There’s a bevy of legendary former coaches and players descending on Ann Arbor for the 2008 Griese/Hutchinson Champions for Children’s Hearts Celebrity Golf Tournament (Sunday) as well as the Swing to Cure Diabetes (Monday) both at the M Course.

This provides a nice opportunity to take a look at another item in the eBay Watch series, this time a signed program from the 1954 post-season football Bust autographed by the team and many of the greatest names in Michigan football history. Check it out:

Coach Bennie Oosterbaan’s ’54 Wolverines finished just 6-3, certainly nothing too special but there were some notable wins. Anchored by All Big Ten quarterback Ron Kramer and All American tackle Art Walker, Michigan upset #4 Iowa and #8 Minnesota at home but fell 21-7 in the season finale to Woody Hayes and his #1 Buckeyes. The AP slotted the Wolverines at #15 in the final poll and Dr. StrangeHayes and the Bucks ended up sharing the national title after downing Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl.

The 1954 season holds a special place in Buckeye lore. Obviously the national championship cements this distinction but this is in essence the year Woody Hayes deflected his critics and became a legend. I could go on about the ’54 version of ‘The Game’ but since my team lost, I won’t dwell. I will offer that there’s a wonderful write up of the game that even includes a Ufer reference on this site. A snippet:

Early in Michigan week, Hayes supposedly received a letter from someone claiming to be a Michigan student, wanting to know if the coach was interested in learning about the Wolverines’ special preparations for the game. While Woody didn’t respond, it made him wonder about his own camp. As a result, all non-players coming to practice that week were issued spare jerseys, and NO ONE was to be admitted without wearing one. This went for longtime sportswriters and even Dr. Walter Duffee, who had been the team physician since the end of World War I!

Columbus was about to burst in anticipation of this 51st edition of “THE GAME”. When asked if there were any ticket “problems”, Bill Snypp of the athletic ticket office responded, “There is no ticket problem because there are no tickets. The ticket office has started working on basketball.” Scalpers who did have ducats were reportedly asking the astronomical amount of THIRTY dollars apiece. The third-largest press contingent in Ohio Stadium history was expected, and to assist the media 25 Western Union lines were being installed in the pressbox. Five different Columbus radio stations would air the game, and for only the third time in their history, the Buckeyes would be nationally televised in glorious black-and-white on ABC, with Jack Drees handling the play-by-play, former UM icon and Heisman winner Tom Harmon providing commentary, and legendary broadcaster Bill Stern taking care of pre- and postgame duties.

So for the Wolverines, it was a nice season all in all and although the players didn’t enjoy the spoils of a bowl game, the 34th annual Football Bust held November 29, 1954 was quite a hoot. The organizers managed to gather a few of the greatest names in the first 50 years of Michigan football including:

* Benny Friedman, the great quarterback in the 1920s was team MVP, an All-American, named Big Ten Player of the Year in 1926. He and Oosterbaan formed that team’s trademark play: the “Benny to Bennie” combination.
* Legendary former head coach Fritz Crisler.
* Francis ‘Whitey’ Wistert, the All American left tackle and anchor of Harry Kipke’s back-to-back national champions in 1932 and 1933., and won the conference title each year in which he was on the team.
* Willie Heston, arguably the greatest back of all-time.

Here’s their signatures:

The auction just closed and this beauty sold with a high bid of $637.88 US. Not too bad.

Other tidbits on 1954:
* According to Bruce Madej’s book Champions of the West, 1954 was the first year that women were allowed to enter the U-M Union through the front door.
* Coach Crisler entered College Football’s Hall of Fame this year.

Michigan Memorabilia Vault