June 17, 1994

In any given day, all sorts of events happen around our everyday lives, and some impact our thoughts more extensively than others.  To the point that it becomes quite a trivial question of “where were you woj_simpson_chase2hen such event happened?” From a personal standpoint, the one day of the calendar that stands out the most in the last 20 years has to be one on June 17, 1994.  What made that day so much more significant to me than any other day?  The reason was very simple, I was one of those people who were involuntary caught into one of the most significant piece of history during a time that there were other events, particularly with several sporting events, that occurred on the same day.  That day was also significant in a  personal standpoint as it was just 24 hours earlier that I had graduated from Lincoln High School in San Francisco as part of Class of 1994, and it was supposed to be a cheerful day but ended up wasn’t because one particularly criminal investigation against a well-known sports personality who, until that point in time was on television on NBC Sports with Bob Costas for the NFL broadcast, became the subject of the double murder case of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.  As the week progressed while I was preparing for my high school graduation, the attention of the world – myself included – began to shift towards, and later overshadowed, by one O. J. Simpson instead of everything else that had been happening on the same day, and then for months and years after.  Rather than focusing the joy of having hosted the first World Cup in the United States soil, watching the chase of then-record single-season home run of Babe Ruth by the likes of Matt Williams, Barry Bonds and Ken Griffrey Jr., or the New York Rangers Stanley Cup victory parade, or even the celebration of my older cousin’s graduation at UCLA, all eyes and focus were on what happened on that day.  Twenty years on, for the first time perhaps ever – if anyone who hasn’t heard about it for the first time – I am telling you the parallel story of what happened on that particularly fateful day that was on June 17, 1994.

Before I began this memoir though, this article came about after watching an ESPN film of the same title for about 3 times, and since I have been doing quite a bit of retrospectives in this blog anyway, why not add the mother of all retrospective of this fateful day.  So here’s a quick rundown on what happened around the world – in parallel with the O. J. Simpson case – earlier in that week while I was rehearsing my high school graduation, although most of the events are heavily tilted towards sports:

  • 6/12/1994: The Stanley Cup Finals was heading towards the most pivotal game – Game 7 – at Madison Square Garden, 1994 FIFA World Cup was in the final preparation stage, NBA finals headed to New York for Games 3-5 with Game 3 was won by Houston Rockets by the score of 93-89 the day before (6/12/1994), Boeing 777 made its first flight, and then the unthinkable happened: the discovery of the bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson & Ronald Goldman at Brown’s residence in Los Angeles.
  • 6/13/1994: $15 billion class action law suit was allowed to proceed by a jury in Anchorage, Alaska, who blamed the captain of Exxon Valdez, Joseph Hazelwood, for recklessness in resulting the spill back in 1989. (First day of graduation rehearsal at Lincoln’s auditorium)
  • 6/14/1994: New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup Finals after defeating Vancouver Canucks at Madison Square Garden in a thrilling 7-Game series, resulting into a riot occurred on the streets of Vancouver.  (Second day of graduation rehearsal at Lincoln’s auditorium)
  • 6/15/1994: Vatican established in full diplomatic relationship with Israel.  (Third day of graduation rehearsal at Masonic Auditorium) Meanwhile, Madison Square Garden hosted Game 4 of the year’s NBA Finals between Houston Rocket Rockets and New York Knicks later that evening, which the latter team once again evened the series tie at 2 apiece with the score of 91-82
  • 6/16/1994: High School graduation ceremony. First, there was a roll call at the reception area, then all the classmates of that class assembled at the hall – with me sitting with the choir as I was a member of that despite being a late addition late in my senior year.  Meanwhile, LAPD and LA District Attorney were on the verge of making a decision on whether O.J. Simpson should be indicted for murder of his ex-wife and her friend – soon after Simpson ruled as prime suspect.   After the ceremony was completed in the late afternoon, my whole family had to rush back home and started packing for the upcoming Los Angeles trip – all the while the world awaited the news of the indictment.  Also, the first round of 1994 U.S. Golf Open began with Tom Watson took the early lead by scoring -3 (68 strokes) at the Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, while Arnold Palmer, who had won the US Open in 1960, scored 77 (+6).

