For sheer grotesquery, though, nothing tops the “jackelope” head mounted on a plaque in pitcher Goose Gossage’s locker.
  • For sheer grotesquery, though, nothing tops the “jackelope” head mounted on a plaque in pitcher Goose Gossage’s locker.
  • Image by Robert Burroughs
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Gordon Smith wrote feature stories for the Reader from 1978 through 1987.

Editor's picks of Smith's Reader stories:

  • Inside the Padres' lockers

  • Tony Gwynn sat in a canvas-backed chair and peered into the wooden cubicle in front of him. “What’s in my locker?” he asked, repeating the question that had been posed to him.“Well, here’s a rubber stamp that says “Tony Gwynn’ on it. I’ve never used it. Here’s a ball of putty that I squeezed to strengthen my arm when I hurt it earlier this year." (August 27, 1987)
  • The oak lady

  • "It is an Engelmann oak, a species found in the inland valleys of San Diego County. There are stands of the oaks in Riverside County and a few in Los Angeles but none exist farther north.” (February 27, 1986)

Ryan's oak tree, Quella. “It was fully grown when my father first came here in 1887, so it’s well over one hundred years old.”

Ryan's oak tree, Quella. “It was fully grown when my father first came here in 1887, so it’s well over one hundred years old.”

  • Wyatt Earp lived on Third Ave., downtown San Diego

  • One night Earp returned to the house on Third Avenue and told Sadie that a man “had sort of donated” a racehorse to him in a poker game. Earp raced it at the old Pacific Beach Racetrack. (February 6, 1986) .

Bat Masterson had worked with Earp as a deputy marshal of Dodge City and he was on his way to Ensenada to pick up an army deserter who had been jailed there. He wanted his friend Earp to accompany him to Ensenada.

Bat Masterson had worked with Earp as a deputy marshal of Dodge City and he was on his way to Ensenada to pick up an army deserter who had been jailed there. He wanted his friend Earp to accompany him to Ensenada.

David Diaz

  • A fast flight from death

  • At 6:33 p.m. the radio in the Life Flight operations center at UCSD Medical Center in Mission Hills crackles: two accidents have occurred in the East County. In Alpine, a young boy has fallen off ...(August 9, 1984)

August 5 Bonita horse accident

August 5 Bonita horse accident

  • Notes from a wagon seat

  • George McCain lives by himself in an old Airstream trailer beneath a eucalyptus tree, about half a mile from S-2, and after leaving Vallecito station Remeika and I drive up and bang on the trailer s door. (January 12, 1984)

The stage route was brought to an end by the Civil War, which made travel through the Confederate states of Texas and Arkansas to Union-supporting California impossible.

The stage route was brought to an end by the Civil War, which made travel through the Confederate states of Texas and Arkansas to Union-supporting California impossible.

  • When dinosaurs roamed and volcanoes roared in San Diego

  • The boulders rattle down a chute into the deep black mouth of the crusher. Inside the machine, two heavy steel plates come together repeatedly with force beyond imagination. Whoomp! Whoomp! Whoomp! And 150 million years of history is broken into softball-size pieces and comes out on a conveyor belt on the other side, moving toward yet another crusher in this quarry just west of Cowles Mountain on Mission Gorge Road. (April 5, 1984)

Elbert Smith: “My crew and I had been told we would be next to make a drop. We had not been told there was no bomb ready.”

Elbert Smith: “My crew and I had been told we would be next to make a drop. We had not been told there was no bomb ready.”

  • My father's role in Hiroshima

  • As a ten-year-old exploring the dark corners of my family’s garage, I once found a huge knife sheathed in a worn leather case. It had a rawhide handle and an eight-inch steel blade. When I asked my father about it, he told me it was from his days as a bomber pilot in the Pacific during World War II. (July 31, 1980)
  • What San Diegans do now when knee cartilage tears

  • Flexibility and strength. Range of motion. These are the keys to avoiding any athletic injury, or so claims Phil Tyne. Tyne owns an athletic club in downtown San Diego and he is also the conditioning coach for the San Diego Chargers; you have to believe he knows something about athletic injuries (April 2, 1981)
  • Jim Kemp – San Diego's largest cattle rancher

  • Dawn: clouds press down low over the Campo Valley, and rain seems imminent. In one corner of Jim Kemp’s cattle pens, five cowboys and one cattle broker are already hard at work, trying to get 240 head weighed and ready for shipment to the feedlot. (January 8, 1981)

Tom Morey:  "You keep working or you deteriorate."

Tom Morey: "You keep working or you deteriorate."

  • Boogie boards got their start in Carlsbad

  • Tom Morey's smile is almost cherubic, and his hair hangs down over his forehead in bangs. He is a creative thinker who is constantly hatching new ideas, and he talks about them in an earnest, boyish voice. It is a minor shock to find out he is 43 years old, has had two children by his first wife and three more by his second. (Aug. 24, 1978)
  • We've always looked after our city

  • Hamilton Marston gestures from time to time with his large, thick hands. His cheeks are ruddy, his gray hair slightly tousled, his blue eyes bright behind plain brown glasses. He is not a large man — five feet, ten inches — and as rain beats against the windows of his spacious brick house near Balboa Park, a fire blazes in the fireplace behind him. (Feb. 7, 1980)
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