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Remembering the 1942 Rose Bowl

1942 Rose Bowl Program Cover

1942 Rose Bowl Program Cover

Although OSU’s football team did not make it to a bowl game this year, and despite the fact that our rivals in Eugene did (and won, no less), it is an appropriate time to remember one particular bowl game from our past. Seventy years ago this past Sunday, on January 1, 1942, Oregon State College played in its first Rose Bowl game, defeating a heavily favored Duke team, 20-16. This has been Oregon State’s only Rose Bowl victory, but it was also important for another reason – it is the only Rose Bowl game not played in Pasadena, California.

Oregon State earned the right to play in the 1942 Rose Bowl by defeating the Oregon Ducks, 12-7, in the last game of the 1941 season (sound familiar?) on November 29. Duke had an outstanding season, and ranked #2 at the end of the regular season in the Associated Press poll, was one of the best teams in the nation. But everything changed eight days later with the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor. Restrictions on large group gatherings on the West Coast imposed by the U.S. military nearly caused the game to be cancelled. In order to avert this possibility, Duke offered its stadium as the venue for the game and Oregon State readily accepted. With logistics ironed out, the Oregon State football team departed Corvallis and arrived in Durham, North Carolina on the morning of December 24 to a large, welcoming crowd. OSC’s team was treated to considerable southern hospitality. Color film footage of the OSC team arriving in Durham and pre-game activities there is available online.

The game was played under wet conditions, perhaps giving the Beavers an advantage. Regardless, when the final gun sounded, Oregon State had upset Duke, 20-16, in a very hard fought battle. Footage of that game is also available online.

Jack Yoshihara catching a football

Jack Yoshihara catching a football.

One Oregon State player was prohibited from making the trip to Durham. Jack Yoshihara was a sophomore end on the Oregon State football team, but because of his Japanese ancestry, was prohibited from traveling more than 35 miles from home due to military restrictions. Later in 1942 he was forced to withdraw from Oregon State due to Executive Order 9066, and ended up in the Mindoka internment camp in Idaho. Fortunately, Jack was included in the 1942 Rose Bowl team photo, and did receive a Rose Bowl ring, belatedly, in 1985. And Jack was one of the Oregon State alumni of Japanese-American ancestry who were awarded honorary degrees at OSU’s 2008 commencement ceremony. Jack can be seen showing off his Rose Bowl ring at this ceremony — see and go to minute 14:35.

1942 rose bowl team

Oregon State College's 1942 Rose Bowl team

The victorious Beavers returned home from Durham, and were honored at a banquet, footage of which is available online. (Note – this footage also includes the Nov. 29, 1941 game against Oregon.) Many of the Oregon State and Duke players fought in World War II after leaving their schools. And a few of them crossed paths during the war. Duke University’s alumni magazine from this past October includes an excellent article on the transplanted Rose Bowl, as well as a couple of moving accounts of how and when those former players ran into one another on the battlefield.

A final twist of irony from this game – Duke’s starting quarterback was a fellow named Thompson Prothro. This is the same Tommy Prothro who was introduced as Oregon State’s new football coach thirteen years later, in February 1955. In ten seasons, Prothro had considerable success at OSU, taking teams to the 1957 and 1965 Rose Bowls, and winning the 1962 Liberty Bowl behind the efforts of Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker.

Tommy Prothro

Tommy Prothro, ca. 1964.

Photos of Oregon State’s 1942 Rose Bowl adventure, as well as its other Rose Bowl games, are available online.