Was that a great game? I have a hunch history lovers know it wasn’t the first time that the Beavers travelled to Hawaii. Read all about it in this post by SCARC student Mike D.
The Oregon State Beavers travelled once again to the Sandwich Islands for a post season gridiron battle. Coach Riley stated earlier this month, “The Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl has a great tradition and we are excited to bring our team, which features several natives of the great State of Hawai’i, to represent the Pac-12 Conference.” The 2013 Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl pitting OSU against Boise State was our fourth bowl appearance in Hawaii, which was actually technically the third bowl game, but more on this later. In the great tradition of Beavers in Paradise, our holiday bowl game history in Hawaii spans ninety years, dating back to 1923!
OSU’s last appearance in Hawaii was the 1999 Oahu Bowl, where we lost to the Rainbow Warriors of the University of Hawaii, 23-17. But thirty years earlier, Oregon State College defeated UH in the non-NCAA sanctioned 1949 Pineapple Bowl, 47-27. These two bowl games were important points in OSU Football history, but our story begins much earlier.
What prompted this foray into Hawaii Bowl history was SCARC’s new addition to our collection of digitized videos available on OSU MediaSpace. The home movies by the OSC Football team on their trip to the 1939 Pineapple Bowl are a colorful look at a happier time in Beaver football history.
Coach Lon Stiner’s 1939 OSC Beavers finished that year with a stellar 9-1-1 record. The season culminated with an invite to the Pineapple Bowl in Honolulu to face the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. The 1940 Pineapple Bowl was played on New Year’s Day against the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. OSC handily won the game 39 to 6. This game was the first annual Pineapple Bowl, had we been there a year earlier, the Beavers would have been in the Poi Bowl! The Hawaiian Poi Bowl only lasted from 1936-1939, arguably, one of the better bowl game name changes in history.
On Christmas Day, 1939, the Beavers played the Hawaii All-Stars, a Healani town team, in an exhibition contest. They won easily, 28-0. The Hawaii All-Star teams appear to have been made up of UH Alumni and local athletes. Traditionally, the All-Stars played the visiting teams prior to the actual bowl games. Due to the travel restrictions of the period, mainly a long boat ride, and the invited teams would spend up to a month in Hawaii during the bowl season. This allowed time for extra game during their stay. OSC left Corvallis on December 11, 1939 by train to San Francisco. They were to board a steamship for the islands, but due to a dock worker strike, they were forced to leave from Los Angeles a day later. The team returned home on January 11th, 1940 – quite a road trip!
As can be seen in the film footage, the squad had to practice on the ship in transit, mixing work and cruise ship travel. Barometer articles in early January 1940, chronicling the successful trip touted the excellent Hawaiian hospitality. The Beavers toured the sights, tried their hands at surfing and attended special events during their stay in Hawaii. The article reports that the “visitors were shown the Dole pineapple plants, were taken to a sugar refinery and saw museums and aquariums.” The Pineapple Bowl Parade, as seen in the film footage, was one of the highlights of the Beaver’s activities (other than the victorious football games).
Officially, Oregon State has played three actual “Bowl” games in Hawaii, 1940, 1949, and 1999. This is not the whole story however. The first trip to the Hawaiian Islands for the Beavers was ninety years ago in 1923. The University of Hawaii began intercollegiate football in 1920, playing their first game against Nevada on Christmas Day. These games during the early years were not officially “bowl” games; however, they were held during the holidays and were post season specials. The term bowl game first is seen with the 1923 Rose Bowl, played in the newly constructed Pasadena stadium. The name “bowl” to describe the games thus comes from the Rose Bowl stadium.
The 1923 season did not go well for the Oregon Agricultural College Beaver squad. Coach R. B. Rutherford took the 4-3-2 Beavers to Hawaii for OAC’s first game outside of the contiguous United States. This endeavor was undertaken at great expense to the college, so only twenty-five OAC delegates and team members made the trip. Two coaches, a team manager, and only 14 football players boarded the steamship S.S. Lurline sailing from Seattle on December 11, 1923. The team arrived in Hawaii after an arduous voyage, and battling the island heat, the Beavers went down to defeat in two hard fought gridiron spectaculars against the Hawaii All-stars and the University of Hawaii.
The long voyage did not pay off as the Beavers dropped a game to the Hawaiian All-Stars, playing their first college team, 14-9, on Christmas day 1923 and then another to the University of Hawaii, 7-0. The loss to Hawaii was a huge upset, as Hawaii had only begun playing intercollegiate football three years earlier. The OAC Barometer, in the journalistic style of the era, reported on January 4, 1924 the stories of the games.
The Aggies and All-Stars tangled in a 60 minute encounter that was said to have all the ear-marks of a combined bull fight and Sinn Fein uprising.
Another special distinction for OAC during this trip was the subsequent renaming of the University of Hawaii football team. The legend states that a rainbow appeared in the sky as the Hawaii Fighting Deans upset Oregon State. Local reporters began using the nickname, and it was made official soon after. After that, every time a rainbow arced over the field, the team is said to have won, prompting a name change to the Rainbow Warriors. The Beavers would leave a lasting legacy in the islands that would remain until UH dropped “Rainbow” in 2000. The move was controversial, Head coach June Jones said the team needed a more macho image.
The losses were devastating for the Beavers, who had to pay to travel to Hawaii and suffered two humiliating defeats. Again, we see in OAC Barometer articles some attempts at justification for these losses to their readers. The January 4th edition speaks of the trials and tribulations of a sea voyage and the effects of island weather
Under the devitalizing influence of the tropical heat of Hawaii, the OAC football team, fresh from the moist Oregon country, went down to defeat before the acclimated Honolulu pigskin artists.
According to the Barometer, the seasick Beavers had an eventful trip on the steamship Lurline. Four stormy days of travel on the open seas had a detrimental effect on the team. Coach Rutherford held daily workouts and the decks of the vessel. Only eight of the fourteen Beavers were able to participate, others were “using the rail…studying the habits of the fish.” The Barometer also reports that
They started their workouts by passing the ball around, but after they had lost two of the three pigskin spheroids overboard, the confined themselves to calisthenics and to running signals.
Photographic evidence of the first trip to Hawaii is scarce. The OSU Special Collections and Archive Research Center collections only yield the one photograph of the team on the ship, found in the 1925 Beaver Yearbook. Bound copies of the Barometer provide the only descriptions we have of this epic contest. The games are part of OSU’s football statistics, but these stories are what make history come alive.
On Christmas Eve, 2013 the OSU Beavers returned to the balmy Hawaiian islands for a 21st century gridiron duel. Now the team travels in the comfort of chartered jet liners, arriving in hours rather than days. Today’s Beavers have the benefit of team doctors, sports medicine, and air-conditioning to battle the island heat. The entire team and its entourage make the trip. In 1923, with only fourteen players available, substitutions were not an option. Imagine being both, an offensive and defensive tackle, on the field for the entire game … still a little woozy from the heat and long trip.
Times were simpler then.