Thanks for Your Support

Your donations keep Duck Downs ad-free and eliminate the need for wasteful popup blockers!

Why support this site?





November 1, 1952 – College of the Pacific at Oregon

Those who worship the memory of Len Casanova – and they are legion, your faithful blogger included – sometimes forget that it took him a while to get things going his way. Coming out of the wreckage of Jim Aiken’s program, Cas went 5-19-1 over his first 25 games, and there were some frustrating moments; a three-game shutout streak in early 1953, a 49-0 debacle in Seattle in 1952… and home-and-home losses to College of the Pacific. The return match with the Tigers, a 14-6 Webfoots loss in Eugene, is the subject of this week’s program.

The game was played under fog and clouds that threatened but did not release, preserving a five-year streak of no rain at Hayward Field. (It is not known whether one of Don Essig’s predecessors uttered the immortal “It never rains at 15th and Agate!”) After being blown out 34-6 in ‘51, the Webfoots made a better accounting of themselves in the rematch; their first-quarter touchdown, an 84-yard strike from Hal Dunham to Ted Anderson, stood as the longest pass play in Oregon history until 1970. But Oregon couldn’t find the end zone again, and couldn’t withstand COP’s balanced attack, led by HB Tom McCormick, who scored both of the Tigers touchdowns.

(Oregon had its share of trouble with Pacific over the years, dropping 3 of the 7 contests before the Tigers folded their football tent in 1995, the third loss being a real doozy – the 1983 season opener at Autzen, where they were favored by three touchdowns.)

Program Notes:

  • It was Election Week in America in 1952, and one can draw whatever conclusions one wishes from the fact that while the Republicans ticket purchased a full-page ad in the Oregon program (page 25), the Democrats couldn’t be bothered. (Eisenhower and Nixon held a distinct campaign advantage on the gridiron. Ike was a member of the powerful Army football teams of 1913-1916, and a teammate of former Oregon head coach Cap McEwan. Ike’s running mate was a JV tackling dummy in high school at Whittier, and later famously called a play for Washington during the 1971 NFL playoffs. There is no record of Adlai Stevenson ever donning pads and cleats, and although his VP candidate, John Sparkman, was from the football hotbed of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the Democrats were trounced in the election.)
  • In his only two seasons at the helm in Stockton, 1951 and 1952, Ernie Jorge guided COP to a Sun Bowl bid each year. But head coaching didn’t seem to be Jorge’s calling. (The questionable financial state of the program probably didn’t help; COP would only hire coaches on a one-year contract, and there was some discussion of dropping football altogether, as Santa Clara would for a few years after 1952.) Jorge moved on after the 1952 season to assistant coaching positions with the NFL Chicago Cardinals and, later, at Navy, under his friend and former Pacific assistant Wayne Hardin. (That’s the “Hardin” in the photo at the top of page 6.)
    During his tenure with the Midshipmen, Jorge befriended the son of a fellow assistant coach, and each week sent the ten-year-old football junkie a copy of the Navy offensive game plan for the next game. The envelope was labeled “BILL’S READY LIST.” (The boy grew up to be Bill Belichick.) While on a scouting trip for his last employer, the Houston Oilers, Jorge suffered a fatal heart attack in his room at a Holiday Inn in Kent, Ohio; he was 51 years old.
  • Once again, the only color outside of the program’s cover is for tobacco advertising. The center spread, again brought to you by Chesterfield, is nondescript, but the other full-page ads feature a pair of comely lasses; unidentified on the back cover (Camel), but on the inside cover is Dorothy Collins herself, the “Sweetheart of Lucky Strike.” Collins was a star of Your Hit Parade, a weekly TV show featuring vocalists lip-synching popular songs of the day…
    and it’s not a huge leap from this to American Idol, is it?  (Collins died of respiratory distress in 1994, in one of life’s little ironies for a tobacco wench; she suffered from chronic asthma.)
  • The $2552.88 for a ‘52 Buick – delivered – in 1952 works out to around $21,000 in 2011. That RCA Victor TV on the inside back cover for $199.95? A little over $1600 today. You can buy a 1952 Buick Super from a dealer in Happy Valley for $8,499 as of today (9/12/11), and in the words of the seller, “gas it up and drive it to L.A. from Portland.” If you could find a 1952 RCA Victor television today, you’d see nothing but static… assuming it would fire up at all.

click to embiggen


November 4, 1950: WSC at Oregon

click to embiggen

1950. The Fifties hadn’t really started yet. The baby boomers were just becoming babies. Car companies were still grinding out models based on pre-war designs. The Cold War began in earnest after Russia announced a successful atomic bomb test, and McCarthy had just begun his rampage against the commies in the State Department. In November, the Korean War reached a tipping point, as UN troops, in their first meaningful action, proved remarkably ineffective.

And in Eugene, Oregon, a football coach was in the middle of what would become – and remains – the worst football season in Duck history.

