Throwback Thursday – Rose Bowl Edition

PHOTO: Courtesy of Pasadena Museum of History | When the Rose Bowl was a horseshoe - New Year's Day 1925

The first New Year’s Day football classic at the Rose Bowl was played in 1923. The Tournament selected the teams that year, Penn State and USC. The Hugo Bezdek-coached Penn State team arrived late causing USC coach Elmer “Gloomy Gus” Henderson to go into a rage. He waited at the Penn State dressing room where a spirited argument ensued with Bezdec nearly coming to blows before the game even got started.

The game began one hour late at 3:05 pm and finished “by the light of the moon.” According to Joe Hendrickson’s The Tournament of Roses, “Sports writers and telegraph operators had to strike matches to complete their stories.” Southern California defeated Penn State 14-3.

Note: In the photo above, notice the location of the wooden goal posts planted on the goal line. Today the goal posts are elevated by a single padded post near the back of the end zone. In the early days, a player could fall into the end zone for a touchdown unconscious after accidentally striking his head on the goal post (imagine the headache it would cause for today’s official touchdown review and concussion protocol).

In 1928, the Rose Bowl’s horseshoe-shaped stands were closed making it a complete saucer-shaped stadium (similar to the Yale Bowl at that time).


Throwback Thursday is written and produced by Rick Thomas

Author Rick Thomas is the former museum curator and vice-chair of education for the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation. He served on the South Pasadena Natural Resources Commission, helping to maintain a strict policy protecting the city’s great old-growth trees. Using touchstone photographs from his own collection—one of the San Gabriel Valley’s largest accumulations of historical images and artifacts—as well as national, state, and local historical archives, Thomas provides a window to his city’s past and an understanding of why its preservation is so important.


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