At Midland Memorial Stadium Fences and Memories Still Live
By Mark S. McDonald
Memorial Stadium in Midland, Texas, especially now, is not so different than many other high school playgrounds in the Southwest. Metal bleachers … modest-sized press box … track around the football field … chain-link fence around the whole thing.
Sometimes called “hurricane fence,” the unsightly chain-link, scientists say, will outlast all vestiges of civilization. When the Big One drops, only things left will be coyotes, the federal deficit, fire ants and chain-link.
What makes the place noteworthy, to absolutely no one but me, is that Memorial is where I played my last high school football. Never known as The House That Mac Built, Memorial was home for plenty of Midland kids on their way to college fame. A few even made it to the NFL.
Linemen Keith Bishop (Baylor, Broncos), Tom Brahaney (Oklahoma, Cardinals), Ryan Tucker (TCU, Rams) and Eric Winston (Miami, Texans) come to mind. So does running back Cedric Benson, who made all-America at Texas before playing with the NFL Bears, Bengals and Packers.
But Benson came through Lee High School in the early 2000s, long after Midland varsity games were moved to Grande Communications Stadium on the city’s west side. By then Memorial had been relegated to hosting joggers and an endless river of junior high games.
It has been stripped of its end zone bleachers, the east side stands and, along with it, much of its charm. And ironically, the most well-know athlete – and surely the most colorful – ever to play football in the old stadium actually gained his fame off the gridiron.
Edward McDaniel played guard and linebacker for Midland High, then Oklahoma University, where he quickly earned a reputation for explosive power, above-average speed and a stubborn streak of independence as deep as it was wide.
This may account for his propensity for cutting classes and defying Coach Bud Wilkinson’s rules against drinking. Teammates swear McDaniel was better with a hangover than anybody else sober.
McDaniel went on to play with the Houston Oilers, Denver Broncos and became a New York favorite among Jets fans when he once made 20-plus tackles in a game against his old Denver teammates. In the 1966 AFL expansion draft, he was chosen by the Miami Dolphins but, under Coach Don Shula, the 5-11, 250-pounder didn’t last long.
“Know who that is?” a Lee football teammate asked one autumn afternoon in late 1967, pointing to beefy guy standing outside the south end zone of the Rebel practice field. I didn’t.
Later that afternoon I learned the blocky visitor with the stone monument for a face shared Oklahoma football roots with our head coach Bob Burris. By the next year, 1968, McDaniel had punched out two Florida cops, which got him unceremoniously packed, boxed and shipped to San Diego.
McDaniel never played a down for the Chargers, turning instead to another physical pursuit with show-biz flair – pro wrestling.
Trained by promoter Dory Funk of Amarillo, McDaniel, a Choctaw-Chickasaw native of Oklahoma wearing a headdress of feathers, became was an instant hit on the cauliflower ear circuit. If you recognize the late “Wahoo” McDaniel, who died in 2002 at age 63, move to the head of the class.
That, and check your dentures. You’re old enough you might need them.
Mark McDonald serves as editor of this site, while finishing a book on how parents and coaches screw up youth baseball. “They Gave Us Baseball – Now Look What We’ve Done” will be released in 2015.