Texas Tech University Football Firsts

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During football season last year we told you that the SWC archives hold the entirety of the old Southwest Conference’s records, as well as a large portion of Big 8, Big 12, and NCAA archival material. But the Southwest Collection is located at Texas Tech University, so it’s high time that we focused on Red Raider football, a story that began almost 90 years ago. McMurray1925 ttu first game

This is the cover of the program for the first football game played by the newly-opened Texas Technological College (you can see the whole program here courtesy of our University Archives!) It was a heated contest held on the afternoon of October 3rd, 1925, at Lubbock’s South Plains Fair. The McMurray [sic] College Indians traveled north from Abilene to face off against the Matadors, and the game resulted in a 0-0 tie. An inauspicious beginning, perhaps, but things would soon turn around.

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Although Texas Tech’s first bowl game was against West Virginia in 1937’s Sun Bowl (a 7-6 loss,) perhaps their most historically significant bowl appearance came after the 1953 season. As you can see from the cover of the 104-page program above (the entirety of which you can see here,) the Red Raiders squared off against the University of Auburn Tigers in the 9th annual Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day. Although the 17th-ranked Tigers led early, the Red Raiders surged back in the second half to win the game 35-13, handing Auburn one of its more lopsided bowl losses. Not surprising, perhaps, considering Tech’s 10-1 regular season record, but a closer look at the box score reveals that Texas Tech did the bulk of its work in 7 minutes, racking up 28 points in that short amount of time under the lead of now-legendary halfback Bobby Cavazos. He scored 3 times and also stopped an interception return that would have likely resulted in a defensive touchdown. Bobby and his fellow 1953 stars can be seen in the image below, taken from that same game program.

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“But this article is entitled Texas Tech Football Firsts!” you might be pointing out to us right now. And we appreciate the reminder, because while the 1954 Gator Bowl was one of Tech’s biggest wins up to that point, it was even more notable for two historic moments in Texas Tech Red Raider football history. First off, this was Tech’s first televised football game. In the 60 years since then, the Red Raiders have had their share of television coverage, but it all started with this game. But here’s what really matters to fans: this was the first official appearance of the Masked Rider! The Rider had shown up from time to time since 1936, but the Gator Bowl was the first time it galloped onto the field as Tech’s new official mascot. Thousands of spectators shared a moment of amazed silence before erupting into cheers. According to Atlanta Journal’s sportswriter Ed Danforth, who was also a press box spectator, “No team in any bowl game ever made a more sensational entrance.”

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In 2004, the saddle above was given to then-Chancellor Kent Hance to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Masked Rider. Generously donated to the SWC in 2014 along with many of Kent Hance’s papers, it is one among many unique Red Raider artifacts that we preserve. If you’re curious about those, our other Texas Tech collections, or the many, many sports-related archives we keep around, hurry up and contact our Reference Department and they’ll see about getting you a look at those!

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The Dr. Sherman Vinograd Aerospace Exploration Papers: Part 2!

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Last year, for the anniversary of NASA’s founding (July 29th, 1958, if you’re curious), we wrote a few words about Dr. Sherman Vinograd and his papers here at the Southwest Collection. We love the collection so much that a couple of months ago we also installed an exhibit that will be on display until around January 2015. It details his career and many significant accomplishments. This turned out to be a timely installation, as the good Dr. passed away on September 1, 2014.

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In case you didn’t check out the previous blog (and you should!), Dr. Sherman P. Vinograd served as NASA’s Director of Medical Science and Technology from the fall of 1961 until the spring of 1979. In those 18 years he led NASA’s most fruitful medical, engineering, and vehicle development research relating to manned space flight. Among his many accomplishments was the establishment of the In-flight Medical Experiments Program, which evaluated human responses to extended space flight. Its experiments focused on sensory deprivation, which in Dr. Vinograd’s words “inspired” some of his staff to hypothesize that astronauts would hallucinate “little green men” when deprived of all sight, sound, and hearing. Fortunately, no one ever came close to hallucinating, proving the resilience of the human mind and body.

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As most folks know, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin of the Apollo 11 mission became the first humans to walk on the moon. The years of medical research, planning, and engineering that led to this triumph began in part with the scientific efforts of Dr. Vinograd and his team. As you can see above, they devised an elaborate but compact Environmental Control System that efficiently regulated and recycled all oxygen, water, and sanitation on board the cramped lunar module. Look closely: they recycled everything. Everything. One way or the other, Apollo 11 made the Dr. “very, very happy,” and he also heaped praise on the “astronauts…and that support crew that they had” who did all the heavy lifting to make it possible. It was, he summarized, “the pinnacle accomplishment of the century.

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Another highlight of Dr. Vinograd’s career revolved around “Star City,” an area in Moscow Oblast, Russia, which since the 1960s is home to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC.) Named for the famed Russian who was the first human to journey into outer space, the GCTC saw years of collaboration between the U.S. and Russian scientists that ultimately resulted in 1975’s Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. That flight was not only the final Apollo and U.S. space mission until the arrival of the space shuttle, but also punctuated the end of the “space race” in which the two superpowers had been locked since 1957. It also resulted in awesome bi-lingual textbooks like the one above, of which we boast a complete set in both Russian and English!

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Finally, one of the Dr.’s most impressive programs was the Integrated Medical and Behavioral Laboratory Measurement System (IMBLMS). Before lengthy space flights could occur, physicians had to determine if blood circulation, breathing, and even the ability to swallow food were affected adversely by zero gravity. The Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab programs all relied heavily on IMBLMS’ experiments to ensure the safety of the astronauts.

To see all of Dr. Vinograd’s good stuff, check out his exhibit if you’re out our way in Lubbock, Texas. Or to see his papers in their entirety, don’t hesitate to contact our trusty Reference Staff! They’d also be happy to provide you with the papers of NASA Commander Rick Husband, leader of the ill-fated space shuttle Columbia mission. Husband, in fact, will be getting his own exhibit at the SWC in Spring 2015, which we encourage you to visit.