The History of Hershey’s Cocoa Bean Football Game
Prior to 1943, Hershey Industrial School (now known as Milton Hershey School) and Hershey High School football players practiced right next to each other, but never had the opportunity to compete.
To give the boys some friendly competition, the two schools created the Cocoa Bean Game beginning in 1943. It marked the first time the schools faced each other in football competition, and the tradition has remained for 76 years.
One of the first documents created for the Cocoa Bean competition outlines the schools’ vision for the game: “We all hope that … the game will result, not in bitter rivalry, but in friendly competition, and that this will be the first of annual contests on the gridiron between the high schools of our community.”
The tradition is woven into Milton Hershey School’s history—the school currently has 34 wins, 38 losses, and three ties against Hershey High School. Each year, athletes from both schools are eager to work toward the coveted Cocoa Bean trophy, but the sportsmanship between the two teams is evident.
Learn more about the history of the Cocoa Bean game!
Hershey Industrial School did not play football in the 1942-43 school year because of gasoline rationing and shortages during the war.
Because of the shortages during the war, the school’s 1943 football season got off to a late start. The team had only three weeks to practice before the first game on Oct. 22. They won three of the four games, but lost the last game to Hershey High School in the first-ever Cocoa Bean game.
The 1943 season marked the first Cocoa Bean game and the first time the two schools competed in football. Previously, the teams only competed against each other in basketball.
The first Cocoa Bean program contained advertisements by the Hershey Chocolate Corporation and this sentiment:
May this, their first gridiron meeting
Mark the beginning of a new era
In good sportsmanship and friendly feeling
Which will serve to stimulate us all
In the heavy duties which lie ahead!
In November of 1954, the original Cocoa Bean trophy was retired and replaced with a more elaborate trophy by the MHS Alumni Association.
On September 12th, 1970, the Cocoa Bean game fell on a celebratory weekend which included Homecoming, Milton Hershey’s birthday, and the dedication of Founders Hall.
The 76th anniversary of the Cocoa Bean game will occur on Friday, September 7, 2018. MHS students, staff, and alumni will cheer on the Spartans as they work to win the Cocoa Bean trophy!
Milt Memories History Blog
MHS Department of School History works hard to preserve the Hersheys’ values and students’ cherished memories through articles, photos, interviews and artifacts. Follow along with our monthly blog series focused entirely on the fascinating school history and inspiring work of our founders.