Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Story Behind Tiger Stadium’s ‘Death Valley’ Nickname

GoldRing: "Most of the LSU fans that are going to the football game at LSU tiger Stadium. Call the football stadium "LSU Tiger Stadium." and hardly ever say Death Vally. The newspapers and TV networks started the Tiger Stadium Death Vally business. Because the people going to the college football games there, say "LSU Tiger Stadium."
Where can I begin? To tell you the story about the generations of people who went to see the college football games at LSU Tiger Stadium. Baton Rouge Louisiana, over the years.

 How can we express the living movement of our family and friends talking, and walking together towards LSU tiger Stadium on a fall Saturday night. Feeling the tension and importance of the college football game with a undefeated LSU football team. That is about to start playing a college football game against a equality strong SEC football team like Florida, or Alabama.

 Maybe this song can help you to understand my feeling of how beautiful these people seem to be, to me. Who are now only living in my memories today?"

Debussy, Clair de lune (piano music)


The Story Behind Tiger Stadium’s ‘Death Valley’ Nickname

When discussing the history of “Death Valley,” the nickname for the college football homes of both LSU and Clemson, here’s what we know: Both are extremely tough places to play.

But just how did LSU’s Tiger Stadium become known as “Death Valley” just like Memorial Stadium at Clemson? Well, that’s a bit more unclear.

Here’s some background: Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, LA, opened in 1924 and, according to the Associated Press, was situated near a gas station named “Deaf Valley.” It’s clear that, even back then, LSU fans were a boisterous bunch, and it’s possible that the stadium was given that nickname as a result – but it’s still unclear.
For its part, Clemson’s stadium was dubbed “Death Valley” by Presbyterian College coach Lonnie McMillan in 1948 because it was where teams went to die. Clemson coach Frank Howard – who was the school’s head man from 1940-69 – reportedly adopted the moniker from McMillan.

The school also had its connection to the real Death Valley – the California desert – since the 1960s. The Orlando Sentinel reported that a Clemson alumnus was driving through the desert when he found a large flint rock and gave it to Howard.

From then on, the “Death Valley” nickname was virtually set in stone (no pun intended). Currently, Clemson players run down the hill in the stadium’s East end zone and rub Howard’s Rock before heading onto the field – a tradition that Howard started.

“If you’re going to give me 110 percent, you can rub that rock. If you’re not, keep your filthy hands off of it,” Howard once told his players, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

But what about LSU?
Well, some people think that Tiger Stadium was also originally called “Deaf Valley” after Clemson’s “Death Valley” as a way to differentiate themselves from the other Tigers in South Carolina. And others think that LSU has always been called “Death Valley” as well – although it certainly can’t be confirmed if this happened before Clemson, since LSU fans can’t even figure out the correct name.

Reading through old articles, the stadium was known in the 1980s as “Deaf Valley” at least to some.

“Since then, they’ve traded off with the Gators not being intimidated by so-called Deaf Valley and LSU unimpressed with the opposition’s home crowd in Gainesville,” wrote an AP sportswriter in 1985.

Penned a Miami Herald sports writer in 1987: “Dreamy, so dreamy. For three quarters, the University of Florida was performing the improbable, if not impossible, by turning the concrete boom box called Deaf Valley silent.”
And yet most articles in the 1980s referred to Tiger Stadium as “Death Valley.” And by the early 1990s, it was almost unanimously referred to as “Death Valley” in the press.

There are two theories about Tiger Stadium’s nickname evolution:

#1: The “Deaf Valley” became “Death Valley” because the two sound so much alike and so many people already knew of Clemson’s “Death Valley,” thus transferring the nickname to the stadium in Baton Rouge. It seems hard to fathom that a school’s fan base would forget the nickname of its own stadium just because it sounded so similar to the nickname of another stadium, but that could have happened.

#2: As pointed out by a reader of the Baton Rouge Advocate in 1999, the name difference could just be “a matter of south Louisiana speech.” Reader Dave Lewis hypothesized: “People in Baton Rouge cannot pronounce ‘breath’ or ‘death. They say, ‘I lost my breaf’ or ‘I was scared to deaf.’ So Death Valley, the proper name, became Deaf Valley.”
“…. No one is sure about it,” former LSU sports information director Herb Vincent said in 1996, referring to the “Deaf” to “Death” switch.

We’ll say this: Both nicknames fit LSU’s wild home, especially since Tiger Stadium is both deafeningly loud and a graveyard for opponents.

“It’s one thing that I recommend everyone before they pass on in this lifetime to check out Tiger Stadium at night,” LSU defensive end Charles Alexander told the Sentinel in 2009. “It’s incredible, loud, everything.”

Here’s one thing that can be confirmed: On Saturday, when Clemson hosts Boston College and LSU welcomes SEC rival Florida, both stadiums will be full of fans who think that their Tigers are best and their stadium is the real “Death Valley.”


LSU Football

Member since Mar 2005
1968 posts

re: Tigger1- Looking for "Deaf Valley" in print   (Posted on 12/12/12 at 8:49 p.m. to magicman0001)

You will not find any article before 1980 calling LSU Tiger Stadium Deaf Valley....

