wedded bliss.
It may have been during their young courtship that Rodney recognized he might have a talent for athletics. In the evenings, when Patricia’s father Monty would return home from work, Rodney would jump out of a window “and run like hell!”
Soccer was all consuming for the boys at Fatima College. The school leagues were competitive and if your skills were top notch there was the chance that you could earn a position on Trinidad’s club team, the “Casuals” in their intermediate division.
Only the cream of the island crop made it onto the Casuals 1st Division team!
Rodney played Forward for 4 years at Fatima. He recalled, “During my final year, I realized two things; first, our school did not have a goalkeeper and second, there were so many Forwards that the chance of me making the Casuals intermediate team was slim.”
Armed with that knowledge, but with no formal training as a goalkeeper, Rodney tried out for the position and made it. His forethought had paid off.
Graduation from Fatima loomed and Rodney at 18 was unsure of his future career plans. Things came swiftly into focus one afternoon when 3 RAF (Royal Air Force) bombers did a fly by.
“Trinidad was part of the British Commonwealth, so I was able to join the Canadian Air Force.”
While in Canada, Rodney discovered that his sporting talents were not limited to the soccer field.
“I saw a sign promoting an intramural swim meet. I thought I would give it a try, though I had never swam competitively. When I got to the pool and saw everyone displaying their pins and badges, I almost turned around.”
It was a good thing he didn’t, Rodney placed 1st in both the 50 and 100 yard Freestyle!
After only a year in Canada, just like his mother before him, he felt the same pang of homesickness and headed back to Trinidad. He returned to fanfare.
His swimming accomplishments were widely celebrated by friends, family and the local news media. He tried out and reclaimed his position as keeper for the Casuals intermediate team.
During this time, the number one goalkeeper in all of the Caribbean was Pat Gomez, who was also the Casuals 1st division keeper. Rodney could not imagine ever filling those soccer shoes, but fate (and a job transfer) intervened.
For the first time ever, Trinidad sent a team to play in England and Pat Gomez was their captain. Rodney remembered, “I took his place during the months they were touring England.
When the team returned, Pat’s job transferred him to the southern part of the island. I was able to continue as the Casuals 1st division keeper, a position I held for four years.”
The Casuals to Trinidad would be equivalent to our LA Galaxy (but without the paychecks!). Record crowds attended all of their games as I saw first hand from the news clippings and snapshots filling the pages of my dad’s scrapbook.
In between goalkeeping, working and becoming a newlywed, Rodney found time to continue competitive swimming. He joined the Trinidad Amateur Water Polo & Swimming Association as the team’s “Freestyle Sprinter.” He traveled to the island of Barbados to compete alongside his friend Joey Kauffman and the two swimmers placed in all of their meets.
“I probably would have placed higher if there hadn’t been a groundswell,” Rodney acknowledged. When you swam competitively in the islands, a barge was placed across from a jetty in the Atlantic Ocean and you swam your laps between the two. No controlled conditions for the island boys….
Mounting cultural tensions within Trinidad and limited career opportunities were becoming the norm in 1964. Rodney, now married and with a baby, made the decision to leave his island homeland and move his family to the United States.
“In a way I was excited to go, I was always very Pro-America, probably from watching all of John Wayne’s movies!”
The Bayne’s arrived in Orange County, California in November 1964, and like a homing pigeon, Rodney found an announcement in the OC Register that a new amateur soccer team was forming. After one tryout, Rodney was the official keeper for the Ross Electric team. (This pre-dated Professional Soccer (MLS) in the United States, which began in the 1990’s)
Ross Electric played an exhibition game against the LA Kickers who had just won the U.S. National Cup and were the best team in the country. The Kickers were expected to wipe the soccer field with Ross.
The final score was Kickers 3 and Ross 2. “Rachel, let me tell you it was the best game I ever played in my life,” my dad smiled.
Rodney remembered the day, “Early in that game, I really hurt my knee. In those days, you could run into and hit the goalkeepers. I played the entire game injured and the next day my knee was so swollen I ended up in the hospital for 10 days and in a full leg cast.” It took a year to rehabilitate.
During the year long “forced hiatus” from Ross Electric, the team changed their name to “Orange County”. Rodney healed and once again heard the call of the grass and the net. He proved to his old team, that he still had “it” and became Orange County’s keeper.
The U.S. Open Cup (which is in its 96th year) is now called the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and was the only soccer cup competition within the United States in the 1960′, 70’s and 80’s. If you won that cup, your team was considered the best in the nation!
In 1967, the Orange County team with Rodney as their keeper won the West Coast Title after defeating their old nemesis the LA Kickers. It was during this game that another player came from behind and ran full steam into his back.
With his usual determination and grit, Rodney finished the game with a ruptured kidney and the next day was hospitalized for over a week.
“The doctor said I could only continue playing as long as I wore a metal band around my back to protect my kidneys,” he stated.
Four weeks later in June of 67, Rodney, playing with the metal band, was instrumental when Orange County defeated the Chicago team in Illinois. That win earned them the right to play in the finals of the U.S. Open Cup in New York against the NY Greek Americans!
Orange County lost 3-1 in that final game, but to think that their team was second in the country was astounding. And to think that until a few weeks ago, I was unaware that my father played soccer on such a level was astounding.
My dad’s collection of photographs and careful preservation of news clippings provided me a window into those glory days that summer of 1967.
With the addition of two sons, Mark and Stephen, and wanting to focus on a career in accounting, Rodney took a self-imposed early retirement from soccer that lasted 30 years!
The allure of sand, sea and fond memories once again beckoned. Rodney and Patricia made their journey back to Trinidad in 1993 where they lived for 12 years.
Rodney came out of soccer retirement in 2002 when he and some of his old school friends began an “over 60″ team. It was just like old times, but the smell of newly mowed grass in the mornings was usurped a bit by the brisk aroma of Ben Gay.
In 2004, Patricia and Rodney traded sunsets over the Atlantic for sunsets over Magic Mountain’s Sky Tower.
Their tropical themed townhome in Valencia gives them a taste of the islands, and the heat of our summer puts them right back on the beach with a rum punch in hand.
When Patricia takes vacation from her job at Princess Cruises, they can usually be found sitting by the pool, walking the Paseos and “fêting” with their family, which has grown to include 11 grandchildren.
Rodney’s retirement from accounting has brought him a renewed love of old television (think Sanford & Son, M*A*S*H and Golden Girls), quiet time for John Wayne movies, a continued reverence for President Ronald Reagan and the thrill of thoroughbred horseracing.
It comes as no surprise that his favorite post-retirement activity is his continuing pursuit of perfection on the soccer field. On Friday and Sunday nights at the Santa Clarita Soccer Center, a 71 year-old goalie focuses solely on the ball while the crowd in the stands are focused on the “old guy” still diving across the net doing whatever it takes to deny that goal.
It’s a wonderful thing.
Thank you for indulging me this very personal Hometown Story. It certainly lends credence to the old adage that “everybody has a story.”
Dad, you’re the best.