Oregon Unknowns: Casanova’s Water and Dick James Gets Abandoned

Don Gilman History

Ahh, the good old days of leather helmets and two-way players.
Photo copyright (c) 2012 Rexburg Historical Society.

In this edition of Oregon Unknowns we look at some lighter, lesser-known moments in Oregon History; from Bill Hayward plying ‘Oregon Water’ on unsuspecting Californians, to Len Casanova being hung in effigy and crowned King of the Campus — all in the same day.  We will look at Oregon’s original no-huddle, fast-paced offense from an era that might surprise you, and finish with Dick Jones’ fantastic — and slightly bizarre — day against the Beavers.

First, the 1920 Rose Bowl, pitting Harvard against the Webfoots.  Before the game, trainer Bill Hayward (for whom Hayward Field is named), told the press that he wouldn’t allow the Oregon players to drink the water in Southern California, and said that Oregon would be bringing their own water on the train with them.  The Los Angeles press had a field day with this, and afterwards Angelenos would flock to the hotel where the Ducks were staying, asking to buy “Oregon water.”

There was no “Oregon Water.”  Hayward had made the whole thing up.  Instead, he bottled up tap water from right there in L.A. and gave it the local residents.

Another great Oregon Unknown concerns the 1955 Ducks squad.  Despite being coached by the great Len Casanova, the team went 6-4 that year, and after losing badly to Stanford they returned to face Oregon State.

“We had just come back from Stanford and taken quite a beating,” Casanova recalled, “In fact, we came back to campus and I was hung in effigy.” (Can you imagine anyone doing that to Chip Kelly?)

“But I was crowned (King of the Campus) the same day, so it took a little of the sting out of that.”

The Ducks would go on to get their second consecutive win against the Beavers, which would, in fact, be the only time during Casanova’s tenure that they would beat the Beavers consecutively.  As it turns out, the win meant a great deal to the coach.

“Oregon State had an exceptionally fine year, and they were supposed to be so much better than we were,” Casanova said.  “We beat them 28-0, and I think they made three first downs.  To me, it was one of the most satisfying games I’ve ever coached.”

Ah yes, beating the Beavers.  A salve for wounded Ducks throughout the ages.

Must. Beat. Beavers….
Photo copyright (c) 2012 Don Hankins.

1957 was a great year for the Webfoots, although it started off poorly with a last-second loss to Idaho. (Idaho — are you kidding me?)  Yet after that loss the team went on a tear, becoming the first Oregon squad to beat all four big California schools in the same year.  (They also beat San Jose State in 1957, making them 5-for-5 against the state that year.)

During the Stanford game, which Oregon won 27-26, the team ran a no-huddle offense for the vast majority of the game, with Jack Crabtree calling audibles at the line of scrimmage. In the stands during that game was a young Chip Kelly, absorbing the idea of a fast-paced offense that would one day be his. Okay, maybe not (Chip was born in 1963 and grew up in New Hampshire), but as they say, never let the truth get in the way of a great story.

Oregon head coach Len Casanova, assistant coach John McKay, and Oregon QB Jack Crabtree.

At the end of the season, on the first day of 1958, the Ducks would come very close to pulling one of the all-time great upsets against heavily-favored Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.  Crabtree would go on to get the Player of the Game award, only the third time in the Rose Bowl’s history that the award went to a player from the losing team.

Our final story in this edition of Oregon Unknowns involves Dick James.  At the end of the 1954 campaign, Dick had a great game, scoring three touchdowns to not only help beat the Beavers, but also tying him for the conference scoring title.  Apparently, Dick enjoyed taking longer showers than the other players, and on this day he had definitely earned a little extra time to soak out the soreness.  There was only one problem.

When James got out of the shower, there was no one there.   When he went outside, the bus was gone.  He had been left in Corvallis, with no ride back to Eugene.

Then Dick saw a friend of his, a young woman named Sonia Taylor. She offered him a ride back to Eugene, which he gratefully accepted. As they drove south, they listened to the radio, which shortly thereafter announced that Beavers head coach Kip Taylor had been fired following the game.

Sonia Taylor was Kip Taylor’s daughter.

Oh my.


This new Friday series are the OREGON UNKNOWNS, where we look at interesting aspects about our beloved Ducks that few fans know about.  Are you a former player or know someone that has an Oregon Unknown to share?  This is great fun for the fans, and for players to remember again the special times during their Oregon career. Simply email Charles@fishduck.com and share in the fun!

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