The passing of legendary Coach Ara Parseghian this week was yet another grim reminder that I’m not getting any younger.

My two favorite Notre Dame football coaches are Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz. And I’m not sure in which order.

Someone asked me why we have a story and an obituary on Coach Parseghian in The Highland County Press. That’s a fair question.

Here are three reasons:

1. Coach Parseghian brought my favorite football team, the Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish, back from the abyss of NCAA football when University President the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh (Father Ted) approved his hiring for the 1964 season.

Coach Parseghian led the Irish to a 95-17-4 record (.836) over his 11 seasons in South Bend, highlighted by the 1966 and 1973 teams that finished 9-0-1 and 11-0-0, respectively, and claimed Notre Dame’s eighth and ninth national championships.

He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1980.

As the Fightin’ Irish coach from 1964-74, nine of Coach Parseghian’s 11 teams finished the year ranked in the top 10 of the final Associated Press poll, and on 40 occasions during that period, Irish players received first-team All-American recognition. He coached eight NCAA postgraduate scholarship recipients, 17 Academic All-Americans and five winners of the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award.

2. In 1948, in Greenfield, Ohio, Ara married Kathleen Davis, who survives. (Thanks to the late Ernie B. Blankenship for that bit of local history.)

3. Coach Parseghian also was involved in perhaps the most famous tie in NCAA football history – the 1966 "Game of the Century" between Notre Dame and Michigan State.

The Irish ran out the clock after the Spartans’ Bubba Smith sacked Notre Dame's backup quarterback on the second-to-last play. Earlier in the game, Smith knocked out starting QB Terry Hanratty.

In an interview with The Chicago Tribune on the game's 50th anniversary last year, Coach Parseghian said that the idea that he "settled" for a tie still angers him: "We didn't go for a tie; the game ended in a tie. Christ, somebody ought to wake up to that."

I watched that game on a black-and-white TV set in St. Martin with my dad in the late fall of 1966. Our family was moving on Game Day, either to Snowhill Road or Crooked Road. (I could never keep all the moves in their proper sequence.)

The house in St. Martin was virtually empty – and cold – by the end of the game. I know we wanted the Irish to win; but with two injured quarterbacks, Coach Parseghian played it right. The game ended at 10-10.

And the Irish finished undefeated at 9-0-1 and earned the national championship.

In 1973, Coach Parseghian’s Irish won another national championship, defeating Bear Bryant’s Alabama Crimson Tide in what I still maintain was the greatest college football game I’ve ever seen.

A very close second is Ohio State’s Jan. 3, 2003 Fiesta Bowl win over the Miami Hurricanes, 31-24, in double overtime for the BCS National Championship.

That was the night I had to leave home late in the second half and go back to work to change the front page just before press time – just in case OSU won. My son, Colin, celebrated that victory without me.

• • •

• In other sports news, I’ve been reading a lot, lately. One of the books that I’m reading for the second time is Harvey Araton’s “Driving Mr. Yogi” about the relationship between Hall of Famers Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry. (Guidry was Yogi’s chauffeur during several of the New York Yankees’ spring training camps in Florida.)

When I reached Page 165 of Araton’s fine book, I had to stop and say something to Colin.

“Do you know that the Cincinnati Reds could have had three of the Yankees famous Core Four (Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte) players?”

Colin said he didn’t know.

Neither did I.

It’s no wonder the Reds haven’t won anything since 1990. They are cursed by three of the Core Four.

Granted, most serious baseball fans understand that Chad Mottola is perhaps more famous as the answer to a trivia question than anything else. In 1992, Reds GM Jim Bowden (old Leather Pants) drafted Mottola ahead of someone named Derek Jeter. No kidding.

Mottola played in just 59 Major League games.

That was Strike One.

Not long after that, according to Araton, the Reds turned down a trade that would send Reds pitcher David Wells to the Yankees for Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada. (Wells would become a Yankee anyway. He had an 18-4 season in New York. And on May 17, 1998, Wells pitched the 15th perfect game in baseball history.

Strike Two and Strike Three.

Jeter, Rivera, Posada and Pettitte joined the New York Yankees organization in the early 1990s as amateurs.

Jeter became the Yankees all-time hits leader on Sept. 11, 2009, with his 2,722nd hit, surpassing Lou Gehrig. On July 9, 2011, he collected his 3,000th hit, the first Yankee to accomplish the feat and collect all 3,000 hits with the team. In 2011, Jeter broke Mickey Mantle's record for most games played as a Yankee. His No. 2 was retired on May 14, 2017.

Rivera played 19 seasons with the Yankees (1995–2013), serving as closer for 17 years. He retired as MLB's career leader in saves (652) and games finished (952), having surpassed Trevor Hoffman in both categories in 2011. On Sept. 22, 2013, Rivera became the first active Yankee player to have his number retired by the organization. He was the last major league player to wear number 42 full-time, following its league-wide retirement in honor of Jackie Robinson.

Posada is only the fifth major league catcher with at least 1,500 hits, 350 doubles, 275 home runs, and 1,000 runs batted in, in a career and the only major league catcher to ever record a .330 batting average or better with 40 doubles, 20 home runs and 90 RBIs in a season. He is only the second Yankees catcher to hit 30 home runs in a season, after Yogi Berra. His No. 20 was retired on Aug. 22, 2015.

Those three could have been Cincinnati Reds.

By the way, Pettitte was no slouch, either.

Pettitte holds the all-time record for postseason victories, with 19 wins in total. Among Yankees pitchers, he ranks first in strikeouts and third in wins (213). His No. 46 was retired in August 2015.

What might have been…

And then there was the Paul O’Neill deal to New York. Never mind…Jim Bowden is what he is.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press, your only locally owned and operated newspaper with no entangling alliances with anyone.