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From the archives: Utah's 1947 NIT champions welcomed home

Published March 18, 2017 2:13 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah's civic leaders threw away the key and turned over the city to the conquering kings of the court, the University of Utah Redskins, Wednesday as the champs marched home in triumph.

Soaring out of the skies o'er the welcoming Wasatch mountains, the royal Redskins' United Air Lines ship came to a halt before a swirling mass of fans who had turned out to give them the most tumultuous welcome in the history of athletics in this state.

The colorful cage crew, which capture the hearts of the New York fans, proved that it also has the hearts of the home towners as an estimated 5000 jammed the airport and another 15,000 or 20,000 lined the streets for their parade through the city.

Regular City Holiday

It was V-U day in Salt Lake City and the celebration matched the V-J day festivities as the entire town turned the basketball victory into a regular city holiday. Never before has a sports event created such a stir and so much commotion as the accomplishments of this Centennial Utah basketball squad.

Don Brown and Ken Campbell, the two Ute yell masters who practically hitch-hiked their way to New York City, and then taught 18,000 [blame?] Metropolitan fans how to yell U-T-A-H — and like it, were on hand to inspire the eager-beaver Ute backers.

Gov. Herbert B. Maw, Mayor Earl J. Glade, Mayor David S. Romney of Ogden, Commissioner Fred Tedesco, Commissioner L.C. Romney, Dr. A. Ray Olpin along with Centennial Queen Calleen Robinson and her two attendants, Marie Burnett and Marie Louise Gardner, as well has hundreds of pretty coeds were on hand for the reception.

N.Y. Never Like This

Despite efforts of dozens of policement to keep back the crowds, the throng surrounded the big plane as it stopped and the cagers almost had to fight their way through to the mass of photographers and radio announcers, all wanting first call on the stars—and the champs loved it.

Big Vern Gardner was hoisted atop a large fire truck to lead the procession into town and other players were assigned to convertible coupes which carried their names.

Police had a difficult time unraveling the traffic jam which was created by the throng and the parade which was scheduled to start from the monument at Main street and South Temple at 12:30 p.m. was more than half an hour late as a result.

Gardner Takes Prize

Paced by the Utah band, the parade headed down Main street and made a 20-minute stop at Second South and Main while Nicholas G. Morgan Jr. introduced the players, and did an excellent job of it. Gov. Maw, Mayor Glade and Pres. Olpin made short talks. But the feature of the show was a special prize awarded to Gardner for being selected the "most valuable" player at the Metropolitan tournament. Gardner got a kiss, a regular movie kiss, too, from Queen Calleen Robinson.

After the downtown stop, the parade continued down Main street to Fourth South and then east to the University of Utah, where the gridders were given turkey sandwiches, courtesy of C. Rinetti and F. Capotolo, and then ushered into a rousing pep rally at Kingsbury hall.

Despite the fact that school is not in session this week, more than 2000 students turned out for the victory celebration and enjoyed a peppy show that was directed by Fielding K. Smith. .... Smith did an outstanding job in directing the show and introducing the athletes to the student body.

Coach Missed It All

Coach Vadal Peterson was missing from the celebration. The mentor stayed in New York to attend the annual coaches' convention.

Despite reports that the Redskins were eager to play the winner of the NCAA tournament in a game for the mythical national championship, the Redskins let it be known upon their return that they were more than eager to get home. They had been away two full weeks and to a man they were happy when the play-off tussle with the NCAA winner was cancelled.

Wat Misaka, nicknamed "Kilo-Wat" Misaka by Fielding Smith reported: "Coach Peterson told us that the proposed game with the NCAA winner was off just before we played Kentucky and that made us want to win it all the more. We weren't very anxious to stay any longer. We all wanted to get home, and boy, it feels good to be back. This reception is wonderful."

Pres. Olpin read several telegrams, including messages from Denver university and Utah State Agricultural college, congratulating the Redskins on the victory. He added: "We're delighted for the victory but we're even more pleased with the fine way the boys have represented Utah, and by Utah I mean the school and the state. They have been a credit to Utah and they have won the hearts of all America with their fine play, excellent conduct and sportsmanship.

M. L. Dye, president of the chamber of commerce, announced that the "publicity brought to Utah by the success of this team has been worth half a million dollars to the state. Utah owes a lot to this Utah team."

Gov. Maw handed the yell masters, Don Brown and Ken Campbell, a pat on the back for their part in the contest and hailed their success in getting 15,000 New Yorkers to yell for a western team as "an amazing accomplishment."

Even Pres. Olpin, who had been reported not too pleased with the yell masters for soliciting funds from merchants to make the jaunt, congratulated the leaders on their part in the battle with Kentucky which the Utes won, 49-45, to win the Metropolitan championship.

After the rally a "sock dance" was scheduled at the Union building but the students wore themselves out at the rallies and had little taste for dancing. Only a small crowd turned out for the climax to the day's festivities.

The huge event was planned by a student committee headed by Marie Barker, under the direction of Parry Sorenson, Utah publicit director. Other members included Glen Tueller, Wilton Rae Seeley, Gayle Olsen and Ruth Ray. They did a thorough job.

The players feted were Captain Arnold Ferrin, Vern Gardner, Leon Watson, Wat Misaka, Fred Weidner, Lyman Clark, Carlos Asay, Dick Smuin, Jim Woodward, Bill Peterson, Max McBeth and Glen Peterson.






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