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On Top of the Game

Santa Clara Baseball Team, c. 1870

Santa Clara Baseball Team, c. 1870

November 15 - December 6, 2015,
January 15 - March 13, 2016,
and April 8 - June 12, 2016

From the start, sports and recreation was an integral part of Bronco life. In the earliest days of Santa Clara College (now University) physical activity took the shape of bike rides, pick-up games, or a dip in the school's swimming pool (possibly the first in California). But, by the 1890s a love of baseball took hold at the school, followed closely by the establishment of a football team in 1895. The introduction of rugby and basketball soon followed, with both teams popping up around 1905. 

As the popularity of organized sports increased at Santa Clara, the nature of the campus began to shift. Once a closed campus where trips offsite were restricted, school administrators began allowing students to leave campus on Sundays to watch games in the late 1880s. By the 1890s athletics, and baseball in particular, had become so important to campus life that it justified overnight absences for players.

As the years progressed, the popularity of sports grew on campus and the teams improved. The rugby team sent some of its key players to the 1924 Olympics Games in Paris. Against odds, the football team took home three bowl wins between 1937 and 1950—two Sugar Bowl victories and an Orange Bowl win. The basketball team followed up with two consecutive turns in the NCAA playoffs and stint in the Final Four. And, the story goes on as Santa Clara University continues to send top athletes out into the world—Brandi Chastain, Brent Jones, and Steve Nash to name a few.

On Top of the Game explores the dynamic history of Bronco sports from 1851-1950, tracing the evolution of athletics from the earliest days of Santa Clara College to some of the glory days of Santa Clara University.

Oct 16, 2015

Image, exhibition listing: Orange Bowl Trophy, 1950, photograph, Courtesy of Santa Clara University Library Archives and Special Collections.
Image, above: Santa Clara College Baseball Team, c. 1870, photograph, Courtesy of Santa Clara University Library Archives and Special Collections.