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Stanford Report, December 3, 1997

100th Big Game-Stanford, spectators victorious: 12/97

Hoopla prevails at 100th Big Game;
Cardinal douses last-ditch rally

BY LISA TREI

From the 14 Navy Seals who skydived into Stanford Stadium carrying the official football to the frenzied fans who spilled onto the field after the match, the 100th Big Game generated the kind of hoopla that comes around only once a century.

"When are you ever going to see this again?" asked Ed Macaulay, a veteran Stanford sports announcer who has attended Big Games for more than four decades. "Even the students aren't going to live another 100 years. It was wonderful."

Vintage biplanes zoomed over the stadium, and a giant American flag was unfolded across the north end of the field while people stood quietly for the national anthem. At halftime, a montage of 100 years of memorable Big Game moments flashed across a screen, accompanied by the appearance of time-honored veterans associated with the event, such as three members of the "Immortal 21" who stole the Axe ­ the symbol of the two schools' rivalry ­ back from Cal in 1930. There were card stunts by high school kids and a raucous performance by the rag-tag Stanford Band, which ran across the field in chaotic formation ­ a stark contrast to the polished precision demonstrated by Cal-Berkeley's marching band.

During the game, much of the football was humdrum until Cal came from behind during the last quarter for a spirited, but failed, effort to take the game, which Stanford won 21-20. But no one seemed to care if the play was dazzling or dull.

"This is a very big deal," said Stanford sophomore Pablo Hambly, who daubed his shaved head with red and white paint in honor of the day.

"These kinds of pageantries are terribly important for alums," said Al Knoll, who sat with his mother-in-law, Donna Coleman, a 1948 Cal graduate. "She lives for these games."

The spirit of the event was contagious. During the final minutes of play, 85,000 people started yelling as loudly as they could, sending a roar into the leaden afternoon sky.

"It's a classic," announced Jim Volpi, a part-time Stanford Athletics security officer, as the final score flashed across the scoreboard. With that, the Cal student section turned silent.

Then, as some members of the victorious team exhorted Stanford students to come on to the field, Volpi looked through his binoculars and said people were getting crushed against the fence. Police ordered the gates open.

"It was like the running of the bulls at Pamplona," said Capt. Raoul Niemeyer, who was on the field as thousands of people flooded down from the bleachers. "I had to resort to football linebacker tactics to protect myself. A lot of little people were just trampled. It was a real dark day for Stanford."

At least six people were arrested and several were injured during a melee that lasted about 30 minutes as Stanford students ran over to the Cal section and taunted vanquished Bear fans until they tore down a fence and charged the field. About 50 police officers kept the sides apart; as a result, Niemeyer said, there were few casualties for a mob of 10,000 people. When Cal fans couldn't grab the Axe, some turned their attention to the north goal post, which was dismantled despite being greased in anticipation of post-game foul play.

The 100th Big Game ended a week of high jinks. On Nov. 20, Athletics Department staff found blue plastic frogs with green dots in their offices. The next morning, blue and yellow jelly beans decorated their furniture. With 100 hours to go before kickoff, Axe Committee members started keeping vigil in White Plaza, sounding their ear-piercing train-whistle-on-wheels every hour, day and night.

During a long but witty Gaieties production, President Gerhard Casper appeared at the end to save the day. "Let's go back to paradise, let's go back to Stanford!" he shouted in the student production, which, with the help of gangster roles played by Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jim Montoya and Dean of Undergraduate Admission Bob Kinnally, poked fun at the corporate sellout of Stanford. In the play, CoHo had become StaBu (for Starbucks) and MemChu had turned into Nike Church, a place where choir members made the sign of the swoosh. (On Game Day, the satire manifested itself when players from both teams appeared in 1930s-era football uniforms ­ emblazoned with the Nike swoosh.)

On Nov. 21, with the help of 2,100 alumni from both schools, the Big Auction held at the Cow Palace raised $2 million for sports scholarships at the competing universities, said media coordinator Gene Kates.

"I wanted to see this event ­ nothing compares to it," said Carrie O'Brien (née McColl), '78, who traveled from San Diego to join in an auction that charged up to $1,000 a person. The evening included two lively auctioneers from Christie's who deftly handled bids from a platform in the middle of the sprawling hall despite having their backs to each other. Guests dined on fancy food topped off with a dessert of tiny chocolate helmets decorated with the emblems of each school.

Exotic trips dominated the auction, but what generated the most interest was one-of-a-kind items like a typewriter owned by columnist Herb Caen ($6,000), a chance for a baby to appear in a BabyGap ad ($11,000), a walk-on part in the show "Murphy Brown" ($7,000) and a rare 1957 Mercedes Benz Gullwing Coupe ($200,000).

A 13-foot-high replica of the top of Cal's Campanile went for only $6,500, but a scaled-down Stanford Red Barn raised $15,000. Auctioned to former trustee Peter Bing, the little barn's final resting place is back on the Farm. Bing says there are plans to turn it into a reading room and library for kids at the Children's Center of the Stanford Community. SR