Advertisement
 

ROSE BOWL : Well, Did He or Didn't He? : Rose Bowl: Cal says it has proof that Murakowski didn't score in 1949.

December 25, 1995|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's in the record book that Northwestern, in its first and last appearance in Pasadena, defeated California in the 1949 Rose Bowl game, 20-14.

But that score is not official in the minds of many Cal partisans.

Dick Erickson, Cal's quarterback that day, still protests. Forty-six years later, he and his surviving teammates are still steamed over an official's call on a Northwestern touchdown in the second quarter.

Northwestern fullback Art Murakowski appeared to fumble just shy of the goal line when he scored on a one-yard play, giving the Wildcats a 13-7 lead.

"We knew it wasn't a touchdown at the time," recalled Erickson, now 69 and living in El Cerrito. "We all protested the official's call, and then there was proof the next day.

"There was a newspaper photo clearly showing Murakowski without the ball and both feet still not in the end zone."

Recently, this reporter, in the constant quest for truth and justice, visited the Rose Bowl film vault in Pasadena and asked to see the 1949 game film.

We watched Northwestern's second-quarter drive reach the one-yard line. Then suddenly, in the next frame, the Wildcats are lined up for a conversion kick!

There you have it, folks. Chicanery in Pasadena.

The disputed play in the official Tournament of Roses Committee game film expunged!

And you thought the Watergate tapes were big.

Imagine the dastardly deed . . .

Tournament of Roses guys, no doubt in the middle of the night, around Jan. 2 or 3, 1949, enter a room with a film can, wearing masks, gloves and armed with a pair of scissors.

Someone whispers, "OK, let's cut that play out, burn it, and splice it back together. We can't have anything laying around that shows the game turned on a bad call. It could hurt property values."

Snip, snip.

The piece of smoking film shrivels to goo in an ashtray.

The conspirators depart, bag up their masks, gloves, scissors . . . and dump it all in a landfill.

Undaunted, we pressed on. Surely Cal people had a game film.

Sure, a Cal spokesman said. A guy named Dick Erickson. He has 'em all.

We called Erickson back. Turns out he's converting all the old Cal game films to video.

"It's murky," he said. "You can see a fumble definitely occurred, but that's about it. The real proof was in the newspaper photos."

Adding spice to all this is that the official who made the call was a Big Ten guy, Jay Berwanger, who was also the first Heisman Trophy winner. He's seen making the call, then conferring with referee Jimmy Cain, who backed him up.

Next we called the Northwestern film archives and spoke to Chris Brady, who agreed to take a look.

He called back, saying, "It's hard to tell. It's a high camera angle, and you can't tell if he fumbles before he goes in or when he's on his way down, in the end zone. The referee seemed to be in good position for the call, though."

Remember, this is a Big Ten guy talking.

Among those on hand that day was 22-year-old Hank Ives, now a Southland sports publicist.

"I was with my dad and our seats were right on the goal line," Ives said. "Murakowski absolutely did not score. He never got in with the ball."

Ives went to USC but states that his impartiality is unquestioned on Rose Bowl controversy. He said USC's Charles White didn't score a real touchdown, either, in a similarly disputed touchdown call in USC's 17-10 victory over Michigan in 1979.

So the controversial play lives still, from a game played by battle-hardened World War II veterans.

Loran "Pee Wee" Day, a Northwestern running back that day, won a Purple Heart on Guam. Ed Tunnicliff, who scored the game-breaking touchdown, a 43-yard run in the waning minutes, drove tanks in Patton's Third Army.

Alex Sarkisian, Northwestern's center-linebacker and captain, was 26 that season.

"We were typical of a lot of college teams then," he said.

"We had a bunch of Purple Heart winners. At least 50% of us were war vets, on the G.I. Bill. [Tunnicliff recalls it as two-thirds to three-quarters war veterans]. Cal had even more than we did."

Northwestern's 32-year-old coach, Bob Voigts, had been outranked in his wartime service by a dozen of his 1948 players.

Cal had 27 players who were 23 or older. Nineteen were married.

Recalls former L.A. County supervisor Pete Schabarum, a backup running back on that Cal team, "I was 18, one of four or five guys who weren't war veterans."

Of the disputed touchdown, there is no dispute in Schabarum's memory.

"He didn't score," he said. "It's that simple.

"We all saw the film later. I remember at the time on the sideline, everyone was really agitated about the call."

Schabarum played behind Cal's great star that 1948 season, Jackie Jensen, who one year later was playing baseball for the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League before going on to stardom with the Boston Red Sox.

Jensen scored on a 67-yard run early in the game, then left with a pulled hamstring. It was his final college game.

Jensen, who went on to hit 199 home runs in the American League, was 50 when he died of a heart attack in 1982.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|