All He Wants From Santa Every Year is a Ticket to the Rose Bowl Game

Pasadenan Donald Leis is an Olympian of Senior status, and unofficial "King" of the Rose Bowl Game, too

Published : Wednesday, January 1, 2020 | 1:03 AM

He must have been good for a very long time, because every year for more than seven decades, Pasadenan and Senior Olympian Donald Leis has always gotten those treasured admissions.

“It’s 73. This year will be the 73rd one,” explained Leis. “When I delivered papers, when I was 14, they let a couple of us deliver papers inside the Rose Bowl and found seats for us in the end zone, which we didn’t have to pay for.”

That was the beginning, in 1947. The year before, Leis and cohorts tried digging a hole under the fence around the Rose Garden on their way to the stadium tunnels.

“But there were no seats left in there and they grabbed us by the collar and threw us out,” he recalled.

His dad got Leis a ticket to the 1948 matchup between the University of Southern California and Michigan. “The score was Michigan 49, USC nothing. Wow. That was the 1948 game.”

“I still have the ticket,” said Leis.

As an adult, Leis worked in Ohio for a few years, but the distance was not so great as to break his streak of consecutive Rose Bowl Games attendance.

If Leis had to pick his favorite Rose Bowl game, he pointed to a contest with one of this year’s contestants, Wisconsin, against local favorite USC. The 1963 matchup that was the 49th Rose Bowl Game.

“Wisconsin came back and almost beat USC, but USC did win,” Leis said. “That was a good game.”

The trailing Badgers fought back in the fourth quarter and scored 23 points, but the Trojans answered with a winning TD to take the game 42 to 37.

This was the first American football bowl game to pit the nation’s #1 and #2 top-ranked college teams against each other.

But Leis isn’t proud only of his fanship off the field. He also holds records off the field.

Asked for his title, Leis responded, “Senior Olympian.”

He explained that athleticism has been an important part of his life in Pasadena, going back to junior high school, or middle school as it is referred to these days.

Family life and career took Leis off track. He still went to the Rose Bowl every year, but training went out the window. Then he got into the Senior Olympics and has competed annually since 1997.

Yes, every year.

He represents the United States in the Masters track and field competition.

The most recent edition brought him to the University of New Mexico in Santa Fe, which sits at a high altitude. The thin air, exacerbated by 97-degree temperatures, “wiped me out,” Leis reported, though he got used to the condition towards the meet’s end.

“We asked a guy from Barbados who beat me by two seconds to anchor our four-by-100 [meters] relay team,” Leis recounted his New Mexico exploits, “And we set a national record and a world record.”

In all, Senior Olympian Leis has earned over 500 medals in his career.

Leis says he never wants to move from Pasadena.

“I hope to continue seeing the Rose Bowl game,” he concluded. “Of course, right now I”m 87 years old and who knows how long I’ll be able to continue.”

“It’s still the granddaddy of them all.”