1930: Off (As in Remove) The ‘Vine!

Now wait just a grape-pickin’ minute!

Students at Escondido High were up in arms.

They did not like the term Grape Pickers or its use to describe the school’s athletic teams, although the wine-making fruit held agricultural sway in the area and the city had hosted a Grape Day Festival since 1908.

The students believed a more masculine mascot was appropriate.

They voted to adopt the cougar, which had been known  for centuries to prowl the mountain ranges  near the valley community.

MEDIA, PLEASE HEED

The school also made a request of sports writers and other members of the media to refrain from referring to Grape Pickers in print or over the radio.

Perhaps coincidentally, football at the second oldest school in the County finally was earning some respect.

The Cougars, paced by future major league baseballer Pete Coscarart; Tom Lusardi, and Ed Goddard, posted a 9-2 record although beaten, 20-6,  by El Centro Central in  the Southern California lower division championship game.

Along the way coach Harry Wexler’s North County squad tied with Coronado and Grossmont for the Southern Prep League championship.

Escondido defeated Grossmont, 31-0, and Grossmont topped Coronado, 12-7, but Coronado upset the Cougars, 20-6.

The teams were 3-1 in final standings and followed an interesting path from there.

A three-hour meeting of representatives from the three schools was held Monday, Nov. 12, at the Stanley Andrews store in San Diego.

Harry Wexler (inset) is flanked by Escondido stars Ed Goddard, left and Pete Coscarart, sixth from left, in second row).

Harry Wexler (inset) is flanked by Escondido stars Ed Goddard, left, and Pete Coscarart, sixth from left, in second row).

Hosting the session was area football official and sporting goods purveyor O.W. (Junior) Todd.  Wexler, Coronado’s Amos Schaefer, and Grossmont’s Jack Mashin were in attendance.

A league rule stipulated that a playoff would have to be played Tuesday, No. 13, or Friday, Nov. 15.

In the scrambling, seemingly haphazard manner in which the CIF Southern Section selected playoff teams, it appeared that two clubs from the Southern League were eligible for the postseason.

According to The San Diego Union, Schaefer said he’d play, only if Grossmont agreed to enter the playoffs.

Mashin bailed, citing a number of injuries that depleted his squad and would preclude a game the next day.

Mashin and Schaefer finally conceded the championship to Escondido and cited curious logic:

Ed Goddard attempts tackle on Coronado's Jimmy Blaisdell, who helped Islanders upset Escondido.

Ed Goddard attempts tackle on Coronado’s Jimmy Blaisdell, who helped Islanders upset Escondido.

Grossmont had beaten Coronado the previous Friday and even if Coronado would defeat Escondido again, the Islanders’ loss to Grossmont would overshadow a win over Escondido.

That’s the way it was reported in The San Diego Sun.

ORANGE RIPE

The Cougars routed Orange County champion Orange, 52-0, that Friday in a game that was not reported as a playoff.

The first playoff apparently was against Point Loma, which represented the new City League.

Escondido moved on with a 13-6 victory over the Pointers. Next up was Banning, the Riverside County champion, and the Cougars sent the Broncos home, 46-0.

The win over Banning set up a second match with El Centro Central, beaten, 6-0, by the Cougars early in the season.

Maybe it was the long postseason, but even a partisan home crowd couldn’t help the Cougars, who dropped a 20-6 decision to the team from Imperial Valley.

THE WEXLER WAY                                                                    

Coach Harry Wexler brought the Escondido program out of the depths in which it resided for most of the previous 30 years. His teams posted a 57-32-11 record over 11 seasons from 1928-37.

Escondido’s record under five coaches from 1920 until Wexler was hired was 10-41-5. Local merchants, so taken with the Cougars’ success, closed their stores in order to see the game with rival Oceanside.

Wexler’s .624 winning percentage  is bettered at Escondido only by the standard of the legendary Bob (Chick) Embrey, who was 144-66-4 (.682).  Paul Gomes was 59-37-7 (.607) from 2001-09.

NO, NOT ME

Did Wexler, a Washington State Cougar in his undergraduate days, have something to say about the change in nicknames?

School officials said Wexler did not suggest or have anything to do with the switch.

Wexler undoubtedly had something to say about Goddard’s future.

The sophomore fullback went on to an all-America career at Washington State and was the second player taken in the 1937 NFL draft.

A Los Angeles Times reporter was so taken with Goddard’s running in a victory over USC that he coined Goddard the “Escondido Express.”

GODDARD GOES FIRST

There had been a handful of San Diego-area preps who had played professionally, notably Russ Saunders of San Diego High with the 1931 Green Bay Packers, but Goddard was the first to be drafted in the NFL.

Goddard played two seasons, 1937 and, ’38,  with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cleveland Rams and went into teaching and coaching.  He was an assistant coach on the 1950 Fullerton High staff. The Indians upset San Diego, 20-19, in the playoffs.

SIGNS OF THE TIME

Eddie Dowling and Cinema signs of the time featured Eddie Dowling and Betty Compson fanning the flames in new release at Spreckels Theater.

