Sports aboard the USS Arizona in 1941 were more about relaxation than competition
The USS Arizona’s baseball team practices on the USS Arizona.
As UA students enter the Student Memorial Center to grab a bite to eat from Chick- fil-A, few know the significance of the building they walk into. The SUMC is modeled after the USS Arizona, which sunk in the Pearl Harbor Attacks in 1941.
Even today, the UA continues to share a strong connection with the ship that sunk 75 years ago. This season when facing Hawaii, Arizona football paid tribute to the 1,177 crew members whom fell on that miserable December day. With bright red pants and grey jerseys, each player boasted the ship’s BB-39 hull number on their backs, the identification numbergiven to the ship.
Arizona men’s basketball honored the USS Arizona as well, donning camouflage jerseys when facing Michigan State to open the season. The ship’s motto, “AT ‘EM ARIZONA,” was stitched on the backs of the jerseys, the rally cry for the crew members on the USS Arizona.
While it may come as a surprise, sports were an important part of life on the Arizona. Navy crew members had the opportunity to participate in teams for rowing, baseball and football, according to AZCentral.
Baseball was the Navy’s main way of unwinding when not participating in military duties. Crew members on the Arizona actually played on the ship, scrimmaging against each other. According to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Bureau, crew members could not throw the ball into the water. If so, the game would be over until they were able to purchase a new baseball.
While the game results were rarely recorded, the USS Arizona Nine wound up losing to the University of Stanford varsity baseball team 5-4. The winning run was scored on a stolen base at home plate.
According to pearlharbormemorials.com, when Shipmen were docked at Hickam Field they would utilize the base’s baseball diamond. The Japanese somehow learned of possible gas tanks buried beneath the field and attacked the diamond on Dec. 7. Many members of the baseball team would face future major leaguers such as Pee Wee Reese.
Whale boating is similar to rowing except the athletes are aligned side by side instead of one behind another.
When not playing baseball, 13 crew members spent their free time on the USS Arizona Whale Boat Team. The team wound up racing against the USS Pennsylvania in the Fleet Championships, losing by just two feet, according to USS Arizona Facts.
From 1915-1941, the USS Arizona “Jack Tars” played football in the Naval Fleet League. According to the Greater Northwest Football Association, players on the team had special privileges to stay aboard the ship and continue to compete. The last game of the Jack Tars was set for Dec. 7, 1941 in the Battle Fleet Championship against the USS Pennsylvania. Instead, bombs fell that day and kickoff never happened.
The team was coached by Lieutenant Hank Hardwick, who would eventually be the head coach of the Naval Academy football team.
Arizona football specifically honored 95-year old Lauren Bruner, a survivor of the attack on the USS Arizona, during Arizona’s football game against Hawaii this season.
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