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October 2019

An Inside Look at "Sporting Oregon: A Pictorial History of Early Oregon Sports"

In Sporting Oregon: A Pictorial History of Early Oregon Sports, Brian S. Campf presents a slice of history--spanning over twenty-five years--through photographs related to Oregon sports. Campf tracks the development and popularity of sports such as baseball, football, basketball, horse racing, track, hockey, tennis, and cricket, incorporating various artifacts along the way. Though the progression of many sports unfolded on a national level, Sporting Oregon provides local context and rich detail about the history of sports in the state.

Here we share an exclusive preview of Sporting Oregon--an excerpt from the foreword (written by Carl Abbott) and the author’s preface: 



Excerpt from the Foreword by Carl Abbott

Oregon was a very young state at the end of the 1860s—Oregon City was thirty years old, Portland was twenty-five, and the state itself was just completing its first decade with 91,000 people spread thinly over the landscape. Men outnumbered women by nearly three to two, a sign of the state’s frontier resource economy. Only three cities counted more than 1,000 residents—Portland, Salem, and Oregon City. Fifty years later, when the last photographs in this collection were made, the state had grown up, with the 1920 census counting 788,000 Oregonians who lived a much more settled life than previous generations.


Competitive sports grew up with the state. The images that Brian Campf has assembled tell us about the growth of education, the establishment of a middle class, and the spread of railroads. They also testify to Oregonians’ love of the outdoors.


If you wanted to play competitive team sports in nineteenth century Oregon, one of the big challenges was finding the competition. In the 1870s, Columbia River steamers plied the great river of the West; Willamette River steamboats connected river towns like Harrisburg, Salem, and Albany; and the first railroads connected Portland and East Portland to a string of Willamette Valley cities and towns. That was it for easy travel. Salem ballplayers could travel to Aurora with relative ease, or a McMinnville nine could take on a Portland team. Even in the 1910s, however, the only comfortable way to get from eastern Oregon to the western side of the state required changing trains in Portland. The images also remind us of the importance of Albany and Astoria in these decades. Albany rivaled Salem as the most important city in the upper Willamette Valley until Eugene nudged ahead in the early twentieth century, and Albany athletes make the third most appearances in this book. Astoria, which also appears repeatedly, ranked second only to Portland in the 1880s and 1890s.


Outside the northwestern quadrant of the state, competition was local. Campf documents separate constellations of competition in the Coos Bay area, in Umatilla County where at least nine towns had teams in the early 1910s and there was fierce competition among the members of the Blue Mountain League and the finely named but short-lived Irrigation League. The Inland Empire League stretched more ambitiously from Baker City (the Nuggets) to Walla Walla. Prineville, Bend, and Redmond put in their appearance in 1909, reflecting the beginnings of central Oregon’s timber industry and anticipating the resolution of the battle between James J. Hill of the Great Northern/Northern Pacific and E. H. Harriman of the Union Pacific/ Southern Pacific to be the first to control the Deschutes River railroad route.


Sports developed in step with the developing infrastructure of public education. Teams from the University of Oregon and Oregon Agricultural College garnered plenty of attention, tiny as the schools were compared to the institutions of the twenty-first century. Even more telling is the way that the images reflect the creation of comprehensive public high schools as essential community institutions. Even though Oregonian editor Harvey Scott fulminated against public high schools as a waste of money (he fulminated against a lot of things), Portland established its first high school in 1869 in rented space, built a neo-gothic building in 1885, and then a modern Lincoln High School on the Park Blocks in 1912. Jefferson High School opened on the east side in 1908 and Gresham High School dates to 1906. And it was not only the larger cities, as we learn that Harney County High School had twelve seniors in 1911–1912, divided equally between boys and girls.


Campf concentrates on the big three teams sports—baseball and its community and semi-pro teams, football and its college teams, and basketball with its high school teams for boys and for girls who refused to play by wimpy “girls’ rules.” Oregonians, of course, had plenty of other ways to enjoy exercise and the outdoors. There were elite sports like rowing, lawn tennis, and golf (the Waverly Golf Club dates to 1896). English immigrants and ex-pats sporadically kept their ethnic sport of cricket alive in Portland. And there were outdoor activities like fly-fishing where no one kept score (well, maybe the trout did). Energetic Portlanders joined the Mazamas, whose inaugural climb on July 19, 1894, took 158 men and 38 women to the top of Mt. Hood. If you didn’t have time to summit a mountain, you could join the bicycle craze of the 1890s. Thousands of people took to the roads on Sunday cycling expeditions—sedate families, daredevil wheelmen, and “scorchers”—young men who rode too fast and too recklessly for most people’s taste (what else is new).

