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]

Follow MVictors on Twitter 

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

1981 Wisconsin Michigan pin

This edition of eBay Watch takes a look at an interesting pin commemorating Wisconsin’s 1981 victory over Michigan. Certainly no one in Madison would produce a trinket today for a regular season victory, but keep in mind that Barry Alvarez wouldn’t arrive for another decade and Badger football consistently had a place at or near the bottom of the Big Ten.

The lowly Badgers and hadn’t defeated the Blue since 1962 and in the previous four meetings Bo’s Wolverines outscored Wisconsin 176 to zero.   Michigan was riding a nine game win streak (including Schembechler’s first Rose Bowl victory) and that was enough for the pollsters to slot the Wolverines #1 in the preseason poll.

This seemed to be an ideal opponent for the opener, held September 12, 1981, and Michigan came in as a 19 point favorite.  Over 68,000 pickled fans witnessed the historic 21-14 upset.   Longtime sportswriter Jack McCallum was on hand for Sports Illustrated:

Last year Wisconsin didn’t score a touchdown until its fourth game. On Saturday in Madison, against a Michigan team that hadn’t yielded a touchdown in 5 games, Wisconsin scored two touchdowns in the second quarter and the gamer—on a 71-yard pass play. Quarterback Jess Cole throwing to Tailback John Williams—in the third. “This win is the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Coach Dave McClain.

The issue? Michigan’s new dual threat quarterback Steve Smith struggled big time in the game. More McCallum:

For sure, Schembechler now knows, if he didn’t beforehand, that he has a quarterback problem; freshman [Steve] Smith may run a 4.5 40, but he completed only three of 18 passes for just 39 yards and threw three interceptions—all by Safety Matt Vanden Boom. And if Schembechler can’t find a quarterback who can get the ball to Anthony Carter, who caught only one pass for 11 yards against Wisconsin, well. Bo may not visit Pasadena on New Year’s Day after all.

The 1981 Wisconsin game was certainly not the last time that fans created souvenirs commemorating a regular season win over the Wolverines. Heck, it happened at least twice this season (Toledo, Michigan State) and of course you can still load up on goodies like this:

Appalachian State

In closing the SI column McCallum loaded up his pen and described the scene on the campus. In my mind’s eye I kind of envision State Street Madison being like this every Saturday night, but read on:

On Saturday night, though, State Street, the main drag, was loaded with people. Many were loaded; many were hanging from lampposts; all were singing the Badgers’ theme song, whose tune is that of the Budweiser ditty: “When you’ve said Wisconsin, you’ve said it all.”

More on the 1981 Season:

  • There would certainly be a few ups and downs but the Wolverines got a lift the following weekend. Notre Dame assumed the #1 ranking after M was upset, but Bo’s men were no doubt fired up as they hammered the Irish 25-7.
  • Sadly we lost legendary Michigan radio voice Bob Ufer during this season. He gave his legendary goodbye at the Iowa game and the Michigan Marching Band delivered a special formation in his honor [More from M Zone]:

Michigan Marching Band spells UFER

  • 1981 featured an incredible roster (Wangler, Humphries, Carter, Paris, Edwards, Woolfolk, Hammerstein, um, Boren, etc.)  That’s impressive, but check out some of the names on the coaching staff:  Schembechler, Carr, Miles, McCartney, Hanlon – wow.
  • No, Michigan didn’t make it back to Pasadena that season. They settled for a trip to Houston’s Bluebonnet Bowl where they faced UCLA in the first Pac 10 vs. Big 10 bowl game outside the Rose Bowl. WolverineHistorian put together a nice package for you, as the Victors prevailed 33-14:

  • Curiously, UCLA was a very familiar foe for old Michigan in 1981 and 1982.  After defeating the Bruins in the BB bowl, the teams met again the following September [31-27 loss] and again in the Rose Bowl later that season [24-14 loss].

You can view the full auction here, ending soon.  Other cool auctions out there:

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12. December 2008 · Comments Off on J. Fred Lawton & ‘Varsity’ (1911) · Categories: Archive 2008, Books, History, M Marching Band, Michigan Memorabilia, Ohio State

Probably based on the posts on this site around history and memorabilia, I receive the occasional email from folks asking about where to find an old item, or more frequently, asking to put a value on something. So I’m like the those mildly effeminate twins on Antiques Roadshow who price out furniture, except there’s one of me, I’m better looking, and sports memorabilia is for nerds cool. Reader Meg sent this note to me recently:

I have a signed copy of Roses That Bloomed in the Snow, a book of poetry by J. Fred Lawton. Is it worth anything?

