A Treasure Trove for Dawg lovers

Prior to kickoff before a Husky home game, the swarming crowds in front of Hec Ed Pavilion pass by a door that opens free to the public exactly two hours before kickoff. Stepping away from the noisy atmosphere of the pre-game hustle and bustle outside, I enter into the venerable, old arena.

By way of the carpeted mezzanine, I make my way toward the far left side of the corridor. Breaking the threshold of this entryway allows me entrance into the quiet and reflective atmosphere of the Husky Hall of Fame.

Though many Washington fans have eagerly taken the time to enjoy all that the Hall of Fame offers, many others have yet to do so. The point of this piece is to bring to life some of the artifacts by illustrating the stories behind them. Tyee member Dave Torrell is curator and was a part of the HOF's creation, alongside Jim Daves (UW Sports Information Director) and Chip Lydum (Director of Facilities). Torrell spent much time and effort gathering up photos and trophies and tracking down leads for fascinating artifacts.

He is there to greet me and begin our discussion.

"At the beginning we didn't know what we were looking for," said Torrell. "We would go to collector's homes and see memorabilia that stood out. And it has worked. I would say that 9 out of 10 new visitors are surprised by the quality of what they see here."

He pauses a moment to reflect.

"Trophies in general become inherently boring… While things like game programs are inherently colorful. We have received a lot of compliments about the great items that we have accumulated here. People are interested in the older memorabilia, from when they went to the UW. Especially if it was while the UW was dominant… The same people who professionally designed the NCAA Hall of Fame designed the Husky Hall of Fame… Of all the items here, it says that the Athletic Department is proud of its history."

Upon entering the Husky Hall of Fame, there is a feeling of walking into a room of elegant achievement. It's like a Louvre for the gridiron. Fancy carpet sets the tone and there is studio lighting in place, projecting a glow upon the various artifacts stationed everywhere about the room.

Behind the first glass casing, I stopped dead in my tracks. Positioned regally is the shiny, black National Championship trophy from the 1991 Washington football team. A few steps beyond that are other glittering treasures, including Steve Emtman's Lombardi and Outland trophies, as well the 2001 Rose Bowl trophy.

In my discussion with Torrell, I asked him to discuss some of his favorite artifacts and the stories behind them, as we made our way around the room.

"I was talking to (former football coach) Jim Owens," said Torrell. "I asked him if he could maybe draw up an old play for us to display. Owens said, `I can do better than that.' And he gave us this photo of him actually drawing up a play with his assistant coaches, including Chesty Walker, Tom Tipps, Bert Clark and others."

It is a fascinating photo, with a young and stern looking Jim Owens sporting a crew cut. He is standing at a chalkboard, and his assistant coaches are looking on while seated at old-fashioned school desks. Almost as if for posterity, a pencil sharpener sits conspicuously in the foreground.

There are two other great photos of Jim Owens. In one, his players are carrying him off the field in 1959. It was when Washington beat the Cougars 20-0 to go to the Rose Bowl. The other one is Barbara Hedges' personal favorite, of Owens being honored at the time of his retirement. He is seated at a banquet table with Bud Wilkinson, Bear Bryant, John McKay and Darrel Royal. They are looking dapper and laughing heartily and I can tell that the cameraman caught the moment just right.

Torrell excitedly leads me over to another glass encasement, pointing at an old football. "This is the actual game ball from the final home game played at Denny Field, before they built Husky Stadium." Sure enough, it says UW 7, Cal 0, and the date is from 1919. Adjacent to that is a photo from that game, which was also the last Thanksgiving Day contest, played by a Washington football team. Unbelievably, there is also an actual sidelines down marker fashioned from a broom handle, that was used at Denny Field.

On the opposite wall is a fantastic old photo from 1900 depicting a clash between Washington and Washington Agricultural College (now known as Washington State). The game is being played in the snow. If you look closely, you see that there appears to be an intense pile up of bodies and a referee is moving in to restore order… and he is wearing a trench coat! Incidentally, the game ended in a 5-5 tie.

