50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #14 - JOE ROTH
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.
Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields were glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose
Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears.
Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup
And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland brief than a girl's.
In mid-February 1977, Joe Roth lay dying in his Berkeley apartment. His family asked a priest to go and comfort Joe. The following is excerpted from "Joe: His Fight for Life" by Joe's mother Lena Roth:
"While Father Hunt sat with Joe that night, he had a short but serious, private talk with him. In the past when he had been with the dying, Father Hunt had found that they usually wanted to straighten something out -- a feud with someone, a lie they had told, or something they had stolen. He asked Joe if he had anything he wanted to straighten out. Joe said "no." He asked Joe if there was anyone who had not come that he would like to see. Joe said, "No, they've all been here." Father Hunt could see that Joe did not want to die, but he was not afraid."Joe Roth died at 3:55 pm on Saturday, February 19, 1977, exactly thirty days after he honored his invitation to play in the Japan Bowl. He had played knowing that he was very sick, and would likely die. He had known this for his entire senior season. The tests at UCSF that confirmed his mortality the week after the Big Game were just a formality.
Athletic Director Dave Maggard delivered the news of Joe's passing to fans who had packed Harmon Gym for that night's Cal-Washington basketball game. The stunned crowd observed a moment of silence that, according to those who were there, lasted an eternity - broken only by the occasional sound of sobbing. Forty miles away, the crowd at Maples Pavillion also stood in silence to honor Joe's memory.
Three days later he was laid to rest. The Newman Center could not accommodate the throngs of mourners, who stood outside and strained to hear the speeches and blessings.
Today, every Golden Bear passes Joe's locker, which has been preserved as he left it, and hears how Joe faced death as he faced life - with head held high, always thinking of others. And hopefully they leave the locker room as better people, if not better players.