The 1951 Rose Bowl victory capped off a nice season for coach Bennie Oosterbaan’s crew.  The 1950 squad featured team MVP Don Dufek and All-American R. Allen Wahl and won the conference title with a 6-3-1 overall record, dropping games to Michigan State, #1 ranked Army [played at Yankee Stadium), and to Illinois.  Despite a tough start the team rallied to win their final three games and added the great victory in Pasadena.

You probably can’t say this for any Michigan Rose Bowl champion, but the win over Cal in Pasadena was not the definitive victory for this team. That distinction will always be reserved for the game over a month earlier on November 25, 1950 in Columbus—a game that will forever be known as The Snow Bowl.

The week leading up to the game was somewhat normal for a November in the Midwest. On Thursday (Thanksgiving Day), Columbus experienced 38 degree temperatures and rain. By 8am Friday morning the thermometer sunk to 5 degrees and it snowed off and on for most of the day. The forecast for Saturday was a chilly 15 degrees and possible snow, but Friday evening to early Saturday morning things took a wicked turn:


A shirtless, unruly hairy beast with bad teeth seen outside Ohio stadium?  shocker

During the night, a storm moving up the Carolina coast pumped Atlantic moisture like a fire hose westward to meet the southward blast of frigid air. The clash of these two air masses reached full fury over Ohio and western Pennsylvania, paralyzing the region with heavy snow, gale-force winds and near-zero temperatures. Pittsburgh lay under a 16-inch snowfall with another foot forecast, forcing cancellation of the Pitt-Penn State game. Southeastern Ohio measured 14 plus inches. Transportation across the state ground to a halt.

As game time drew near the field was buried and around 50,000 brave fans huddled beneath the Ohio Stadium stands and waited to take their seats. A meeting was held between the schools to decide whether to play the game that included Ohio coach Wes Felser, Ohio athletic director Dick Larkin, Michigan AD Fritz Crisler and Oosterbaan. There had yet to be a Big Ten conference game canceled for any reason and this game held greater significance. If the game wasn’t played, Ohio State would earn a trip to the Rose Bowl. But Larkin knew (and certainly Oosterbaan and especially Crisler reminded him) that Michigan could potentially earn a trip to the Rose Bowl with a win. Ultimately Larkin gave the green light and remarked, “We’ll just have to do the best we can.”

When the game started, the teams did the only thing they could. Run a play or two and then punt rather than risk a turnover.

Michigan entered the game third in the conference standings behind the Buckeyes and Illinois. During the game word made it to the Michigan sideline that Northwestern upset the Illini meaning a Wolverine victory would send Oosterbaan and company to Pasadena.

The decisive moment came with time running out in the first half as Fesler made a tactical move that probably cost him his job, as described by Sports Illustrated:

On third and 6 at the Ohio State 13, Buckeyes coach Wes Fesler instructed [Heisman Trophy winner Vic] Janowicz to punt with Ohio State holding a 3-2 lead. Only 47 seconds remained in the half and it is likely that Ohio State could have run out the clock. But Michigan’s Tony Momsen — whose older brother Bob played for the Buckeyes — blocked the kick and then fell on it in the end zone, closing the scoring in a 9-3 Michigan win.

Thanks to WolverineHistorian, a few clips from the game:

 

 

The statistics from the game are remarkable:

  • Ohio State had 41 yards of total offense, Michigan 27.
  • The Buckeyes actually attempted 18 passes, completing just three for 25 yards.
  • Michigan had no first downs; Ohio State three.
  • The teams punted a combined 45 times for a total of 1,408 yards.
  • The team fumbled 10 times but lost only one each.

There’s probably hundreds of other stories about the game from those who witnessed it. HBO’s The Rivalry spent a good portion of the documentary on the game providing some phenomenal footage. The BBC website pulled together an impressive recap and added this anecdote which will definitely get a chuckle out of any Michigan Marching Band fan:

..the Ohio State Marching Band, which considered itself the best in the country (and still does), was offended by an article in Life magazine which claimed Michigan had the best. Ohio State was determined to prove itself and arranged an elaborate performance for half time. However, the brass instruments were chilled and the mouthpieces frozen. It seemed it would be unable to play.

The band planned to silently perform its maneuvers, which included standing together in a shape resembling a Buckeye leaf, while previously recorded music played over the loudspeakers. However, the determined band members got hold of some antifreeze for their mouthpieces and did the performance.

