The First Big Game…Where's a Football?

Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States of America, was a member of Stanford's Pioneer Class of 1895 and famously served as football manager as an undergraduate on the Farm. Here he describes in his personal memoirs the very first Big Game, played in March of 1892. Amazingly, the future leader of our country was too busy counting gate receipts to be able to see the game itself!

The First Big Game…Where's a Football?


Editor's Note: The Bootleg is proud to present this article as it originally appeared in Editor Peter Grothe's outstanding, but long out-of-print 1952 compilation of essays, Great Moments in Stanford Sports. The Bootleg is profoundly grateful to our longtime friend, the late Mr. Grothe, for personally having given us permission to re-publish these wonderful, long-forgotten articles and open them up to a new generation of Cardinal fans.


Herbert Hoover was a member of the Stanford Class of '95 and was football manager as an undergraduate. Here he describes in his memoirs the first Big Game, played in 1892. Quoted by express permission of the author and the Macmillan Company, the publishers, the following passage relates that the first Big Game was delayed a half hour because "Somebody forgot to bring a football."




The Game was to take place at the Haight Street baseball grounds in San Francisco. We had seats for a total of 15,000 fans. We bought new uniforms for our teams from a dealer on the sales expectations.


We printed seat-numbered tickets for only 10,000 as we did not expect more visitors than that number. When the game came on, two things happened to disturb the managers.


First, the attendance piled up to nearly 20,000. We had no such supply of tickets. So we set up an alley of our college boys from the box office to the gates and sold tickets for cash-the purchasers being carefully watched so that no outsiders crowded in without having first paid their respects to the box offices. At that time few bills were in use in California. We dealt in silver and gold. The cash piled up behind our entrance selling boys to the extent it spilled on the floors; we had to rent a wash-boiler and a dishpan from nearby householders for the price of a free ticket.


And while these difficulties were being solved, the captains of the two teams turned up, demanding to know where was the football. We had overlooked that detail and had to delay the game for a half-hour while we sent downtown for two pigskins.


I did not see the game, but to our astonishment we won. After the game the California manager and I retired to a hotel with our money, now transferred to grain bags, and sat up most of the night counting it. I had never seen $30,000 before. The bank the next morning found that we had $18 more. We were well-financed for the next season.

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