Search Results for: harry kipke

I don’t if Harry Kipke liked to be photographed, or whether the press chased him around a lot but, brother, there are always a lot of interesting photos of the former Michigan All-American player and coach on eBay.  

Vacation Kipke and Sarazen Kipke Saling

Just right now you can find photos of Kipke in scenes that have nothing to do with football—[left to right above] on vacation with his wife in Florida chilling in a bathrobe, hanging out with golfing legend Gene Sarazen, and most frequently, Kipke on his boat sailing or hanging out with other people who love to sail.  I don’t know if there are any Kipke family historians out there, but I’m guessing you can piece together Kipke’s life (certainly in the 1930s and 1940s) through solely the lens of newspaper wire photos that pop up on eBay.

Here’s my favorite and this might end up in my man cave.kipke_son_ebay

Taken in May 1935 (notably after the horrific ‘34 season), on the left that’s Kipke’s son holding what you have to assume is a leather Michigan helmet.  Kipke is kneeling in a sharp 3-piece suit with a flower tie as he tangles with two baby lions at his feet.   Harry’s no fool—note the protective oven mitts. 

So what’s the deal with all of this?   First, chalk this up to a day in the life of Harry Kipke, who clearly had photographers wherever he went.   I scanned the free newspaper archives but couldn’t find anything.   If I had to guess, Kipke and his son are at an event, perhaps a graduation party or something, at the estate of his pal Harry Bennett.  As posted on these pages before, Bennett was Henry Ford’s enforcer and lived off Geddes road near town, and yes, he was known to keep lions and tigers on the property.

Ships Wheel
While I’m on the topic of Kipke I have to share photo and note sent over by reader Bob.  First the photo:


Here’s the backstory from Bob:

Hi, I am looking for information on a item I bought from Harry Kipke’s estate. It is a very large ships wheel with a football welded to the center. It has gold leaf writing which says “Birthday greetings Harry Kipke”.   It was hanging at the bottom of the basement stairs going into the billiard room. It is said H.K. was good friends with Henry Ford, Roy Firestone and Tom Edison and they often hung out there…I was also told the wheel may have been a gift from one of the Ford’s (Henry or Gerald). The wheel is 52? tall and in great shape. What I would like to know is who gave it to him and what birthday did he receive it…It is a honor owning it but feel it should be in a place more people can see and enjoy it.  Any thoughts as to where it should go?  If so what’s it’s value?   A local guy says 5K plus but I just don’t know.

So first off, I have no idea how much something like this would be worth.   It’s one-of-a-kind and you’d have to find someone who’s interested in both sailing, history and Michigan football [mgoshoe?!] to even approach finding a price for this thing.  If someone’s got a truly unique collection this might look nice on the wall, but it is so tough to say.  For starters I’d want to know who gave it to Kipke, whether is an actual from a ship (or if was it created solely as a gift for Kipke—likely, given the football affixed in the center), and the manufacturer. 


* 1933 and the Dickinson Formula
* Harry Kipke and the Fall of 1934
* Jesse Owns and Gerald Ford (1934)
* The Willis Ward Protests (1934)

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29. April 2008 · Comments Off on eBay Watch: Harry Kipke and the Fall of 1934 · Categories: Archive 2008, eBay Watch, History, Ohio State

1934 Gerald Ford

I’m a big fan of the YouTube efforts laid down by WolverineHistorian. Not too long ago MGoBlog offered up that every once in a while you’d like to see a few of the difficult moments in games, not just the endzone dances. I think that’s fair.

Likewise, the eBay Watch series tends to focus on the good times and back in the day good times were plentiful. But then you have a season like this.

In April 2008, an eBay auction popped up featuring a 1934 Michigan student ticket book. It actually had tear-away coupons for each event inside, most of which remained unused that season. According to the conditions written jacket, the tickets were to be used for athletic events in general but for football “reserved seating” in particular. The auction closed for $40.

As a U-M student in the early nineties, I recall we were required to use the coupon books and I thought this was primarily a means to stem the sale of individual games. Apparently this wasn’t just a recent phenomenon as there was definitely an attempt by the University to crack down on anyone using these tickets beyond the rightful owner. The student was required to sign off on a set of conditions and the fine print within the ticket jacket included a strong warning:

“If presented for admission by any person other than the owner the book will be forfeited, taken up at the time of improper presentation and full admission collected.”

The owner of these student tickets certainly realized that they’re would be some challenges on the field in the upcoming season. Kipke lost three All-Americans (Charles Bernard, Francis Wistert and Ted Petoskey) and a host of other key players. Sound familiar?

