On To the Sugar Bowl!

"Leaving last night for the Sugar Bowl to play the Oklahoma Aggies on New Year's Day were these St. Mary's stars: at right is Herman Wedemeyer, who signs an autograph for Johnny Hollan, 9, of Oakland; (center) Denis O'Connor, seen kissing his mother goodbye at the station as teammates look on, and at left are the "Hula twins," Chuck Cordiero and Wedey, waving goodbye as their coach, Jimmy Phelan, climbs aboard. Gaels will stop in L.A. today en route to the bowl. -- Tribune photos.

Following their shocking defeat by UCLA in the last game of the 1945 regular season, many thought that the St. Mary's dream of going to a bowl game was dashed. Gloom turned to joy, however, when St. Mary's was offered a major matchup in the Sugar Bowl against the Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) Aggies. These articles give some of the excitement that gripped Gael fans as their heroes trekked cross-country for their date with grid destiny.

Thanks to Brian O'Connor, son of late St. Mary's quarterback Denis O'Connor, for sharing his amazing collection of St. Mary's photos and clippings. You can download a .zip file of all of the O'Connor pre-Sugar Bowl game clippings here. (2.8 MB).

To read about the outcome of the game, click here.

Chips From the Blarney Stone

By Dan McGuire

The requiems have been sung. St. Mary's Sugar Bowl hopes are supposed to be Resquiescat in Peace, or words to that effect.


Who's going to play at New Orleans? Who's going to play in the Orange Bowl at Miami? Who's going to play in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas? How many undefeated major teams has the country produced? How many teams with just a single defeat?

Gaels to Battle Oklahoma

New Orleans, Nov. 26 -- Undefeated Oklahoma A. and M. and once beaten St Mary's will clash in the 12th renewal of the Sugar Bowl here January 1, it was announced today by bowl officials. …

A Toast to Sugar-Bowl Bound Gaels

By Bill Leiser

Toast of the football writers in meeting yesterday and toast of the football mentors present as well, was Coach James Phelan of St. Mary's.

No a man arose to his feet without congratulating Jimmy on the opportunity to take his 'teen-age team to New Orleans for the test with Oklahoma A. and M.'s great football team, and I have never seen congratulations tendered with greater enthusiasm and sincerity. The whole gang was genuinely happy for Herman Wedemeyer and his Galloping Gael pals.

When it came to choosing the player of the year, an annual custom with the writers, they didn't even bother to ballot. Wedey was nominated and elected unanimously by acclamation and nobody had a second choice.

James Phelan said:

"The kids were immensely pleased. Denis O'Connor and Wedey happened to be in the office when I got the call. I asked them how they and the rest of the boys felt about it, and they were pleased as punch. …"

Scott's Sport Shop

Jim Scott, Proprietor.

Broad brightly-lighted Canal Street and the quaint French quarters beckoned today to St. Mary's Galloping Gaels. And difficult it was for them to concentrate upon their studies.

Yesterday's news that they had been selected to oppose unbeaten Oklahoma A. and M. in New Orleans' 12th Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 came as a surprise to the Gaels. They have been inactive since their shattering 13-7 setback by U.C.L.A. in their final scheduled contest on Nov. 17.

A beaten team is a rarity in the Sugar Bowl so the announcement of the Gaels' selection more or less electrified the entire school. A battery of newsmen and photographers bore down on Moraga yesterday afternoon, but, somehow, the fuzzy-faced young gridders managed to go right on with their recitations.

Gaels Accept Sugar Bowl Bid!

NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 26 -- Oklahoma A. and M. and St. Mary's will meet in the Sugar Bowl football game here on January 1. …

Although Coach Jimmy Phelan of the Gaels had maintained a discreet silence on prospects for receiving a Sugar Bowl bid, he probably was given some reason to believe such an invitation might be forthcoming.

Although following the UCLA game in Los Angeles the season was ostensibly over for the Gaels, it was significant that Phelan didn't have the athletes turn in their football gear. …

Moraga Campus Wild Over 'Sugar' News

By Darrell Dreyer

Santa Claus dropped in early at St. Mary's college this morning and left a very juicy morsel in the stockings of the Galloping Gaels football team.

A round-trip ticket to New Orleans and the SUGAR BOWL!

It was Christmas, New Years' day and the famed Orleans Mardis Gras all rolled into one on the St. Mary's campus.

