50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #40 - CHARLEY ERB#40 - CHARLEY ERB - QUARTERBACK (1920-1922)
Erb (fifth from the left in the above picture) was a three-year starter in the backfield for Andy Smith's "Wonder Teams" - the first great football squads in the Western US and among the most dominant in the history of the sport.
During Erb's years on the varsity, Cal went 29-0-1 (the only blemish being a scoreless tie with Washington & Jefferson in the 1922 Rose Bowl). They outscored their opponents 1220-81 over those three years, and shifted the balance of power in West Coast football from the Pacific Northwest to the Bay Area. The 1920 team was the most dominant, outscoring their opponents 510-14. Erb got off to a quick start that year, returning an interception 85 yards for a touchdown against the Olympic Club in the season's first game. In the Rose Bowl following that season, Erb quarterbacked the Bears to a 28-0 thumping of favored Ohio State, Cal's first victory on New Year's Day. He served as team captain of the 1922 squad that went 9-0-0, but could not return to Pasadena due to a rule that prevented repeat appearances by teams). He was selected to participate in the first East-West Shrine Game in December 1925, despite being out of football for two years.
Interestingly, Erb's uncle Billy is credited with an even more enduring contribution to Cal football even though he attended Stanford and never participated in intercollegiate athletics. It was uncle Billy - a Stanford yell leader - who decided to bring an actual axe to a baseball game in San Francisco between the Bears and Indians on April 15, 1899, and it was Billy who taunted Cal fans by chopping off the heads of dummies dressed in blue and gold. Thus was born the Stanford Axe, the possession of which has been the overriding goal of both schools' football teams and fans for more than a century.