Hall of Famer ‘a true inspiration’ on beat, fields of play
January 23, 2018
As Frank Machi looks forward to the winter Olympics, his mind may wander back to his own medal-winning days.
Machi won 42 medals in statewide, North America, and international skiing and soccer competitions, a number called "unbelievable" when he was inducted into the 2017 San Francisco Police Officers' Association Sports Hall of Fame.
At the Nov. 10 banquet at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club, Machi was acclaimed as "a true inspiration" and "one of the most well-liked and respected players this department has ever seen."
Machi was a San Francisco Police Department officer from 1970 until he retired in 1999 and moved to Nevada City. He said he was surprised when he was notified about his Hall of Fame induction.
“A three-story building was on fire, and my partner and I went door-to-door on the second and third floors knocking on doors and evacuating tenants until there was too much smoke ... The mother carried her cat and I carried the baby.”
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"It shocked the hell out of me," said Machi. "A fellow, who I had trained at the police academy, called me up and told me about it. It was a good thing I was sitting down, let's put it that way."
IN RARE COMPANY
San Francisco Police Department superstar police officers are not inducted into the Hall of Fame every year. Last November's ceremony was only the sixth ever held; the previous one was eight years earlier. Machi is one of only 98 officers who have been inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame since its inception in 2005.
With the help of a colleague, Machi founded the San Francisco Police Department Soccer Club in 1978. For the next 15 years, he served as player, coach, and manager. His accomplishments are the feats of legend.
His soccer prowess resulted in nine gold, six silver and two bronze medals in the California Police Olympics; four gold and eight bronze medals in North American Police Soccer Tournaments; and a silver medal in the International Police Olympics. In the Garda Tournament in 1983, Machi's team beat Ireland for the gold medal at the International Police Games.
Machi was just as successful on the slopes, competing in slalom and giant slalom races from 1984 to 1987. At the International Police Winter Olympic Games during those years, Frank won four gold, three silver, and four bronze medals in his two events. His ski team twice won the California Police Olympics All-Around Championship.
"I kind of alternated getting gold, silver, and bronze for four years," said Machi, who will be 77 years old on Super Bowl Sunday and proudly still uses a flip phone.
VALOR ON THE BEAT
Machi was born and raised in San Francisco, and spent most of his law enforcement career as a patrol officer. In 1976, he was awarded the Silver Medal of Valor for helping to rescue a mother and baby daughter from a burning building.
"A three-story building was on fire, and my partner and I went door-to-door on the second and third floors knocking on doors and evacuating tenants until there was too much smoke," recalled Machi. "Then I exited and went around the back of the first floor, where I brought out a mother and her daughter. The mother carried her cat and I carried the baby."
He also helped apprehend bank robbers and performed other feats — some above and beyond the call of duty — during his years as a patrol officer.
"I liked patrol, so I pretty much stayed there," said Machi. "During my career, I was also assigned to the police academy as a vehicle operations instructor and criminal law instructor from 1979 to 1984. But I finished my last 14 or 15 years in the North Beach area where I grew up."
AT HOME IN THE HILLS
Machi said he's content in retirement, and he's glad he and his wife chose to relocate to Nevada County.
"It's nice and the people are nice," said Machi. "We purchased land in 1990 and sat on it. Then I came home from work one day and said, 'I think I'm done.'"
Machi has stayed busy serving on the Nevada County Law Enforcement and Fire Protection Council Board of Directors for the past 14 years, and trying to keep up with his five grandchildren. He and his wife, Caroline, enjoy traveling, but vacations can be difficult to fit around her busy career as a Realtor at Coldwell Banker.
"I'm so proud of how successful she is," laughed Machi. "It works for me. I'm a nice enough guy, so I should maintain a certain lifestyle."
That lifestyle is happy-go-lucky but no longer includes skiing.
"I loved the speed and the skill, and at the time, the partying," said Machi. "We don't party like that anymore, what with knee and hip replacements and shoulder surgery. I've taken on new parts."
The "Super Senior" misses the rough-and-tumble world of soccer, too.
"I liked the running, the ball handling, the bumping around," said Machi. "Once in a while, you'd take the other guy down. And I loved the camaraderie. I made some good friends with officers from other agencies across the United States. It was one of those 'brother cop' things."
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a "Super Senior" feature, contact her at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.