Here is an account of what happened on that fateful day at Santa Anita Racetrack. It ran in the Los Angeles Times on March 22, 2011, and was written by that paper's celebrated sports columnist Bill Plaschke. And please, do not forget, John Shear did all of this at an extraordinary 90 years of age.
March 'heroism' fades, but John Shear is a hero for all time - Our television screens are filled this month with the breathtaking exploits of young men in short pants and tattoos, and for their dramatic efforts we call them heroes, and, really, we have no idea.
You want March Madness? How about an old man saving the life of a little girl by throwing himself in front of a frightened horse?
You want one shining moment? It happened a couple of weeks ago, when longtime Santa Anita paddock guard John Shear, 90, tossed a 6-year-old girl out of the path of a runaway horse just in time to be trampled.
Cinderella story? That would be when Shear walks again, which could be in a couple of months, as he is lying today in a hospital with a multiple pelvic fractures, a fractured cheekbone, and gashes above his left eye and down his left arm.
"Could have been worse," Shear said, wincing beneath an oxygen tube during a Tuesday visit. ''Something could have happened to the little girl."
We interrupt the annual frenzy over the NCAA basketball tournament to write about a real buzzer beater. Nobody was cheering, the video has been locked up, and the only visible reward is a mug of flowers sitting next to a thin bed in a sterile room filled with pain and worry. But when a 5-foot, 110-pound giant of an athlete makes a play that saves a life, somebody should holler about it.
"I've already lived most of my life, the little girl has her entire life in front of her," Shear said. "There's no question I would do it again."
You can read the rest of Bill's column about John Shear's incredible bravery and selflessness by clicking here.
If you were to go to Google and search for John Shear's name, you would be rewarded with literally dozens of pages of articles, and from all over the world. Each and every one of them of them lauding what he did on that day. The story had gone viral.
And it wasn't just newspaper accounts, there were also videos, clips showing the actual event, and even a TV special about that fateful day at Santa Anita Racetrack.
|Video clip from "John Shear: A Track Life" here.|
Because of his heroism there were a considerable amount of people in Sierra Madre who wanted to make John Shear the Grand Marshal of that year's 4th of July parade. There were petitions, resident testimony at City Council meetings, and letters written demanding that such a thing happen. Unfortunately, local city politics intruded and John Shear was denied that honor.
But not before it had been given to him. The Chairman of that year's 4th of July Parade Committee, Matt Bosse, the partner of then City Councilman Joe Mosca, had originally given in to overwhelming popular demand and actually called to offer the Grand Marshal spot to John Shear. Only to renege on it afterwards.
Instead it was taken away and given to a retiring elementary school principal who was popular with a political faction that favored their interests. John Shear, on the other hand, had supported Joe Mosca's opponents in the previous City Council election. It was something that Bosse and Mosca, along with others of a similar and sadly narrow ideological stripe, could not find it in their hearts to forgive.
In an extraordinary act of pettiness, the Mosca supporters running the 4th of July Parade Committee that year somehow decided that nobody who had not supported their candidates could ever become a Grand Marshal. And, days after informing a convalescing John Shear that he had been chosen for this singular honor, Bosse called to say there had been some kind of a mix up. Rather John had been been chosen instead to be something they called a "Hometown Hero."
The thing was, there had never been a Sierra Madre 4th of July Parade Hometown Hero before. It was something that they had just made up, done in order to deny him the Grand Marshal slot that had been given only a few short days before. A kind of runner-up position, second to the person they wanted to reward for the political support she had given them in that recent election.
John Shear took this absurd slight in stride and accepted for a second time what they had offered him. He rode in that parade after the Grand Marshal, the retiring and now largely forgotten elementary school principal that the political faction running the parade committee favored.
Apparently in Sierra Madre heroes must be made to ride second to politically dutiful government functionaries.
There has been a "Hometown Hero" in every parade since. But this is in no way a longstanding tradition. Rather it was something brought about by a small and now irrelevant political faction in town, one that couldn't stand to see an internationally acclaimed hero not aligned with their interests honored in a way that did not properly celebrate them.