I’ll bookend end this eBay Watch with another item from the period. It’s a 1951 Michiganensian yearbook, featuring a few photos from both games, here’s a few pics from the Snow Bowl as displayed in the yearbook:

[Originally posted November 16, 2008]

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Sources:
* From the Ohio State library 1950 OSU vs. Michigan, The Snow Bowl
* An excellent recap from The BBC Website
* Game footage from ohiohistory.com
* Weather Events: Blizzard Bowl
* SI.com on the 10 greatest games in the U-M/OSU Rivalry

This edition of eBay Watch takes a look at a special pint glass. Like I’ve found with many of these memorabilia auctions the description doesn’t quite make sense and certainly doesn’t do the item justice:

Up for bid we are listing 9 vintage football glasses all in mint condition. This one is Herbert ” Fritz ” Crisler from the University of Michigan 1957. The top of the glass reads Atlantic City National Football Clinic. The back lists the Clinic staff members. It measures 5-3/4″ tall. Great piece for the collector. Paypal preferred or money order only.

Yes, it’s an old pint glass for a football clinic with famous Michigan coach and athletic director Fritz Crisler on it. That got my attention. But on the back of the glass it lists the rest of the staff for the event and it’s remarkable. Here’s a photo of the piece which recently sold on eBay for $15:

Check out some of the legends that attended the conference in the city where the sand turns to gold from March 11-14, 1957:

  • The top of the list of coaches is the great Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant, who at the time was still the head man at Texas A&M. 1957 was his final season for the Aggies as his “momma called” him back to Alabama where he stayed until 1982. He delivered six national championships to the Crimson Tide.
  • Moving down the pint lists Al Davis of The Citadel. That’s THE Al Davis, the eccentric man in black who owns the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. Many forget that Davis was actually a coach, with stints at The Citadel and USC, and coached the Raiders themselves for three seasons.
  • Continuing we’ve got Ray Eliot of the University of Illinois. Eliot coached the Illini from 1942-1959, claiming three Big Ten and two Rose Bowl championships.  He was succeeded in 1960 by Michigan player Pete Elliott (brother of Bump) who was a football honorary captain in 2008.
  • Then there’s Charles “Rip” Engle, head man at Penn State from 1950-1965. He coached Joe Paterno at Brown, and then was succeed by JoePa. He invented a game called Angleball to keep players in shape in the off-season, and was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
  • You might know the name Forest Evashevski as he was quarterback in the single wing backfield with Tom Harmon on some of Crisler’s greatest teams. As you can see on the glass, he left Michigan to pursue coaching and eventually took the head gig at the University of Iowa where he led the Hawkeyes to two conference titles and a pair of Rose Bowl wins in nine seasons. “Evy” is also enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
  • Skipping down to the bottom, the staff included Ray Graves, an assistant coach at Georgia Tech under the legendary Bobby Dodd. He later took the head job at Florida from 1960-1970 and led Gators to five bowl appearances and was the ball coach of Heisman recipient and grade-A red ass Steve Spurrier. Yep, he’s in the College Football Hall of Fame.

What a stunning collection of coaching talent. You can view the full auction here.

Related:
50th Anniversary of the 2 point conversion

The Man Who Changed Football (Old Sports Illustrated piece on Crisler)
Honorary Captains, Miami OH game

Next up, check this out. It’s a rare 1938 photo of Heisman winner Tom Harmon with ball tucked, dropping a stiff arm wearing his famous…..number 6? No, of course Harmon donned the old 98 during his playing days at Michigan so this makes this photo a bit special. The auction ends October 5. Check it out:

The topic of how Harmon ended up with the 98 jersey was recently discussed on MVictors with Harmon biographer Frederic Maxwell (see the comments to the post). Here’s Maxwell’s understanding of the story:

As he wrote (in a source that I have), when he tried out for his varsity squad at Horrace Mann High in Gary, the coach threw him off the team for blowing bubbles with his gum. He convinced the coach to allow him to return kicks in practice. Tom returned the first one for a touchdown. His coach decided that it wasn’t a bad idea to keep him around, so he put him on the JV squad. The JV squad used discarded varsity jerseys. Harmon went to the discard bin and found the worst jersey that he could, which was, of course, 98. Some say that this is yet-another example of Harmon’s humble nature, of reminding himself not to get too cocky. Others say it was Harmon rubbing his coach’s nose in it.

I got mildly different understanding of the genesis of 98 from a Sports Illustrated interview with the Heisman winner’s son, actor Mark Harmon:

SI: Why did he wear number 98?