"There are four great football jerseys here," said Torrell, motioning across the way. "We have Marques Tuiasosopo's from the 2001 Rose Bowl. We also have Rick Redman's, George Fleming's and Steve Emtman's."

One of Mr. Torrell's favorite artifacts is that of Sonny Boy.

"Sonny Boy was the UW's mascot from 1920-1923. He is a 3 ½ foot gold-painted wooden statue, and weighs 70lbs," says Torrell.

Sonny Boy has an immensely colorful history, of which I will delve into in a future article. He looks like a "Joe College" kind of figure, with schoolbooks in one hand and a football in the other.

My jaw dropped in seeing several other particular items. In mint condition before my eyes sits a silk-screen poster featuring the schedule from the 1926 Huskies football team. The schedule ranges from the creampuff (vs. USS Willamette) to the daunting (vs. Nebraska.). A second incredible item is a perfectly kept game program from the 1926 Rose Bowl against Alabama.

And then… I leaned in and my eyes peered intensely to read sentences of actual pre-game speech notes from Don James. Carol James, the coach's wife, typed up the most visibly displayed set of notes, that being from what James told his team prior to the 31-0 victory over USC in 1990. The other three sets of notes are from games against Colorado, Oregon, and Arizona State.

And then there's the football picked off by Nesby Glasgow to secure the win over heavily favored Michigan in the 1978 Rose Bowl. It was one of Michigan's own footballs, with their name stamped across the front. One thing's for sure, Michigan will never get it back.

"We had a hard time getting that from Nesby," said Torrell with a laugh. "He was holding on to that tight, until we absolutely promised him that it would be returned."

There is also the famous Dawgfather poster from the early 1990s, which was designed by Dave's son, Jay Torrell. In the picture, coach Don James sits stoically at his desk with his hands folded, while a handful of Husky toughs stand behind him and flanked to each side, wearing pinstripe suits and sunglasses and glaring at the camera.

And two pictures from the "All I saw was Purple" game from 1990. In one photo, Husky defenders are busy engulfing USC QB Todd Marinovich. In another, Husky All-American tailback Greg Lewis churns forward for a gain.

Heading over the basketball section, Mr. Torrell shows me his favorite item of all.

"This is the actual watch given to Jack Nichols when the Huskies were in the 1948 NCAA tournament… If you look closely, you see how it says his name and the year and the other details."

There is also a section dedicated to the 1953 Huskies who, led by All-American Bob Houbregs, went 28-3 and participated in the Final 4. Houbregs' warm-up jacket is there, as well as various photos of him, including his mug on the cover the official NCAA yearbook from 1953. "That was the only time that a Husky player was featured on the cover", says Torrell.

There are so many other items to see that bear mentioning. A program from the first ever Pacific Coast Conference track meet during World War I! Husky hoopster Robert Borbst's letterman's sweater that he wore the night of the dedication game at Hec Ed Pavilion, on December 27, 1927. And the trophy that Russians had to run out and commission at the last minute; as unprepared were they for Washington's stunning crew victory in Moscow in 1958.

Some interesting new items have been discovered or donated of late. "We just received Chuck Carroll's 1928 letterman's jersey," says Torrell enthusiastically. "And the menus from the Union Pacific train that the Huskies took, on their way to Pasadena for the 1937 Rose Bowl."

If you decide to go there and soak it up, the Husky Hall of Fame makes for a very enjoyable time. It is open Monday-Friday from 10 AM- 5PM, and whenever the UW is having an event.

As I make my exit, I look at that national championship trophy again. In my mind's eye, I see Don James standing there with his hands clasping it and a big smile upon his face. I'm aware that people who look upon this trophy 100 years from now won't see it the same way. It won't conjure for them the same memory flashes from that season and Rose Bowl that I witnessed. They certainly won't also see Coach James standing there embracing it, as I do.

But some of them will be as awestruck as I am… when I gaze at that program from the 1926 Rose Bowl.
Dave Torrell welcomes any comments, suggestions or artifact leads. He is actively searching for old jerseys from the 1920s and 1930s, as well any trace of "The Hook". Dave can be reached at (425) 836-8534.

Derek Johnson can be reached at uwsundodger@msn.com

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