Fog shrouds first night game in NW History

A wacky cartoon appeared on the sports page of the Seattle Times on November 1, 1929. The main headline stated LIGHTS BLAZE AS HUSKIES PLAY LOGGERS".

The cartoon had its own headline that stated "TACOMA'S ALL LIT UP FOR THE GAME!" It showed a jovial caravan of Husky fans in a Model T Ford and afoot, all racing toward a brilliantly lit stadium that said TACOMA across its façade. The fans were uttering corny jokes, including one character that blurted out: "If CPS runs in a dark horse, I hope it won't be a nightMARE for Washington!"

Sure, it wasn't much for humor, but keep in mind the source.

In reality many of those Husky fans were not in a happy mood. The Huskies were mired in what would become a 2-6-1 campaign. Many fans had turned against coach Enoch Bagshaw and there was tremendous pressure mounting from the alumni to fire him. A behind-the-scenes attempt was made to send Bagshaw to coach at the University of Idaho. Even though Idaho was willing, Bagshaw was not. And in losing the previous week to Oregon 14-0, the collective fan base had had it. The writing was now on the wall. Bagshaw was aware that this was probably the last month he would be the Husky coach. He was about to claim his final victory.

The College of Puget Sound wasn't the most formidable of opponents. But that didn't deter thousands of excited fans from flocking to the stadium in wild droves. 20,000 people crammed into the limited space. The Logger student body had arranged for the delivery of thousands of sparklers to light and wave in the air at kickoff. It probably would have been quite a spectacle, except that in the hour prior to kickoff, billowing clouds of fog came rolling off of Puget Sound and literally engulfed the stadium and field of play.

So here we had excited Northwest fans packed into a small stadium to watch a game for the first time under a dozen batteries of powerful lights, yet no one could see what was happening. Said writer Alex Shults of the Seattle Times: "From the stand(s) the field was just a fog-swept area where, once in a while, a mass of swirling figures could be discerned. No, sir, night football will not be a success in the Northwest so long as the collegians must gamble with fog."

Shults could be excused for feeling cranky: at the start of the second half, he and the other media members finally gave up trying to see through the fog, and left their perch in the press box to come down to sidelines.

Both in physicality and talent, the Huskies were more massive and swifter than the Loggers. The Huskies lead 20-0 at the half, and this was a moral victory for the College of Puget Sound. Both teams fumbled the ball repeatedly, a fact that was blamed afterward on the fog. If this game was to be compared to a dam straining to hold back the pounding current, then the second half represented a bursting forth of furious rushing water. For Washington, the touchdowns came swift and often as the will of the Loggers was crushed. The Huskies ran wild to a 73-0 victory. Leading the way was future All-American running back Merle "Hula Hips" Hufford, who scored three touchdowns. After the third score, he was pulled so that the backups could get playing time.

At one point the Loggers had some shred of momentum, but this quickly vanished in light of having had three passes intercepted and all returned for touchdowns. Husky Roy Squires did the honors on one of the ill-advised throws, racing back the other way for an early touchdown. Another Husky defensive back named Art Oberg picked off a pass and raced 75 yards for a touchdown. When he crossed the goal line, there was so much fog that virtually no fans realized what had happened. Everyone was straining to see toward one end of the field, while Oberg was rumbling through the cold fog and breaking the plane of the end zone at the other end of the field.

In the end, the fans left the stadium feeling cheated. And the media was clearly disgruntled. Said the Seattle Times: "The theory of night football is splendid. It gives fans who must work in the daytime an excellent opportunity to see their favorite football team in action. But if they go to a game and are unable to see because of fog after having paid their admission price, they will not be easily coaxed into going again."

Washington headed back to Seattle and would not win another game that season. They lost three in a row to finish the year and soon after, coach Enoch "Baggy" Bagshaw was fired. It had been four long years since he had last taken the Huskies to the Rose Bowl. He finished with a record of 63-22-6 and two Rose Bowls. But his poor 1929 season, coupled with his annual inability to beat the California Golden Bears, led to his professional demise. His friends say that he was heartbroken by his dismissal.

Ten months later upon the front steps of the capital building in Olympia, Bagshaw had a heart attack and died.
Derek Johnson can be reached at Top Stories