UC Berkeley News
Web Feature

UC Berkeley Web Feature

Bears' football fortunes prompt a trip down memory lane

News item: The 2007 Cal football team climbed to #3 in the national polls this week after defeating Oregon, 31-24 on the road, while three higher-ranked teams lost.

– The last time Berkeley was ranked #3 in the AP Coaches Poll (Oct. 6, 1952), behind only Wisconsin and Michigan State, the milestone went largely unnoticed - as West Coast milestones often do - by the East Coast media.

Bears running back  John Olszewski plays against USC in 1952
The Saturday after the 1952 Cal football team was ranked #3 in the nation, running back John Olszewski tried to turn the corner against USC. The Bears went down to defeat, 10-0, and were never ranked as highly again — until this week. (Blue & Gold Yearbook photo)
In this case, though, their preoccupation with local news was understandable, as the Brooklyn Dodgers were preparing for a winner-take-all seventh game of the World Series against the New York Yankees. The Yanks won Game 6 on Oct. 6 behind home runs by Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle. (The Bronx Bombers then won Game 7, extending their dominance of the Bums in the fall classic for one more year.)

Elsewhere around the country, attention was focused on the upcoming presidential election, pitting Illinois Senator Adlai Stevenson against the Republican candidate, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The day the Bears' high ranking was announced, President Harry Truman accused the GOP of trying, and failing, to disguise "their outworn, discredited philosophy" by clothing it "in the shining armor of a national hero." In California, Republican Gov. Earl Warren defended the party and its candidate, saying that by electing Eisenhower the U.S. "will inspire confidence in all the people of the free world, with whom we must work if peace and good will are to be restored to this earth."

Though the Army-McCarthy hearings that would captivate the nation's attention lay in the future (Sen. Joseph McCarthy had yet to ride to his committee chairmanship on the coattails of a triumphant Eisenhower), anticommunist sentiment was already on the rise. On Oct. 6, in New York City, three municipal college professors were dismissed for their refusal to answer questions about their possible ties to the Communist Party. The same day, in Los Angeles, a radio actor testifying as an unfriendly witness before a House subcommittee on Un-American Activities tossed his Bronze Star and Good Conduct Medal at subcommittee chair Clyde Doyle, saying, "Give them back to President Truman. I don't want them any more."

October 6 also saw a significant attack launched by Chinese Communist forces against United Nations positions in central Korea, "renewing a pattern of savage local onslaughts at one point and then another of the 150-mile front," said The New York Times.

Other milestone events from that heady date include:

  • A Swiss mountaineering team reported steady progress in their attempt to scale Mt. Everest for the first time. (Fierce, cold winds eventually forced the team to descend, and the summit was not reached for another two years.)
  • Buick announced that it would produce a new sports car, to be called the Skylark, for the coming model year. The car was expected to retail for less than $6,000.
  • The British government announced the end of tea rationing after 12 years.
  • Frank Sinatra, in St. Louis, acknowledged that he and his wife, Ava Gardner, were experiencing a "mild rift" over a "career probem." They ultimately divorced five years later. The same day, in Paris, Rita Hayworth announced that she would divorce Prince Aly Khan of Pakistan: "He is a playboy, while I work all around the year in Hollywood."
  • On television that week, a new program featuring a former big-band leader and his family debuted on ABC-TV: The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet would run for 15 seasons. Another new show, Bandstand, aimed at young fans of popular music, started in Philadelphia at the same time; five years later it would change its name to American Bandstand. And in an I Love Lucy episode entitled "Pregnant Women Are Unpredictable," Ricky decided that Lucy should stay in bed while he does the chores. (Little Ricky would not be born for another two months.)