From the archives: Tall Firs of Oregon won inaugural NCAA basketball championship in 1939
EUGENE, Ore. - John Dick and his teammates were on the train home to Eugene in March 1939, unaware that the town - and all of Oregon - was ready to celebrate the University of Oregon's win in the first-ever NCAA college basketball tournament.
"They were getting the word that the people back here in Oregon were going a little bonkers over this," the retired Navy rear-admiral, then 92, told KVAL News in 2011. Dick passed away later that year.
Oregon won the first-ever national college basketball playoff over Ohio State, 46-33.
After train stops in Nyssa, The Dalles, Portland, Salem and many other cities, the 1939 champion Ducks - then known as the "Webfoots" and the "Tall Firs" of Oregon - arrived home in Eugene to a tumultuous welcome.
"This huge, huge, humongous crowd - probably the largest crowd Eugene ever had up to that point," Keith Richard, archivist emeritus at the University of Oregon, said in 2011. "There were enough people crowded in there that the students were climbing up the telephone poles."
Oregonians came out of the woodwork to celebrate this one-of-a-kind team.
And the celebration came just in time: Oregon was climbing out of the Great Depression.
"Here comes the Tall Firs, getting all this publicity, making Oregonians feel good again," Richard said.
"It gave everybody in the state greater confidence," Dick said in 2011, "and greater pride in our achievements."