The Only Rose Bowl They Ever Won

A dealer posted a low-resolution image of this menu on ebay; ordinarily, I wouldn’t include it here but the story is too good not to tell. The menu cover says “Oregon State College Football Team Returning from Rose Bowl Game with Duke University at Durham, North Carolina.” Why would the Rose Bowl be played in North Carolina?


Click image to download a 0.5-MB PDF of this menu.

The game took place on January 1, 1942, just 25 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Officials feared the Japanese would bomb a major West Coast event such as the Pasadena Rose Parade and Rose Bowl, so they cancelled the parade, while Duke, which had been invited to pay Oregon State, offered to host the game at its stadium.

The entire story can be found on Wikipedia, but as an Oregon State graduate I feel compelled to offer a brief summary here. Oregon State had won the Pacific Coast Conference championship despite losing two football games, while Duke had been undefeated and was considered the nation’s number two college football team.

Duke appeared to have all the advantages, including a stronger season and home field. Oregon State’s team was on the road for 12 days before the game, five of them en route in trains from Corvallis to Durham via Chicago and Washington, DC. Moreover, the Beavers had to leave one of their players, Chiaki Yoshihara, behind because the federal government ordered all Japanese immigrants on the West Coast to stay near their homes; Yoshihara had migrated to the U.S. with his family when he was three years old. Given these advantages, Duke was widely expected to win by more than two touchdowns.

OSC had just one advantage: the weather. One Duke player said there was more rain that day than he had ever seen. An Oregon State player, used to rain nine months of the year, looked up at the sky and declared the weather “misty.”

If you haven’t guessed, OSC won 20-to-16. This was Oregon State’s first Rose Bowl, the only one ever played outside of Pasadena, and the only Rose Bowl Oregon State ever won. It also had the longest pass play in Rose Bowl history when OSC running back Bob Dethman threw a 30-yard pass and half back Gene Grey ran it in 38 yards for a touchdown. After the game, the Beavers returned to Corvallis via New Orleans, where they watched the East-West Shrine game. Somewhere between New Orleans and Corvallis, Southern Pacific served them breakfast from this menu.

Curiously, Duke’s quarterback, Tommy Prothro, was later OSC’s football coach for ten years before he coached UCLA, the LA Rams, and San Diego Chargers, leading the Beavers into several bowl games and coaching Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker. The rest of the aftermath of the game is as exciting as the game itself, and even if you are not a football fan I encourage you to read that part of the article.


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