PASADENA, Calif. – Stanford appeared in the first Rose Bowl, although the game wasn’t given that name until years later.
In an interesting bookend, the fifth-ranked Cardinal (11-2) will appear in the game’s 100th edition Wednesday against No. 4 Michigan State (12-1).
Win or lose, the Cardinal isn’t likely to be embarrassed the way Stanford was in 1902. The team was walloped by Michigan 49-0, and touchdowns were worth a mere five points at the time.
The game was the first of 99 in Pasadena in an event that has become a cherished tradition in college football. Of all the bowl games, the Rose Bowl has the longest history, the biggest crowds and, usually, the best weather.
It produced the wayward 60-yard run by Cal’s “Wrong Way” Roy Riegels, the last gallop of Notre Dame’s fabled “Four Horsemen,” and Texas’ magnificent 41-38 victory over USC in 2006.
It survived two world wars, the Depression and the Cold War. No wonder it is called “the Granddaddy of Them All.”
That 1902 game, dubbed the East-West Football Game, was held to raise money for the Tournament of Roses parade. Only one player in the Stanford and Michigan lineups weighed more than 200 pounds. On Wednesday, Stanford and Michigan State will each start four 300-pounders.
Stanford surely won’t do what its team did Jan. 1, 1902: The injury-depleted team quit in either the third or fourth quarter, depending on which report you believe.
Upset with the one-sided outcome, the many injuries and the fact that a crowd of some 8,500 overwhelmed the 1,000-seat Tournament Park, organizers dropped the game as part of the program for the next 14 years. Instead, a polo match was held and, later, chariot races until they proved too dangerous.
In 1913, the events included an ostrich race and a race between an elephant and a camel. Football finally returned in 1916, when Washington State beat Brown 14-0 in a downpour.
The name “Rose Bowl” was born when the new 57,000-seat stadium was finished in time for the 1923 game. Two years later, Stanford, led by the great fullback Ernie Nevers, lost 27-10 to Notre Dame and its legendary “Four Horsemen” backfield of Harry Stuhldreher, Jim Crowley, Don Miller and Elmer Layden.
“When you look at the Sugar Bowl, the Orange Bowl and the Cotton Bowl, they’re no longer played in those stadiums,” said Bill Flinn, executive director of the Tournament of Roses. “We’re modernizing our stadium, but it’s still in Arroyo Seco.
“History is constantly being made on the field at the Rose Bowl.”
The Rose Bowl was the first sports event to be aired on national radio, the first college-football game to be on national TV and the first on color TV. The first TV “production” involved one camera in an end zone. There will be about 50 cameras there Wednesday.
The Rose Bowl’s pact matching teams from the Pac-12 (then the Pacific Coast Conference) and the Big Ten originated with the 1947 game. With the advent of the Bowl Championship Series in 1998, that formula is sometimes pre-empted because of national-title matchups — to the chagrin of some Rose Bowl traditionalists.
This will be Stanford’s 14th appearance in the game. It has won six, lost six and tied one.
Stanford, then coached by John Ralston, won the 1971 and 1972 games.
The Cardinal, which is coached by David Shaw, defeated Wisconsin 20-14 in last year’s edition. If Shaw beats Michigan State, he will match Ralston’s back-to-back victories.
Shaw is frequently mentioned when coaching jobs become available at other schools or in the NFL.
“To be honest, it’s unbelievably flattering,” he said. “I think it’s really cool.”