Norbert Stein is a living history book.
He escaped the clutches of the Nazis in his native Germany and later won a bronze star for his adopted homeland in World War II by capturing three Japanese soldiers during fighting in the dying days of the war near Okinawa.
“One of them called me last week from Tokyo asking if I was still alive,” he quipped.
It was par for the course for the irrepressible Poet of Chula Vista who celebrated his 100th birthday Sunday along with 120 well wishers at a private function at the Living Coast Discovery Center along Chula Vista’s bayfront.
Stein, known simply as The Captain among soccer aficionados, surprised guests by dancing to live mariachi music.
The secret to his longevity: good diet, exercise, positive thinking?
He cannot pinpoint any one thing but said he continues to live by his annual New Year’s resolution, which of course, is rhymed: Nothing too big, nothing too small, life if full of surprises …
“I can handle them all,” said the newly-turned Centenarian who remains spry in both mind and body.
Stein’s gala evening was a century in the making.
Among the dignitaries present to help fete Stein were Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox and Capt. Gary Wedge, patrol operations commander of the Chula Vista Police Department.
Wedge read aloud a letter congratulating Stein on reaching the century mark from President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Cox presented Stein with a proclamation issued by the City of Chula Vista and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors (on behalf of her husband, county supervisor Greg Cox) naming March 3 as Norbert Stein Day throughout the region.
Cox noted the proclamations were issued by a unanimous consent of all board members. She also read a poem to commemorate the moment, citing Stein’s generosity and friendship toward a city he has lived in since 1958. She received an impromptu (and obviously heartfelt) kiss from him afterward.
Family members attended from as far away as Canada and Virginia Beach. Stein’s nephew, Ryan Crotin, even received permission from the Baltimore Orioles to leave the team’s spring training camp in Florida to attend the special event.
Crotin, a native of Whitby, Ontario, remembered running around the bases as a 13-year-old during warm-ups and hearing breathing behind him: It was uncle Norbert, then in his 80s.
That was nothing new. Stein somehow got onto the field during one of the Sockers’ championship game victory laps, bringing up the rear of the newly crowned Major Indoor Soccer League champions.
I still have the game tape from Prime Ticket and chuckle over it.
Stein, ever watchful for a TV camera lens, admits he’s a ham, but with one difference.
“A ham can be cured,” he said.
While obviously touched by the outpouring of friendship and recognition on the occasion of his 100th birthday, Stein will turn his attention to his beloved Sockers this weekend as they prepare to compete in the Professional Arena Soccer League’s Ron Newman Cup championship tournament.
The club recently acknowledged him as its all-time No. 1 fan; he’s also very likely its oldest fan.
The Sockers faced the Detroit Waza in last year’s PASL-Pro title game. Stein, sitting in the first row, held up a homemade sign that read: “Detroit makes cars, San Diego makes soccer players.”
The Sockers, winners of 10 indoor world championships during their original run in the 1980s and 1990s, currently own a streak of three PASL-Pro titles in the franchise’s third incarnation.
The challenge to win the Newman Cup looks to be the stiffest so far for the Sockers, who came up one goal short, 7-6 to the host Waza, in the finals of last weekend’s U.S. Open Arena Cup championship game.
It was the first time since returning to action in 2009 that the Sockers lost a trophy match; the loss was also only the second this season for the Sockers, who saw their U.S. professional sports team record 48-game winning streak snapped in a 6-5 overtime loss to the Dallas Sidekicks in Texas on Jan. 27.
The Sockers needed a golden goal scored by Kraig Chiles to defeat the Turlock Express, 12-11, in overtime in the opening round of the divisional playoffs on Feb. 23.
Chiles set single-season league records in 2012-13 with 54 goals and 70 points to earn honors as the league’s MVP.
The Sockers (17-2) will play the Las Vegas Legends (15-3) for the Western Conference title in Sunday’s semifinals. Game time is 6:30 p.m. at the Valley View Casino Center (Sports Arena). The Waza (16-2) and Central Rio Grande Valley Flash (14-4) meet for the Eastern Conference championship at 4 p.m., also at the arena.
The two semifinal winners play Monday at 7:35 p.m. for the 2012-13 PASL-Pro title.
The Sockers topped the Waza, 10-7, in last year’s final.
Hilltop High School girls soccer coach Rene Ortiz, a former prep standout at Southwest High School and a former Socker (winning three indoor titles), applauded the newest edition of the team’s efforts to reconnect to the franchise’s glory past.
“Every Sockers team wants to win something,” said Ortiz, whose Lancers advanced as far as last week’s San Diego Section Division II semifinals. “They’ve picked up where the great Sockers teams from the ’80s left off and really have added a lot of continuity (to their product).”
Sockers legends Zoltan Toth and Brian Quinn were among the latest six players/coaches to be inducted to the Indoor Soccer Hall of Fame. Will Stein one day join them?
Chula Vista’s newest Centenarian, who predates the founding of the United States Soccer Federation by about a month, isn’t planning on “retiring” any time soon.
He handed out cards at Sunday’s party that read: “As I celebrate my Centennial, my new life has just begun. Thanks the Lord I am still aboard as I am heading for 101.”
The Sockers would like to think they are heading for their 44th consecutive home victory and fourth PASL-Pro banner.
Norbert Stein is a living history book.