Dips

Dips

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Wim Jansen Joins the Diplomats

March 6, 1980: The Dips hold a press to announce their third major acquisition, Wim Jansen, for the 1980 season. An interesting side note, the jersey from the press conference showed up on ebay about 20 years later along with a 1979 team picture and another photo. If anyone knows where it is or wants to sell, feel free to contact me.

March 6, 1980 press conference.                                                                         Ebay photo

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Looking Back & Catching Up with Steve Hornor

How many trainers were asked to endorse car-dealerships
with Johan Cruyff? Hornor stands at far right.
It might be easier to state what Steve Hornor did not do during his tenure with the Diplomats rather than all the responsibilities he did fulfill. In his first year alone, Hornor served as head athletic trainer, equipment manager, locker room manager, launderer, booked all flights, hotel accommodations and arranged meals. “That first year was very difficult, but still very thrilling for a 24-year-old kid,” he fondly remembers.

What is equally impressive is that Hornor secured his multi-faceted job with the Dips prior to graduating from the University of Oregon. “I took my last final and drove from Eugene, Oregon to San Francisco, where the Dips were beginning their pre-season, and onto Phoenix prior to returning to D.C. two weeks later.”

Soccer was not Hornor’s first sport of choice. He played basketball at De Anza College in Cupertino, California. There he met Dave “Obie” Obenour, who is still Hornor’s mentor to this day. Obenour was named the first trainer for the San Jose Earthquakes and he tapped Hornor to serve as clubhouse boy.

Not only was this his introduction to soccer, but an introduction to an important career connection. The General Manager for the Earthquakes was John Carbray, and it is no coincidence that when Carbray became GM for the Diplomats in 1977, Hornor was one of his first hires.

A testament to Hornor’s athletic ability is the fact that he was first exposed to soccer in 1974, yet when he transferred to the University of Oregon to complete his undergraduate studies two year later he was the starting goalie for the Ducks. Hornor humbly states soccer was a club sport at the time, but it is still impressive how quickly he picked up and excelled at the game. 
 Hornor in action as photographed by
The Washington Star.
As a result of this experience, Coach Gordon Bradley used Hornor as an active player in practices. "I'm sure they (roster players) took it easy on me. Often, I practiced on travel days with those who had not played the day before. I did warm up Bill Irwin and the backup keeper frequently on game day."

As was to be expected in the NASL, the facilities provided to visiting teams varied, usually depending on the host team's operating budget and if the facility was shared with another professional team.

"Tulsa (Roughnecks) was filthy and very small. I vividly remember playing at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Sting (June, 1980). It was awesome to have been there but the locker room they gave to the visiting team was the room for umpires in Major League Baseball." Hence, a locker room meant to accommodate half a dozen was being used by upwards of 25 players and coaches.

That day at Wrigley provided another vivid memory for Hornor. A fierce thunderstorm forced a 28-minute delay in the action. He shares, “the two benches were in center and left field. The field ran from right field to third baseline. You could hardly see the players as they ran by on the field it was raining so hard. Lightning struck the top of stadium down the right field line. I think it was Bill Irwin in goal at that end of the field, and he took off running while the game was still going on. They stopped the match and we had a rain delay for a while. It was crazy." 

Hornor had to make a quick transition from Trainer to Director of Operations in the aftermath of a road match. "I had to make sure that the bus was available to leave the stadium when we were ready to leave. I would check us in at the airport and before we flew gave Tommy O'Hara anti-nausea medicine."

In what is still remembered as the biggest game in Diplomats history, it was Hornor who appeared on the front page of The Washington Post, much to his surprise. "An official (Gordon Arrowsmith) was struck in the head by a piece of ice that was thrown from the stands by a fan." Hornor attended to Arrowsmith, who was able to finish officiating the match. 

"The next morning, I was picking up the paper from my driveway and saw my picture. I remember thinking, 'why is the sports section on the outside?' I then realized it was the front page!" In their seven year history, Hornor was the only member of the franchise to be on the cover of The Post.
















Life After the Diplomats
When the original Diplomats franchise was terminated in December, 1980, Hornor returned west and served as Head Athletic Trainer at Yuba Community College in California for the next 15 years. During this time he also worked with the U.S. Olympic Committee Medical Staff and the 1987 Pan Am Games. In 1996, he became Head Trainer and Director of Sports Medicine at Arkansas Tech University. 

Since 2005, Hornor has worked at the University of Central Arkansas as both athletic trainer and a clinical instructor. In 2015, he was inducted into the Arkansas Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame. Though he does not play sports anymore, Hornor loves to fly fish and ride his bike. 

After 41 years in the business, he is philosophical about his career. "It's a people profession, which is why I've remained an athletic trainer all these years. I've joked with my athletes no matter their age or status, and even when athletes are being paid to compete, it's still a game. At every place I've worked, I've done my best to look out for the well-being of athletes and help them compete at the highest level they can."

It's a shame that those 41 years did not include more time with the Dips!



Sunday, July 15, 2018

Gail Rongen Looking For Kidney Donor!

Gail Rongen, wife of Dips alum Thomas Rongen, is in need of a kidney. Please help spread the word. Thank you.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Diplomats & The 1978 World Cup

Forty years ago, as Argentina was celebrating their first World Cup
title, the Dips were still in the honeymoon phase of their relationship with the Madison Square Garden Corporation (MSG), their new owners. The money that MSG was willing to spend to make the Diplomats a contender was far more than the franchise had ever had in their operating budget.

"Since the new owners took over, we've been looking at a different class of player," Coach Gordon Bradley stated to the Washington Post on November 8, 1978.  "At this point, there is no reason for us to sign a player unless he's going to be 50 or 60 or 70 times percent better than the player we have at that position now. I know if I go to the Madison Square Garden people and tell them I want a player and he's going to make a big difference to our team, they'll give me the money I need."

In a January 23, 1979, article titled "Diplomats, Keegan Reach Agreement," the Post reported that the club had reached a verbal agreement with 1978 European Player of the Year Kevin Keegan for the upcoming season (unfortunately, this never came to be http://washingtondiplomats.blogspot.com/2010/07/kevin-keegan-diplomat.html). The final two paragraphs of the article publicly confirmed for the first time that the Diplomats were also in negotiations with Argentine World Cup Team Captain Daniel Passarella. An undisclosed source was quoted as stating the Dips were, "90 percent of the way" to finalizing a deal.

About a week later, a small byline in The Washington Star read "Dips Reach Financial Impasse on Passarella." Little information was provided except for a quote from a team spokesman stating, "At this point it is doubtful we will sign him this year. Negotiations have not terminated but they have reached an impasse."

On February 8, The Post reported the disappointing news that the two parties had broken off negotiations. Reports from Argentine news sources stated that the Dips had offered a multi-year $1.8 million deal. General Manager John Carbray told the Post that the deal broke down when the Diplomats and River Plate, Passarella's club in Argentina, could not agree on exhibition games in America, "and other secondary parts of the agreement."