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January 1 - A Day of Sports Firsts and Oddities   

For most of the world the first day of the year is uneventful. It's a combination of brunches, New Year's resolutions, sleeping late and watching bowl games on TV. But through the years, a lot has happened in the world of sports on this day.

Back in 1897, the first black collegiate football game was played. Atlanta University defeated Tuskegee Institute in a game played in Atlanta.         

The Tournament of Roses has been celebrated every New Year's Day since 1890 with floats and pageantry, an idea inspired by the Battle of Flowers at Nice, a feature of that French city's carnival festival staged in the last days before Lent. On January 1, 1902 the first "Tournament of Roses" football bowl game was played in Pasadena, California. Michigan destroyed Stanford, 49-0. On January 1, 1916, Washington State defeated Brown, 14-0, in the first of the continuing Rose Bowl games.

On January 1, 1911 Hank Greenberg was born in New York City. He would play thirteen years in the major leagues, be dubbed "Hammerin' Hank" for his home run power and be admitted to the Baseball Hall of game in 1956.

On the first day of 1923 the ninth Tournament of Roses Association football game was officially renamed the Rose Bowl game, and Southern California trimmed Penn State 14-3.

On that same day, "Wee Willie" Keeler died in Brooklyn, New York. Keeler had played major league baseball for 19 years and recorded a lifetime batting average of .345 while swinging a bat that weighed just 30 ounces. The man who "hit 'em where they ain't" would be admitted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.

On January 1, 1925 Notre Dame defeated Stanford, 27-10, in the Rose Bowl. That was the game where the "Four Horsemen" backfield of Notre Dame played together for the last time.

On January 1, 1929 in Houston Atlanta University's football team defeated Prairie View, 6-0. It was called the "Prairie View Game" and was the first black college bowl game ever played.

On that same day Roy Riegels gained enduring sports notoriety. He ran 69 yards - the wrong way - as Georgia Tech defeated California 8-7 in the Rose Bowl.

And speaking of sports notoriety, one of the strangest moments in the history of college football took place in 1954 at the Cotton Bowl. Before more than 75,000 fans, Dicky Moegle of Rice was the victim of "twelfth man" tackle. Alabama's Tommy Lewis came off the bench to knock down the Rice half-back as he ran towards the goal line. Moegle and Rice were awarded a touchdown giving the Texas team a 14-6 lead. The final score was Rice 28, Alabama 6. Moegle racked up 264 yards and the Most Valuable Player Award.

Other historical firsts on that first day of the year include: 1937-- the first Cotton Bowl game - TCU a 16-6 victor over Marquette at Dallas, Texas; 1946 -- the first Gator Bowl game -- Wake Forest triumphing 26-14 over South Carolina at Jacksonville, Florida; and 1947 --Buddy Young of Illinois becoming the first black player to score a touchdown at the Rose Bowl as the Illni defeated UCLA 45-14.

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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