[Mark] Harmon: As a freshman he was once chewing gum while the coach was talking and the coach got upset. He told him to get off the field but my dad said no. So they lined him up against the varsity and they kicked off to him and he ran three consecutive kickoffs for touchdowns. The coach told him to go to the office and pick out a uniform. So he did and he was the first one there. He picked the newest jersey, newest pair of pads, newest everything. He felt good and as he came back down from the office, the rest of the team was coming up. He went down to the field and the coach told him he had the starting halfback’s uniform on. The coach said, “Go take it off and get something else.” So he went back there and everything was gone except a moth-eaten torn-up jersey in the corner. Number 98. He loved that number and it came up continually in his life. It was the name of his sports-production company.

SI: God you’re a ruggedly handsome fellow.
[Mark] Harmon: Thanks man.

So why is Harmon wearing #6 in this photo? At first take, you might think this was some kind of photo taken after his college career, maybe in some type of all-star game or professional practice. It doesn’t appear so. The back of the pic is stamped by the Associated Press confirms a few things, including the 1938 date:

The 1938 schedule didn’t start until October 1, and according to the AP stamp this was taken a couple weeks prior and “from Chicago”. I assume this was some type of media day to allow the press to get photos like this and meet the coaches and players.

The 1938 team photo shows Harmon wearing the familiar 98 and the 1938 roster for that season lists the player who owned the #6 jersey as John H. Kinsey, a halfback from Plymouth, MI.

So how did Harmon end up with the six? I’m guessing the photographer was onsite and Harmon didn’t have a clean jersey or his was torn, or someone left it back in Ann Arbor. So Harmon needed to borrow the jersey of a like-sized teammate for the pose, so the 6-0, 194 pound back looked for and found Kinsey, who according to the team roster, was a 6-0, 194 pound back himself.

And then Harmon proceeded to give the photographer a move he called Blue Steel. When you gonna drop Magnum on us, buddy? You can follow the auction here.

MVictors: Blue Books


Writer Fredric Alan Maxwell is pulling together a biography of Michigan legend Tom Harmon titled, ‘The Late Great 98’. Michigan Today released a excerpt of the book that will be released chapter by chapter over time in a unique format, and will eventually result in a hard copy book. Details are found on tomharmonbio.com:

The Late Great 98 is the Tom Harmon Biography-in-progress that is being published on an advanced subscription basis. People who purchase reduced-rate advance copies will be e-mailed Harmon stories and chapters as they are written, which they can review and comment on, thus becoming part of the editorial process. Hard cover books containing the final draft will be printed and delivered by mail to subscribers before they are sold in bookstores.

Maxwell’s book intro discusses some of the controversy around Harmon’s military service in World War II. There were accusations out there discrediting Harmon’s military service, summarized below:

…very persistent rumor is afloat to the effect that Tom Harmon, when he crashed in South America was yellow, that he, contrary to all traditions and rules of the Air Service (sic), bailed out first whereas it is the duty of the pilot to be the last to jump. Rumor has it that that was the reason that Tom was the only one to survive that crash. It is also said that he is thoroughly discredited throughout the Air Force because of that alleged fact and that he never would be able to get any cooperation from members of the service.’

Maxwell’s research discredits these rumors, showing that Harmon’s record of service was indeed clean and furthermore, commendable (he received a Silver Star). On the official record eventually Secretary of War Henry Stimson responded to a request from a Michigan senator and concluded in a 52 page report: “the War Department denounces these stories and deplores the circulation of such unfounded rumors.”

These stories and rumors persist, I’ve read them on message boards and the like. I’m glad to see Maxwell looked into it and didn’t just go with a feel good piece on Harmon.

The book is truly still in the works, in fact Maxwell is still compiling his research. The author requests that anyone with Harmon anecdotes, photographs, letters or other Harmon memorabilia or memories contact him at TomHarmonBio.com.

Here’s an anecdote, does anyone know how Harmon ended up with #98? I do, how about you Fred?

Related:
eBay Watch: Harmon says ‘Vote for Heston’
eBay Watch: Old 98’s son faces Michigan, MSU
The Drunk and Old 98 (video)

1950 Army Michigan from Yankee Stadium

1950 was a special season in Michigan football history. Many M historians know this is the year that the Wolverines defeated Ohio State 9-3 in the epic Snow Bowl. That classic win earned the Blue a trip to Pasadena where they defeated Cal 14-6 on two late touchdowns.

All’s well that ends well, but things didn’t start well and included a trip to New York. The next edition of eBay Watch features this ticket stub from the Army-Michigan game held October 14, 1950 at Yankee Stadium:

1950 Army Michigan stub

You can see the full auction here.

