East-West Shrine Game: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

A closer look at an OpenSFHistory image recently posted.

In the recently uploaded photograph below, a rainy San Francisco day couldn’t keep 60,000 people away from what sportswriter Bob Stevens called “squishy, miserable” Kezar Stadium. It was January 1, 1944, and with the United States two years into World War II, patriotic pageantry with a show of many American flags kicked off the East-West Shrine football game.

Flag parade at East-West Game
Huge crowd shown at Kezar Stadium on January 1, 1944. Army and Shriners seen with dozens of American flags. (wnp14.5812, courtesy of a private collector).

Since 1925, the East-West Shrine Game has supported Shriners International—a fraternal group whose members are known for their orientalist fez headwear—and the organization’s Shriners Hospitals for Children. Proceeds from the game once specifically went to what was then known as the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children on 19th Avenue between Lawton and Moraga Streets (today the Cypress at Golden Gate senior living community). The game also acted as a terrific publicity vehicle to acquaint the public with the Shriners’ work.

The East-West game is a contest between teams composed of all-stars from colleges on either side of the Mississippi River. The West squad traditionally had lots of locals from Santa Clara, St. Mary’s, and Stanford, but also featured players from Washington State to Hawaii. The East-West was a premier postseason game in the mid twentieth century, with scouts from all the professional teams coming out to assess talent. Seventy-two players once on East-West Shrine Game rosters are now in the National Football League Hall of Fame, and a few are sure to be there eventually, including five-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady.

Flag parade at East-West Game
East West Game Parade of Flags, Kezar stadium showing sailors and giant flag. Looking west, January 1, 1944. (wnp14.5814, courtesy of a private collector).

The muddy 1944 game ended up a 13-13 tie. Many of the best college football players who might have played for the East side were serving in the Armed Forces, but the underrated “all-civilian” squad outplayed their opponents, gaining 309 yards rushing against 43 for the West. Only a couple of big pass plays for the West, which was led by five men from the Fourth Air Force, saved the tie.

The Shrine game used to be part of a manageable college football postseason. On New Year’s Day, 1944, five bowl games were played in addition to the East-West: the Cotton, Sugar, Orange, Rose, and Sun Bowls. In contrast, the 2016-17 “bowl season” had forty games, and, in addition to the East-West, other all-star games now include the Senior Bowl and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. The Shrine game moved off the traditional New Year’s Day date some time ago to try and stand out from the every-increasing football mania of that day, and is now played in mid January.

For most of its history, the game was played in San Francisco at Kezar Stadium (now much reduced in seating capacity) in Golden Gate Park. The 1942 game was moved to New Orleans because, less than a month after Pearl Harbor, officials feared the large event would be a tempting target for the Japanese.

The last East-West Shrine game at Kezar was in 1973. From 1974-2000, the game’s home was Stanford Stadium, and since then it has bounced from stadium to stadium and region to region: back to San Francisco in AT&T Park (2001-2005), over to Houston, Texas (2006-2009), and even farther east to Florida, where it’s been for the last seven years. Last month, the East beat the West 10-3.

Flag parade at East-West Game
Michigan State Spartans working out at Kezar Stadium at a quieter time in 1937. (wnp14.5482, courtesy of a private collector).

Holy Cross Church: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

A closer look at an OpenSFHistory image recently posted.

When we scanned the image below of earthquake damage to Holy Cross Catholic Church in 1906 (another view is here), one of our content experts first typed the title as “St. Patrick’s,” before I noticed and corrected it. Our expert wasn’t too far wrong with the name. Just next door to the two-towered church, out of view in this shot, stands San Francisco’s first St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, two-and-a-half miles from where it was erected in 1852. Outside of Mission Dolores, this humble wood-frame building, designed in a simple Classical Revival style, may be the oldest standing religious structure in the city.

Holy Cross Church
Earthquake-damaged Holy Cross Catholic Church, 1822 Eddy Street at Divisadero, 1906 (wnp27.1879, courtesy of a private collector).

Below is an 1854 photograph by George Robinson Fardon. St. Patrick’s Church, on the right, stands in its original location on Market Street between 2nd and 3rd Street, then known as “Happy Valley.” (The handsome brick structure on the left is the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum.) In 1872, a new large brick St. Patrick’s was dedicated on Mission Street, between 3rd and 4th Street, where, rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake, it stands today. To make room for the construction of the Palace Hotel, the original St. Patrick’s building was moved to the nascent Western Addition on Eddy Street between Octavia and Laguna Streets, where it became St. John the Baptist church. When a massive new St. Mary’s Cathedral opened on Van Ness Avenue in 1891, St. John’s congregation was folded in, and the little church building was conscripted once more to serve a young parish.

Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum and St. Patrick’s Church on Market Street, 1850s (AAD-5882, courtesy of San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library).

The Church of the Holy Cross formed in the 1880s, with mass held in the chapel at the entrance of the Calvary Catholic Cemetery on Lone Mountain near Divisadero Street. With the parish growing, Holy Cross’ pastor, Rev. John McGinty, had St. John the Baptist Church moved seven blocks to Eddy Street near Scott Street, where it was re-dedicated as the new Holy Cross Church on May 24, 1891.

No one was under the impression that after being outgrown by two parishes the small hall would be Holy Cross for long. The San Francisco Chronicle noted at the time that the forty-year-old building would “probably only be used as a church for the parishioners of Holy Cross parish for a short time, as it is Father McGinty’s intention to build a fine edifice in the near future.”

After a few years of fundraising, Father McGinty did have his fine edifice. The cornerstone-laying ceremony—complete with grand neighborhood parade—was held on April 3, 1898, and the new Holy Cross church was dedicated on August 13, 1899. The 1852 church building became the parish social hall.

Eddy Street
Eddy Street near Scott Street. Beyond the Scott Street Market rises the new Holy Cross Church with towers and classical portico, circa 1900. (wnp27.0258, courtesy of a private collector).

Despite the damage in the 1906 photo, Holy Cross was rebuilt after the earthquake and served Western Addition Catholics—including a few of my relatives—for close to ninety years. But the estimated $3 million cost of seismic retrofitting after the 1989 earthquake persuaded the archdiocese to put it up for sale in the late 1990s. Developers consolidated part of the church building into a condominium complex. The rest of the 1899 church, and the old St. Patrick’s, are now occupied by a Buddhist temple, the Macgong Monastery.

The Macang Monastery complex on Eddy Street, using Holy Cross Church (1899) and San Francisco City Landmark #6, the first St. Patrick’s Church building (1852). (Image from http://www.macangmonastery.org).