You will find Death Valley as early as 1960 Times Pic.

First Time in national print is 1966 that we (a Clemson fan and I are doing research) have found so far.

The first time you find Death Valley in a LSU sport pub is the 1968 or 9 football media guild. There is also said to be a gameday program with Death Valley in it from the mid 60's but I have not seen it.

PMAC got the nickname Deaf Dome in 1978 season late.

Marty Mule made the mistake and confused the 2 when he printed his book on LSU football.

Yes there was the service station outside of LSU called Deaf Valley, but just like Death Valley in Cal had a service station in the 30's called Deaf Valley.

Grantland Rice is said to have named Tiger Statium Death Valley pre channel 9 in 1970 range, when they were trying to get the Grantland Rice Bowl played at Tiger Stadium.

But todate I have not found an article By Grantland on Tiger Stadium. It maybe out there but Rice's articles are not cataloged todate.

I told Jimmy Hymns asid at LSU in the middle 80's people would confuse the names in the future and it took less than 6 years.

I still have not had a chance to go thought the 1930's 40's 50's BR newspapers, but will in the future as I am getting a micro film viewer in 2 years (don't ask, cost a lot).

My research is mainly 1903-12 LSU football, but was given this task of the death valley name in 1970 and I have done what I could on the side.

As to fans, I have talked to people from the 40's that said it was called Death Valley even back then, and from the early 50's, but you can find fans that say Deaf Valley also from the 50's. I also have talked to some who said it was only called Tiger Stadium from that time as well. So I have to rely on what can be found in print.

Now don't forget the sign said Death Valley under the press box when first put up and then changed to Welcome Death Valley in the middle 70's.

This post was edited on 12/12 at 8:50 pm

Malaysian Tiger
Member since May 2008
1044 posts

re: Tigger1- Looking for "Deaf Valley" in print   (Posted on 12/12/12 at 10:12 p.m. to magicman0001)

November 1, 1958 LSU 14 Ole Miss 0 was the first time that LSU Tiger Stadium had been sold out since it was expanded to 67,500. It was sold out because LSU was No.1 and Ole Miss was No.6. There was no TV coverage at the time so the only people to see the game was the ones who went. So before 1958 I do not think Tiger Stadium was called "Deaf" or "Death" because no one went to the games. In 1957 LSU had a so-so team and was picked to finish 8th in the SEC in 1958. There was not a lot of fan interest and I think in 1958 LSU only sold about 10,000 Season Tickets.

Battle Creek, Michigan
Member since Nov 2006
1884 posts

re: Tigger1- Looking for "Deaf Valley" in print   (Posted on 12/12/12 at 10:27 p.m. to magicman0001)

Thanks and I totally agree...
Acadians - 'Cajuns'
Indians - 'Injuns'
Death - 'Deaf'
Have you happened to look through any old Reveille's or Gumbo's? If it exists, I bet we could find an early reference there.

Jake and Chelcie are the coolest!


LSU's Tiger Stadium: Where legends are born and the unthinkable is common

Tony Barnhart
By | Mr. CFB

Jake Gibbs played catcher for the New York Yankees for 10 years (1962-71) and was a part of a world championship team. A decade in the bigs provides a lot of great memories.
But in an interview several years ago, when I asked Gibbs about his most vivid memory as an athlete he didn't hesitate: 

"Halloween Night, 1959, Baton Rouge, Louisiana." 

On that eerie, fog-shrouded evening at LSU's Tiger Stadium, a legend was born. And Jake Gibbs, who turns 74 on Nov. 7, would be involved in a historic play that haunts him to this day.

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"Not a day goes by that I don't think of it," he said.
LSU, the defending national champion under Paul Dietzel, was 6-0 and ranked No. 1. Ole Miss, coached by John Vaught, was 6-0 and ranked No. 3. The winner of the game would have the inside track to the SEC championship and very likely the national championship. 

Ole Miss was ahead 3-0 and so confident in its defense that the Rebels started punting on third down. Gibbs, the starting quarterback, was also the punter. With about 10 minutes left Gibbs lined up to punt. LSU's Billy Cannon was back to receive. 

"The ground was really mushy and I thought when the ball hit it would just slide away from him," said Gibbs. "The last thing I wanted to do was kick it to Cannon."
Despite the muddy conditions, the ball took a big hop and Cannon fielded it on the run at the 11-yard line. By most accounts eight different Ole Miss players touched Billy Cannon during that punt return. And with each one who missed, the roar of Tiger Stadium grew louder and louder
Gibbs was the last Ole Miss defender between Cannon and the goal line. 

"I got a hand on him," said Gibbs. "But he shook me off like a puppy."
Cannon completed an 89-yard run into immortality as LSU won 7-3 and added another chapter to the legend of Tiger Stadium, aka Death Valley, on Saturday night.
"Dracula and LSU Football are at their best when the sun goes down," the late Beano Cook said. 

The next chapter in that legend could be written this Saturday night when No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) goes to No. 5 LSU (7-1, 3-1). As was the case in last year's "Game of the Century" in Tuscaloosa, first place in the SEC West, and perhaps a chance to play for the national championship, will be at stake. It promises to be another magical night in Baton Rouge and Verne Lundquist of CBS can't wait to get there. 

