General History

They Fought Like Wildcats Centennial (1914-2014): A look at 50th anniversary homecoming celebration in 1964

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General history
J.F. “Pop” McKale
The games
Comparisons then and now
Wildcats nickname
Military service
Rankings

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Excerpt from L.A. Times, Nov. 8, 1914, authored by Bill Henry:

“Arizona’s cactus-fed athletes, despite heroic efforts on the part of their two halfbacks, (Asa) Porter and (Franklin) Luis, went down to defeat before the Occidental Tigers yesterday afternoon, the tally with all precincts heard from being 14 to 0 in favor of the Tigers.
Confident of rolling up a big score, the Tigers took the field with grins on their faces, but before the game was 10 seconds old they knew they had a battle on their hands.
The Arizona men showed the fight of wild cats and displayed before the public gaze a couple of little shrimps in the backfield who defied all attempts of the Tigers to stop them.”

This site will conduct a countdown in a 100-day period, leading up to Arizona’s 2014 football season-opener with UNLV on Aug. 29 at Arizona Stadium. The 100 Days ‘Til Kickoff countdown will include information daily about the historic 1914 Arizona team that helped create the school’s nickname of “Wildcats” because of how they played that fateful day against Occidental.

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The floats in the 1964 Homecoming game carried a them of the 1914 on the 50th anniversary of Arizona becoming the Wildcats (Arizona Desert Yearbook photo)

The floats in the 1964 Homecoming game carried a theme of the 1914 team on the 50th anniversary of Arizona becoming the Wildcats (Arizona Desert Yearbook photo)

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Before a centennial celebration can happen, a 50th anniversary commemoration must take place.

With this being Day No. 64 in our countdown toward the Arizona Wildcats’ football season, it is a good time to take a look at what happened on campus in 1964, 50 years after Arizona became the “Wildcats”.

The late Bill Henry, a longtime Los Angeles Times reporter and columnist, was honored by Arizona in 1964 for his report in 1914 that informed readers that Arizona played Occidental College with the “fight of wildcats”.

Arizona bestowed Henry, later a renowned Times columnist and war correspondent, the honor as the “Father of the Arizona Wildcats” at the 50th Homecoming in 1964. The game against Idaho, won by Arizona 14-7, was played 50 years to the exact date when the “Varsity” played Occidental.

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Arizona’s homecoming game this year — also the 100th anniversary of the school’s first homecoming game — is on Nov. 8 against Colorado. That will be 100 years from the exact date the consequential L.A. Times story written by Henry was published.

Henry, who was an NBC-TV announcer in 1964, was the main speaker at the All-Alumni luncheon at the Pioneer Hotel the day before the Idaho game.

“McKale is to sports what fresh cool water is to the desert — everything around him is the better for his coming,” Henry is quoted as saying by the Tucson Daily Citizen. “I saw the game on television a week ago (a 7-0 loss at Air Force). And I’m convinced the Wildcats of 1914 passed the spirit along to the Wildcats of 1964.”

Henry and McKale were the grand marshals of the homecoming parade, which featured floats that carried a theme of the 1914 team.

A clipping of the Tucson Citizen following the 1964 homecoming game in which Orville McPherson of the 1914 hosted a postgame party that included his former teammates and coach J.F. "Pop" McKale

A clipping of the Tucson Citizen following the 1964 homecoming game in which Orville McPherson of the 1914 team hosted a post-game party that included his former teammates, coach J.F. “Pop” McKale and former L.A. Times correspondent Bill Henry.


Caption here

The 1914 Arizona football team that earned the honor of being named the first “Wildcats” was composed of (front row, left to right): Verne La Tourette, George Seeley, Leo Cloud, Richard Meyer, Asa Porter. Second row: Franklin Luis, Lawrence Jackson, Ray Miller, J.F. “Pop” McKale (coach), Turner Smith, Harry Hobson (manager), Orville McPherson, Albert Crawford, Ernest Renaud. Back row: Albert Condron, Emzy Lynch, Charley Beach, Vinton Hammels, Bill Hendry, George Clawson, Harry Turvey.
(AllSportsTucson.com graphic/Photo from University of Arizona Library Special Collections)

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What they were talking about on this day in 1914

Friday, June 26, 1914

In the first game of a doubleheader, the Philadelphia Athletics complained that Washington Senators pitcher Joe Engel was pitching with both feet off the rubber. In the fourth inning, umpire Ollie Chill started calling Engel’s pitches balls for the illegal delivery. Washington manager Clark Griffith ran on to the field to argue the calls and refused to leave. Chill forfeited the game to Philadelphia. Washington was fined $300 as a team and Griffith $25.

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Eight members of the 10 living members of the 1914 team attended the 1964 homecoming game: Orville McPherson (Tucson was his home at the time), Emzy Lynch (Phoenix), George Clawson (Mesa), Turner Smith (Whittier, Calif.), George Seeley (Benson), Richard Meyer (Santa Monica, Calif.), Charles Beach (Tucson) and J. Vinton Hammels (Phoenix).

Two other living members at that time — Albert Condron (San Diego) and Franklin Luis (Salinas, Calif.) — could not attend the game and festivities.

The remainder of the “Varsity” who passed by then (the average age was about 70 of the players who made the 1964 game): Albert Crawford, Verne LaTourette, Leo Cloud, Asa Porter, Lawrence Jackson, Ray Miller, Ernest Renaud, Bill Hendry and Harry Turvey.

"They Fought Like Wildcats" theme shown in this float during the 1964 homecoming parade (Arizona Desert Yearbook photo)

“They Fought Like Wildcats” theme shown in this float during the 1964 homecoming parade (Arizona Desert Yearbook photo)

J.F "Pop" McKale passed away three years after the 1964 homecoming celebration, so the event was one of his last memorable moments in Tucson (Arizona Desert Yearbook photo)

J.F “Pop” McKale passed away three years after the 1964 homecoming celebration, so the event was one of his last memorable moments in Tucson (Arizona Desert Yearbook photo)

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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