Good question. I’ll get to the value in a minute but first, a little about Lawton. From a page on the history of the Michigan Marching Band:

During the fall of 1911, two Michigan students — J. Fred Lawton and Earl Vincent Moore — decided that the University needed a new song. (Since Michigan was no longer a member of the Western Fooball Conference, the words “…champions of the West…” as sung in the Victors seemed inappropriate.) Together, they wrote the fight song, Varsity, which was an immediate hit at the weekly Friday night pep rally in University Hall at which Moore played his new song on the Frieze Memorial Organ. Fischer was in attendance that night and, upon hearing Varsity, recognized its appeal. He agreed to play the march the next day at the Michigan-Case football game.

Yes, people still ask why we sing “champions of the West” but to me, it’s a throwback, it’s cool and I enjoy explaining why. Don’t get me wrong, I like Varsity too, but it lacks the ‘fight’ in fight song. The Bentley Library has this photo of Lawton and Moore singing a few bars for the cameras:

For his efforts Lawton received an honorary varsity letter ‘M’, one of only a couple dozen to receive the honor for the period 1913-1952 (others included Yost, Crisler, Keen, Fisher, Elbel, Matthaei – you get the idea, this is a big deal).

The book Meg owns, Roses That Bloomed in the Snow, was published by the Michigan M Club in 1959 & is a compilation of poems from Lawton featuring the title piece, which was inspired by the 1950 Snow Bowl in Columbus. After a little digging I found it:

I don’t think you need to consult insurers over this one, but it’s certainly a nice piece and would have value to Michigan historians. You can buy a copy of Roses online for $12 so I’m guessing a signed version would fetch anywhere from $20-$40.

Was the Victors Ripped Off?
1904 and the Mountaineer Romp
The Snow Bowl (1950)
The Blue get Bombed in the Bronx [great band performance summary in the NYT]

Thanks to the readers of this site for the great comments as of late. Check out the thread on the Dantonio Imbroglio post for a little back and forth between in-state rivals. And readers Chris and Bonus rolled up there sleeves and rolled out some passion-filled thoughts on this season in the days following the Ohio State game.

The highlight for me, a former Michigan Marching Band member ‘jeffgoblue’ gave a little inside pool on the history of the MMB creating the script Ohio:

I’m a former Michigan Band member (89-92). The first script Ohio has long been a part of MMB lore. Mind you, the ’32 band did not actually perform the cursive writing Script Ohio drill as the OSU band has done since 1936, they just made the formation.

In the 1970’s, MMB director George Cavender, charted a Script “State” formation that the band marched to while playing the OSU fight song. The announcer’s script read something along the lines of “We taught you how to spell OHIO, now we’ll teach you how to spell STATE.”

Here’s the photo from ABC last Saturday:

One good thing that came out of the game, ABC showed a photo of the Michigan Marching Band in 1932(?) introducing Ohio State to a little thing called the script Ohio. The photo is from the opposite side of the field, thus the Ohio appears upside down.

The October 15, 1932 game against Ohio State was played in Columbus:

Michigan Marching Band doing Script Ohio

Michigan Marching band performing the Script Ohio, 1932

Michigan won the game 14-0 and on the back for player of the year quarterback Harry Newman, went on to win the national championship.

With Saturday marking the one hundredth game between Michigan and Michigan State, I took a look back to find the first meeting of the two schools. It dates back to the late 19th century when on October 12, 1898, the Wolverines defeated the crew from Michigan Agricultural College 39-0 in Ann Arbor.

The season of 1898 was a special one for other reasons. The Gustave Ferbert coached squad made it through the season undefeated heading into the final game- a showdown with powerhouse University of Chicago held on Thanksgiving Day. The defining moment of the game was when Wolverine Charles Widman broke free on a 65-yard run that allowed the M men to take down Chicago 12-11 and claim the title Champions of the West.

One of the 600+ fans that attended game was music student Louis Elbel. As recorded in the October 1979 version of the Michigan Alumnus and posted on the alumni website, here are Elbel’s own words on how the Chicago win and the season of 1898 inspired the greatest fight song in the world:

“We were crazed with joy,” Elbel. “We paraded in the dark. We yelled and followed our U-M Band, singing to the tune of “Hot Time in the Old Town.” It struck me quite suddenly that such an epic should be dignified by something more elevating, for this was not ordinary victory.

“My spirits were so uplifted that I was clear off the earth, and that is when “The Victors” was inspired. I put in a lot of “hails” and I knew the fellows would get them in with the proper emphasis. Through them, the title suggested itself, and I dedicated it to the Michigan team of 1898.”

The other significance of 1898? The team’s manager was a young lad by the name of Harry Potter (pictured left from the Bentley Museum), who apparently hung up the quidditch broom in favor of a real man’s sport. It also looks like HP conjured up a wicked spell to make his hair part down the middle.