Cinema signs of the time, Eddie Dowling and Betty Compson fanning the flames at Spreckels Theater.

La Mesa was approved for daily mail delivery after the community’s Chamber of Commerce voted to increase the number of sidewalks and paving as required by the U.S. Postal Service.

The government agency also had required La Mesa to improve street lighting and provide a modern numbering system for residential and business addresses.

THEY ALL REMEMBERED

Before they passed, many retired San Diego High coaches and staff shook their heads when they spoke, often, of the game  coach Hobbs Adams’ Hilltoppers lost at Long Beach Poly in 1930.

Estimated attendance at Poly’s Burcham Field was 15,000 persons for the game that decided the Coast League championship and the league’s playoff representative.

Another 4,000 was said to have been turned away.

Hundreds of Hilltop boosters were there, having traveled by auto and train.  Some also came by boat. A vessel operated by the Los Angeles Steam Ship Company traveled at almost 25 knots and would be used on other occasions by the Cavers.

San Diegans were able to pick up a Long Beach radio station broadcast on San Diego station KGER 1350.

The Fox Theater commissioned a special cameraman to take film of the game and begin a one-week showing the day after the Thanksgiving tussle.

Radio station KSUN in San Diego also offered a play-by-play of the contest.

LUCK O’ THE JACKRABBITS!

The Jackrabbits won, 14-8, and breezed to the Southern California upper division championship.

–San Diego had 15 first downs, Poly 1.

–Long Beach’s longest gain on a running play was 4 yards.

WRITER’S LAMENT

The game story lede, in part, as sent by The San Diego Union reporter Charles Byrne:

“Although outclassed—and outclassed badly—Long Beach Poly capitalized on the ‘breaks’ of the game to capture the Coast League championship in one of the weirdest prep school battles ever witnessed in Southern California.”

Poly’s one first down was on a pass play that turned into a 50-yard touchdown.

A Cotton Warburton punt from the end zone was blocked and Warburton recovered for a Poly safety.  Long Beach led, 8-0.

The Jackrabbits went up 14-0 after a lateral from Warburton to Ted Wilson was knocked in the air and strayed into the hands of another Poly defender, who ran 85 yards.

San Diego got on the board in the fourth quarter.  Cecil McElvain intercepted a Poly fumble and raced 20 yards to make the score 14-6.

King Hall blocked a Poly punt out of the end zone for another safety.

Poly went on to defeat Redondo Beach Redondo, 20-3, for the championship.

ROAD WARRIORS

Ted Wilson's two touchdowns were not enough in loss at Phoenix.

Ted Wilson’s two touchdowns were not enough in loss at Phoenix.

San Diego boarded a 5:15 p.m. train on Thursday for an all night ride to Phoenix.  After “resting up” the Cavers dropped a 22-20 decision to Phoenix Union and hustled to the  depot to catch the last train at 10:30 Friday night.

The team arrived back in San Diego Saturday morning.

The sluggish Cavers trailed, 15-0, at halftime but rallied as Ted Wilson scored two touchdowns and Cotton Warburton added another.

SOUTHERN GOES ALL COUNTY

The fledgling City League, numbering Point Loma, La Jolla, San Diego High’s Reserves, and the new Hoover High, meant that the Southern Prep, originally known as the County League, would become just that, a league of County squads.

The Southern Prep now listed Coronado, Sweetwater, Oceanside, Escondido, Mountain Empire, and Julian.  The last two did not field football teams but competed in other sports.

HILLTOPPERS’ BIG THREE

At one point in the preseason, San Diego coach Hobbs Adams had five, 11-man squads practicing daily.

Adams decided that assistant coach Mike Morrow would handle a group called the “Reserves”, sometimes referred to as the “Seconds”,  and Glen Broderick would continue as coach of the B’s.

Broderick’s B team was the defending Southern California champion, but the Coast League dropped its B league this season

The Little Hilltoppers forged a free-lance schedule and again prevailed in Southern California.

The B team defeated Santa Monica, 25-6, in the preliminary game to Long Beach Poly’s 20-3 victory over Redondo  at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

As was the practice in track and field and other sports, with A, B, and C squads based on “exponents,” B footballers’ eligibility was determined by their height, weight, grade, and age.

The Reserves served as sort of a varsity minor league.   Players shuttled back and forth between the teams.

LIGHTS…ACTION….

The date was Sept. 28, 1930, when St. Augustine and Grossmont took the field in the first high school night football game under lights in San Diego County.

One day after San Diego State had played the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on the tanbark Navy Field, St. Augustine defeated the Foothillers, 25-0.

San Diego coach Hobbs Adams took his team to Navy Field for a workout later in the season before the Hilltoppers boarded a train for a game in the north.

The Navy Field site at the foot of Broadway and adjacent  to Pacific Highway and Harbor Drive would be renamed Lane Field as home of the Pacific Coast League San Diego Padres later in the decade.

San Diego High’s Class B team represented the school in its first night-time venture when the Little Hilltoppers traveled to Brawley.

HOOVER, THE SCHOOL, ASCENDS

September was a historic month.

