Friday, December 13, 2002
1902 - Michigan 49, Stanford 0
By Dan O'Sullivan
After its first contest in 1902, no one could have anticipated the Rose Bowl would one day become the "granddaddy" of all bowl games.
From 1890-1901, Pasadena, Calif., celebrated each New Year's Day with a parade, along with athletic events ranging from polo and tug-of-war to foot races and greased-pig catching. In 1901, the Tournament of Roses Association decided the growing sport of football would make a more marketable complement to the popular parade.
The committee chose to promote a geographical theme, pitting two teams from different parts of the country. Powerhouse Michigan (10-0) got the nod to represent the East, while Pacific champion Stanford (3-1-2) was chosen for the West.
The Tournament of Roses East-West Game took place on Jan. 1, 1902, on the campus of Throop Polytechnic Institute -- now known as the California Institute of Technology. Although the Pasadena stadium had only 1,000 seats, an estimated 8,500 patrons forced their way into Tournament Park to watch the game.
(Incidentally, college football in 1902 differed from the modern game in many ways: The field was 110 yards long; the forward pass was not yet legal; teams were given three downs to progress five yards; touchdowns and field goals were each worth five points; teams rarely made substitutions; and games consisted of two, 35-minute halves.)
The "point-a-minute" Michigan squad that traveled to Pasadena had outscored its opponents 501-0 during the regular season, including a 128-0 whipping of Buffalo. And as a special measure of motivation, coach Fielding Yost was hungry to avenge his ousting as Stanford coach in 1900.
Soon after opening kickoff, one of the Cardinals' players made a show of courage that became part of Rose Bowl lore. In "The Rose Bowl: A Complete Action and Pictorial Exposition of Rose Bowl Football," author Maxwell Stiles recounts an injury suffered by guard William Roosevelt, the second cousin of President Teddy Roosevelt.
"Roosevelt hops over to the captain of the Stanford team, R.S. Fisher, right (halfback), and whispers: 'Something has broken in my leg!' 'Stay with it,' snaps Fisher. 'You bet I will,' replies the Stanford guard with true Rooseveltian grit."
Roosevelt played 15 more minutes before leaving the game with a broken leg and fractured ribs.
Early on, neither team generated much offense. The Wolverines finally threatened late in the first half thanks to a trick play. Lining up for a punt at the Stanford 29, Michigan instead got the ball to halfback William Heston, who broke loose for a 21-yard run. Three plays later, fullback Neil Snow barreled in for a touchdown. Michigan added a field goal and another touchdown to make the score 17-0 at the half.
In the second half, the Stanford defense wilted in the face of Michigan's three-pronged running attack. Snow, the Player of the Game and an All-American, finished with 107 yards and five touchdowns. Heston added 170 yards on 18 carries, and halfback Al Herrnstein chipped in with 97 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, end Ev Sweeley kicked four field goals and punted 21 times for a 38.9 average.
In the end, Michigan ran away with the game, 49-0. (Using modern scoring rules, the score would have been 55-0.) With eight minutes left on the clock, Fisher approached the Wolverines' bench and offered to concede defeat. Michigan captain Hugh White granted Fisher his wish for mercy.
Due to the noncompetitiveness of the contest and the stampeding crowd that had crammed into the stadium, football fell out of favor with the Tournament of Roses Association. On New Year's Day in 1903, Tournament Park instead hosted a polo match. Inspired by the popularity of the literary classic "Ben Hur," Roman-style chariot races were featured from 1904-1915.
Responding to public demand, the association reinstated football at Tournament Park in 1916. Seven years later, the first Rose Bowl game was held in the newly finished Rose Bowl Stadium.