june-17-19941So with that heavy background were established, then the series of events on that fateful day, June 17, 1994,  were about to occur throughout the day.  Early in that morning, I woke up and had breakfast before awaiting my other cousin Donny Wong arrived at my house in preparation to head out to Los Angeles.  Soon after a few moments after setting up the bags into the trunk, my family – which included mom, dad, my beloved and sorely missed grandfather (mom’s father), and myself – were on our way to Los Angeles via a 9-hour drive on freeway.  At 9:00 AM, the first of series of many events occurred while we had just touched Interstate 5 toward southbound:

  1. Simpson’s family drove away from the Brentwood Estates to attempt their best to avoid contact with news media.
  2. Second Round of US Golf Open began with Palmer led off for his final appearance in the tournament.
  3. The victory parade for the New York Rangers began on the streets of New York.
  4. OJ Simpson was officially charged with the double murder with special circumstances, and was told to surrender himself to LAPD within one hour.
  5. 1994 FIFA World Cup kicked off in Chicago with then-President Bill Clinton officially made the declaration.
  6. An alleged bomb threat came about during the time of Simpson’s arrest warrant was issued after Simpson no-showed his surrendering.
  7. Al Cowlings was accused of aiding Simpson’s “escape”, which was proven otherwise as all Cowlings did was to transport Simpson back to his residence at that time.

By the time Arnold Palmer had scored 81 in the Second Round of US Golf Open in his final appearance for that event (+16 for the tournament with 158 strokes for the two rounds), while the New York Rangers met with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani during the parade, and he made the comment of “Go Knicks!” in hopes of having a double championship in the city, we were at Fresno resting for meal before resuming the trip.  At that point in time, nobody in the family has heard the news as of yet, with all the while the world were glued to the television witnessing the unthinkable as O.J. Simpson, who was born in San Francisco and went to City College of San Francisco, to which it was an irony that I also went there soon after the L.A. trip.  It was also ironic that Arnold Palmer, who had befriended with Simpson and even made a commercial together, made his final US Open Golf tournament just as the latter were on the news headline of the worst sort.  Soon after, as we made our way towards Bakersfield for another stretch, Simpson had issued an apparent suicide note that was read by his attorneys Robert Kardashian (the birth father of Kim Kardashian-West) Robert Sharpiro, who made the plead to surrender during a press conference.

While World Cup match went on, so had Major League Baseball game between Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners at Kauffman Stadium, and Ken Griffrey had just hit his 30th home run before 6/30 off David Cone.  As the approach towards Los Angeles was near, Game 5 of the NBA finals was about to commence, and Simpson had finally made his appearance by entering Cowlings’ white Ford Bronco under rather low speed – while the former carried a firearm threatening with commit suicide during negotiation.  This is where the traffic game on I-5 became more apparent, and unfortunately, with the longer the chase continued as so many people had simply slowed down or parked on freeway, and began cheering on Simpson, my own mental instability due to my previously deep trauma that resulting a deep depression, began to surface for wishing death out of the blue as I began to feel the urge of going to restroom to pee.  My father, who still doesn’t know that my depression was that deep and scarred due to years of pressure, physical & emotional abuses, and loss of grandmother, yelled at me for going insane.  It was around 4:30 p.m., if not later, when it occurred.  I have glimpses of that fragility occurred before with anger management, but that was the first time I was truly losing my mind.  Fortunately, though, we had finally arrived at the motel that we were staying before that became worse.  Immediately after getting room keys, we dropped our luggage while I rushed to the restroom and made my deposit.  Soon after, I turned on the television inside the room and found out what happened in a split screen between the basketball game that was at halftime and the news on Simpson.  About two hours after as we went to a nearby restaurant for dinner, the Knicks had taken Game 5 and the series lead while the Simpson drama was heading toward its conclusion as he finally surrendered to LAPD – but not until after even more media coverage.  As for me, the Simpson chase had essentially spoiled my mode on the trip for the rest of the way.  While I remembered going to Jimmy Wong’s graduation at UCLA, the trips to Universal Studios in Hollywood, San Diego Animal Park, and Disneyland, but my focus was essentially capsized towards the Simpson’s case.  By the time we’ve returned home a few days later, O.J. Simpson and his murder case remained under that spotlight for quite some time – even after the World Cup was over with Brazil winning the tournament in honor of their countryman by the name of Aryton Senna (that would be written on another article on another blog at another time), who was tragically killed in a crash during that year’s Formula One San Marino Grand Prix at Imola just 2 1/2 months prior on May 1, 2014.

