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His Teams Always Had a Prayer

Courtesy Robert Jamplis

WHERE THE HEART IS: Sivore's allegiance was clear.

Moments before the Stanford football team took the field for the 1972 Rose Bowl game, a priest in full vestments rushed into the locker room accompanied by a police escort. Father Victor Sivore had flown on a red-eye to Pasadena from Chicago, where he had celebrated midnight Mass, then raced to the Rose Bowl, police officer in tow, where the Stanford team was waiting for him to provide a blessing and invocation. Coach John Ralston had delayed sending the team out to face Michigan until Sivore arrived. Just as officials were ordering the team to take the field, the priest appeared, the room went momentarily silent, and Sivore gave his blessing.

That story and others about Sivore were shared by 20 or so friends who met in Half Moon Bay, Calif., for an unusual memorial in June honoring “the Robe,” as the priest was called by Stanford players and coaches in the early ’70s. Sivore, 62, died in January from complications following back surgery.

Robert Jamplis, Sivore’s cousin and Stanford’s team physician at that time, had introduced the priest to the team prior to a game at Notre Dame in the mid-’60s. “He was the only priest in the stadium wearing a red jacket,” Jamplis recalls. A few years later, Sivore gave the pregame blessing at the 1971 Rose Bowl, where Stanford defeated Ohio State, 27-17. When the team returned to Pasadena the next season, Ralston asked Sivore to again address them. After Stanford won that game, beating Michigan, 13-12, the priest became a kind of “spiritual mascot,” says Jamplis.

Sivore befriended several Stanford student-athletes and officiated at some of their weddings, including that of Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett, ’71.

Sivore’s funeral at Saints Cyril and Methodius Church in Lemont, Ill., where he had been pastor, was attended by more than 1,000 people. He was laid to rest in his vestments, under which he wore a red Stanford T-shirt.

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