Waco, Strange but True: Little-known Floyd Casey Stadium stories

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    Baylor Stadium was the site of the Bears' first top-10 matchup, which pitted the No. 8 Bears against No. 7 Texas A&M on October 27, 1956. (It was later known as Floyd Casey Stadium.)

Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 12:01 am

When Baylor meets Texas on the football field in Waco this Dec. 7, it will bring to an end 63 years of memorable games in the athletic facility first known as Baylor Stadium (1950-88) and then as Floyd Casey Stadium.

The main points of the history of “The Case” have been written about a lot this fall, but there are a few lesser-known stories I’d like to share before we turn out the stadium lights.

Unlikely bond purchasers

The construction of Baylor Stadium was financed by the sale of interest-bearing bonds. Most people who bought the stadium bonds were Baylor fans, but there were a few notable exceptions.

Wildcatter and oil tycoon Glenn McCarthy, a longtime Texas A&M fan, served with Texas Attorney General Price Daniel, a Baylor University alum, as a grand marshal of the parade through Waco that kicked off the local stadium bond campaign.

McCarthy responded by pledging to purchase at least $15,000 worth of bonds.

Another unlikely Baylor Stadium bond buyer was Dana X. Bible, who had coached both the A&M and Texas football teams in games against the Bears. While serving as UT’s athletic director in 1949, Bible claimed to have a soft spot in his heart for Baylor and asked to be permitted to buy stadium bonds.

Not the lead story

You’d think that the opening of Baylor Stadium with its first game on Sept. 30, 1950, (a 34-7 victory over the University of Houston) would monopolize the Texas sports news that day, but it didn’t.

By coincidence, Baylor’s stadium opened the same day that the Bears’ conference rivals in Houston, the Rice Owls, dedicated their new stadium — a larger facility that could seat 70,000.

Another conference-related tidbit –– before Texas A&M added a press box to Kyle Field in 1953, its officials visited Baylor Stadium to take notes on its press box, to which the Aggies gave high marks.

Bring on ... the ice show?

Because a football stadium is only used part of the year for football games, what do you do with it the rest of the year? Believe it or not, one early idea to bring in extra revenue with Baylor Stadium was to turn it into a professional ice-skating venue.

On June 2, 1952, the “Ice Vogues” show opened as a fundraiser for Baylor athletics. Three large tanks of water, totaling more than 11,000 square feet, were installed on the Baylor Stadium field and then frozen to provide an icy surface for the two-and-a-half hour show.

The show ran for six days, but for some reason was never repeated at the stadium.

And then, the garbage option

Another way Baylor Stadium was used for things other than football games was as a garbage dump.

Debris from the Waco tornado in May 1953 had been dumped in low areas on the grounds of Baylor Stadium near Waco Creek. The next month, Baylor allowed the city of Waco to add to the debris pile and create a formal “sanitary fill garbage disposal unit.”

Waco garbage trucks began hauling trash each day from south and north Waco and dumping it in trenches dug at the stadium, which were eventually covered over with dirt.

Helping out the Coogs

A football game played in Baylor Stadium once helped the University of Houston win the jackpot.

On Nov. 20, 1953, almost a week after the Cougars beat the Bears in Waco, Houston oilman and philanthropist Roy Cullen gave U of H $2.25 million, saying, “The great spirit and determination shown by the Cougars last Saturday in defeating Baylor filled me with enthusiasm and prompts me to do something for our great university.”

Cullen later denied that the gift was made only because of the win over Baylor, and before the month was out he possibly made up some lost ground with Baylor supporters by giving $1 million to the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

We like Ike ... indoors

When President Dwight D. Eisenhower confirmed that he would come to Baylor to speak at the May 1956 commencement ceremony, Baylor officials suggested that the event take place in Baylor Stadium, where the 50,000 seats could easily accommodate the expected large crowds.

The event would have been the only time to date that a sitting U.S. president visited Baylor Stadium, but it was not to be. Eisenhower’s staff indicated that he preferred to speak in a “completely enclosed building.”

So, commencement was moved inside the Heart O’ Texas Coliseum, where an overflow crowd heard Ike make a nationally televised address on foreign policy.

Early skyboxes

The precursor to today’s Floyd Casey Stadium skyboxes was probably a special section of Baylor Stadium that debuted in the 1957 season. Baylor alums and local businesses donated $16,000 to pay for removing a concession stand underneath the press box and replacing it with a first-class private seating section.

The special suite, spanning between the 25-yard lines, was enclosed in glass and could be mechanically cooled or heated, depending on the temperature — a rare luxury at stadiums in the 1950s.

