The SF Weekly recently ran a story on a forgotten bit of San Francisco history, the "Thanksgiving Day Disaster" of 1900. Over a century later, this is still the deadliest accident to claim the lives of spectators at a U.S. sporting event. When Cal and Stanford met at Recreation Park, many climbed the roof of the adjacent Pacific Glass Works for a free (and pleasantly unobstructed) view of the game. The rest is history.
Well before the 2:30 p.m. kickoff, the factory's shiny, corrugated iron rooftop was packed with 500 to 1,000 spectators. It "was black with people," reported the Chronicle. "So densely were all the roofs packed, it was a matter of comment among the multitude which thronged the stands on the Folsom Street side."
Every factor that would lead to "San Francisco's direst calamity" was now in place. Factory employees wandered the streets in a futile attempt to locate a cop willing to evict the freeloading invaders. Those freeloaders, meanwhile, were massed atop a rooftop only required to withstand 40 pounds per square inch — hardly adequate for a football crowd, even in a hungrier era when the average Cal or Stanford player weighed 170 pounds. Worse yet, fans clambered to the highest accessible point, the 100-foot-long rectangular ventilator rising 4 feet from the apex of the roof. This open-sided structure was supported only by wooden braces — and, ominously, the fans' perch was directly above the hottest portion of the factory.
Forty-five feet below the thousands of stamping feet loomed the squat, 30-by-60-foot east furnace. Fifteen tons of molten glass bubbled within at 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit — a temperature on par with a red dwarf star. This was the only furnace in action that day. More observant fans would have noticed the capping atop the chimney behind them glowing red as it emitted a persistent plume of smoke.
But the action was in front, not behind. And even onlookers who grew uneasy couldn't negotiate the crowd to descend. "I don't know how many hundred people were up there, but there wasn't an inch of standing room to spare," Arthur Schwarz told the Examiner. So they made the most of it: "All of us were laughing and jesting," Charles Taylor told the Chronicle. "Some of the fellows said: 'If this thing breaks, we'll all go down together.'"
Twenty minutes into the game, they did.
The lengthy article gives a much fuller account of the accident. It is a fascinating (though unpleasant) bit of Big Game history. More links of the more traditional variety after the jump.
- Lisa and Douglas Goldman donated $10 million to Cal Athletics and will have the plaza outside Memorial Stadium named in their honor.
- Ted Miller takes a look at where each Pac-12 program is in its recruiting. I'm warning you, do not scroll down to USC. You will regret it.
- Jon Wilner updates us on the Pac-12 Networks carriage situation, which is looking worse and worse by the day (that is, unless this DirecTV deal materializes).
- Jeff Tedford talks about the importance of social media and clarifies the role of his assistant Delaney Gallagher, whose job it is to keep Tedford updated on all things social media. Do you think she reads the DBD?
- DeSean Jackson admits he did not put in 100% effort last year. He wanted to stay healthy so he could sign his five-year extension.
- Tedford opens up about the Tosh situation and says there are no hard feelings. He has not talked to Lupoi since his departure, however.
- Brian Treggs says his son Bryce is loving life at Cal. The younger Treggs knew he made the right decision after the first day of Summer Bridge.
- The Bears have been resting (primarily due to a wave of minor injuries) and will return to practice Tuesday.
- Grace Leer's hat trick helped propel the Bears to a 5-2 victory over San Jose State. The effort earned Leer the first Muscle Milk Student Athlete of the Week for the 2012-13 season.
- Leer also performed an excellent rendition of the national anthem prior to the match.
- Michael Weaver missed the championship-clinching putt by the narrowest of margins and lost the U.S. Amateur Finals on the next hole. Cal coach Steve Desimone called it "one of the toughest losses of all time for this program."