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Prelude to this serialization
 
Previous installments: March 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 
24 
25  26 27 28 29 30
 
 
Friday, March 31

 
LONDON—Even in the wake of his plans to expand the
British Army, this still is a bombshell: Neville Chamberlain
tells the House of Commons that Great Britain and France
will lend Poland “all the support in their power” if Poland’s
independence is threatened. Characterized in many
headlines as a pledge, it eventually becomes known as a
“guarantee.” It is clear: if Germany invades Poland, it will
mean war with the British and French. President Roosevelt,
vacationing in Warm Springs, Georgia, monitors the news
and is in communication with French and British offi cials.
The major question for Americans, of course, is if another
war breaks out in Europe, as now seems likely, will the U.S.
be drawn into it, too?
 
On the way down from Portland, the Webfoots’ train made a tenminute
stop at Salem, the state capital, where Governor Sprague
jumped on the rear platform and made a short speech of congratulation.
Howard Hobson again introduced all 11 of his boys to the
cheering crowds, and Bobby Anet was introduced to Jack Gosser,
the captain of Salem High School’s state championship squad. The
stop at Albany, where about 2,500 waited, was barely long enough
for the boys to wave.

 
As they neared Eugene, the Webfoots noticed citizens lining the
tracks, waving and cheering. The groups became bigger as they
neared the station. There, perhaps 10,000 folks waited, tightly
packed at the Southern Pacific depot. Some of them were Eugene
schoolchildren, dismissed from school and urged to attend the rally.
It would have been a pickpocket’s dream, but who would stoop that
low at a celebration of the local heroes’ accomplishment? Many of
the players noticed and would remember for years a man hanging
from a light-pole after climbing up for a better vantage point.

 
As the train pulled in at noon, bands from the university and
the area high schools played “Mighty Oregon,” and confetti flew,
with students responding to the Emerald’s front-page plea to bring
torn paper to the station and to “send it gracefully through the air
like the Yankee Clipper.” As the boys disembarked, the cheers were
deafening, and the Oregon rally girls draped green and yellow Hawaiian
leis around their necks. For the rest of the day, the Webfoots
looked as if they were tourists in Honolulu.

 
Whether they had heard of the mess in Portland or just were using
common sense, a group of Oregon football players appointed
themselves the Webfoots’ bodyguards and escorts, getting them
from the train to the platform set up for their ceremony. The players
signed autographs on anything thrust their way. During the
ceremony, Mayor Elisha Large turned over the symbolic key to
the city, and Hobson and all 11 players made brief speeches to the
mob, with the ceremony carried on KORE.

 
Anet was genuinely affected. “We never imagined there would
be anything like this,” he said. “And we’re just as glad to be home
as you must be to see us.”

 
Riding in open cars, the boys were escorted by the rally squad
down Willamette Street. With the crowds spilling into the street
and barely leaving room for the crawling cars, the Webfoots went
past shuttered stores closed for the parade, townspeople and
schoolchildren, and past rows of American fl ags and green and
yellow banners. Student offi cers in the advanced ROTC program
marched in front of and behind the cars. Eventually, after several
turns, the cars let out the team in the area of the Commerce Building
on campus. There, track runner and student-body president
Harry Weston, not knowing that his successor would turn out to
be one of the Webfoots, greeted the players officially on behalf
of their fellow students. From the building steps, Hobson looked
out over the throng and again offered his gratitude. The Webfoots
again were overwhelmed, and Anet held up the trophy, not bothering
to explain why it was in two pieces. Football coach Tex Oliver
also congratulated the Webfoots, saying: “The sad part about
this occasion is that the team is faced by a situation like that of
Alexander the Great, who sat down and wept because there were
no more worlds to conquer.”

* * *

Long Island University officials issued a statement with harrumph
written all over it, declaring that the senior players were not representing
the school in their pro games. LIU’s dean, Tristram Walker
Metcalfe, declared: “The athletic committee realizes that the boys are
playing these games for money, and although it has no jurisdiction
over such playing, wishes it known that the use of any name which
has been affi liated with Long Island University is not authorized.”

A few hours later, the LIU seniors, now billing themselves as
“The Blackbirds Basketball Team,” beat Kentucky State 37-33 at
the State Palace in Harlem.

 
* * *

All week, Oregon fans had been wondering if the Webfoots would
be able to hang on to Hobson. As Oregon’s basketball and baseball
coach, Hobson by then had advanced all the way to an annual salary
of about $3,800.

 
After the rally at the Commerce Building, bandleader Art Holman
and his 11-man orchestra set up on the tennis courts behind
the building, and students were able to dance for free for three
hours in a preview of the night’s “Dance of Champs” at McArthur
Court. Before that dance, the Webfoots were honored at another
dinner at the John Straub Memorial Hall, organized by the Monday
Morning Quarterbacks booster group. Students paid 75 cents,
townspeople $1.50 to get in, eat, and join in the tribute. Hobson
took the opportunity to let it be known he wasn’t going anywhere.

 
“We have things as good, and perhaps better, in Oregon as we have
in any other part of the country,” he said. “I feel that the team we
will have here as long as I am connected with basketball will be
largely Oregon boys. I am proud to be here at Oregon.”

 
The Webfoots were getting weary of ceremonies. They managed
to smile through them again. Anet served as the spokesman
for the team and downplayed the Webfoots’ accomplishment as
“a bit of luck.”

 
President Erb made a point of saying that the championship
team could counter the often-heard criticism around campus,
and around the country, that the emphasis on big-time athletics
was getting out of hand in 1939. “Whenever an athletic program
can set for a student body and academic life of a university an
example of sportsmanship, scholarship and character, there is
no more valuable part of a university,” Erb asserted. He said the
Webfoots’ championship “helps to raise the tone and improve
the tempo and morale of the entire institution.” A much sought-after
speaker, he knew the Webfoots’ basketball accomplishment
would give him something to talk about before getting down to
more serious business of rallying support for higher education;
for restoring high-level science courses at Oregon, which had been
scrubbed; and for one of his pet projects, a much-needed new
student union on the campus.

 
At Sigma Delta Chi’s “Dance of Champs” in The Igloo, 15-foothigh
banners with each player’s picture were among the decorations
as Holman’s orchestra again played. All week, the newspapers,
on and off campus, had been emphasizing that it was such a
festive occasion, girls shouldn’t be at all self-conscious about asking
men to the dance, instead of the other way around, and it seemed
to work. The highlight of the festivities was taking down the banners
and presenting them to each player. Billed in Emerald ads as
“Whoop!! With The Hoopsters” and a way to “honor the nation’s
best hoop squad,” the sorority sold tickets for $1 and turned a nice
profi t. There was no follow-up story, but it’s safe to assume that
Bobby Anet found a date.
* * *
Dick Strite’s Register-Guard column in the aftermath of the celebration
made clear his feelings on the issue of which team deserved to
be considered the best in the land. He wrote: “There was no hollow
victory in winning the national championship as some might think,
what with Long Island U. and the winner of the ‘small-time’ national
tournament in Kansas City both claiming the title. Reports from the
mid-west, recognized as the center of basketball for some years, unquestionably
rank Oregon the greatest team in the nation.” 
 
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Waiting for the Webfoots' arrival at the Eugene Southern Pacific train station.   
 
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Bobby Anet after the Webfoots' arrival.

 
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Howard Hobson is congratulated.
 
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Slim Wintermute 

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It didn't rain on the parade in Eugene.