Winter 2023 /Choosing the Difficult/

Artifact: The Last Champs

The object below is a game program from the crucial contest of Pomona’s 1955 season, the most recent time the Sagehens were part of a SCIAC football championship season.

1955 Homecoming Game Program: Whittier College vs Pomona-Claremont

Pitzer College, Pomona’s current partner in athletics, had not yet been founded. Pomona and what was then Claremont Men’s College—now rivals as Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps—played together on a combined team known as Pomona-Claremont that claimed the third of three titles in a row.

The title-clinching win was a dramatic 14-13 victory over Whittier College in the Poets’ homecoming game, where this program sold for 20 cents. The two met late in the season as the only SCIAC teams that remained undefeated in conference play.

The recently completed 2022 season marked a poignant milestone for Whittier. The college dropped its football program after 115 years, along with men’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s golf. The decision was primarily for financial reasons. Whittier had not won a game since the pandemic canceled the 2020 season, going 0-18 over the last two seasons.

Whittier’s coach in 1955 was George Allen, who went on to coach the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins. Pomona-Claremont was coached by Earl “Fuzz” Merritt ’25, for whom Pomona-Pitzer’s home field is named.

The Pomona-Claremont roster included end Bill Schultz ’56, tackle Ken Wedel ’56, halfback Herb Meyer ’57, guard/tackle Hugh Martin ’57, and halfback/quarterback Jim Lindblad ’58, all later inducted into the Pomona-Pitzer Athletics Hall of Fame. The name of a certain 165-pound sophomore end might also ring a bell.

Pomona-Claremont’s final game of the 1955 season was a 29-13 victory over rival Occidental in front of 6,000 fans in Claremont. Oxy’s standouts included quarterback Jack Kemp, who went on to play professional football and serve nine terms as a U.S. congressman. In 2020, Occidental announced it would discontinue its football program, ending the rivalry. Six remaining teams will compete for the 2023 SCIAC football title: Cal Lutheran, Chapman, CMS, La Verne, Pomona-Pitzer and Redlands.