|Saturday, March 19th, 1892 | 4 P.M.|
|at Haight Street Grounds (San Francisco, CA)|
|Attendance: 8,000 | Weather: Dry and overcast|
|California (4-1)||10 (Lost)||The first ever Cal-Stanford game.|
|Stanford (CA) (1-1-1)||14 (Won)|
The game’s significance:
This was the first time that California and Stanford met on the gridiron. It was also the first ever intercollegiate football game in Northern California.
Before this year’s game, it was the only Cal-Stanford game played before the month of November.
Setting the stage:
It was a game between a veteran program (California) and the new kid on the block (Stanford).
California, a school founded in 1868, had been playing football since 1882. However, they only played athletic clubs and local high schools. This would be the first time the program would face another collegiate team.
Starting their season in December of 1891, California had a record of 4-1. Their game against Stanford would be their first in a month. They lost to the Olympic Athletic Club 6-0 on February 20th. It would be the first time in eight seasons that California would play a game in the City of San Francisco, CA.
Stanford, a school founded only a year before this game took place, was playing football for the first time and this was only their fourth game ever.
Heading into the game Stanford had a record of 1-1-1. The week before (March 13th) they fell to the Olympic Athletic Club 10-6; a better showing than their opponent Cal had against the Olympic AC a month before.
This was the last spring game of the season for both teams.
The game was highly anticipated on both campuses, and when game day arrived on March 19th, the excitement didn’t subside. A few hours before the game the streets of San Francisco were colored by the blue and gold clothing of California students, and the red and white worn by the Stanford student body.¹
The historic game was set to begin at 3 P.M., but somebody forgot to bring the ball. A mounted messenger rode into town and eventually found a much-needed football, but the start of the game was delayed for over an hour.
Stanford scored 14 first-half points and fought off a California comeback for a 14-10 victory.
Note: At the time touchdowns were worth four points, and a goal after a touchdown was worth two. As researched by Tex Noel of The Intercollegiate Football Researchers Association.
Stanford scored three touchdowns (12 points) and had one goal after a touchdown (2 points).
California scored two touchdowns (8 points) and had one goal after a touchdown (2 points).
The first ever play in the “Big Game” was a fumble. On the game’s opening play, Stanford knocked the ball out of the hands of a California player. Stanford didn’t do much with it from there, and the two teams gave the ball back and forth on downs in the opening part of the first half.
Carl Clemans scored the game’s and Stanford’s first touchdown. The scoring play was setup by a 20-yard run by team captain John Whittemore. They added a two-point goal after touchdown (Stanford 6-0).
On Stanford’s next drive, Clemans made one of the plays of the century. His 45-yard touchdown run was cited as the longest in any intercollegiate game played in the West. From the book The Games of California and Stanford (1900) by Jack F. Sheehan and Louis Honig:
“Clemans, clutching the ball tightly, swung wide of his brother players, flung a tackler from him by a twist of his powerful hips, used the “straight arm” once more with effect, and fell prostrate across the goal line with a Berkeley player hanging to his legs. It was a wonderful run of forty-five years, the longest results in a touchdown ever made in any of the Western intercollegiate games.”
Stanford didn’t get the two-point goal after the touchdown (Stanford 10-0).
Ten minutes later Whittemore put another touchdown on the board for Stanford. Their two-point goal attempt was no good again (Stanford 14-0).
In the second half California finally put some points on the board, when Ray Sherman ran in a touchdown (Stanford 14-4).
California would score another touchdown and suddenly Stanford was only up by four points (Stanford 14-10).
The game ended with both teams not being able to advance the ball far past mid-field. So there you have it. Stanford won the first “Big Game” by a score of 14-10.
California and Stanford would meet again in December of that year (1892). The two teams fought to a 10-10 tie. This time both teams were better prepared. Stanford was being coached by Walter Camp, the “Father of Football”, and California was prepared by former Yale star and Camp pupil Lee McClung. Despite their more advanced training, California fumbled the opening snap just as they did in their inaugural meeting.
Before heading to Stanford, Camp led Yale to an undefeated 13-0 record and a national championship in 1892.
Early on in the rivalry Stanford held an advantage over California. From 1892-1897, Stanford was undefeated against California (4-0-3), outscoring them 90-32.
The first 13 games in the Cal-Stanford rivalry were all played in the City of San Francisco. The two teams have never played there since.
This year California and Stanford meet on October 20th. It’s the earliest in the year that the two teams have met since their inaugural meeting in 1892.
Odds and ends:
Despite a police presence, it was reported that a lot of gambling took place amongst the crowd at the first Cal-Stanford game. The odds changed as the game moved along. First California was favored three-to-one, than it was even money, finally Stanford was favored… The crowd made a lot of noise by blowing tin horns and shaking rattles… After the game the two schools went to the Bush Street Theater for a performance…
It has been written that U.S. President Herbert Hoover was Stanford’s team manager at the time of the first “Big Game. Tex Noel found information that would say otherwise. According to Noel, early college football statistician Parke H. Davis listed Hoover as being Stanford’s financial manager in 1894. This was two years after the first Cal-Stanford game. The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Association also confirms that Hoover was the manager for the fourth Cal-Stanford game, not the first. The aforementioned text The Games of California and Stanford (1900) lists Carl Clemans as Stanford’s team manager in 1892.
Stats for this game are extremely sketchy, as play-by-play isn’t complete, and no box scores were published.
Stanford’s Clemens may have rushed for over 100 yards. He had at least one 45-yard run, scored two touchdowns, and was listed as the “star player” in wire reports.
|Linescore||1st Half||2nd Half||Final|
Stanford, Carl Clemans run (2-point goal afterwards)
Stanford, Clemans 45-yard run (2-point goal afterwards no good)
Stanford, John Whittemore run (2-point goal afterwards no good)
California, Ray Sherman run (2-point goal afterwards)
California, run (2-point goal afterwards no good)
Where to Find Photos:
- An illustrated map of the Haight-Ashbury District that shows a drawing of the Haight Street Grounds. The map was published by the H.S. Crocker Co in 1893. It can be retrieved from raremaps.com.
- A photo of the Haight Street Grounds in 1887 during a baseball game. The photo can be retrieved from Foundsf.org.
- In the book The Games of California and Stanford (1900), there is team photo of Stanford’s first football squad. The photo is printed on page 9, and can be viewed at Google Books.
- Photobucket user lesmitch529 posted a team photo of California’s football squad in the spring of 1892.
Sheehan, Jack F. & Honig, Louis. (1900). The Games of California and Stanford. San Francisco, CA: Commercial Publishing Company. Retrieved 10/16/2012 from Google Books.
¹ Undefined. (1892, March 20). The Stanfords Easily Win at Football. Daily Nevada State Journal, pp. 2. Retrieved 10/16/2012 from NewspaperARCHIVE.
Other sources: College Football Data Warehouse