CMC75 Landmark Years (1960): C-M Gets Upper Hand in New Neighborhood Rivalry
As part of the buildup to the 75th Anniversary celebration for Claremont McKenna College (visit CMC's 75th Anniversary Countdown Page to learn more), we are reliving many of the great moments from CMS athletic department history over the 75-day countdown from April 17 to July 1. If you were a part of one of these great moments and would like to add to the memories, or if you would like to submit your memories of your own favorite CMS Athletics moment, fill out the form on our main 75th Anniversary page.
Some Great Moments from the Sixth Street Rivarly
1960 Football: Stags 14, Pomona 12 (first trophy win)
1974 Men's Soccer: Stags 3, Pomona-Pitzer 2 (NAIA District Playoffs)
1988 Women's Basketball: Athenas 60, Pomona-Pitzer 58 (Capped 10-0 SCIAC Season)
2006 Women's Soccer: Athenas win 15-14 Shootout (SCIAC Semifinals)
2019 Men's Water Polo: Stags 12, Pomona-Pitzer 11 (SCIAC Semifinals)
CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Sixth Street rivalry has become a familiar tradition over the years around the Claremont Colleges and beyond, due to being one of the most unusual rivalries in collegiate sports. There are famous rivalries out there between colleges that fight for bragging rights in a state or a city, or conference rivals that are only a few miles apart. There are even a few neighborhood rivalries between schools within walking distance from each other.
But there's only one where the rivals share the same library, use the same campus services, take classes with each other, and freely eat in each other's dining halls. The consortium set-up of the Claremont Colleges is unique to American higher education, and the split into two separate athletic departments makes the rivalry games all the more intriguing. It's one thing to talk trash to your opponent and then go your separate ways, it's another when you have to see them in the same class the next morning.
When Claremont-Mudd started its own athletic department in 1958-59, the rivalry had an especially unique flavor, since the players for Pomona and Claremont-Mudd had just been teammates the year prior. As part of the new tradition in football, a trophy was created, called the Peace Pipe Trophy, which was meant to symbolize the friendly nature of the competition between neighboring sports teams, who needed to keep the rivalry peaceful in order to attend classes together.
The Peace Pipe Trophy stood as the symbol of the annual football game from 1959-2013. It was changed to the current Sixth Street Trophy in 2014, after the street that separates the two athletic complexes, constructed from the old street sign that stood at the corner of Sixth Street and Mills Avenue. The street sign was given to The Colleges by the City of Claremont.
The decision to retire the Peace Pipe Trophy was a result of ongoing discussions between the two athletic departments with members of The Claremont Colleges' Indigenous Student Alliance (ISA), who expressed their cultural concerns about using a sacred object as a trophy. The "Peace Pipe," also known as the Sacred Pipe, the calumet, or the chanupa (or canupa), is considered a sacred object for many indigenous groups in the United States and is intended for use in religious rituals.
"I am proud of our Colleges for respecting the religious traditions of others and I am grateful to the members of the ISA who requested in a very respectful and rational way that we recognize their concern about using the Peace Pipe as a trophy," said Mike Sutton, who was the athletic director at the time of the decision.
The first trophy games in the early years of the football rivalry were close battles right from the start. The teams did not face each other in Claremont-Mudd's debut season in 1958, when the Stags were not a part of the SCIAC, but it became a league contest in 1959, when the Sagehens won the first-ever meeting 20-14.
The intensity of the rivarly turned up a notch in 1960, as the Stags won a dramatic 14-12 game, with two blocked extra points being the difference, forcing the trophy to change hands for the first time. During that same calendar year, men's basketball won its first-ever SCIAC game 66-47 over Pomona, men's tennis won the first SCIAC battle between the teams 4-3, and the baseball team swept three games from the Sagehens to establish an early upper hand in the rivalry.
The most recent Sixth Street Trophy games between the two football programs have also been close ones, continuing the intensity of the rivalry to this day. CMS won the last one in 2019 by a 20-17 final to win back the Sixth Street Trophy after the Sagehens had upset the SCIAC Champion Stags the year before in another game that came down to the final minute. In fact, the last five meetings from 2015-19 have all been decided by five points or less, with the Stags winning three of them, improving their all-time record in the series to 37-25.
Although the football game is the only CMS vs. Pomona-Pitzer contest that has had a trophy to go with it, the Sixth Street Rivalry games have featured many intense battles over the years. The neighboring campuses obviously make it easy for fans of both teams to attend, and there is a little extra juice in a big game when neighborhood bragging rights are also at stake.
Some of the classic CMS vs. Pomona-Pitzer games over the years have included a thrilling second-half comeback at a packed Parents Field as Claremont-Mudd defeated Pomona-Pitzer 3-2 in the 1974 NAIA Men's Soccer District Playoffs.
"That day the two teams were ready to do battle and put it all on the line," said Roberto Munoz (CMC '75). "It was about pride. It was about bragging rights. Our competitiveness stemmed not just from being opponents, but from being next door neighbors. I remember the crowd of spectators surrounding Parents Field shouting and cheering. The noise was so loud that one could hardly hear the referee's whistle!"
The rivalry in women's basketball saw a strange finish in 1988, as the Athenas capped off their first SCIAC title. CMS already had the championship clinched at 9-0, but was trying to finish off an undefeated conference season, when they were deadlocked 58-58 in the closing seconds. During a timeout, the Sagehens were late breaking their huddle, and the officials handed the ball to CMS, who converted the uncontested 5-on-0 fast break for the game-winner in a 60-58 victory.
"Winning that championship was a really big deal for us," said Julia Hodgkins-Bruening (Scripps '89), who had the game-winning basket. "It meant everything to win and it was such a special experience and it was a game-changer for the program, and the team was able to carry it on the next season and beyond."
One of the most dramatic Sixth Street rivalry games actually took place 30 miles away from Sixth Street at Redlands, as the two teams played to a 1-1 tie in the 2006 SCIAC Semifinals in the first year of a postseason tournament format. CMS prevailed in a wild 15-14 shootout that lasted 18 rounds before finally determining the winner, and then came back the next day to beat top-seeded Redlands the next day to earn the league's automatic bid.
"Every PK, I remember holding my breath and burying my face into whoever was standing next to me because I was so scared to watch," said Megan Kum (CMC '08). "When we did finally win, the sense of relief, excitement and euphoria was overwhelming. It felt like we had just won the Super Bowl. The fact that it was against Pomona-Pitzer made the win even sweeter."
Even the most recent athletic year provided a memorable win for the ages, as CMS men's water polo captured a 12-11 win in an barn-burner in front of an overflow crowd at Axelrood Pool in the SCIAC Men's Water Polo semifinals. In addition to advacing to the SCIAC Championship, that win also enabled CMS to earn a bid to the first USA Water Polo Division III National Championships. The Stags trailed 7-2 after the first quarter, and 9-4 at the half, but used a furious comeback to win on a goal from Ethan Lewis to beat the shot clock with just over 30 seconds left.
"Having the crowd at the game made it so much more of a roller coaster than it already was," said Lewis (CMC '20). "Each time one of the teams scored, it made it that much more impactful hearing hundreds of students cheer you on and hype up your already peaking adrenaline. It was an incredible feeling."
It's a feeling that many student-athletes have had the chance to feel over the last six decades, due to the unique nature of the Sixth Street rivalry.