Students were pounding one another on the back, all making on-the-spot plans to travel to New Orleans … The football team … Herman Wedemeyer, Ed Ryan, Denis O'Connor, Vic Cuccia, Spike Cordeiro, Bill Bland, Carl de Salvo, Al Beasley, Harold van Gieson, Harvey Adair, Wes Busch, Dennis Murphey and the rest of the great St. Mary's eleven, were bubbling over with songs and telling each other:

"We're on our way … Sugar bowl, here we come … On to Victory, the Red and Blue will win today --"

It didn't take long for the word to spread around the St. Mary's college grounds. At 9 a.m. it was the usual Monday routine … But at 10 a.m. when classes were dismissed for a few minutes, the word spread like a tornado and soon the Pre-Flight cadets stationed on the grounds were whooping it up for the Gaels.

Coach Jimmy Phelan, who is the leading contender for coach of the year laurels, was elated over the announcement.

"I'm really glad for the kids … they deserve the game … No, I don't know just when we'll start practice … The finals aren't over until Dec. 14 and we probably won't do anything until then."

Meanwhile, all you could hear on the campus was:

"On to the Sugar bowl … We'll beat Oklahoma A&M … Wedey will show up this guy Fenimore … On to victory, the Red and Blue will win today .. From Moraga's hills --"

Phelan Lands in New Orleans to Sign Bowl Pact

St. Mary's coach, Jimmy Phelan, arrived in New Orleans by plane today to enter into final negotiation with Sugar Bowl officials for a New Year's Day clash between his Moraga Gaels and Oklahoma A. and M., according to word received by the Gazette.

32 Gaels Named for Bowl Trip

by Alan Ward

Thirty-two members of the Galloping Gaels' football team will make the trip to New Orleans for the January 1 Sugar Bowl game with the Aggies of Oklahoma.

The 32 lads yesterday officially were informed by Coach Jimmy Phelan to hurry up and pack their suitcases and be at Third and Townsend station tomorrow night slightly before 9 o'clock for a ride to Los Angeles, the first leg of the journey to New Orleans.

Aggies Favored -- But It'll Be Close

By Hal Middlesworth

It will be All-America vs. All-America, when the Oklahoma Aggies' Bob Fenimore squares off with St. Mary's Herman Wedemeyer in New Orleans' Sugar Bowl January 1 -- and the chips are likely to fly in every which direction. …

Chips from the Blarney Stone

By Dan McGuire

The bay area says to the Galloping Gaels of St. Mary's --

Congratulations and the best of luck when you meet Oklahoma A. and M. in the Sugar Bowl.

You gave us many thrills during the season, more than we ever expected. You saved Pacific coast football from being sneered at and derided by other sections of the country.

Our hats are off to you and your coach James M. Phelan … the coach of the year.

Aggies Will Try to Prove Fenimore Outranks Wedey

By Bill Leiser

Maybe we didn't do so badly, after all, with our early season predictions concerning St. Mary's.

We said something about how good Herman Wedemeyer is. Wedey has now stood the test of the regular season and will be established, by consensus, as All-America within a few weeks. …

Now, we never did say St. Mary's is America's greatest team. We have always said Army is America's best team and Navy is next. We said St. Mary's "looked like" America's finest team on one afternoon, against USC. We meant that's how good St. Mary's appeared to 88,000 fans that afternoon, but we never for a moment contended St. Mary's had suddenly become stronger than all of the experienced Eastern championship teams.

What we did say was: If the Gaels all stay together, and if their luck is good, and if they want it that way they'll become a great team before they are through their 1946 season. … The Gaels are too thin to stand injuries. To face a team of normal championship caliber they have to have every use of their available strength.

Herman Wedemeyer has his work cut out for him in the Sugar Bowl.

Against him will be another great player, Bob Fenimore of Oklahoma A. and M.

Fenimore will be playing with an experienced team.

Wedemeyer will be playing with one sophomore teammate and all the rest freshmen.

Yet, Wedey will hold his own, because he is that great….

Chips from the Blarney Stone

By Dan McGuire

EN ROUTE TO NEW ORLEANS WITH THE GAELS -- The Galloping Gaels of St. Mary's college are headed toward fortune and maybe fame today.

Win or lose, they'll make more than $50,000 as their cut of the Sugar Bowl swag at New Orleans New Year's Day. And if they defy the 2 1/2 to 1 odds against them, they'll probably become the No. 2 college football team in the country.

