You’re a college football player. You just helped your team earn a berth into college football’s most iconic game — the Rose Bowl. You can’t wait for your hard work to pay off as you join your teammates in the biggest moment of your athletic career.
But you aren’t going . You’re Japanese-American.
That was long ago — at the end of 1941. Imagine the look on Jack Yoshihara’s face when two FBI agents interrupted practice in Corvallis to inform head coach Lon Stiner that Yoshihara would not be joining his football family at the Rose Bowl game, just a couple weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, because he was deemed a threat to the country.
“I will never forget that day,” George Zellick, a teammate of Yoshihara’s, told the Los Angeles Times in 2008. “It was late afternoon. It was drizzling. … (The two men) met with the coach, and the next thing we knew, Jack left with them. It was the first indication that there was a problem.”
That problem was Jack’s Japanese heritage. After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government prohibited anyone with Japanese ancestry from traveling more than 35 miles from home.
As his teammates boarded their train for Durham, North Carolina, and pulled away, Yoshihara stood on the platform and waved. His time with the team was done.
The Beavers would go on to upset Duke, 20-16, and earn Oregon State’s only Rose Bowl title. Yoshihara listened to a radio broadcast of the game. In March 1942, Yoshihara and his family — along with 4,000 other Japanese-Americans — were relocated to a civilian assembly plant in Portland. By June, Yoshihara was sent to an internment camp in Idaho to work in construction. Even though many teammates joined the military, Yoshihara was barred from serving his country.
“Nobody felt that Jack was a subversive threat,” James Busch, one of Jack’s teammates, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune years later. “He was an American. My heritage is German. Nobody discriminated against me.”
Yoshihara would later start his own refrigeration and air conditioning business in Portland. He retired to ocean fishing at age 60. At Oregon State’s 2008 Commencement ceremony, Yoshihara received the honorary degree that was kept from him many years before. He turned to the stands and held his hand high. On it was a 1942 Rose Bowl ring, which was given to him in 1985.
The crowd roared.
Today, Oregon State University celebrates cultural heritage and diversity. Seven cultural centers, including the Asian and Pacific Cultural Center, have been built on the Corvallis campus. They host events, lead community outreach projects and create a welcoming atmosphere that accepts all backgrounds and cultures.
This Saturday, Oregon State football will honor the 75th anniversary of the 1942 Rose Bowl champions. Players, friends, family and everyone involved with the historic team will be honored, including Lynn Yoshihara Kanaya, Jack’s daughter.