The Great Rivalry

This era of the school also marks the start of a great athletic rivalry between SI and Sacred Heart, the longest of any school west of the Rocky Mountains, which started with a rugby game played on St. Patrick’s Day in 1893. (The centenary of that rivalry was celebrated in the fall of 1992 at Kezar Stadium with a crowd of 7,000 witnessing SI’s 7–3 victory over the Irish. Mention of this grand tradition can be found in the 2002 National High School Sports Record Book on page 151 under the “Oldest Current Rivalries” section. There, the SI vs. SH match-ups are tied for ninth with two other schools. The oldest rivalry dates from 1875 between New London and Norwich Free Academy, both of Connecticut.)

San Francisco Chronicle writer Will Connolly ’28, in the November 4, 1949, edition, wrote about that first game in an interview with Warren White ’39, an English teacher at SI at the time who had researched the history of the rivalry. He told Connolly that the game began when Cornelius Kennedy, a Sacred Heart College student, “bought a pamphlet on ‘How to Play Football,’ written by a young man under the style of Amos Alonzo Stagg. Kennedy collected a team at Sacred Heart and elected himself coach and captain because he owned the textbook and the football. He had an investment of $12 and needed competition to protect it. So he visited St. Ignatius and cajoled the boys into fielding a team. Kennedy was magnanimous. St. Ignatius had no coach, no team. He generously agreed to teach them the fundamentals gleaned from the Stagg book. For two weeks he tutored the Ignatians late in the day, after putting in licks with his own Sacred Heart eleven.

“The game was played on March 17, which is St. Patrick’s Day and a holiday for the schools…. The game was held in Central Park at Eighth and Market streets where the Crystal Palace now stands. Fifty-seven years ago, the corner was on the outer fringe of the downtown district, virtually in the sticks. Both Sacred Heart and St. Ignatius had to practice surreptitiously, for the Brothers and the Jesuits considered football a brutalizing sport at that time and a distraction from scholarly pursuits. The way it was played, they were right. Injuries were common.

“Sacred Heart won, 14 to 4. The Irish of SH were accoutered in canvas jackets, red and yellow stockings. St. Ignatius wore black and gold, a radical change from the colors they now affect. You could suspect that Kennedy deliberately under-coached St. Ignatius. As a matter of fact, he gave his best effort. The game was close. Under association rules … at that time, a touchdown counted 4 points and a field goal 2.”

Connolly also noted that “the Kennedy in question later embraced the sacerdotal cloth. He is now pastor of St. Paul’s, a basic parish in the Mission. Surely the Rev. Cornelius Kennedy, in his salad days, wouldn’t have stooped to trick the poor, benighted Ignatians. He was simply trying to help.”

Passing the Torch: The Death of Fr. Maraschiof the Second Campus: 1861-1862

In 1896, Fr. John P. Frieden, SJ, succeeded Allen as president, and he served for the next dozen years, leading SI through the triumph of its 50th anniversary celebration and through the tragedy of the destruction of the school and church in the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906.

Born in Luxemburg, Frieden had worked as a teacher even before entering college. He entered the Society of Jesus after completing his college work and, while still a novice, traveled to Missouri where he taught at St. Louis University. After several other assignments, he became president of Detroit College in 1885 and, in 1889, head of the Missouri Province. He trained novices before his appointment to SI.

Even before Frieden came to SI, most of the Jesuits who were involved with the founding of the school were in failing health or had died. On March 18, 1897, Maraschi, SI’s founder, died, and his body was borne to the Gentlemen’s Sodality chapel. As the school’s founder, first president and treasurer, he had come into contact with thousands of San Franciscans who knew and loved him for his charity.

A newspaper account of the funeral Mass offered this commentary: “With impressive simplicity, without pomp or ceremony, a low Mass of requiem was offered yesterday morning (Saturday, March 20), by Fr. Frieden, president, at 9:15 in St. Ignatius Church for the repose of the soul of the late Fr. Anthony Maraschi…. There was no sermon, no word of commendation for the dead, no account of his deeds of sacrifice and acts of holy zeal. But deep in the hearts of the vast concourse that filled pews and aisles and pressed against the sanctuary rail, the eulogy of that life was engraved in indelible characters.”16

As a testament to how many people loved Maraschi, “a continuous stream of people commenced moving along the line of Hayes Street toward St. Ignatius Church, growing more dense” as more people joined the throngs coming to mourn the late, great priest.17 Even the Southern Pacific Railroad Company transported his body to Santa Clara for burial at no charge.

Of Maraschi, Riordan offers up this accolade: “Prominent businessmen of the city sought his advice in business matters, while the poor and ailing found in him equally a friend, for he was no discriminator of persons. Many believed that he could work miracles and begged his assistance in all manner of diseases; and, indeed, it seems certain that, whether in recompense of their faith or the merits of Father Maraschi, more than one special favor answered their requests. He was a man of action, not words; seemingly cold and distant, but, for all that, possessing a warm heart. He has every right to be considered the founder even of the present church and college, for it was the property on Market Street and the land near Richmond, both acquired through him, that supplied the funds to build St. Ignatius and to liquidate its debt.”18

Fortunately for the Society of Jesus, just as it was losing members of the old guard to death, young men were entering its ranks. One such Jesuit, George P. Butler, was ordained a priest in June 1897, the first SI alumnus of the Van Ness campus to have that distinction.

During this period, the school stopped offering classes for elementary students as the Jesuits attempted to solidify the school’s reputation as a world-class school of higher learning and as more and more parishes opened their own grammar schools. As a result, enrollment fell; “it was hoped, however, that the raising of the standard of the college would more than compensate for any numerical loss.”19 The school still struggled to repay its debts, and by 1899 it re-established the Ignatian Society, friends of the school who had earlier provided the school with financial assistance.
In 1901, President William McKinley visited San Francisco, and SI dressed itself up to honor the president, who passed by the school in a grand procession. “The pupils were ranged on the steps and balconies of the building and gave three rousing cheers as the President passed. To mark his appreciation, Mr. McKinley stopped his carriage and gracefully returned the salute of the young men. He made no effort to conceal his pleasure, and turned several times to look back and admire the beauty of the buildings in their festive attire.”20

That same year, Mrs. Regina Pescia created what may be the college’s first named scholarship in honor of her husband, Dr. Joseph Pescia. The scholarship provided a student with an annual gift of $130 for four years. Students competed for this academic honor, and its first recipient was Owen McCann.

Young Owen was not the only financial beneficiary that year. The East Bay land near Richmond that Maraschi had purchased in the 1870s, and adjacent parcels that he had acquired over the years, had grown in value as they were near the Santa Fe line and Standard Oil’s property. The Jesuits sold the land for $200,000 in 1901, and for the first time in its history, the school was out of debt. The Jesuits thanked the donors of the Ignatian Society and disbanded this organization. They looked to the new century with confidence and, for the first time, with solvency.