Here's how it can happen: the Gaels soundly thrashed Southern California, which represents the West in the Rose Bowl against Alabama. The Trojans, always front-runners on Jan. 1 because they've never lost a Pasadena classic, might make it nine in a row by whipping the Crimson Tide.

If they do, and St. Mary's beat Oklahoma A. & M., even the eastern "experts" … will have to put "Gentleman Jim" Phelan's lads right up there behind Army.

It's amazing.

The Gaels got a great send-off at the Third and Townsend station in San Francisco last night. Many Oakland boosters, headed by Pres. Dan Marovich, were there to bid them godspeed.

Phelan made the traditional fight talk:

"We're not going there to lose."

It's hard to visualize these kids as one of the best teams in the country. They look so darn young -- and are young. Three-fourths of them were too young for military service. Quarterback Denny O'Connor was with the army air forces. Herman Wedemeyer, all-American halfback, had to drop out of the navy pre-flight program because of a leg injury received while skiing. Henry Van Gieson, fullback and tackle, was at Iowa Pre-Flight when he received his discharge.

Wedemeyer also served with the merchant marine, making several voyages in the Pacific combat area.

Some sour-pusses will bark that Phelan turned out this excellent ball club because he had Wedemeyer. But don't forget this:

Most coaches would have been frightened out of their wits if anyone suggested they give their squads the plays Phelan has diagrammed for St. Mary's. Your agent will never forget the remark made by Jeff Cravath of USC when he sat in the press box at the California-St. Mary's opener. Said Jefferson:

"What is this -- basketball?"

He was referring to the Gaels' habit of tossing the ball all over the field, forward and backward. And the famous Wedemeyer "lob" pass. And the delayed pass from Spike Cordeiro to Wedemeyer to O'Connor.

The success of such maneuvers once moved Phelan to assert that this team could score on anyone -- Army and Fleet City included. Throw in the Cleveland Rams too.

Army would probably trounce St. Mary's by four or five touchdowns, but the Gales would have a score or two of their own at the final gun.

Ryan Key to Gael Hopes

By Bud Spencer

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 20 -- Everything was palsy-walsy around the Westwood campus of UCLA today as Coach Jimmy Phelan of St. Mary's send his 32 gridders through their last workout until they reach Gulfport, Miss., Monday. You know, of course, it was these Uclans -- a few of whom turned out for handshaking today -- who nipped the Gaels' bid for an undefeated season a month ago, but the way the football rivals took to each other you would have thought they were pals of the first water. …

As to the strict gridiron news there was little. The main question mark on the Gael team is Big Ed Ryan, a flankman the Gaels must have to be at their best in the Sugar Bowl. Ryan blocks well and handles himself like a far more experienced man than the freshman he is on defense.

"I think Ryan will be okeh," says Mr. Phelan.

Wedey on Consensus Eleven

Felix (Doc) Blanchard and Glen Davis of Army, and Warren Amling, Ohio State, are the three outstanding players in the nation.

This was proven by The Post-Enquirer's consensus All-American team as the trio made the first team of the 12 national selectors, for a grand total of 60 points.

Herman Wedemeyer, sensational backfield star for St. Mary's, and the only Pacific coast player to make the consensus first team, was runner up to this trio, snaring 11 first place votes for 55 points. Wedemeyer failed to place on the New York Sun's All-American team.

Chips From the Blarney Stone

By Dan McGuire

EN ROUTE TO NEW ORLEANS WITH THE GALLOPING GAELS, Dec. 21 -- The more you're with this grand bunch of kids, the more you admire their wonderful spirit, emphasized every few hours when they break into song and give out with choral renditions which would do credit to the Fred Waring organization. The guy who tagged them with the sobriquet of "Singing Saints" was indeed inspired.

Captain Denny O'Connor leads them on the field and he also is the choirmaster for full squad renditions of such old favorites as "The Bells of St. Mary's" and "Underneath the Bamboo Tree." O'Connor possesses a beautiful Irish tenor voice and when he sang "A Little Bit of Heaven" after lunch yesterday at the Biltmore I noticed that the eyes of Brother Anselm, manager of athletics at St. Mary's, were just a little misty. Brother Anselm is from the "ould sod."