Jim Aiken’s descent from hero status was as sudden as his emergence four years earlier. Having taken a team of veterans – literally, vets, WW2 style – and guided them to a conference championship and Cotton Bowl berth in 1948, he was the toast of the town. But the vets graduated, and Aiken started doing what everyone else had been doing in the conference.. recruiting on the edge, and providing under-the-table benefits, in an effort to get and keep good players.

At one point, after the Colorado game in mid-1949, Aiken’s Ducks had won 19 of 22 games. From that weekend forward, his teams went 1-15. In a few years scandals throughout the conference would blow up the old PCC and send Oregon into independence for a few years, but by 1950, all his non-compliance had earned Aiken was a team full of undersized underachievers.  And it showed on the field. Only guard Chet Daniels would earn as much as honorable mention on the All-Coast team for 1950.

By the 1950 Homecoming game, against Washington State, Aiken’s Webfoots had slogged their way to a 1-5 record, with the only win against Montana; they had just lost in LA to one the worst USC teams in history, 30-21, and the normally gruff coach had changed his preparation tactics. He gave the team the week off from full-contact practice, no pads, hoping the rest would do them some good. Not much else had worked; by game seven, senior QB Earl Stelle was 34-79 for 427 yards, two TDs and 10 interceptions, and the backfield by committee – Tommy Edwards, Don Sloan, Ron Lyman and Carl Ervin – was averaging under 100 yards a game.

The week off didn’t help, as the Cougars overcame a halftime deficit with two TDs in the last 10 minutes for a 21-13 road victory.  And so went the rest of the season. A 14-2 Civil War loss put Oregon’s record at 1-9, statistically the worst in school history, then and now (as of 2010). Even the Register-Guard, which at the time could hardly be called a critical judge of the team, laid into them.. in a matter of speaking:

Wait until next year! That’s a crock of buttermilk, and a saying that has been worn to shreds. But there is no doubt that 1950 has been a “building year” for University of Oregon football. And we don’t mean character building, either, although some attention might be given to intellect.. When September arrives, the nine regulars and 25 other veterans should give Oregon the nucleus for a fair-to-middlin’ grid team – providing the boys aren’t more worried about their ‘pay checks’ than blocking, tackling and point-production.. You can’t expect too much help from the freshman squad.”

– Dick Strite, Eugene Register-Guard

Aiken was sacked the following June under bizarre circumstances, replaced by Len Casanova.

Thus, the highlight of the weekend wasn’t at Hayward Field, but down 13th a few blocks; the brand new Erb Memorial Union was dedicated the day before the game, and the $2.1 million complex received rave reviews from students and alumni. The game program this week features a three-page photo spread on the new EMU.  “For the first time, unaffiliated students can get a warm meal on campus.” (How many of our readers know that it took 27 years for the EMU to go from concept to completion? I didn’t.)

Program Note: Some new advertisers appear — KUGN, longtime voice of the Ducks, all 1000 watts of her; and West Coast Airlines, “a government certificated, regularly-scheduled airline.” The future has, at last, arrived.


click to embiggen


December 1, 1945: OSC at Oregon (Civil War)

click to embiggenThe war is over, and football teams across the country not named Army or Navy are picking up the pieces of shredded rosters and depleted coaching staffs. Some teams soldiered on through the war, and some shut it down. Oregon was one of the latter, OSC the former, and it showed during the 1945 season. A cobbled-together schedule resulted in the only season in which Oregon lost both the Civil War and Border War twice, including this week’s featured program game.

The Ducks were greener than their home jerseys in 1945. 27 of the 37 roster players were freshmen, and of the “upperclassmen” only Bobby Reynolds held letterman status, having played in ‘42 before joining the Navy. There were four juco transfers, including future standouts Walt Donovan and Jake Leicht. No other player had taken a snap since high school.  

That this team managed to win three games says as much about the quality of the opposition — of the three victims, only Cal had fielded a team in 1943 and ‘44, while the losses were all to teams that kept their programs going.

The program has but one color page, the cover, a nice period “guy holding a program with a picture of a guy holding a program with a picture of a guy holding a program…” image of Typical Fan at a bus stop in his stadium coat, by commercial artist William Macrae Gillies. (Don’t get used to these fine-art covers, they’ll be going out of style soon.)

There is solid editorial content in this program — a detailed bio of Duck coach Tex Oliver, and an explanation / apology for the season. Just not much; at 20 pages including covers, the 1945 program is a full 12 pages shorter than that of the 1941 Civil War. 

Thankfully, cigarette advertising is down this season. (Don’t get used to that, either.) Just the Chesterfield center roster spread, and the Philip Morris half-page accompanying the explanation of referee signals, and a quarter page for “apple toasted” Old Golds.

On page 4, there’s an In Memoriam placement from the team for their teammate Ronald Crites. Two weeks earlier, Crites, an Army Air Corps pilot, was on a training mission at Mahlon Sweet Field northwest of Eugene when his plane suffered engine failure, caught fire and plummeted to the earth. Crites was killed instantly; his training mate, John Ohmer, died a few days later at Sacred Heart. Investigators never discovered the cause of the crash. 

Center spread:

click to embiggen