Preface by Brian Campf 

I have loved sports for as long as I can remember. I enjoy the anticipation of the game, watching the drama unfold, and seeing a winner and a loser. There is nothing else like it.


A few weeks shy of my tenth birthday I watched on television as the Portland Trail Blazers won the NBA title in 1977. My parents took us downtown for dinner that night. We found ourselves in the midst of a massive celebration. A picture of me near the podium at the Blazers championship parade the next day was published in Hoop magazine. My wife, Sandy, says that I remember the parade day as fondly as our wedding. I won’t say if she’s right.


Baseball was just as important to me. Portland had no major league team, but I followed the big leaguers and also Portland’s minor league team, the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League. When we were kids, my father, Alan, would take me and my brother, Andy, to their games at Portland’s Civic Stadium. I began collecting baseball, basketball, and football cards around 1978, the same year as my first trip to the Memorial Coliseum to see the Blazers play.


A baseball card store opened in Portland in 1980. I insisted that my mother, Susan, drive me there. I must have been one of its earliest visitors. Though I was only about thirteen and had no money to spend, I loved my visit. Andy had come with us. A Wall Street Journal article published soon afterward described the store owner patiently answering the many questions from two unidentified youngsters (me and Andy).                                                                                                                              

Later in the 1980s, at the same store I stumbled across a baseball card. It showed a local player, a Portland player. The card was old and its history intrigued me. I snapped it up. This is the one: Miles Albion Netzel, issued in 1910 with Obak Cigarettes.I thought it would be a fun challenge to seek out cards issued of other Portland players during that 1910 era and research their base- ball careers. Around the same time I got to know several dealers of vintage baseball collectibles who helped me in that pursuit. They remain my friends to this day.


Then something changed everything: the arrival of the Internet. The Internet gave me access to Oregon sports objects, such as photos and postcards, that were dispersed across America. What had been far away suddenly became a few mouse clicks away from reaching my mailbox. I also began to look for items associated with Oregon sports other than baseball. With the Internet my collection expanded by leaps and bounds. I continued to enjoy investigating the history of each new piece. Sandy stopped asking about the little boxes that kept arriving.


The Internet also opened a door to new avenues of research. Keyword searches in century-old newspapers could be swiftly performed to reveal the stories behind a photo’s charm and mystique. Period photography ultimately became a focus of the collection because it offers interesting and varied content, as well as locations and a more personal kind of connection to its subjects than objects such as trophies provide. Over the decades I acted like a magnet for these images, bringing them home to Oregon and into the archive, usually one at a time.


What emerged from my efforts is an archive of images I did not create but a collection I did create. I came to realize that anyone who says the fun is in the looking is seriously underestimating the satisfaction in the finding. It would be like saying the real fun of going on vacation is the plane ride. The pleasure for me came in adding some- thing to the collection that gave it more depth and dimension.


I recall my mom asking me, “What are you going to do with all of this stuff?” I had no idea what to say so I answered, “Maybe a book one day.” I had to say something, and in the back of my mind it seemed that if I said “book,” there might actually be one. I also had begun to feel weird about squirreling this “stuff ” away and being the only one who could see it. It is, after all, Oregon’s history, and it deserves not just to be compiled, but preserved, seen, and enjoyed.


A website instead of a book seemed like a good place to start, sort of like learning to ride a bicycle before you drive a car. I store the entire collection in an enormous bank vault, so I started bringing home boxes of goodies from the bank, scanning it all, returning the boxes, and retrieving more, back and forth until the scanning was done. It was during one of those bank runs that someone nearly sideswiped my car. Were it not for some defensive driving that would have made my driving teacher proud, the contents of this book would look very different.

Seeing the website go live made me feel that I had conquered the law of gravity. I conceived of it as a free virtual museum. I researched each item and added brief descriptions I hoped would approximate placards on the wall next to objects hung in galleries. I also left my name off the site so it would be about “the” stuff and not “my” stuff, something that has necessarily and somewhat regrettably changed with the publication of this book.