The suite’s 85 “opera-type” seats — 21 inches wide with foam rubber padding — were attended by “white-jacketed waiters” who brought patrons food and drink. The suite had a private restroom and telephone line, loudspeakers that piped in the public address system, and was adorned with fresh flowers before every game.

To reserve space in this special VIP section, Bear fans were required to pay $300 a seat (about $2,400 in today’s money) for a 10-year option, and were charged $6 a seat on top of that for each game.

Tragedy on the field

One of the most traumatic events to take place in Baylor Stadium occurred during the 1971 Homecoming football game against TCU.

First-year TCU head coach Jim Pittman slumped to the sidelines early in the first quarter and was rushed to Providence Hospital. The 46-year-old Pittman, who had a history of heart problems, was pronounced dead from a heart attack soon after arrival.

Back at Baylor Stadium, the game was tied at halftime when the TCU players were first told that their coach had died. Vowing to win the game for Pittman, the Horned Frogs did just that, fighting ferociously in the second half to a 34-27 win over the Bears.

Baylor coach Bill Beall, a close friend of Pittman, spoke to the TCU players after the game, telling them, “This was one of the finest comebacks I’ve ever been around. It is a tremendous credit to coach Pittman and will last with TCU after you are all gone.”

Not your ordinary show

As we all know, football is just one of many things visitors might see in a stadium during a football game.

On Oct. 4, 1958, a total of 76 trombone players from Central Texas high schools took the field at Baylor Stadium during halftime of the Baylor-Miami game. The special guest was Meredith Wilson, composer of the hit Broadway musical “The Music Man,” and during the halftime show the trombonists formed a large circle around Wilson as they played “Seventy-Six Trombones,” the hit song from his musical.

Meanwhile, on Nov. 10, 1962, staffers of the Baylor Lariat newspaper challenged their counterparts at The Daily Texan to a bicycle race at Baylor Stadium before the start of the Baylor-UT game. Despite a spirited performance by the Lariat crew and encouragement from the stadium crowd, the Daily Texan cyclists came from behind to win.

Years later, the Texas Sesquicentennial was responsible for bringing Baylor and Texas together at Baylor Stadium.

On Nov. 22, 1986, during halftime of the Baylor-Texas game, the two schools’ marching bands performed together for the first time anyone could remember. The 360 members of the UT band and the 250 members of the Golden Wave Band performed a 20-minute routine, which included songs such as “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”

Each band had perfected its part of the routine separately, then came together only an hour before game time to practice combining the two routines into one.

Segregation-busting moment

Baylor Stadium has the distinction of being the place where decades of racial segregation ended in Southwest Conference athletics.

In a game against Syracuse in Waco on Sept. 10, 1966, Baylor halfback John Westbrook became the first African-American athlete to compete in a SWC sporting event. With a national television audience of 60 million people watching, Westbrook entered the game in the fourth quarter and carried the ball for 11 yards in Baylor’s 35-12 upset victory.

Beer benefactors?

My final story is one I had never heard anywhere before — until I heard it straight from the mouth of legendary Baylor football coach Grant Teaff.

Teaff had not even visited Baylor Stadium prior to accepting the job of turning around the university’s faltering football program in 1972. When he finally took a tour, the Bears’ new head coach was shocked at how modest the training facilities were, including a tiny weight room that housed a single universal gym, allowing only four players to work out at once.

Teaff was granted permission by President Abner McCall to build and equip an expanded weight room under the stands, but the coach would have to find a way to raise the $50,000 the new room would cost.

He turned to a Baylor development officer for help in finding a donor, but when Teaff heard back, the coach was told that he would not want to accept the lone offer made to finance the weight room.

“Why don’t you try me? Just see if I’ll take it,” Teaff said.

The coach learned the offer consisted of $50,000 worth of stock in Anheuser-Busch, the brewing company that produced such beers as Budweiser and Michelob.

Teaff’s reply must have surprised the fundraiser for Texas’ largest Baptist university.

“The heck I won’t (accept it),” Teaff said. “Put it this way. The devil’s had that money long enough. I’m going to put it to good use for the Baylor Bears.”

Did Teaff ever check with President McCall about the source of the funds?

“He told me to get the money, so I didn’t ask him at all,” Teaff said. “I’m sure he would have probably thought about it and said the same thing I did.”

So, although no formal announcement was made about the donation, Teaff got his money — and Baylor Stadium got a new weight room.

-----

Sources: Baylor Lariat: May 13, 1952; May 10, 1956; May 17, 1956; Oct. 3, 1958; Nov. 11, 1962; Nov. 21, 1986.

Waco Tribune-Herald: Sept. 4, 1949.

Waco News-Tribune: Aug. 5, 1949; June 13, 1953.

Dallas Morning News: Oct. 31, 1971.

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