Army was riding a twenty-two game winning streak heading into the game and dropped the Wolverines 27-6 in front of 67,076 fans including General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Gazing soley at the boxscore you might have figured the Victors prevailed or at least kept the score respectable:

1950 Army Michigan from Yankee Stadium

The New York Times commended the Wolverines effort that day and reported that Oosterbaan’s men put a bit of a scare into the Black Knights, scoring early and threatening often. In the end Army was too tough, capitalizing when they needed to pull safely away. Army’s streak eventually ended later that season in a 14-2 loss to Navy.

While the football squad took a bit of a beating in a hard fought battle, the Michigan Marching Band made a few headlines with a legendary performance on the historic field. Their effort earned a few inches in the Times post-game coverage:

1950 Army Michigan from Yankee Stadium

Brush away tear after reading that. My god, Revelli pulled out all the stops!

Other Notes:
* This was Michigan second trip to Yankee Stadium, the first was in 1945 also against Army. The Wolverines were defeated in a similar fashion 28-7.

* I actually made it out to Yankee stadium last week to check out the stadium before they move to the new digs, a photo for you from my seats featuring the captain and M man Jeter:

Yankee Stadium

* They don’t write like this anymore. From the New York Times, Tuesday January 2, 1951 on the Rose Bowl later that season:

A crowd of 89,939, basking in sunny but brisk ideal football weather, watched Bennie Oosterbann’s indomitable Wolverines, indecisive winners of the 1950 Big Ten crown, cap the immolation of the Coast in the New Year interconference competition with their trouncing of Lynn Waldorkf’s pigskin chasers.

Credits: The lead photo, boxscore and the Marching band summary were all from the October 15, 1950 edition of the New York Times, “Cadet Streak at 23”.

28. July 2008 · Comments Off on eBay Watch: Harmon Goes for the Gusto · Categories: Archive 2008, eBay Watch, Heisman, History, Michigan Memorabilia

Tom Harmon Schlitz Beer Ad, 1964 Olympics

An Olympic version of eBay Watch, this time an ad from Life magazine in the days leading up to the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics featuring Michigan Heisman trophy winner Tom Harmon. Old 98 is featured as an NBC broadcaster who likes his Schlitz beer with a little extra gusto.

Somewhere in our nation’s history the words “gusto” and “beer” became forever tied and perhaps this was the beginning of this beautiful union. The ad sold for a mere $3 this past February on the auction site.

Harmon follows a long history of Michigan athletes and coaches tied to the games, look no further than the Sports Illustrated 2008 Beijing Olympic preview on your newsstand to see a familiar face around campus:

The University had a healthy representation in the 1964 Tokyo games. According to the Bentley Historical Library, U-M placed athletes on teams representing NINE countries.  Collectively they brought home 7 medals: 3 golds, 1 silver and 3 bronze.

An interesting note, the Michigan contingent almost didn’t have to travel very far for these games. It turns out Detroit was the United States’ entry into the IOC site bidding process for the 1964 Olympics, finishing second in the voting behind Tokyo.

Related:
eBay Watch: Old 98’s Son faces Michigan, MSU
eBay Watch: The Drunk and Old 98 – [I’m working on a remastered special edition of this incident.]
Tom Harmon items on eBay

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Charles Woodson wine

Found this on mgoblue.com today (there’s also an older piece from the Free Press). During his days in Oakland, Heisman trophy winner Charles Woodson apparently befriended someone at wine maker Robert Mondavi not too long ago and was inspired to deliver his own vintage. He calls it TwentyFour:

Charles Woodson wine

Do you want to try it? Here’s the details on a tasting coming up:

….the Michigan debut of TwentyFour will take place with a wine tasting on Friday (July 18) at the Chop House in Ann Arbor. The event will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. with tickets available for $75 per person. A portion of the evening’s proceeds will benefit the Mott’s Children’s Hospital and Woodson will donate $10 from each bottle sold to the hospital.

I was getting sick of everyone’s definition of a Michigan Renaissance man starting and ending with Dhani Jones and his bowties. This is pretty cool – good for Chuck.

What’s not so cool? One of Michigan’s greatest football players of all time feeling ok about this sweater, yikes:

Charles Woodson wine

Charles Woodson wine

Update: A few folks indicate the wine is very good: a little Woody with a Chucky aftertaste.

You can see more photos and learn more about Woodson’s wine at Twentyfourwine.com, official site.