The 1934 season is probably most recognizable for the presence of its senior center and future President Gerald Ford. Arguably the most famous Michigan football player of all time, the Grand Rapids native was named MVP of a team that experienced a stunning reversal of fortune from the heights reached by Kipke’s previous four seasons. The two-time defending national champions won just a single game in 1934, finishing 1-7.

How bad did it get? For the year the Wolverines were outscored 143-21 and weren’t able to manage a single point in five of the eight games that season.

The lone win that season was a 9-2 squeaker over Georgia Tech in Ann Arbor, a game which carried greater significance. The 1934 squad included Willis Ward, an African American player who happened to be Ford’s roommate on road games. The administration at Georgia Tech held differing views of the place of African Americans and they had an issue with the Jackets taking the field if Willis were allowed to participate. This caused quite a stir on campus– the Bentley Library website describes the situation:

At least as early as the fall of 1933, the Georgia Tech athletic director had written to Yost asking what was going to be done about Ward, asserting that his team would not take the field if Ward was playing for Michigan. As game day neared the issue became a major controversy on campus and mass meetings and demonstrations were held. Some students and faculty demanded that either Ward must play or the game should be canceled [Ed: I write on the campus protests in this May 2009 post]. Others argued that, as host team, Michigan must respect southern customs and hold Ward out of the game. Yost and Kipke did not publicly reveal their decision beforehand, but when kick-off came, Ward was not in uniform.

The incident resonated with the future President. In 1999 Ford wrote an New York Times Op-Ed piece defending U of M’s affirmative action admissions policy saying, “Do we really want to risk turning back the clock to an era when the Willis Wards were isolated and penalized for the color of their skin, their economic standing or national ancestry?”. Ward eventually graduated with a law degree and later became a well respected judge.

Adding insult to the miserable season, the Buckeyes didn’t miss a chance to pile on. It was in 1934 that Ohio State started its tradition of presenting a charm depicting a pair of gold pants to each player if the Buckeyes defeated Michigan. Coincidently these precious charms seem to frequently show up on eBay. During an interview for HBO’s The Rivarly legendary coach Bo Schembechler admitted (with a chuckle) that he still had a few of those charms in his possession.

The idea came from new OSU coach Francis Schmidt who sized up the ’34 Wolverines and observed, “They put their pants on one leg at a time just like everybody else.” Yes, but they also brush their teeth and comb their hair, which apparently hasn’t caught on in Columbus.

The trend of poor attendance at Michigan stadium continued that year, averaging just over 20,000 spectators throughout the ‘34 campaign but the fans stepped up when it counted. Coming off a resounding 34-0 defeat on the road to national champion Minnesota, when the team arrived back home Sunday morning the train station was full of fans waiting to greet the Wolverines. Ford later reflected on what that moment meant to he and his teammates calling it “a demonstration of loyalty that I’m sure none of us has forgotten.”

Unfortunately Kipke never really got things back on track. He coached through the 1937 season, never getting a team over .500. Despite the difficult conclusion to his career, Kipke remains one of the most decorated Wolverines coaches in U-M history. Along with his two national championships, he joins Yost and Schembechler as having the distinction of directing teams to four consecutive conference championships.

Michigan Purdue

For tomorrow’s evening affair, a trip back to 1930, a season that started with a double-header(!) in front of only 13,000 fans but was notable nonetheless.  In that year coach Harry Kipke got things working and started a string of 4 consecutive conference crowns.   October 11, 1930 was week 3 when his Wolverines faced defending league champ Purdue.  This game also marked the debut start of would-be superstar quarterback Harry Newman.  Check it out:

You can catch all of the This Week in Michigan Football History clips here…And don’t forget to catch it live Saturday on the KeyBank Countdown to kick-off on WTKA 1050AM or inside the Bud Light Victors Lounge starting at 3pm.


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moes tourney

Ed. On the anniversary of Harry Newman’s passing on May 2, 2000 – a repost (originally from March 17, 2013:


This edition of eBay Watch starts with a couple shots from Michigan’s 1932 battle with Northwestern played in the Big House:

1932 Northwestern - Pug 400433201511

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:

1932 Newman front 360615511928

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 Two Pugs 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):

M Daily Dec 11 1932

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”:

Lewan and Newman

You can own those 1932 photos – link to the Pug Rentner shot here, and the Harry Newman phantom interception here.

