Over 115 years ago, on 15 April 1899, a Stanford vs. University of California baseball game was held at 16th & Folsom Streets in San Francisco. The results of the game itself hardly matter anymore, but the event which followed sparked the intense rivalry between the two colleges that lasts to this day. This was the great Axe Theft of 1899.
The Axe was a large lumberjack axe that Stanford had been using as a ralley device, but which the U.C. Berkeley students decided to steal. When the game let out, the Stanford students were ambushed and an all-out brawl quickly developed. Dozens of people clashed in the middle of the Mission District. Fists were flying, the Axe was swinging, people were falling and getting crushed. One student was thrown in the middle of the street, another got a black eye, and yet another was cut by the sharp blade.
My great-grandfather, Paul Castelhun, managed to break free of the mayhem with the Axe and run with it towards Valencia Street... with all of Stanford in pursuit. He passed it off to Tadini Bacigalupi who passed it off to sprinter Billy Drum, thus starting a big relay-race to get the Axe out of the city and back to Berkeley.
At one point, Drum accidentally passed the Axe to two students who claimed to be from Cal, but were from Stanford. Drum realized his mistake too late, but Cal's Jimmy Hopper caught up at the next block and brought them both down with a flying tackle. The Axe now regained, the group of Cal students got it aboard a delivery wagon which they rode to Market Street. They hurried through Duboce Park and brought it to a butcher at Oak & Scott Street who sawed off the handle from the blade, thus making it easier to carry.
Having temporarily escaped the Stanford students, the U.C. students boarded a cable car on Fillmore Street and then transferred to an eastbound line on Washington Street, later disembarking in Chinatown. They went to a Chinese shopkeeper who then sawed the handle in half, so again making the parts easier to conceal. They now walked the last part of the way down Clay Street to the ferry buildings on the Embarcadero.
They soon discovered that Stanford was already there waiting for them! This was over 37 years before the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge, so this was really the only quick way to get back to the East Bay. With the aid of the San Francisco Police Department, all the University of California students were searched for the Axe, despite one student spreading the story that the Axe was buried at the Cliff House. Clint Miller, now in possession of the Axe blade hidden deep in his coat, happened to see an old girlfriend and joined her arm-in-arm past the unsuspecting cops and on to the ferry. Thus, the Axe was able to get back to Berkeley. Two days later, a ralley was held at U.C. Berkeley at which hundreds of students cheered as the Axe was held aloft.
That's the end of this story, but as an epilogue, Cal kept the Axe for the next 31 years, despite Stanford's repeated attempts to regain possession. It wasn't until 3 April 1930 that Stanford's Immortal 21 accomplished this mission in front of the Greek Theater. Three years later, the Axe blade was attached to a plaque for the winner of each year's Big Game between U.C. Berkeley and Stanford. The Axe still exists today as this trophy, currently in the possession of Stanford who won the football game in Fall 2013.