More to the Cal and Stanford Rivalry Than Just 'The Play'

Delete AccountCorrespondent INovember 21, 2009

18 Nov 2000:  A general view of the Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California during the game between the California Bearsand the Stanford Cardinal. The Cardinal defeated the Golden Bears 36-30.Mandatory Credit: Tom Hauck  /Allsport
Tom Hauck/Getty Images

It's the ninth most played rivalry in college football history and yet Cal-Stanford amounts to little more than five laterals and a trampled trombone player. The Big Game has rarely lived up to its moniker, this year possibly being the exception to the rule: today's 112th Big Game marks the first time since 1991 that both teams enter the rivalry game with at least seven wins.

But for what it has lacked in national consequence, the rivalry has replaced with a rich history of traditions, pranks, pre-game festivities, and a host of other strange occurrences since the early 1900s.

Here is a look back at the Big Game through the years through the eyes of The Daily Californian's archives:

1900: The rooters, a collective group of mainstay Cal fans who's job was to cheer for Cal, brought blue and gold umbrellas to the stands to show support for the team, even though it wasn't raining. In addition, "an actual genuine California Bear" was brought onto the field at halftime.

1905: For the first time in Cal's history, students were excused from schoolwork in order to allow time to travel to the Big Game which was held in Palo Alto that year and the day was declared a holiday.

The annual axe rally was held in which the crowd of Cal students would march down to the Berkeley National Bank and remove the axe from its vault.

The story of the first Axe theft was retold by its captors. In 1899, Cal students mobbed Stanford fans at a Cal-Stanford baseball game in San Francisco, taking the Axe as booty in the ensuing riot. It was smuggled across the Bay in the skirt of a female student and brought home to Berkeley.

At the end of the retelling of the story, the axe was marched back to the vault and locked up once again. A group of Stanford men also attended the rally, hoping for an opportunity to recover their property.

1910: Players on the team were selected by Cal football coach James G. Schaeffer to live in the Delta Upsilon house to become a better acquainted unit before the Big Game.

1920: The annual Smoker Rally was accompanied by donations of 8,000 free cigarettes from American and California tobacco companies.

Card stunts were begun by the rooters, except cards weren't used, but rather colored hats.

1930: The headline "Two Indians Get Scalped at Smoker" ran on the the front page of the student-run school paper—The Daily Californian . The story said two Stanford students were caught sneaking around the Smoker Rally and were in turn brought before the entire crowd, humiliated, and painted blue. Stanford's rally was highlighted by the burning of a mock Campanile.

Twenty-one Stanford students used a fake camera and tear gas to reclaim the Axe from a Berkeley bank and were dubbed the Immortal 21.

1940: Pre-Big Game prank raids were outlawed by Stanford and Cal. Stanford painted the Big C red anyway. Cal then devised a system to prevent any future pranks. A Bowles Hall resident was posted as lookout over the Big C and the moment any suspicious activity could be seen, he would call a key man at every fraternity on campus to come to the aid of the attempted painting.

In retaliation to the earlier violation of the pact between the schools to abandon pranks, a six-foot C was painted on Stanford's main quad. While this later was revealed as being a Palo Alto High School prank, Cal did accept responsibility for a 20-foot C burned into the Stanford lawn directly outside the business school.

Post-game activities included mini-bonfires throughout the college and the jailing of 30 Cal students.

1949: Stanford and Cal took turns flying planes over the opposing campuses and dropping thousands of leaflets describing how convincingly their team was going to win.

1950: "Hate Stanford Week" is declared along with Blue Monday. All students who wore the color red on Blue Monday were forced to spend time in the Bear Bastille or be recruited as an Axe-travaganza ticket salesman. The Axe-travaganza was Cal's Big Game theater performance.

The Stanford band took a trip to San Francisco dressed in blue and gold and played the Bears' fight song off key for hours.

A rented helicopter was used to dry the cite of the Big Game because of the excessively muddy field.

1951: Prince Lightfoot, a Yurok Indian of the Klamath Fall tribe becomes Stanford's mascot for the Big Game.

1960: Blue Monday is ended, and punishments for wearing red on campus were discontinued. Instead, students are rewarded for wearing the color blue.

A fraternity decoration competition is held for the Big Game in which the fraternities signed up for the event had to make a display which included Cal's mascot, Oski, and Stanford's Indian in a television or movie setting. One of the fraternity entries was called "Malice in Wonderland" and depicted Oski scalping the Indian staged at a tea party.

Stanford once again bombed the Cal campus, with over 10,000 leaflets claiming Stanford's predicted dominance in the Big Game.

Stanford's Big Game banner was stolen from their stadium the same week the Axe trophy was stolen from Cal's safe. The banner was returned to Stanford after the Big Game and the Axe turned up weeks after.

1970: Giant water balloon launchers were smuggled into the Big Game and used by students in the Cal cheering section to fire water balloons at the Stanford rooting section.

The People's Athletic Committee was formed. The committee was a group of athletes and a variety of other Cal students demanding to be admitted into the Big Game for free.

The tickets weren't granted along with several other demands and, in retaliation, a member of the PAC stormed the field during the Stanford band's halftime show with a National Liberation Front flag. Stanford band members along with police officers restrained the man and he was applauded by Cal students as he was escorted out of the stadium.

1981: A large banner was strung across the Bay Bridge with the words "GO BEARS-BEAT STANFORD."

1982: "The Play ."

1990: The counterpart to "The Play," "The Finish," took place when Cal fans stormed the field along with players after Stanford missed a two-point conversion to let the Bears retain the lead with less than 20 seconds remaining.

After a five-minute delay to remove fans from the field, Stanford was able to recover an onside kick and after a host of penalties by Cal, including the rush onto the field, kick a field goal to win the game.

A Cal fan managed to override a referee's microphone and told the thousands in the stands and thousands of television viewers: "Penalty, excessive arrogance. Stanford sucks."

1998: Five anonymous Cal students known as the "Phoenix Five" walked into the Stanford Band Shack and stole the school's tree mascot.


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