Even though it has been 20 years since that fateful day, the whole Simpson affair since 6/12/1994 have altered the perception towards celebrity in ways that it has become both a blessing and a curse.  For those who were caught into that, whether willing or otherwise, knowingly or otherwise, their lives have been altered dramatically.  On a personal standpoint, once again, that literally altered my thought process in more ways than one; unfortunately, some of those thoughts have become the sorts of nightmares and calamity that have taken a huge toll on my personal life and my career alike.  Meanwhile, here’s a view of what have occurred in the sporting world since that day:

  • Major League Baseball was forced into yet another labor showdown that eventually led into the cancellation of the 1994 World Series on September 2 after the players voted for a strike on August 12.  The cancellation of the baseball season, which was a first since early in that century back in 1904, was the first time a postseason was lost due to labor issues while the 1904 cancellation of postseason was due to a disagreement between John McGraw, the manager of the then-New York Giants, and Ban Johnson, the President of the American League, after McGraw refused to allow his club to play against the Boston Americans, which was the American League champion at that time.  MLB struggled to regain the trusts of baseball fans and sports fan alike until Cal Ripken Jr. broke the all-time record (56-year-old record) for consecutive starts of 2130 games by the late Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees on September 6, 1995.  However, the price of the 1994 cancellation of postseason included the followings:
    • The home run chase to surpass Babe Ruth’s single season record by Ken Griffey Jr. of Seattle Mariners, Matt Williams and Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants.  Williams was leading the chase with 43 home runs, with Griffey had 40 and Bonds had 37.  Had the season continued, depending the health on all three superstars, the chase would not have been postponed until 1998 by Mark McGwire, who had played for Tony LaRussa before the 1997 season, and Sammy Sosa, and one of three men might already have had broken the record.
    • The chance of playing postseason for the Montreal Expos since the 1981 postseason:  The Expos were leading the entire league with the best record (74-40) with the campaign of building a new stadium to replace the Olympic Stadium before the strike.  The strike damaged the campaign on both fronts and the Expos was never the same as the team began selling off star players in the seasons after 1994.  Larry Walker joined the Colorado Rockies in 1995 and remained there for the remainder of his career; Moises Alou left for Florida Marlins in 1997 and won the World Series that season before playing for Houston Astros, which were playing for National League until 2013 season, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, and New York Mets in the seasons after; Marquis Grissom joined the Atlanta Braves and won the 1995 WS while also played for 2 more WS the next two season (first with Braves in 1996, and then the Cleveland Indians in 1997); Pedro Martinez remained there until 1997 when he was sent to Boston Red Sox, and he won the WS with the Red Sox for the first time since 1918 in 2004, and went on to play with New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies; Mel Rojas, Tim Scott, Ken Hill, Wil Cordero, Jeff Fassero, and Sean Berry were never the same players they were back in 1994 as they became ineffective or inconsistent journeymen for their remaining careers; John Wetteland joined the Yankees in 1995, played in 2 postseasons and also won the WS in 1996; Jeff Shaw became a 2-time all-star in 1998 & 2001; Gil Heredia briefly joined the Texas Rangers in 1996 and returned to the Bay Area with Oakland Athletics for the remaining career.  The Expos franchise, meanwhile, went into decline and was purchased by the MLB on December 20, 2001, and eventually found its way back to Washington as Washington Nationals by 2005 after spending part of two seasons in Puerto Rico.  Montreal has left without a team since then, and the Olympic Stadium (Stade Olympique) has since been used by Canadian Football League team Montreal Alouettes and occasionally by the Montreal Impact of Major League Soccer.
    • The pennant chase: Going into the 1994 season with a huge realignment that had just been implemented, had the season continued instead of the strike, a potential multiple divisional title chases would have been just as interesting as it was with the home run chase.
      • National League West: Giants-Dodgers rivalry
      • American League West: Oakland Athletics v. Texas Rangers
      • American League Central: Chicago White Sox v. Cleveland Indians
      • National League Central: Cincinnati Reds v. Houston Astros
  • From 1995 to 2013,  Boston Red Sox had won 3 World Series (2004, 2007, 2013), New York Yankees won 5 (1996, 1998-2000, 2009), Florida Marlins (1997, 2003), San Francisco Giants (2010, 2012), St. Louis Cardinals (2006, 2011) had won 2 WS each, Chicago White Sox (2005), Arizona Diamondbacks (2001), and Philadelphia Phillies (2008) had won one apiece.
  • Brazil had since won the 1994 & 2002 World Cup while hosts the 2014 competition, while Italy won theirs in 2006 edition.
  • Michael Schumacher, who had won the same SMGP soon after Senna crashed and died, won 2 FIA Drivers’ Championships with Bennetton Formula in back-to-back years of 1994 & 1995 before winning 5 more with Ferrari from 2000 to 2004.
  • Houston Rockets had also won back-to-back NBA Finals in 1994 & 1995 before Chicago Bulls won the next 3 titles from 1996 to 1998.
  • Speaking of the 1994 World Cup, there was also a tragic story that subsequently overshadowed the tournament as Andrés Escobar Saldarriaga, who played for Atlético Nacional under the ownership of the well-known international drug cartel by the name of Pablo Escobar (no relations in bloodline between Pablo and Andrés), who was the chief financier behind the success of Atlético Nacional who won the 1989 Copa Libertadores, was murdered by two men working for Pablo’s rivals during a scuffle in Medellin, Colombia a few days after unceremonious elimination due to his own-goal was scored during the United States match.  Colombian national football fell into hard times after 1998 WC until their return in 2014 edition while its domestic football league has also been suffering after a huge clean-out of drug money.
  • Arnold Palmer continued to play for Senior PGA until 2006 before retiring completely.  He had once filmed a Hertz rental car commercial with Simpson perhaps months or years before that fateful day.
  • After claiming their last Stanley Cup in 1994, New York Rangers made 3 more back-to-back postseason appearances from 1995 to 1997 but couldn’t reach the Finals in those years.  The team hit a new low before 2004-05 NHL lockout as they missed the NHL playoffs from 2008-2004.  They returned to their playoff forms in all but one season (2010) since, and finally reached the 2014 Finals only to lose to Los Angeles Kings in 5 games.

