100 years ago the University of Southern California (USC), with Pasadena halfback John Riddle, played and defeated Penn State on January 1,1923.
By Michael A. Kealing
I was so hoping that both teams would make it into the Rose Bowl this coming January 2, 2023. That would have marked the 100th Anniversary of the first Tournament of Roses Bowl game at the Rose Bowl Stadium. A USC vs Penn State reappearance this year would have been a perfect bookend to this centennial anniversary. Penn State completed the assignment; sadly, USC fell short.
Why does this scenario have any significance for me? My grandfather, John T. Riddle Sr. made history as a member of the 1922 -’23 USC team that played in that first Rose Bowl Stadium game. Here was an opportunity for a local athlete to play in the big game in his hometown.
The 1923 Rose Bowl game was USC’s first appearance at the annual event, and as a member of the Trojan football team Riddle was one of the first black Americans to play in the Rose Bowl game, though he was not the first black American on the Trojan football team. He was preceded on the team by Clifford Gordon (and possibly others). In the 1923 game he did get a couple of touches as one of SC’s halfbacks during that historic game. In the end it was the Trojans victorious over the Penn State Nittany Lions 14 to 3.
John was a gifted athlete in his years at USC. He played on the varsity football teams from 1922 – 1924. He was nicknamed “Down the middle Riddle” by his fellow students. He was a letterman on the USC baseball and track teams as well. As a student at USC he was a charter member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. He studied and graduated with bachelor’s degree in architecture
For me, it is a source of pride knowing my grandfather played in the historic Rose Bowl game.
As a preteen I attended a couple of ‘SC Trojan home games with Buddy. As a USC Alumni he was eligible for two tickets per home game played at the Los Angeles Coliseum. My brother and I also accompanied Buddy to the January 1973 Rose Bowl game and 50th Anniversary, when the Pasadena Tournament of Roses celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Rose Bowl Game.
As a scholar and USC student he graduated in 1925 with a degree in architectural engineering. He was a founding member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. It was also at USC where he met his wife, my grandmother, Helen Wheeler (Riddle), the first Black female graduate of the USC Law School and a founding member of the USC chapter (Sigma) of the Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority.
Michael A. Kealing, a resident of Altadena, is a television broadcast engineer at Digital Glue and a deacon at Altadena Baptist Church. Michael is a Cal State L.A. graduate in Business Administration.
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