Lundquist has seen and done just about everything in a broadcasting career that spans 45 years. But the 2007 Florida-LSU game was his first ever Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. He will never, ever forget it. 

"I have never heard a louder stadium in 45 years of going to college football games," said Lundquist, who will make the call with Gary Danielson and Tracy Wolfson. "What I most remember is that we were on a commercial break and the PA announcer told the crowd that Stanford had just upset USC. That was going to open the door for LSU to get a shot at the national championship. I had never heard a sound like that. It was just an incredible atmosphere." 

On that night a record crowd of 92,910 turned out at Tiger Stadium. A Louisiana state trooper told me that between 40,000 and 50,000 additional fans without tickets were partying in the parking lots because they just wanted to be there. 

"That was also the game that [LSU coach] Les Miles went for it on fourth down five different times and made it," Lundquist said. "There are games where I sometimes need to refresh my memory. But not that one. That game and that night will stay with me forever." 

Here are a few more moments where the Saturday night mystique of Tiger Stadium came into play: 

• Oct. 11, 1997: Florida, the defending national champion, was undefeated and ranked No. 1. LSU was No. 14 after losing earlier to Auburn (31-28). Steve Spurrier's team had embarrassed LSU 56-13 the year before in The Swamp. LSU sealed the upset win (28-21) with an interception by Raion Hill. The LSU crowd stormed the field and tore down the goal posts.Read more...

Who has the original death valley - Clemson or LSU?

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Best Answer
Although LSU's Tiger Stadium was constructed nearly 20 years earlier, the "Death Valley" nickname was first applied to Clemson's Memorial Stadium in reference to Howard's Rock, which was plucked for the dessert sands of the actual Death Valley in California.
LSU's use of the nickname came along quite by accident. In a tongue-in-cheek reference to Clemson Memorial's nickname, LSU supporters began referring to their stadium as "Deaf Valley", due to the magnificent volume levels produced within.
Unfortunately, this creativity was lost on television commentators, newspaper men, and, yep, a lot of us football fans alike, and after years of incorrectly referring to both as "Death Valley", the nickname stuck in Baton Rouge as well.

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Tiger Stadium
Baton Rouge, LA

"It's Saturday Night in Death Valley and here come your Fighting Tigers of LSU."  This is how every home game begins for the Louisiana State Tigers. The Bayou Bengals play ball in front of some of the most passionate and raucous fans in college football.  LSU’s Tiger Stadium houses an impressive 91,600 fans.  What’s even more impressive is that on game day, Tiger Stadium transforms into the sixth largest city in Louisiana. Like many other places in the country, LSU football is more than sports; it’s a way of life. 
People in this part of the country are as passionate about their Tigers as any other fans in college football.  It’s been called “the most feared road game in the country” and “Death Valley” for a reason.
-Tenant: Louisiana State Tigers
-Conference: SEC
-Capacity: 92,400
-Surface:  Grass
-Opened: November 25, 1924
-Cost: $60 Million (expansions)
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-Address: West Stadium Rd., Baton Rouge, LA 70893
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Tiger Stadium was constructed in the early 1920s and opened on November 25, 1924 when LSU battled Tulane. The original stadium seated 24,000 fans, with grandstands on both sides of the gridiron. Six major expansions have been completed at the stadium over its eight decades of existence. Two additions were completed in the 1930s, the first in 1931, when the capacity increased by 10,000. The second was complteted in 1936, when the north endzone was enclosed increasing the seating capacity to 46,000.
The south endzone was enclosed in 1953 and the first of two upper decks was added in 1978 pushing the capacity to over 78,000. The 11,600 seat addition in 2000 allowed the Tigers to pack even more screaming fans into Tiger Stadium. Throughout the 2005 season, the Tigers continued to expand Tiger Stadium with the west side expansion. This $60 million expansion added 3,255 club seats, a new press box and upper deck on the west side of the stadium. Completed by the 2006 season, this expansion increased the seating capacity of Tiger Stadium to 92,400. This addition allowed LSU to continue to average over 90,000 fans per game.  As one of the largest stadium in the country, Tiger Stadium remains one of the most exciting places to watch a football game in the country. In February 2012, LSU announced plans to expand Tiger Stadium by the 2014 season. This expansion project would connect the existing upper decks on the south side of the stadium, adding a lower level containing 4,000 club seats, two levels of luxury suites and a 1,500 seat upper deck increasing the seating capacity to 99,500.
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Clemson Tigers vs.
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Georgia Dome
December 31, 2012
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-9/15 - IDAHO
-9/22 - at Auburn
-9/29 - TOWSON
-10/6 - at Florida
-10/20 - at Texas A&M
-11/3 - ALABAMA
-11/17 - OLE MISS
-11/23 - at Arkansas
Famous Players: Glenn Dorsey, Billy Cannon, Tommy Casanova, Ben Wilkerson, Josh Reid, Charles Alexander
School Traditions: Geaux Tigers Cheer, H style goal posts, 5 yard line numbers, Hot Boudin Cheer, White Jerseys

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