As for O.J. Simpson, while he was found not guilty in the criminal trial on October 5, 1995, he was found liable for the wrongful death suit in a civil trial.  Simpson was ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages, and almost all of his belongings were put in auction that all the proceeds went to the Goldman family.  The Goldman family’s endless pursuit further pushed Simpson’s finances from receiving any income since 2000 led to more legal trouble in Miami, and was eventually caught up with him after he was found guilty of committing robbery of the very memorabilia that Simpson once owned before his arrest and the first auction.  He will be granted parole in 2017, that is, assuming Fred Goldman would not object during the processing.  Otherwise, he might be staying in jail for even longer time.  As for the other individuals related to this affair, here’s what happened to them:

  • Prosecution Team
    • Christopher Darden
      Left LA County DA’s office after trial in 1995 began teaching criminal law at CSU-LA and was appointed Associate Professor of Law at Southwestern University School of Law in teaching and specialized in criminal procedure and trial advocacy.  Left in 1999 and started his own firm, Darden & Associates, Inc., specializing in criminal defense and criminal litigation.  He was once under consideration for becoming a judge in 2007 by then-Governor of California (and since returns to acting) Arnold Schwartzenegger.  He was also a legal commentator for multiple media companies, and has also written a few books that made him an author of New York Times best seller (“In Contempt”)
    • Marcia Clark
      She wrote a book “Without A Doubt” with Teresa Carpenter with a reported deal worth $4.2 million while on leave after the trial in 1995, went through a second divorce around the same time, and left LA DA’s office in 1997.  Like Darden, she has also become a frequent contributor in media with the likes of CNN and a column for The Daily Beast.  She has also written 4 novels since then.
    • Gil Garcetti
      He narrowly won the re-election defeating challenger John Lynch despite of losing the Simpson murder trial in 1996, but his public dispute with then-LAPD Chief Bernard Parks led to his defeat in the 2000 election.  Since then he was appointed by LA City Council President Alex Padilla to the city’s Ethics Commission for a 5-year term.  He was also an avid urban photographer even when he was running LA DA’s office.  Focused on art photography and philantrophy since his departure.  His son, Eric Garcetti, has since been elected as mayor of Los Angeles in May 2013 election.
  • Judge

    • Lance Ito
      Remains as LA Superior Court judge to this day, but he declines to give interviews or writing a book about his trial while on leave due to believing of resigning from his position would be a dishonor to his family.  Still, he has used his status to work on issues of judicial reform.  Sadly, LA Country closed 56 courtrooms (including Ito’s) in 2012 due to budget cuts.
  • Witness