The website (no longer active) showed Oregon sports material and also original images from my collection of early major league, minor league, and Negro league baseball. The site began receiving visitors who shared kind comments. The Oregonian even published a story about it. That encouragement helped push me toward making this book a reality. I liked the idea of a book offering a more permanent re- cord than a website, plus it gave me the opportunity (read: awesome excuse) to research early Oregon sports.


After years of acquiring images and now sifting through them to decide what to include here, it occurs to me that if history is written by the victors, pictorial accounts are made possible by the collectors. I hope you enjoy this one.






An interview former US Congressman Les AuCoin

We’re starting off the beginning of fall by celebrating one of our new releases! Former US Congressman Les AuCoin’s debut memoir, Catch and Release: An Oregon Life in Politics, explores the intricacies of power, privilege and the importance of fighting for your community. Today on our blog, AuCoin—first Democrat to hold a seat in Oregon’s First Congressional District—shares with OSU Press interns Isaiah Holbrook and Ashley Hay the purpose of memoir writing, the current state of mass media, and the search for balance between personal and political narratives.

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Isaiah: We noticed that you refrain from speaking explicitly about our current political climate in your memoir. Why did you choose to stay away from this topic?

Les: I set out to write a memoir, not an op-ed. I have a journalism background. I’ve written many op-eds, which are statements of opinion, which cover things like the inadequacies of standard journalism, the direction it’s heading, the critiques of politicians and political movements. If I had spent a lot of time banging Trump around, my book would’ve been no different than a thousand others that are doing the same thing, either banging him around or praising him. On the other hand, no one knows my life story except me. And my purpose was to tell my life story and let readers see what is relevant to them and in this moment in their personal life and our national life.

Ashley: Could you talk a little bit more about the audience that you envision for this book? Who are you writing to? Who do you think should be reading this?

Les: I did not want to write a textbook. It’s for the general public. I wanted to show how Congress once was, and how it can work, and how far we’ve drifted away from that so that people can realize that a return to better days is possible. I also wanted to show the basic daily sociology of the Congress. At any one moment, there’s five hundred and thirty-five lives living under Capital dome. You have cads and courageous people. You have normal people and despicable ones. I wanted to show the range of behaviors and the types of people that are there. Through the eyes of somebody who lived it. I think that today overwhelmingly people see Congress through the lens of the mass media. It’s always about political horse-races and the fight. But in the Capitol, life is not all about fighting. There are wonderful moments of quiet courage, along with moments of human duplicity. Most of the human moments are never covered in the news; they don’t make the definition of “news.”

Ashley: Do you have any particular moment that comes to mind as an example of what you would want to see in the news? I think this is an interesting perspective to take since you did start in journalism—what would you want to see reported?

Les: I think journalism has really degraded since my day and since its heyday in the 40s and 50s. Today, most decisions made in newspapers, and in TV news, are to get advertising revenue. But business values are not news values. The problem is that in a democratic republic, the media used to be considered the “fourth estate,” and it functioned as an intermediary between the elected and the electors. Its job was to report news from the life of the voters to those who are elected and to funnel information back to the electors, to explain why their elected representatives did whatever they did. That’s fundamental for a democracy. Former Supreme Court justice David Souter channeled Thomas Jefferson when he said “an ignorant people cannot remain free.” If we have a media that’s not edifying, that instead is titillating and entertaining, the public becomes more and more ignorant. So that’s my beef with the modern media. Please note the difference between criticism of the media and Donal Trump’s. In his view, uncomplimentary news is “fake.”

Ashley: We noticed that you’re not afraid of addressing your political opinions in your book at all. Did you ever want to shy away from any of those political opinions? Was there anything that you were debating about including in the memoir?

Les: This book is about my life, an intrinsic part of which involves my political values. They’ve changed and evolved but they’re part of me. If people get steamed and throw the book down, well that’s fine, this is America, they can buy Rush Limbaugh’s book. But I’ll say this and I won’t go into any more details. There was one passage in the chapter about Senator Bob Packwood, who defeated me narrowly in a Senate race that effectively ended my career. There was a segment about my early exposure to him, something that had happened. I decided it was so sensational it would eclipse everything else in the book. I cut it out so that it wouldn’t happen.

Isaiah: You write about how it was for you to be in Congress, and there are many threads in your memoir. What do you feel is the ultimate takeaway from your memoir?

