People who immortalized first Bedlam are split on the demise of the rivalry

People who immortalized first Bedlam are split on the demise of the rivalry

A group of 25 donors erected a granite memorial at Mineral Wells Park in Guthrie to commemorate the 1904 game. Some of the donors to a memorial in Guthrie hate to see the end of Bedlam, while others felt sadder about the loss of other rivals.

Sam Hutchens

By Sam Hutchens

| Nov 3, 2023, 12:00pm CDT

Sam Hutchens

By Sam Hutchens

Nov 3, 2023, 12:00pm CDT

GUTHRIE — There is a personal record engraved on the back of the statue in Guthrie that commemorates the site of the first Bedlam game in 1904.

“Brian Branch – 205 consecutive games – OU”

The number seems measly now.

Branch, 64, will travel to Stillwater to watch his Oklahoma Sooners play Oklahoma State for, just maybe, the last time on Saturday. Branch has attended every Bedlam game for the past 50 years. It will be the 458th consecutive Sooners game he has been at, blowing his streak of 205 games engraved on the monument in 2004 out of the water.

He’s one of 25 donors named on the back of the 10-foot granite statue that stands in Mineral Wells Park. Some people who raised money for the memorial have since died. Some still living have split feelings on the death of the game that has been played 117 times since 1904.

Branch is OK with Bedlam’s demise. He enjoys the rivalry, but was sadder when OU stopped playing Nebraska. Besides, the Sooners have Texas.

“Bye-bye, little brother,” Branch said.

Richard Hendricks has a different perspective. He helped organize the effort to get the statue. He has helped preserve sports history in Oklahoma for 30 years as the do-it-all curator and director of the Territorial Capital Sports Museum in Guthrie.

“I hate that this is the last Bedlam,” Hendricks said. “I think it’s a shame that this will be the last Bedlam for a while. Whenever OU and OSU play, it’s a pride game.”

Marking the place where Oklahoma beat Oklahoma A&M 75-0 in 1904 was important to Hendricks. The game was, well, historic.

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He likes the story of how the Oklahoma’s players arrived in Guthrie by train and the A&M Aggies rode a wagon. He likes showing people the waters of Cottonwood Creek — now dammed into two separate ponds — where players chased after a loose football until Oklahoma scored a highly unusual aquatic touchdown.

“That was the infancy of college football,” Hendricks said.

John Vance said he was happy to chip in money for the statue. He started his car dealership business in Guthrie and has friends who have played and coached on both sides of the rivalry.

He didn’t put an OU or an OSU after his name on the statue. He’s attended games as fans of both schools. But the neutral observer is dismayed about Bedlam’s demise.

“I love the game, absolutely love it,” Vance said. “I think it’s a real tragedy (it’s going away.)”

Branch has degrees from both OU and OSU. Seeing where those degrees are displayed gives you an idea of where his loyalty lies. Branch is a lifelong OU fan who only sees his two Horticulture degrees from OSU when he goes to the bathroom.

Branch said some of his fondest memories come from his 50 years of attending Bedlam games.

Pregame picnic lunches with his grandad in the 1970’s. The 1983 Bedlam where OU’s Tim Lashar booted a late kickoff that caromed off the helmet of OSU’s Chris Rockins and was recovered by OU’s Scott Case, leading to Lashar’s game-winning 46-yard field goal. 

Branch even got to watch a Bedlam game from the stands in Norman with a Baseball Hall of Fame icon. That fortuitous meeting happened in Norman, when Branch’s grandad told him to move out of their usual seats and scoot down a few rows.

“It was kind of odd, but he took me down a few rows and we sat down next to Johnny Bench,” Branch said. “I’ve got his autograph from that Bedlam game. That was a memorable game.” 

Even the man who uses his OSU degrees to hang toilet paper said part of him will be sad to see Bedlam go. Although, he added, it’s often been a beneficial rivalry for his Sooners.

 “It’s kind of amazing that they played the first game in Guthrie,” Branch said. “It’s amazing that if Oklahoma State wins this time it will have only taken them 118 years to hit the 20 win mark.”

 

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Sam Hutchens covers Oklahoma State sport for Sellout Crowd. He interned for The Stillwater News Press in 2021 and The Guthrie News Leader in 2022, where he won a first-place OPA award for in-depth reporting. He has also covered sports in southwest Oklahoma for The Lawton Constitution. He strives to tell you the OSU sports stories that you want to tell your friends about. You can email him at [email protected] and connect on Twitter (X) @Sam_Hutchens_

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