    • Kato Kaelin
      Sued the publisher Global Communications (parent company of tabloid newspaper National Examiner) for libel by insinuating a false claim of declaring “Cops thinks Kato did it”, but was initially denied by a federal judge – only to have the decision overturned upon appeal, thus becoming a landmark case in libel law due to finding a headline could be considered libel.  He eventually settle the suit out of court.  Made multiple appearances in games shows and reality shows since the trial ended.
  • Associate

    • Al Cowlings
      Cowlings played a pivotal rule in keeping negotiation between Simpson and LAPD from getting twice as worse while he was also responsible for inadvertently (IMO) causing a massive traffic jam at I-405 than it was necessary during the city’s evening commute, and was arrested for aiding a fugitive (Simpson) – only to have Garcetti not charging him for lack of evidence.
  • Police Officer
    • Mark Fuhrman
      Fuhrman was accused by Simpson’s defense team for making racial comments and falsifying police reports (among other accusations) during the trial, which prompted the prosecution of Fuhrman conducted by then-Attorney General Dan Lungren after Gil Garcetti to bring perjury charges due to public statements issued by Garcetti’s office, Garsetti was forced to hand the perjury case to Lundgren in order to avoid conflict of interest.  On October 2, 1996, Fuhrman accepted a plead bargain from Lundgren to plead no contest to the charge with a 3-year probation and a $200 fine.  This plea bargain essentially barred him from ever serving as a police officer as a result of the becoming a convicted felon.  He later published several books and is now a frequent guest for Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News Channel.
  • Defense Tea (Alive)
    • Alan Dershowitz
      Dershowitz has since been making various views that are non-Simpson related issues, among them including 2nd Amendment & gun control, animal rights, Israeli-Palestinian relationship, tortures and civilian casualties.  He had also provided legal assistance for Jeffrey Epstein, who managed to plead guilty to a single state charge of soliciting prostitution, and serve an 18-month sentence.
    • F. Lee Baily
      Baily has had handled several high profile cases including Patty Hearst and Ernest Medina, and also handled Claude DuBoc case while handled Simpson case.  In spite of having success in some cases like Simpson’s murder trial, he had also suffered heavy losses.  Unfortunately, he has also paid the price for cases he had taken and for his own personal actions, thus resulting into disbarment from Massachusetts, Florida, and even Maine.
    • Robert Shapiro
      Asides from representing Simpson, he also represented from the likes of the late Johnny Carson, Vince Coleman, Darryl Strawberry, Phil Spector (only to be sued unsuccessfully by Spector for not returning a $1 million retainer fee), Eva Longoria, and the Kardashians.  He is also one of the co-founders of LegalZoom.
  • Defense Tea (Diseased)
    • Johnny Cochran
      Since the end of Simpson’s trial, he went on representing Abner Louima on a civil trial, which was awarded with an $8.75 million settlement with NYPD; and Sean (“P. Diddy”) Combs, who ironically became his final client after made a promise to Combs.  After Combs’ trial in 2002 had ended, Cochran retired from criminal cases due to exhausting nature.  In spite of best efforts to convince him to defend Allen Iverson and R. Kelly not long after, he declined to represent them.  Tragically, Cochran underwent surgery in 2004 to stay away from Media, and passed away within a year at his home in LA from a brain tumor.
    • Robert Kardashian
      Little was known about him since the end of Simpson’s trial, other than that he married his second wife Jane Ashley only to have it ended in divorce.  He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer 8 weeks before death Two weeks later, he married Ellen Pierson Markowitz.  Sadly, he did not live to see his eldest daughter Kim having two marriages as he passed away on 9/30/2003.

To this day, White Americans still maintain that Simpson was guilty while the polar opposite was true in the opinions of African Americans.  In my opinion, I don’t think we’ll really know for sure what really happened on that evening of the murder, or who really did the crime until some years or decades after if further DNA testing can be done to debunk the myths and establish facts for this case.  The reason is simple: someone might actually be taking the truth to the grave, whether it is Simpson himself, Cowlings, or anyone who may had been there around the neighborhood.

As for Formula One, that’ll be another topic for another blog.  Stay tuned.  Baseball wise, I’m still as big of a fan as back then. It’s just that it’s competing my time to watch as I’m also following rugby union, rugby league, soccer, and above mentioned F1, alongside with audio podcast, and Bible study.  As for my depression, to put it bluntly, it’s not just as simple as “work in progress”, as my traumas I have suffered over the years were so stacked and intense, that I’ve resulted in going to a weekly psychotherapy session.  As for World Cup and things about soccer, stay tuned.

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