Skip to main content

Five Laterals and a Trombone: "The Play" 40 Years On

Sponsored by

This event is over.

Event Details:

Additional resources
Event photos (credits: Sunny Scott)
Program video
Read Stanford Report article on the program

The book Five Laterals and a Trombone: Cal, Stanford, and the Wildest Ending in College Football History sets the scene for the madcap story as it developed in November 1982, tracing the ups and downs, mood swings, and hijinks surrounding the 85th Big Game between archrival schools — the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University. The game pitted Stanford’s offense led by Heisman Trophy candidate John Elway and Cal’s defense led by future NFL head coach Ron Rivera.

A member of two Pulitzer Prize winning teams, Tyler Bridges has deftly reconstructed the pivotal moments and resulting lore, thanks to more than 375 interviews with all the key figures on both sides of the rivalry, including players, coaches, referees, band members, and stadium personnel.

The Play was not televised live. There was no instant replay — let alone a viral video. It took hours for news of the game’s outcome to spread across the country, yet decades later football fans remain enthralled by the bizarre sequence in this classic contest.

Coinciding with the release of this new definitive history, the Stanford Historical Society is pleased to bring together Tyler Bridges, Stanford ’82, Gary M. Pomerantz, Cal '82, and a panel of participants from the day including a player from each team, the trombone player, and a newspaper prankster. All will broaden your appreciation of what happened that day and why The Play remains the most memorable finish in college football history.

Signed copies of Tyler Bridges’s book will be available for sale before and after the program.