Calling all history detectives! This 103 year old football came from someone in Texas who thought it might be a rugby ball from Ohio. But once I saw the writing on the ball, M.A.A.C. – 6, O.A.C. -0, 1912, I was convinced it wasn’t from Ohio, but it was most likely a football game ball played between the Portland, OR based Multnomah Amateur Athletic Club (MAAC), and the Oregon Agricultural College (OAC) in Corvallis, OR. Most of us here in Portland know the Multnomah Athletic Club (MAC Club), which in 1936 dropped the “Amateur” from its name. Formed in 1891 by 26 football players, the MAC Club has evolved over the years into Portland’s premier social and athletic club, with nearly 20,000 members. For many years the MAC Club fielded athletic teams of all sports, comprised of local residents and former collegiate athletes, etc., and they competed against other amateur teams and colleges across the NW. OAC, or Oregon State University as we now know it, regularly played the MAC Club in the early 1900’s as part of its regular schedule. From 1893 to 1926, this site shows 23 meetings between the two organizations. The MAC typically had older players, many who had played college ball (and some even for Oregon State!), and their maturity is reflected in their winning record over the Beavers!
In authenticating the vintage of this ball, I looked closely at the shape of a ball (more like a watermelon, like early footballs were!), and the logo on the back, which is pretty faint and hard to read… On the logo I picked out a few letters within a visible circle, and it appears the letters match the text “Official Inter-Collegiate Foot Ball,” which was an early Spalding football that I found advertisements for from 1904 and 1920. Our ball fits right in that timeline and the logo circle, text, and stitching and laces appear to almost match the 1920 ad! Now, to the biggest question with this ball… finding evidence of the game in 1912 between MAAC and OAC, which was won by MAAC 6-0! I started by looking at the scores from the website linked above, and found that in 1912 the MAAC won that game 9-0. I researched old Oregonian articles and confirmed that 9-0 was the score that year. Things weren’t lining up! So was this ball from a second game they played that year, which has been overlooked and I just haven’t found the articles to confirm it? The teams did play multiple times in some years. Or, we know that in 1913 two games were played the score was 6-0 in one of them, so maybe this second game was actually played in 1912 (around New Years) but they just reference it for the 1913 season in yearbooks, etc? I need to review more articles to see if that is the case! Other thoughts may be that the JV teams of each organization played (I know OAC had a “Rooks” team) and this is a ball from that? Or maybe it wasn’t from a football game at all? I can’t find any reference in OSU yearbooks to OSU participating in rugby back then, but I know the MAAC did play rugby… I’m working with the MAC Club’s historian, who is also convinced this is an authentic ball from a game between MAC and OAC, to see if we can figure out the story behind this it. But regardless, until we can put the final puzzle piece together, it’s still a neat piece of OSU and the MAC Club’s history! Can you help us out???
*UPDATE – I was at the MAC Club the other day eating dinner when I started walking around the sports bar looking closer a lot of old memorabilia, when I came across an almost identical ball to this one, but from a game between the MAAC and the University of Oregon, which MAAC won 20-7! I looked up Oregon’s 1912 season, and sure enough, on November 29, 1912, those teams played in Portland and MAAC won by that score. This leads me to believe (but I can’t confirm) our MAAC vs. OAC game ball is also from that 1912 season, but somehow the newspaper got the score wrong at 9-0, when it was actually 6-0, and it has been reported incorrectly ever since!