Les: Well you know, the ultimate takeaway depends on each reader. A memoir is not an autobiography. It is slices of memory. In a memoir, you shouldn’t preach at people or forced-feed a conclusion. You want to lay out a story, or stories, that actually have been lived. They might inspire some folks and revolt others. Either reaction is fine. This book is story-telling--tales that one man lived, for whatever value it may be for others on their human journey.

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Les AuCoin represented Oregon in the US House for eighteen years until 1992, when he gave up his seat to run for the Senate. He is an award-winning magazine editor and public radio commentator, and his articles have appeared in major newspapers throughout the country. He lives with his wife, Sue, in Portland, Oregon.

OSU Press Author David Oates: What is This Tremendousness?

mountains of parisDavid Oates is a writer and teacher currently based in Portland, Oregon. He’s the author of two books of poetry and five works of nonfiction, including his most recent memoir, The Mountains of Paris. He was a Kittredge Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Montana and is founder and general editor of Kelson Books in Portland, Oregon. Here, he introduces an excerpt from The Mountains of Paris.

When I lucked into a four-month arts residency in the heart of Paris, I wondered what I would make of it. This little extract is one answer. And it also points toward the wider exploration my Paris sojourn inspired, pursuing questions that had dogged me my whole life. Looking up into the starry night sky, or being simultaneously diminished and exalted before a sunset or the ocean’s roaring chaos . . . What is that big big feeling?

It seems half my life has been focused on hiking, climbing, getting beautifully lost in deep forest or on remote peaks. But the other half has been spent in very different obsessions: the music of Bach, a Vermeer painting, a poem that won’t let go of me. In all these terrains the same unanswerable lurked. What is this feeling? What is this tremendousness?

- David Oates

It appears I’ve come to Paris in order to go to church.

It’s a strange choice. Here I am in the world capital of culture, intellect, the chic of smartness. I’m living and working in an artist’s and writer’s residency: the Cité des arts international. All around me are those four hundred museums that Parisians like to mention. I try to tally them: museums for any taste, any period; museums of armor and weapons, hunting rifles and stuffed game, gizmos and technology; New Guinean fetishes, eroticism, medicine, Freemasonry; Balzac, Chopin, Picasso, in fact painters and writers without end; grandiose museums like Musée du l’Homme (anthropology) or museums that specialize in obsessions (locks and keys, smoking, playing cards, the thirties). New art is exhibited continually—big Palais, little Palais, Tokyo Palais. Of course, there is canonical painting and sculpture over at the Louvre and a feast of nineteenth-century kitsch across the river at the Musée D’Orsay, housed under its coffered nineteenth-century railway dome. And, within the tubed frightfulness of the Pompidou, all those seething moderns. There is cinema everywhere and photography shows big and little and edgy gallery-like little collections (Maison Rouge!)…and the insurmountable list of historic buildings, churches, parks.

And so much more. Isn’t all that the reason a guy like me comes to Paris?

There’s also the Paris of indulgence. Of shopping, which I simply refuse. Of food, if you can afford it. And of sex, ditto. Didn’t people used to come to Paris to have “a naughty weekend,” as Auden said? It must still be around here somewhere. But no . . .

Somehow I have managed to find the Puritan’s version of the naughty weekend. Here I am, sneaking off to church.

To speak plainly, I come for the organ. A particular organ, in a particular church. That was, and is, the great motive. It’s what gives me pleasure. And pleasure is really what’s behind everything, high art or base pursuit. So all this church-going, I might ask myself—is it fun? Well, not exactly. Satisfying?: yes. That’s what I have to explain.

How to get at it?

The lostness, off and on, for much of my life, despite massive good luck and frequent happiness. There was an emptiness and ways of filling it that were not always sordid. No, not always. But under the strange furor of living, and under the lostness, always there was something deeper yet. Something delicious. And possible.

I felt it. It could not be spoken.

Whose story doesn’t start in lostness, and perhaps end there too, in the emptied corpse? Pride, vanity, futility. It’s a lot of what we share, after all. Emptiness in its different forms has been tearing up the world for a long time. It is doing so now, accelerating even as we breathe and read and speak, our emptiness at work unmaking the air, burning up the globe, prying apart the ecosystems. Yet on we go, as if unable to imagine any change. We are that null, that empty.

Yet something there was that said: the last word of this tale is not vanity.

(excerpted from “St. Eustache” in The Mountains of Paris)
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