St. Paul Rugby Football Club History
The St. Paul Rugby Football Club history begins in Northfield, Minnesota. In 1968, three inaugural teams took roots in Minnesota, starting with the Northfield Black and Blue, St. John’s University, and the University of Minnesota. The Northfield team was founded by Professor Bill Hartley of Carleton College. After a few years the Northfield club consisting mostly of Carleton Alumni found that many of their players, were leaving Northfield and moving north to St. Paul. Thus in 1974, the team packed up the bus and officially moved to Saint Paul.
In the first season of play, the Saint Paul team was in search of a mascot. After many heated discussions over a number of pints, it was determined that the Saint Paul Pigs would be the selected name. Not only was the city of Saint Paul known throughout the territory as Pig’s Eye Landing, but the Pig seemed to best describe this newly formed team. The Pig is known to be a strong, fast, and intelligent animal, but also isn’t afraid to get down and dirty when necessary. The coupling of Jazz to the Pigs name would come a few years later.
In the third outing of the inaugural 1974 spring season, the Saint Paul Pigs fielded a second side. One of the second side players, Mike Solhaug, pedaled onto the pitch for the start of the second match on a 1930s vintage girl’s bicycle. He cried out “Bombers” and immediately crashed. The second side responded by adopting the “Bombers” name in reckless spirit. It would take over two years before the Bombers would lose their first match to another side. Saint Paul’s second side continues to play as the Bombers today.
The first few seasons saw great success from the newly formed Pigs club. In the Spring of 1974, the team finished league play with a 4-0-3 record and a birth in the Midwest Championships in Green Bay, Wisconsin where they lost to the eventual Midwest champions, the Chicago Lions. In the fall of that year their success continued as they complied a 7-0 record and were keyed on an end of the year tournament in Kansas City, Missouri.
The Pigs duped the older, but unsuspecting Minneapolis RFC into sharing a bus on the long trek to Kansas City. Keg beer was provided on the bus, and after a few pints, the Pigs began to sing. Singing songs and drinking beer for the entire seven-hour trip. When the bus finally sloshed into Kansas City, the “love affair” between the two rival clubs had fully blossomed. This trip helped spur the rivalry with the Minneapolis Club, which continues to this day.
In the fall of 1978, Steve “Schmidy” Schmidt came to the Pigs from Carleton College. He quickly made a name for himself as an unselfish player who would do anything for the club. He was a tireless contributor to the Pigs. After playing for a few seasons, Steve found the moniker “Pigs” didn’t have the flare he felt the team offered. Thus at the AGM in 1980, Steve proposed that Jazz be added to the Pigs name. Although there was some interest from the club, the name change was initially turned down. Then sadly, in the spring of that year, Steve was outside painting when his ladder struck an overhead power line. Steve was instantaneously electrocuted. In that one instant, Saint Paul Rugby has lost a true friend and outstanding player. At the AGM the following year, the Saint Paul Rugby team unanimously voted to change our name to the “Jazz Pigs” in honor of our fallen teammate. Since that time “Jazz” has always stood for endless youthful excitement and enthusiasm on and off the pitch.
In the fall of 1982, an important change came to the rugby community in Saint Paul. A new women’s rugby club was formed, the Twin Cities Amazons. Searching for guidance and friendship, this wise group of women chose the Pigs and an instant bond was developed. Since then, the Pigs have worked closely with the Amazons on and off the pitch. Taking road trips together, playing together, partying together, each team has helped the other grow in the sport of rugby.
The mid 80s lead the Saint Paul Club on a number of overseas tours. In 1985, the team took their first tour overseas to England and Wales. This tour was highlighted with a stop in Lampeter, Wales. Although being a small city, Lampeter was one of the original members of the Welsh Rugby Union, thus they had a long tradition of rugby. The match brought out a pretty good-sized crowd, including the mayor of the town. Although being overmatched in the game, the Saint Paul team did score on a push-over try which did not please the crowd nor the mayor. The Pigs eventually lost the match, however in traditional Pigs style went on to win the party. Four years later in 1989, the Saint Paul Club made a return trip to the British Isles, this time to Scotland.
The late 90s and early millennium were tough times for the Saint Paul Club. From losing our practice and playing field to key players getting injured or leaving the state, the team struggled for a few of years. Even though the team was in a downtrend, in 2001, they pulled themselves together and had one of the greatest highlights in the history of the club.
As with every year since its inception, the team made the trip to the annual SNAFU tournament in Winnipeg, Canada. The team consisted of its usual cast of hooligans. The bus splashed into town around 1am, leaving them two more precious hours of bar-time and six hours until the first match.
The next morning, although still groggy from the night before, the team opened the first day of the tournament with three wins and an impressive 102-5 scoring advantage. After a night of “rest”, the team handily won their next two matches to advance to the tournament championship. As with every year, Winnipeg was not interested in allowing their hardware to go south of the border. Thus the championship consisted of the Saint Paul Pigs against the newly formed “All-Canadian” team. The game was one of the toughest, grittiest performances by the Pigs, after eighty minutes of hard-nosed rugby the Saint Paul team emerged victorious.
Following the win on the pitch, in standard Saint Paul fashion, the Pigs decided they would win the party as well. They began by entering a team into the boat race. Although not victorious, they were the only team to run the entire race naked. Partying continued until midnight, at which time many of the Pigs took the field for the annual game of naked rugby. Although none of the Pigs players scored in the game, they did score in the hearts of many of the Canadian women.
In 2003, the Saint Paul Jazz Pigs began to see a turnaround on the playing field. A new breed of young, hungry Pigs had emerged and helped lead the Pigs to the Minnesota Union D3 Championship. In 2005, the Pigs continued their success and qualified for the Midwest Tournament for the first time in nearly a decade. Not only did they qualify, but they won their first two matches and advanced to the field of four in Chicago. After a hard fought match in Chicago, they lost to the eventual National Champions, the Pearl City RFC.
The Saint Paul Jazz Pigs have been dedicated over the years to playing a high level of rugby; this is shown by our various overseas tours to our abundant tournament wins the past forty years. The tours include a 2008 group of 10 Pigs joined the Rockford Illinois Ravens for a tour of Ireland. Previous Pigs tours in the 1980’s included England, Wales and Scotland. The Pigs will continue the tradition in June 2014, by going on tour again to Sweden, Estonia, and Finland joined by some wayward Bottom Feeders from St. Cloud.
This high level of play continues today, including our advancement to the Midwest Tournament Play-Offs every year since 2003. Additionally, in the summer of 2007, seven players from the Saint Paul Pigs were selected to play on the Men’s Minnesota Select Side team, more than any other team in the state.
Key accomplishes of the St. Paul Jazz Pigs:
Minnesota Union D3 Champions: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011
Midwest Union D3 3rd Place: 2005
Midwest Union D3 2nd Place: 2012
Promoted to USA Rugby D2: 2012
We look forward to our continued success in the coming year and into the future.
Thanks to John Bartle, Dan Corley, Grant Dietrich, Duane Schrader, and Rob Wagner for their recounts of the history of the Saint Paul Rugby Football Club.