This edition of eBay Watch starts with a couple shots from Michigan’s 1932 battle with Northwestern played in the Big House:
The ballcarrier is #23 Earnest “Pug” Rentner, an All-American back for the Wildcats. Here’s another shot in a separate eBay auction featuring Michigan’s star Harry Newman apparently snatching a ball out of mid-air:
The caption attached to the second shot claims this is Newman intercepting a pass from Rentner, but I’ve seen no evidence in the recaps that Newman got a pick in this game. He did a bunch of other things (fumble recovery, long passes, punt return, a field goal, etc.) but no interception.
While game photos are pretty easy to come by these days (heck, I have 100s from the Outback Bowl), I love these vintage photos. There might be a film clip or two out there from this game but beyond that I’m guessing these shots are few and far between.
Despite the sparse Big House crowd (it was the Depression, man) this game was one of the most anticipated match-ups along Michigan’s march to the 1932 national title. The Wildcats had put together quite a squad in the early 1930s and shared the conference crown with Harry Kipke’s Wolverines in 1930 and 1931 but…the teams didn’t face each other those seasons. Via Hail to the Victors 2012:
Pug and The Purple Gang
The next week was the most anticipated battle of the season. Northwestern and Michigan shared both the past two conference titles and two of the biggest stars in college football: the Wildcat’s 1931 All-American back Earnest “Pug” Rentner and of course U-M’s dangerous Harry Newman. As an aside, Rentner’s moniker was spot on–hide the dog biscuits because my man Ernie was one pooch-faced fellow.
The story of the game was how Newman outshined the more nationally decorated Pug as the Michigan “system” defense stuffed Rentner in the 15-6 Wolverine triumph. According to the Daily, “Harry Newman completely dominated the limelight with his spectacular runback of punts, his accurate passing, and his excellent field-generalship.” That would become a theme in 1932. Suddenly the east coast media took notice of Newman and his Wolverines.
Pug fumbled on the first play of the game, and managed to net just over 30 yards on 34 attempts on the day. Harry set up both scores and kicked a field goal to cap Michigan’s scoring. As noted in HTTV, the snuffing of Pug along with Newman’s performance put Michigan (and Harry) on the national watch list.
Newman carried Michigan on his back the rest of the way, finishing a perfect season and in December was quietly declared the 1932 National Champion thanks to the Dickinson System (via the Michigan Daily):
Newman was named college player of the year and would have won the Heisman Trophy that season had it been around. Not too bad for a feller who went just over 5’ 7”:
Related: Two guys on that ‘32 squad were Willis Ward and president Gerald Ford (Ward saw significant action this season, Ford rode pine). On eBay right now, check out these, umm, presumably unauthorized action figures (with several historical liberties!) of your heroes from Black and Blue. Click the pics to see the auctions:
Ford carrying the pigskin? Chip straps, modern shoulder pads, maize helmets? Oy ! Oy ! Oy !
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