Beavers Finally Get To Franklin Field
By Kip Carlson
Oregon State sports information
Aug. 30, 2002
CORVALLIS, Ore. - As Oregon State gets ready to continue its 2002 football season Thursday night against Temple, the question might not be why the Beavers are crossing the continent for this non-conference encouner, but how Oregon State missed visiting historic Franklin Field sooner.
Like about seven decades sooner, when OSU made a habit of visiting big-league cities for late-season intersectional games. Among the gridirons feeling the Beavers' cleats in the late 1920s and early 1930s were New York's Yankee Stadium and Polo Grounds and Chicago's Soldier Field. At the time, Franklin Field was one of college football's premier venues but Oregon State's itinerary never included a visit to the city of Brotherly Love, cheesesteaks, Rocky Balboa and the Liberty Bell.
The Beavers have played in Philadelphia before, winning the 1962 Liberty Bowl as Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker darted 99 yards for the game's lone score against Villanova on a frozen field. That game took place at Municipal Stadium, which was later renamed John F. Kennedy Stadium and was demolished in the 1990s to make way for the First Union Center (home of the NBA's 76ers and NHL's Flyers).
As it is, this trip to Philadelphia will be the Beavers' first football journey to the Eastern time zone since a 1987 game at Georgia, and it is OSU's first venture into the Northeast since a 1976 game at Syracuse.
Oregon State will be playing the Owls at what could be considered the Fenway Park or Wrigley Field of college football. Franklin Field originally opened in 1895 and is recognized by the NCAA as the oldest college football stadium still operating.
Located on Pennsylvania's campus, Franklin Field has two cozy tiers of brick-lined stands looming over three sides of the field and the ornate English Gothic architecture of Weightman Hall behind the remaining end zone.
Franklin Field has been the site of numerous college football firsts; in fact, in 1925 it became the nation's first double-decked football stadium. Other notable events include the first stadium scoreboard (1895), the first football radio broadcast (WIP; November, 1922) and the first college football telecast (Philco; Oct. 5, 1939).
Franklin Field now holds 52,893 fans, but before seating alterations reduced capacity the stadium held 78,205 and those seats were often filled. Penn led the nation in attendance from 1938-1942, drawing a total of 1,780,500 fans, ahead of USC, Ohio State, UCLA and Michigan.
The 1962 Liberty Bowl was Oregon State's most recent appearance in one of the major cities of the Northeast. But from 1928 to 1933, the Beavers played six times in major-league cities across the Midwest and Northeast. Despite being the underdog in most of those matchups, Oregon State posted a 4-2 mark and made a strong impression on the national stage.
All this occurred at a time when the National Football League was struggling through its infancy and college football remained king during big-city autumns. Penn and its fellow Ivy League members were among the sport's elite; and the East Coast press generally viewed western visitors as upstarts who could give a good account of themselves by staying within a touchdown or two of most local elevens.
OSU's travels were begun by Paul Schissler, who coached in Corvallis from 1924-32. A protï¿½gï¿½ of Knute Rockne (Rockne taught at Oregon State's summer session from 1925-29), Schissler began broadening the Beavers' schedule with a trip to Milwaukee to play Marquette in 1926; that resulted in a 29-0 Beaver victory.
That set the stage for a 1928 journey that would make Oregon State the first West Coast team to play on the East Coast. New York University, being acclaimed champions of the East after beating Carnegie Tech, was a 3-to-1 favorite over the Beavers for a Thanksgiving Day contest at Yankee Stadium.
Oregon State's wide-open passing and counter plays led to a 25-13 victory that shocked the Big Apple. Combined with Stanford's 26-0 win over Army two days later on the same field, Damon Runyon was compelled to write, 'Any and all arguments as to the merits of Eastern and Mid-Western and Western chuckball end here. The West wins by seven lengths. Let us be thankful that the title remains in America.'
The next year, the Beavers again boarded the Pullman cars for a trip east, this time visiting a heavily-favored Detroit team that was riding a 22-game unbeaten streak. At UD's Dinan Field, Oregon State shocked the Titans with a 14-7 win as Bill McKalip returned an interception for the winning touchdown.
In 1930, Schissler's connection with Rockne helped earn the Beavers a place in a Thanksgiving doubleheader at Chicago's Soldier Field. Oregon State would meet West Virginia and Notre Dame would take on Northwestern, with the proceeds going to benefit the Shriners' hospital. On a frigid day, the Beavers blanked the Mountaineers 12-0 and the other game ended in a scoreless tie as $100,000 was raised for the cause.
No trip was made in 1931, and the news wasn't good in 1932. Oregon State played twice on its eastern swing, losing 8-6 to Fordham at the Polo Grounds and then falling 14-6 to Detroit on the UD campus.
Schissler left Oregon State after the 1932 season and Lon Stiner took over as the Beavers' coach. The 1933 schedule called for another trip to meet Fordham at the Polo Grounds, and pregame writeups indicated that the Rams' victory the previous season had restored the normal order of things.
These were the Beavers' 'Iron Men,' though. Oregon State had played powerful Southern California to a 0-0 tie that ended a 25-game Trojan winning streak, and later unveiled the famous 'pyramid play' - two players hoisting another in the air to block a kick - against Oregon.
The Beavers didn't disappoint a crowd of 40,000, using the pyramid to deny the Rams a point-after kick that kept the score tied 6-6 in the second quarter. A few minutes later, Ade Schwammel booted a 45-yard field goal for a 9-6 Oregon State lead; that was the final score.
That ended the Beavers' trips to the major eastern cities until the 1962 Liberty Bowl. Now, on its return to Philadelphia, Oregon State will finally get its first look at Franklin Field.