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:

Gerald Ford Action Figure Willis Ward Action Figure

Ford carrying the pigskin?  Chip straps, modern shoulder pads, maize helmets?  Oy ! Oy ! Oy !

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MaraWatch - Wolverines Collection!  Go Blue

Good Wednesday to you, friends.  WPW leads off with a classic shot of the B1G football coaches meeting prior to the 1931 season:

 Kipke and coaches 1931 360785202817   Kipke description
This photo, from the Big Ten meetings prior to the 1931 season, is probably worth its $44 auction price.   On the floor you’ve got M headman Harry Kipke with Purdue coach (and former player under Rockne) Noble Kizer demonstrating life in the trenches.    Minnesota’s Fritz Crisler, who would replace Kipke later that decade, watches from the back.   Amongst the men seated is Illinois legend Bob Zuppke sitting next to the one & only Amos Alonzo Stagg.  Great shot.  Dress code in ‘31?  White shirt, tie, Brylcreem in the hair (except for Stagg).


Benny Friedman 1926 201047600870

I don’t know when wire photos started to be distributed to newspapers, but this has to be a fairly early one (from 1926) featuring the great Michigan quarterback and NFL HOF’er Benny Friedman.   Seller claims it is an original and wants a mere $30.  If it’s truly the original it’s worth over $100 easy IMO.


Iowa Depression 360685717404

The Depression was a bitch.  It was tough to get folks to the Big House in 1933, despite the team entering the season as defending national champion and back-to-back-to-back B1G champs.  Above is a shot from the Iowa game in Ann Arbor on November 11, 1933 and the Wolverines were 6-0 – despite all this but a mere 22,000 fans waddled into the Big House on this day.  (Memo to the sardines crammed in end zone—umm, spread out!!).

Michigan would go on to claim the 1933 national title after tying Minnesota the following week and blanking Northwestern in the finale.



Previous editions:


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01. July 2013 · Comments Off on Calisthenics with Coach Kipke (1933) · Categories: 2013 · Tags: , , , ,

Thanks to Black and Blue creator Buddy Moorehouse for sending this over.  There’s no audible sound but this clip is worth checking out nonetheless.  It’s from 1933 featuring Coach Harry Kipke, several of the players and includes some game footage and a lot of shots of the team warming up and going through drills.  Buddy found this on a recent visit to Grand Rapids to check out the Growing Up Grand exhibit at the Gerald R. Ford Museum:

I love the vintage game footage of the kick-off 45 seconds in.  The opponent throws up a double wedge but the Michigan men maintain their lanes and squash the return.  The full clip is 9 minutes and is property of the U-M Bentley Historical Library.

Also on display at the exhibit is the RIGHTEOUS pigskin from the 1934 Georgia Tech game:

1934-Game-Ball-Michigan-Georgia-Tech_thumb[1] Buddy also passed along that in honor of Gerald Ford’s 100th birthday on July 14, 2013, every PBS affiliate in the state will be airing Black and Blue.  Nice!

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28. October 2011 · Comments Off on TWIMFbH–Kipke, Crisler and The Dickinson System (1932!) · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , ,

imageFor the latest edition of TWIMFbH we step down to 1932 and check out when Harry Kipke’s undefeated crew, led by All-American quarterback Harry Newman faced a very familiar name—Fritz Crisler and his Princeton Tigers.

We touch on that game played this Saturday back in 1932, but spend more time on the method to determine the national champion back then, namely, The Dickinson System.

As always, you can listen to it out before the KeyBank Countdown to Kick-off on WTKA 1050AM tomorrow, or click play now:

You can hear all of the  This Week… clips here.


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More on the Dickinson System here:

See Dick Compute: How an Econ Prof determined the National Champion

09. July 2011 · Comments Off on Dirty Harry (WTKA audio) · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , , ,

When I hopped in the car Friday morning I was happy to hear the discussion on the WTKA 1050AM morning show focused on the 1930s and in particular, former M coach Harry Kipke.   Ira took a few calls including a notable one from listener Don who broke down the whole discussion of “worst” three year stretch ever, and the fall of the Kipke era.   Here’s Don’s call:

Well done, Don.

As far as Don’s online Michigan historian, I’m pretty sure that’s me and he’s correct that you can find a lot more on that era on these pages.


Regarding the worst stretch ever, I started that discussion three seasons ago when local writers started calling RichRod’s first the worst of all time.  And despite what folks say (including our athletic department), by almost any measure the 3 year stretches from 1934-1936 and from 1935-1937 are worse, and Don adds some great points about our dismal performance against our rivals.