On Sept. 3, Herbert Hoover High, 4474 El Cajon Blvd., in East San Diego, opened its doors to almost 1,000 sophomore and junior students.  There was no senior class.

Known as the Engineers or Presidents, students opted for school colors of Red and White.

Their teams eventually became the Cardinals.

Coach John Perry, who had posted a 52-14-5 record at San Diego from 1920-26 but had left coaching to pursue additional educational credentials, came out of retirement to lead the Eastsiders.

Perry’s first call resulted in 88 candidates, remarkable, said The San Diego Union, in that there were less than 500 boys in the school.

A total of 130 were out at  San Diego High, 50 at Grossmont, 75 at Army-Navy, and 35 at St. Augustine.

ALSO DEBUTING

San Diego had a new practice field north of the City Stadium but the rough, dirt layout prohibited intrasquad scrimmages until the team moved into the stadium and its turf playing surface.

The football team and student gym classes soon would access the stadium on a daily basis throughout the school year after an agreement was reached during a meeting of the Balboa Park Board and City Schools big shots.

For the next 30-odd years, it was easy to identify the practice field site.  Whenever news media photos were taken of the San Diego High players, the Balboa Naval Hospital would loom in the background.

The new, Crosstown Freeway of Interstate 5 opened in 1963 and changed the practice landscape, as the baseball field was reconfigured.  Cavers teams continued to practice football there.

AGGRAVATED BATTERY

Interscholastic athletics at Fresno Edison Technical was suspended until the end of the school year June 1, 1931.

Two Technical students were charged with assaulting game referee H.L. Rowe, a resident of Madera who ruled a touchdown in favor of Kingsburg with two minutes left in the game that gave Kingsburg a 6-0 victory and setting off a riot.

About 30 Technical students were involved in the beef at the game and for creating another disturbance that night.

FOOTBALL HUB

Thirty-one former San Diego-area gridders were listed on the rosters of 12 universities.

Twelve players each were from San Diego High and St. Augustine.  Coronado had four.

The schools included USC, Stanford, California, and Oregon of the Pacific Coast Conference, plus Idaho, Tulane, Kansas, Tulsa, St. Mary’s, Santa Clara, Regis of Denver, and Columbia of Seattle.

QUICK KICKS

San Diego coach took no chances before Wilson game.

San Diego coach took no chances against former locals.

Hobbs Adams closed practices and locked gates at City Stadium as his team prepared for visiting Long Beach Wilson and Santa Ana…the Bruins were coached by former San Diego High star Rockwell  (Rocky) Kemp, Santa Ana by former Memorial Junior High and San Diego High coach Gerald (Tex) Oliver…heavy rain forced the Hilltoppers indoors to their new gymnasium the Thursday before the Alhambra game…Grossmont had turf for the first time…”We’ve been working for a turf field for about six years, and now that we have one, it’s probably the best in the County,” said Foothillers coach Jack Mashin…Ramona, which opened in 1893, considered the fielding a  football team… coach Harold Roberts was in place, but the Bulldogs wouldn’t be on the field until 1938…Gene Miller got San Diego on the scoreboard against San Bernardino by drop-kicking a 38-yard field goal…Oceanside was constructing an  athletic facility that could hold three full-size football fields, four tennis courts, and a quarter-mile oval for track and field meets…one local writer described Grossmont as “the back country school.”…flags flew in St. Augustine’s 64-0 win over Brawley…the Saints were penalized 165 yards and the Wildcats 105…the same Brawley squad dropped a 26-0 decision to the San Diego B team the next week…Cotton Warburton was the only athlete from the area to earn all-Southern California honors…Warburton was on the first team for the second year in a row.

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4 Responses to 1930: Off (As in Remove) The ‘Vine!

  1. Rob says:

    Rick — great story about the Grape Pickers and rare photo of Harry Wexler. Having grown up in Escondido, some of the early-day triumphs of the school seems to have been lost along the way.
    One thing about coach Wexler; he certainly could have been described as flamboyant! Maybe from the same mold as Glen Forsythe of Ramona.
    One of my good friends was Harry’s grandson … he was a trip! 🙂

    • Rick says:

      Thanks for writing, Rob. I met Harry Wexler in 1960, when colleague Roger Conlee and I drove to Escondido the week the Cougars were preparing to play Point Loma for the first San Diego Section championship. Wexler must have been in his late sixties or early seventies. He was jovial and conversationaL. We also visited Cougar end Denny Snyder at Palomar Hospital. Snyder had taken an elbow in the jaw from San Diego’s Lou Scott the previous week and sustained a concussion.

  2. Roger Conlee says:

    I actually like athletic nicknames that reflect an area’s industry. Packers, Steelers, Cornhuskers, Oilers, for example. If Escondido High had retained Grape Pickers, the “Grape” would have dropped along the way and they’d be known today as the Escondido Pickers, which would be kinda cool.

    • Rick says:

      Good point. Speaking of same, Orange High in the early years of the 20th century was known as the “Orange Pickers”. They became the Panthers.

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