When the squad arrived in Los Angeles yesterday they boarded a bus for the Biltmore and immediately burst into song. Among the selections was a little one which wound up with "Crush the Aggies. Crush the Aggies." …

Pre-luncheon entertainment was provided by Don Adams, the half-back from Albany, who pounded some boogie-woogie on the piano in the Renaissance room. Henry Van Gieson had found a small trick bicycle somewhere and he gave an exhibition of skilled riding between tables.

Phelan introduced the members of the press, including Loui Lelong Hop, sports editor of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, who is making a round trip of 10,000 miles to chronicle the doings of Wedemeyer, Cordeiro, and Van Gieson for their hometown fans.

Loui presented Wedemeyer with Hawaii's highest athletic award -- a gold medal. It was the first such presentation since 1941, and marked the first time the honor had been won by a football player. Previous winners include Billy Smith, Keo Nakama, and Duke Kahanamoku, the swimming champion from Waikiki.

The inscription on the medal reads: "Congratulations to Herman Wedemeyer, 1945 consensus all-American football halfback." Herman the Great made a gracious speech of acceptance and assured his Hawaiian Boswell that he and Spike and Henry would be in there pitching all the way against the Aggies.

Incidentally, Wedey will definitely complete his education at St. Mary's. He admitted that he has been tempted by numerous professional offers.

"I want to make coaching my life's work," Herman said. "And to attain this goal I must have a college education. And Jimmy Phelan and the brothers have been very good to me."

Wedey's father, William Wedemeyer, is en route to the mainland by ship and hopes to arrive in New Orleans in plenty of time for the game. Wedemeyer Sr. was an outstanding baseball player in the islands.

The Gaels worked out at the UCLA practice field. Phelan had them running wind sprints from one end of the greensward to the other. Wedemeyer had the sniffles Wednesday night, but they gave him penicillin and he breezed through the drill.

Assistant Coach Marty Kordick impersonated Bob Fenimore, the Aggies' star halfback, in a dummy scrimmage section. On one play Kordick tried to flip a lateral and fell on his posterior. The team immediately changed his name to "Feenamint" Fenimore.

Chips from the Blarney Stone

By Dan McGuire

NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 29 -- The unique and famous New Orleans Monday Quarterback club yesterday saluted the visiting members of the press with a rousing luncheon at the St. Charles hotel. …

The best speech of several hundred was given by Loui Leong Hop, sports editor of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Loui mentioned the fact that Honolulu right now has several prep football players who are as good, if not better than Wedemeyer was at the same stage of his career.

"But I won't give you their names," he added, "because I'm afraid that Tulane and Louisiana State will start putting out feelers for them."

In other words, Loui and the rest of Honolulu want the kids to go to St. Mary's and play for Jimmy Phelan.

Gael Sugar Stock Zooms: Squad at Full Power Again

By Bill Leiser

NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 29 -- St. Mary's Galloping Gaels began to look the part of true Sugar Bowl contenders this afternoon with quarterback Denis O'Connor running the team for the second day in succession…

Herman Wedemeyer was cheered today with the arrival of Father Bill Wedemeyer from Hawaii. Father Bill has never seen his All-America son play college ball. Asked if he were surprised at the reputation Herman has made, Papa Bill said: "A little bit, but he had made up his mind he was going to be successful in college ball in the States."

Papa Bill is 41 years old, yes and he has two other sons, Earle who is 14 years and Kenneth who is 12, and yes again, they're both playing barefoot football. Papa himself played barefoot football in the Kimuki District and later played league football in Hilo.

Papa says he is part Hawaiian, part German, and informs mama Wedemeyer is part Irish, part Hawaiian. So you see what Herman is -- an All-America, in more ways than one.

Clyde Devine, the little 6-foot 7 egg who will be field judge New Year's Day, was with Mrs. Devine on the same train which brought papa Wedey from Los Angeles to New Orleans.

Says Mrs. Devine, "Mr. Wedemeyer was the most gracious and most popular man on the train. He learned to know everybody. There were many servicemen aboard, and they wanted beer, of which there was none on the train. At every 15-minute stop Mr. Wedemeyer would somehow manage to get off and come back on the train with as much beer as he could carry. He handed it all over to the boys in uniform. They didn't know his son was Herman Wedemeyer, but when they find out Wedey will get a lot more votes for all-America."

Webmaster's note: Some photos showing Wedey and his dad, Bill Wedemeyer, can be found here and here.

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