Another unique piece of Michigan memorabilia went for auction this week on eBay, this time a program from the Minnesota game played on November 21, 1925 at Ferry Field. It sold for just over $42 and makes for a great topic for this installment of eBay Watch. The cover features Michigan’s captain Bob Brown and “Biff”, the living and breathing Wolverine mascot:

Biff the Wolverine

The caption reads “The Wolverine Mascot of Michigan Athletic Teams is noted for its Ferocity and Gameness in Battle, a Characteristic of Every Team That Wears the Maize and Blue.” Indeed. It looks like Biff is giving Bob a run for his money.

Yost is such a beauty. You can thank the old legend for getting an actual wolverine on campus. The Bentley Historical Library has some details on his quest to find one of these ferocious beasts:

Fielding Yost set out to find a wolverine in 1923, after seeing Wisconsin carry live badgers along with its football team. Yost’s desire met with difficulty, as the coach had problems finding a dealer of live wolverines. After a letter to 68 trappers yielded no mascot for his team, Yost expanded his wish to any wolverine, alive or dead.

It’s unclear whether Yost also removed the foreign language requirement for the wily beast. And how about the old man sending sixty-eight letters to trappers?! Granted trapping was likely a bit more prevalent back in the 1920s but where did Yost find the names and addresses of all these guys? Finally his persistence paid off, again from the Bentley:

Yost was finally able to obtain a mounted wolverine from the Hudson’s Bay Fur Company in the fall of 1924, but his quest for a live one continued. In 1927, 10 wolverines were obtained from Alaska and placed in the Detroit Zoo. On big football days, two of these wolverines were brought into Michigan Stadium and carried around in cages.

Biff and Bennie the Wolverines

Did you order the code red?
Hmm….methinks the Bentley Library got this one wrong. If Yost didn’t get a live Wolverine until 1927 as the story implies, how was old Biff featured on the cover of a 1925 program? Something’s not jiving there as either this program is a fake (that’s a lot of work for $40), the Biff on the program is stuffed, or the Bentley’s info is wrong.

It’s too bad because this type of info spreads, as National Geographic apparently found the Bentley info and included it in this piece on wolverines (see the Did You Know? section). Memo to National Geographic: how about a source for that swipe job?

One Setback
The 1925 squad was another fine one for Yost, finishing 7-1 and outscoring opponents 227-3. The one setback was a 3-2 loss to Northwestern in front of 40,000 fans at Solider Field. The Minnesota game capped the season off on a great note as Yost, Brown and the great Bennie Oosterbaan crushed the Gophers 35-0 before 47,000.

Michigan Memorabilia Vault

8 Comments

  1. Another fine historical piece – great stuff! My money says the “Biff” on the 1925 cover was the product of a fine taxidermist. I’m sure Cap’n Bob was a tough SOB but he’d have to have a few screws loose to try to drag a live wolverine around on a rope.

  2. Thanks Lew. My only question, if Bob’s Biff was indeed stuffed, why would they name both the stuffed (’25) and living (’27) wolverines ‘Biff’?

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  4. I desperately wish we could have live wolverines on the sidelines again. If Texas can have a damn steer…

  5. That wolverine is definitely stuffed. It has a stuffed pose. The man is too happy go-lucky for being dragged by a ferocious wolverine.

  6. why cant michigan make a ‘Biff’ Mascot today, a fake one…

  7. Up here in Alaska, Wolverines are highly respected by the Native population. Whenever a hunter bags one, there’s generally a big ceremony, at least if you’re in a traditional village. I haven’t seen a wolverine myself, but I’ve heard that there’s a number of them up here.

  8. No, i mean like Brutus or the golden gopher, we need a big ballin wolverine

  9. I seem to recall at one point (maybe during the 1990s?) that we used to have some dude prancing around the sidelines in a wolverine head ala Brutus. Or maybe that was just a bad dream.

    Anyway, regarding both the ’25 and ’27 wolverines being named “Biff,” maybe they just always named the animal “Biff” (stuffed or live), sort of like the University of Georgia bulldog is always named Uga? Interesting indeed.

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