Football in California in 1876 and 1893

September 18, 1876, Monday – Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California

A match at foot-ball came off between the Golden Gate and High School Clubs Saturday. Each club won a game.

September, 1893 – Outing Magazine

FOOTBALL ON THE PACIFIC SLOPE
By John Craig

California has for many years been a paradise for the athlete. Amateur sports each year find a fresh awakening of interest in them in the public mind, and football stands distinctive above all. The climate of the Golden State offers advantages for athletic training perhaps unequaled elsewhere, as out-of-door work can be done in every month of the year, and this is particularly desirable to the men who make up the football elevens.

While the press of the country records from time to time the brilliant intercollegiate games of the East little has been told, outside of the local papers of the section, of the sturdy wearers of the canvas jacket on the Pacific side, although many games have been played there that for exhibitions of strength and skill would compare favorably with the contests on the other slope.

Football on the Pacific slope has not seen many years of life; it is yet in its infancy, and perhaps not more than ten years have seen the game in progress there.

About the first clubs to organize were the Phoenix and Wanderers. These were composed, in the main, of grown men—the Wanderers principally from the English residents—and all their matches were under the Rugby rules.

Some exciting games were played at the old Recreation Grounds, in San Francisco, in the Fall and Winter of 1880-81, the “punting” of Nicholson, captain of the Wanderers, and the “tackling” of Coubrough and Woolrich of the same club, with the clock-work “passing” and the running of Dean and Sime, of the Phoenix team, being the features of these contests. The two last named played together like parts of a machine, one always following a few yards behind the other, each invariably “passing” the ball before or on being “tackled.”

Sime was a wonderful runner, doing 100 yards very close to 10 seconds, and was selected by the Olympic Club of San Francisco, with Belcher and R. B. Haley, for whom a record of 9 4/5 seconds for 100 yards is claimed, to represent that club at the championship games in the East several years ago. Not long after this a number of other clubs entered the field…

The University of California now began to manifest considerable interest in football, and the Merion team soon tried conclusions with the “U.C.s” on the campus at Berkeley, in a game wherein the University team made a wonderful showing. Soon after, they were able to defeat all comers, among them the crack Phoenix team…

The public now began to take great interest in football, for it had found these games full of excitement, and the season of 1886 found five clubs in the field — the University, The Wasps, Orions, Reliance and Law College teams. These organized the California Football League, and for the first time on the Pacific coast the game was played by eleven men instead of fifteen, though at first the intercollegiate rules were not adopted as a whole.

A series of twenty games was played by the league teams in 1886, and they proved to be the greatest treat yet offered to the public in the way of out-door sports.

From 4,000 to 5,000 spectators would fill the grand stand each Saturday at Fourteenth and Centre streets, Oakland, to witness the contests; among the fair sex there was never before on the Pacific coast so much interest manifested in athletic games…

In 1887 another league was organized among younger players than those who formed the teams of the previous season, and was in consequence dubbed the “Little League.” These clubs were, however, not very far behind their predecessors in any particular, and many large audiences witnessed the contests…

Before this time the coast teams had played the half-backs and fullback many yards behind the rush-line, relying on a long pass from the quarter to give them opportunities for gaining headway in going around the “end.” The close play and center-rushing tactics introduced by Tobin soon showed the inferiority of the old-time method, and a game between the San Francisco and University teams resulted in a victory for the former by a score of 44—0. The “long pass” game has never been used on the coast since.

The only team that succeeded in scoring against the victorious Olympics was the eleven of the Leland Stanford, Junior, University — the new university at Palo Alto that has since done so much to develop football and bring it into favor in California.

From: “The Lost Century of American Football

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