From the USS Alabama to San Diego State and back

tomablesMOBILE, AL (WNSP) — In August 1946, Tom Ables toiled away in an engine room on the USS Alabama. The next month, he was a freshman at San Diego State.

Since then, Ables has attended 773 out of 776 San Diego State games. “The Greatest Aztec Fan Who Ever Lived” will close the door on a chapter in his life—Able and his Aztecs come to Mobile Saturday, where the BB-60 now resides.

“I never set out with the idea of setting some kind of record or having a streak,” Ables told ESPN in a 2010 article. “I went because I love to go. … Now, I have to confess I take pride in it.”

The now-90-years-old Ables began covering games for its student newspaper in September 1946. He has only missed three games, all on the road, including last year’s 42-7 win over Cincinnati in the Hawaii Bowl.

“Even at age 90, I still stand except during timeouts, I still stand through the whole game,” Ables told WKRG in an interview earlier this week. “Everyone thinks I’m crazy, but I still enjoy doing it.”

In August 2010, ESPN.com listed Ables as the No. 3 college football superfan, and the San Diego Union-Tribune is responsible for his “Greatest Aztec Fan” title. Two months after the superfan list, reporter Nick Canepa sat down with Ables, who told him the only other games missed were the 1952 Pineapple Bowl and another in 1964.

Tom Ables in an engine room aboard the USS Alabama.
Tom Ables in an engine room aboard the USS Alabama.

“I couldn’t afford to go to Hawaii then,” Ables told Canepa, referring to the Pineapple Bowl. For the 1964 game, Ables said “I was sick.”

This weekend, Ables will tour the USS Alabama, which was moved to the Port City in 1964 following a statewide effort to bring the vessel to her namesake state.

“I want to get back down, way below deck and be in my engine room, make sure everything works and they still have that weird coffee maker they had,” Ables told WKRG.

After his tour, Ables will travel to No. 774, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The 19th-ranked Aztecs come to Mobile looking for revenge, as South Alabama beat the eventual Mountain West champs 34-27 in overtime.

The game, which will be broadcast on ESPNEWS, begins at 7 p.m.

Ables is the author of “GO AZTECS!”, a book covering Aztec football history since World War II, and to this day, he tweets (@TomAbles) and blogs about the team.