I just had a horrible thought. What if there was no Sun Bowl? 

There would be no excitement at the end of the year. There would be no Thanksgiving parade, no Sun Bowl college football game, no Sun Bowl basketball tournament, no Sun Bowl college golf tournament. I shudder at the thought.

I’ll always be thankful to the people who started the game.  Do you know how it happened? I have it all in my book, “The Good, the Bad and the Funny of El Paso Sports History.”

I QUOTE: “THE BIRTH of the Sun Bowl football game began on Thursday, Oct. 18, 1934, when a meeting of local Kiwanis Club officers and directors forever changed El Paso’s history.

“Convening in the Cortez Building (known also as Hotel Cortez), the group discussed means of raising money for the city’s Under-Privileged Child Fund. To generate revenue for the cause, Kiwanis Club Director Brice Schuller suggested a New Year’s Day football match-up between an El Paso all-city high school team and a worthy opponent.

“The motion was unanimously approved. The decision was backed by civic leaders and regular fans, but nobody more enthusiastically than El Paso Herald-Post sports editor Bob Ingram in his columns.

“THE FIRST SUN BOWL game was held on Jan. 1, 1935, before 3000 spectators at El Paso High School Stadium. It pitted a group of high school stars from El Paso against Ranger High School, the second ranked high school football team in Texas.

“The game saw the start of the legend of Ken Heineman, probably the most notable football star in the history of El Paso. Heineman accounted for every point in the first Sun Bowl as El Paso upset the heavily-favored Ranger Bulldogs, 25-21. 

He passed for a 65-yard touchdown, ran seven yards for a touchdown, passed for a 30-yard touchdown, intercepted a pass and ran it back 70 yards for a touchdown, in that order, and he kicked an extra point.

“HEINEMAN WENT on to such a great career at UTEP he not only became the first Miner to be named All-American but received All-American honors three times – in 1937, 1938 and 1939. He was also the first Miner to be drafted by the National Football League, chosen by the Cleveland Rams in the second round in 1940.

“THERE’S NO QUESTION that the Rose Bowl in California is the oldest bowl game in the country. A 1902 matchup between Michigan and Stanford was sponsored by the Tournament of Roses and by 1916 it had become known as the Rose Bowl game.

“It became so successful other cities began to copy it. Which bowl is the second oldest? Three bowls claim the distinction: The Sun Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl. 

All three have been played annually since 1935 and along with the Rose Bowl are the only bowls played continuously ever since.”

TRIVIA QUESTION: Now you know who played in the first Rose Bowl game. But which teams played in the second Rose Bowl game? Answer at end of column.

THE TONY THE TIGER Sun Bowl will have a dilly of a game this year. The Arizona State Sun Devils will face the Florida State Seminoles in the 86th contest Tuesday, Dec. 31, at Sun Bowl Stadium at noon.

It will pitch two evenly matched well-known teams against each other, which always makes for a great game.

TRIVIA ANSWER: The second Rose Bowl game wasn’t played until Jan. 1, 1916. Washington State beat Brown 14-0. Only 7000 spectators showed up.


Veteran sports journalist, historian and author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column.  Contact him at (915) 584-0626, by email at rayf358@yahoo.com; or online at raysanchezbooks.com.

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