Concluding our post from last Monday about our visit to the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame. Today, we will share some pictures chronicling UCLA’s football history. Near the entrance to the museum was a football nearly 85 years old. I was surprised at how modern the shape looked. (Last fall Smithsonian wrote about the evolution of the football shape here.)
Here are great tickets that capture the Californian mid-century design aesthetic that still pervades Los Angeles.
What a big leap in helmet technology in just a decade. In this Popular Mechanics article, it is noted the plastic helmet represented a huge sea change in football:
“The granddaddy of helmet innovation, however, came in 1939, when the John T. Riddell Company of Chicago introduced the first plastic football helmet. In addition to being stronger than leather models, the plastic helmet proved to be more durable. Riddell is credited with adding the first face mask, also plastic, in 1940 and moving the helmet strap from the Adam’s apple to the chin.”
Here’s a really cool uniform worn by Burr Baldwin, UCLA’s first consensus All-American. Baldwin played for UCLA from 1940-42, entered World War II, then finished at UCLA in 1946. The uniform was for the preseason Chicago College All-Star game, which was played annually from 1934 to 1976 and featured an all-star squad of graduated college seniors versus the previous season’s NFL champions. This particular game took place on August 23, 1947 against the Chicago Bears. Before a crowd of 105,840, the College All-Stars beat the Bears 16 – 0.
UCLA remains rightfully proud of Jackie Robinson. It remains impressive how many sports at UCLA Robinson was able to star in–he lettered in football, basketball, baseball, and track. Ironically, baseball was his weakest sport:
“As UCLA’s shortstop in 1940, statistics indicate that baseball was the sport with which he had the most trouble. Robinson posted a .097 batting average the one year he played baseball for the Bruins. He excelled at the three other sports, earning All Pac-10 honors in football, being named the West Coast Conference MVP in basketball, and establishing a long jump record.”
A 2007 ESPN article stated Robinson:
“Enrolling at Pasadena Junior College, Robinson broke the school record in the long jump set by his brother and gained such fame as a football star that crowds ranging from 30,000 to 60,000 came out to see the wing-footed running back described in the quaint trappings of the day as ‘one of the swiftest perambulators in the nation.’
Robinson would go on to even greater stardom at UCLA, where he became the school’s first four-letter athlete. Called by a rival coach ‘the best basketball player in the U.S.,’ Robinson led the Pacific Coast Conference in scoring both as a junior and senior.”
Speaking of Robinson’s older brother Mack Robinson, whose long jump record Jackie broke at Pasadena Junior College, I had no idea that Mack won a silver medal in the 200m at the 1936 Berlin Olympics with fellow American Jessie Owens taking gold.
There are so many different designs of the Bruin bear throughout the museum. It was fun to see how different eras portrayed the mascot.
I was surprised by how dinky this Rose Bowl trophy was. It could’ve easily been the Section III Division G champions of the Idaho High School football tournament. By comparison, the nearby Heisman Trophy (won in 1967 by UCLA quarterback Gary Beban) cut an impressive figure.
Uhh, yeah. UCLA has a lot of these national championship trophies–the most all time. To date, UCLA has won 108 team championships with a bunch more individual championships to equal 129 total. Right behind them are Stanford University and USC. Fourth place (and the winner of the non-California division) is Oklahoma State University with a relatively meager 51 team titles.