It’s not so much that I care if you make a statement about the worst or best or whatever.  But out of respect for those who care about the history and traditions of this university, at least mix in a “one of the” or “among the” before you drop in the word “worst” or “best”, assuming you are not willing to do the research. Right?

As far as the scandalous end to the Kipke era, you can get your fill here, to this day one of the more popular pages on this site.   His most egregious foul (at least in today’s terms) was this one:

Subsidizing players.  Yes, it appears as though Michigan promised the classic nice “jobs” to incoming freshman.  According to a university report players were basically guaranteed a wage at certain jobs whether they showed up or not.  The local employer was “instructed to bill another Ann Arbor firm for the time the freshman collected for not working” [Chicago Tribune, 11/11/37].  The whole thing unraveled when a bogus “employer” wasn’t reimbursed in a timely manner and complained.

As I’ve said, there’s a reason why Bo, Yost, Crisler and even Oosterbaan have buildings named after them and Kipke has a service drive through the stadium parking lot.

Yost’s Warning to you Drunks (1933)
1933 and the Dickinson Formula
1933 MSC Ticket Application
Harry Kipke and the Fall of 1934
Smoke ‘em if you Got ‘em (1935-ish)
The Willis Ward Protests (1934)

31. May 2011 · 7 comments · Categories: 2011

Over the past few days I’ve heard many Michigan fans comparing the 1990s Ed Martin scandal to the Sweatervest mess.   To me, this is much more similar to the events that led to the downfall of former Wolverine star and 1930s head coach Harry Kipke.   There’s a reason why we have buildings named after Schembechler, Yost, Crisler and Oosterbaan while the Kipke surname adorns a service road/path on the athletic campus.


 Love this wire pic- on eBay right now

Like Tressel, Kipke had early success—winning league championships in his second and third seasons before taking back-to-back national championships in 1932 and 1933.   Unlike the Vest, Kipke’s fortune turned sharply midway through his coaching career including the worst stretch in Wolverine football history from 1934-1936.

While it’s not clear to me when the corruption started, it’s safe to say Kipke had a bit of a system rolling when he was sacked in 1937.   Along with illegal summer practice up at Ford and some sketchy associates, under Kipke’s watch incoming freshman were given “jobs” (note me also doing air finger quotes right now).  

According to a university report players were basically guaranteed a wage at certain jobs whether they showed up or not.  The local employer was “instructed to bill another Ann Arbor firm for the time the freshman collected for not working” [Chicago Tribune, 11/11/37].  The whole thing unraveled when a bogus “employer” wasn’t reimbursed in a timely manner and complained.  I’m guessing the potential of one of these nice jobs helped lure Tom Harmon (1930s version of a 5*+ Pryor-esque recruit) from Indiana to Ann Arbor in 1937.  

We’ll see what happens to Tressel moving forward.  I hear the NCAA can ban him from associating with a school including Ohio State.  Kipke didn’t suffer such a penalty and had a strong backing from Michigan fans after he was canned.  He served on the U-M board of regents from 1940-47 and later served as president of the Coca-Cola in Chicago. Perhaps The Vest can sign on with Bartles & Jaymes.

Yost is Safe
Oh yes, remember this?   Last November I successfully lobbied the Big Ten media office last year to look again at the all-time conference winning percentages by coach, they moved Yost further out of reach from #2 Tressel.   To me, this was the start of Tressel’s fall from grace.  And while I’m confident the Vest never would have caught Yost, it’s over now baby: 

Rest easy, Coach!

I’ve published a few posts on these pages on probably my favorite decade of Michigan football: the 1930s.   During this period Michigan football experienced back-to-back national championships followed by arguably the worst season in the history of the program.   The era included the presence of a future U.S. president, a scandal with The Little Brown Jug, and a controversy over the participation of a black player that set the campus ablaze.

The man who presided over this period was coach Harry Kipke, the All-American player under Fielding Yost in the 1920s who earned 9 varsity letters in Ann Arbor.   I love to note that Kipke was renown for his punting prowess on the gridiron.  His finest performance was probably when he helped spoil the dedication of Ohio Stadium in Columbus when he sent eleven balls into the air including nine balls that sailed out of bounds inside the Buckeye 8 yard line.  Writer Walter Camp wasted no time calling Kipke the greatest punter ever after the performance.

