14. November 2008 · Comments Off on Benny Friedman juggled Chairs · Categories: Archive 2008, Books, History, Yost

Check out David Davis’ interview on Nextbook.org with author Murray Greenberg on his new book, Passing Game: Benny Friedman and the Transformation of Football. An excerpt:

How exactly did Benny Friedman transform college football?

In the mid-1920s, at the University of Michigan, along comes Benny Friedman. He had a unique ability to grip the football and throw it down the field with accuracy. As a kid, he had ambitions to become a strongman, so he’d done a series of exercises designed to stretch and strengthen his wrists and arms: lifting heavy chairs and tossing them from hand to hand, things like that. Combined with his physical strength, he had nerve. He was completely unintimidated and uninhibited. He’d throw the ball on any down, from anywhere on the field, when that was practically a mortal sin.

later:

In the book, you point out that Friedman played at the University of Michigan while Henry Ford was promoting anti-Semitism in nearby Dearborn. How did the anti-Semitism of the day affect colleges and college football?

The Jewish college football players of Friedman’s time walked an interesting tightrope. On the one hand, if they were good enough, they were welcomed onto the teams. On the other hand, they knew that schools had Jewish quotas and that, if they weren’t football players, they wouldn’t be welcome.

Friedman felt very strongly that George Little, his first head coach at Michigan, was anti-Semitic. He gave Benny such a difficult time, almost daring him to quit the sport, that Benny was on the verge of transferring from Michigan. Thankfully, the next coach, Fielding Yost, recognized Benny’s skills and enabled him to become the star attraction.

Sounds like an interesting read, you can pick up a copy here at Amazon.com.

Related:
Yost Busts the Galloping Ghost
SI’s College Football Best, by Jersey Number
eBay Watch: The Wolverine Pack & 1926