Here is the second of the two 1942 Rose Bowl ribbons that I have found. This pin is much smaller than the first, a little bigger than a quarter, and the gold writing on the black ribbon has mostly worn off. But if you look closely, you can still read that it says “Oregon State Beavers vs. Duke Blue Devils,” and below that, “Durham, N.C.”
Over the years a handful of truly great athletes in their given sport once walked across the Oregon State campus as students. In the conversation about the greatest OSU athletes of all time, the names of Gary Payton, Dick Fosbury, Steven Jackson, Terry Baker, AC Green, Steve Johnson, and a few more come to the top of the list for most. But long before the names you recognize, one Beaver grappler, nearly 90 years ago, compiled arguably the greatest resume and impacted his sport far greater than all the others.
Robin Reed was born in a tiny logging town in Arkansas but his family eventually moved to Portland where he took up wrestling at Franklin High School only to get enough PE credits to graduate. After going undefeated through high school, he enrolled at Oregon Agricultural College (now OSU) in 1921 making quite a name for himself. While at OAC he won every single match he wrestled in over four years in both local and national competitions. Weighing only around 135 pounds, during the 1924 Olympic Trials, Reed entered the 145.5, 158.5, 174 and 192 (heavyweight) weight classes where he promptly won all of them. He traveled to France for the 1924 Olympics winning gold in the 134.5 pound weight class, pinning every opponent he faced. As the story goes, on the boat en route to France Reed challenged every member of Team USA, beating all 13 of them, 12 by pins. His lone victory by points was against the US heavyweight, Harry Steel, who went on to win the heavyweight gold medal at the Olympics. On the boat back home, Reed challenged Steel again and pinned him five times in 15 minutes. As amazing as this sounds, there are several other incredible stories of Robin Reed’s wrestling feats over the years!
Upon his return from the Olympics in 1924, Robin retired his amateur wrestling career having never lost a match – a feat unmatched by anyone else in the history of the sport other than Japan’s Osamu Watanabe. Widely considered America’s greatest wrestler in the pre-WW2 era, and possibly the greatest amateur ever, Reed was eventually enshrined into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1978. Here are a few pictures of Robin Reed during his prime at OSU and at the Olympics!
The earliest championship rings in professional and college sports were given out in the early 1920’s but it wasn’t until the 1930’s that these rings became commonplace. In 1942, the Oregon State football team traveled to Durham, North Carolina to play Duke in the only Rose Bowl played outside of California, due to the start of WWII. The Beavers won the game for their only Rose Bowl victory in program history. To commemorate that team, the school presented the players and some coaches/staff with Rose Bowl Championship rings! With only 33 players on the roster and a much smaller staff than today’s teams, it’s likely less than 50 of these rings were ever handed out. Who knows how many still even exist! The ring below belonged to Bill Halverson, an offensive lineman on that team, who you can tell proudly wore it for many years before his passing in 1984! Following the 1942 college season, Halverson was an 8th round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles (63rd overall pick) and he played in 8 games during his one and only season in the NFL. Halverson can be seen in the bottom picture (back row, far right), sporting his new 1942 Rose Bowl jacket the players wore on their trip to Durham! (Ring pics courtesy of Gasoline Alley Antiques)
This is one of my favorite old pictures I’ve come across because there are so many neat things that can be seen in it. This is a picture of a table full of memorabilia from the Oregon State baseball team, which could have been set up for an end of year party or maybe for all the other students to see! We can assume this picture was taken probably sometime around 1912 because the pennants at the top say “Aggies,” which is what OSU was known as before the mascot became the Beavers sometime around 1910 (it still took several years to phase that in because I have seen a football article from 1926 which still referred to them as the “Oregon Aggies”). In one of the comments to my original post on this, my friend Trevor pointed out that the company who took the picture has been in Corvallis since 1912, which helps figure out the rough date! Taking a closer look at the photo, here are some of the things that stand out… The OAC pennants and the Aggies pennants are some of the oldest pictures of pennants that I have seen. There are a lot of individual photos on the table and hanging on that blanket behind the display. The blanket, with the large O, is an official blanket of some sort. I wonder if it’s a very early Pendleton Woolen Mills blanket? We know that Pendleton Woolen Mills, which opened in 1909, made official blankets that looked like this for OSU back as early as the 1940’s and they were given to athletes at the end of the season, but this would mean they may have made blankets for OSU well before that! The couple trophies on the table appear to say “Stall Dean Championship Cup.” I bet a close review of early yearbooks could help figure out what year this is from because we can see the style of hats and jerseys they wore in the picture. What else do you see??? One thing is for sure, they were definitely proud of their team!
This pin, showing a beaver chewing on wood and a chain link to a rose, is from the Beaver’s 1957 Rose Bowl game versus Iowa. I’m not exactly sure what the three letters stand for, but it’s likely someone’s initials (maybe a players or a staff member?) or possibly it was for a campus organization. Any thoughts?
This pinback with the original ribbons and plastic charm is likely from the 1950’s and possibly from the 1957 Rose Bowl. It is uncommon to find these vintage school pins with ribbons in the first place and even more uncommon to find them with the original charms as well. Typically, the charms are small footballs dangling from a piece of chain or fabric. This is the only Oregon State ribbon I have found with a plastic charm that is hand painted showing the two tackling football players.
In the 120 year history of Oregon State football, only three teams finished the season with an unblemished record… the 1897 team finished a “lengthy” season with a 2-0 record; the 1907 team finished 6-0; and the 1914 team finished 7-0. But it was the 1907 team who finished the season with not only an unblemished record, but an unblemished defense as well! Over this six game season, they outscored their opponents 137-0! The Oregon State student paper, the Barometer, published a special edition to recognize the 1907 footballers and this incredible season. To view this incredible piece of history from the 1907 team, click here. Below is a team photo found in the OSU Archives.