This edition of eBay Watch leads off with a wire photo from January 1936 of a shirtless Kipke, then head football coach of the Wolverines, aboard the ‘Flo’, the sailboat he named after his wife:


And another:


While Kipke’s coaching career roared early on (he claimed four straight conference championships and in 1932 and 1933, national titles), he didn’t have much wind in his sails in the winter of ‘36.   In 1934 the Wolverines sunk to a new low, going just 1-7 and only slightly recovered in 1935 finishing 4-4 with shutout losses to Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio State to end the season.

Kipke certainly had some equity in the bank with Michigan fans due to the titles and from his playing days and obviously didn’t mind having the media aboard the Flo that winter to snap some photos.  But you’ve got to wonder if modern M fans would have taken kindly to their struggling coach basking on a boat after a couple tough seasons.  Heck, Bill Martin will probably never live down the Barnacle Bill episode during the coaching search.

Unfortunately for Kipke things just got worse later that year as his Blue finished 1-7 in 1936 and 4-4 in 1937.  Soon after the ‘37 campaign he was fired and eventually replaced by Princeton coach and to-be M legend Fritz Crisler.

On the face, you’d think Kipke would have had more of a chance to right the ship, especially given the titles he brought to Ann Arbor, but the sacking was far from solely performance-based.  The board in control of athletics issued to Kipke the following five reasons for his dismissal, and they were published in the December 12, 1937 Chicago Tribune:

1.  That he engaged in the practice of subsidizing athletes.
2.  He failed to organize his coaching staf.  [yes, one f.]
3.  He was incompetent.
4.  The board objected to his private associates.
5.  He tolerated summer football practice.

Yikes.  Here’s a brief look at a few of the spiciest of the charges:

  • Subsidizing players.  Yes, it appears as though Michigan promised the classic nice “jobs” to incoming freshman.  According to a university report players were basically guaranteed a wage at certain jobs whether they showed up or not.  The local employer was “instructed to bill another Ann Arbor firm for the time the freshman collected for not working” [Chicago Tribune, 11/11/37].  The whole thing unraveled when a bogus “employer” wasn’t reimbursed in a timely manner and complained. 
  • Those “Private Associates”.  This was aimed squarely at Kipke’s pal Mr. Harry Bennett, henchman/head of security at Ford.  Henry Ford sent his problems to Bennett and they disappeared.  Or were buried up north.  Think Joe Pesci in Casino, or perhaps Winston Wolf from Pulp Fiction…in fact Bennett looks quite a bit like Mr. Wolf and Pesci, no?:

harry_bennett_wolf Bennett on the left, with mucho resemblance to the Wolf and Pesci

Search and you’ll find anecdotes about Bennett on the web, a favorite of mine:

When a Detroit child was kidnaped, Ford, who had a great love for all children, told Bennett to get the child back.  Before he could do anything, the father paid a $20,000 ransom and the child was returned. Some hoodlum acquaintances of Bennett got the money back by torturing the kidnaper.  The kidnaper went to Bennett’s home, shot him in the side and fled.  Bennett asked the police not to prosecute. But, he adds offhandedly: "The gunman was later shot and killed on a Detroit street—in some gang feud, I suppose."

For the many rumored and not-so rumored shenanigans and thuggery led by Bennett, who lived in Ann Arbor in his “castle” along with his pet lions, it was known that he often hired football players to help carry out his dirty work and he was buds with Kipke.  Naturally the faculty and administration on campus turned their noses at such people.

  • Summer Practice.  Not sure if Kipke employed quality control guys, but it was alleged that most of the team held cushy summer jobs at Ford and whilst there, even worked on their skills, from the Tribune 12/12/1937:

    Kipke allowed fifteen Michigan football players to practice three and four times a week throughout the last summer while employed at the Ford Motor company.  The players were said to have worked in the service department under Harry Bennett, Ford personnel director.  On practice afternoons, it was reported, they were driven in a truck from their posts about the plant to a remote place on Ford property along the Detroit river shore for practice.

    Conference rules at the time didn’t allow practice to start until September. 

Aftermath.  Despite the controversy surrounding his departure, Kipke was still a popular guy amongst the Maize and Blue faithful and served on the board of regents from 1940-47.  He also continued his love of the seas by joining the Navy in 1942 and even served as president of the Coca-Cola bottling company in Chicago.

The photos of Kipke are available for $9.99 on eBay right now.

Yost’s Warning to you Drunks (1933)
1933 and the Dickinson Formula
1933 MSC Ticket Application
Harry Kipke and the Fall of 1934
Smoke ‘em if you Got ‘em (1935-ish)