More Posts on M history:

  • Inspiration of 1898
  • The Disgrace of 1909
  • 1933 MSC Ticket Application
  • The Wolverine Pack & 1926
  • 1915 Cornell/Michigan Program
  • The Drunk and Old 98
  • 1901 Season Football Pass
  • Another slow start, another nice win for a Michigan team playing short handed. Despite the early mistakes blew away the Gophers in the second half and retained the Little Brown Jug. Ryan Mallett took one step back but two steps forward in his development, making up for some early mistakes by connecting with Manningham on some nice throws in the second. In the end Captain Shawn Crable secured the ancient receptacle and the Wolverines ensured that it would be safe in Ann Arbor for another year.

    A few takes from inside the Big House:

    – As I observed at the 2005 game, the Gopher fans were a big no-show at the Big House. I think I counted about 20 Minnesota fans, concentrated in one pocket of the stadium (see pic above). Either that or they have devious Maize and Blue colored disguises. I think I saw more hockey fans from Boston U. who were in town to watch the Terriers get swept by the Blue at Yost.

    – All signs point to a health Hart and Henne returning next week for the big one against State. Henne was active on the sideline and I saw Hart do a little sprint after the pre-game coin toss. They’ll be needed; Danontio will have the Spartans primed.

    – I caught Beckmann and Brandstatter mention that the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Mud Bowl was played before the game as opposed to, as is tradition, before Homecoming. SAE won 18-12. They mentioned that the date of the game was changed due to the homecoming week falling during an exam period? Hmm…things have changed since yours truly taped his shoes for the Mud Bowl game.

    – I’m still confused as to why Minnesota didn’t stop the clock at the end of the first half with Michigan pinned against the Gopher’s endzone.

    – Early in the game they recognized the longest tenured Michigan stadium ushers. Did hear that a Jonnie Johnson [sp?] has served Michigan ticket holders for 72 years? That’d mean she’d have started here in the Depression era during the 1935 season and would have just missed Gerald Ford play his final game in Michigan Stadium in 1934. Wow, this person must have some stories to tell.

    – Carlos Brown-Jug made his way into the record books with his 85 yard TD dash. The guy can just burn and it was nice to see the long runs of both he and of Brandon Minor. Here’s where CB’s run stacks up in Michigan longest run history:

    – Hats off to our robust placekicker KC Lopata who is perfect on the year and is starting to make it look easy. And all season has there been more a more consistent performer than punter Zoltan Mesko? He’s been outstanding. He gave Michigan two great chances to pin the Gophers inside the five in the first half, and he’s consistently booming high and deep punts when needed.

    A couple more pics from the game:

    02. September 2007 · Comments Off on Dropping the Baton · Categories: Archive 2007, M Marching Band, Non Conference

    Following up on the post-game thoughts published yesterday, a few more things on this disaster:

    Over before it started. Some of you may have noticed that the new Michigan marching band drum major did a bad, bad thing. After entering the stadium and dipping his hat (or head) on the stadium turf, the drum major marches to the North endzone, tosses the baton up to the goal post and must catch it if Michigan is to win. Needless to say the baton hit the ground. The band did make it into Section 22 to try to fire out the crowd.
    – Just opened the Sunday Ann Arbor News. John Heuser graded the team and gave the highest mark (a ‘D’) to Special Teams. I don’t know exactly what he uses to come up with these measures but a team that can’t get 11 men out on the field with any consistency deserves an ‘F’ at best. Throw in two blocked kicks, 2 botched 2 point conversion attempts and a kick-off return team that leaving the bench STARTED TO RUN TO THE WRONG SIDE OF THE FIELD FOR THE LAST KICKOFF with under 30 seconds left and I’d be more comfortable with a ‘G’. Carr got an F as well and deserved it:.

    Chad Henne. Terrible game. He started out accurate but started missing as the game progressed. His costly interception in the second half was freshman mistake. That ball should have been thrown away. He had open and even unguarded receivers at times yet committed to his first read almost every time. Funny… a lot of the tailgate talk was how it would be exciting to see Ryan Mallett out there in garbage time. Obviously that didn’t happen but I wondering if he might need to get a few prime time snaps in the coming weeks if Henne doesn’t get it together.

    Mike Hart
    Mike Hart. Great effort, tried to carry the team on his back but he doesn’t call the plays and he doesn’t lineup on defense. He said he got dinged on the first play and this is why he was left out of the action for a while. The guy is a warrior.
    People criticizing Bill Martin? I’ve actually read some folks last night and today criticizing Bill Martin for scheduling this game! I owe Martin an apology – he scheduled an outstanding opponent.

    Keys. While this doesn’t seem to matter right now, I got a good chuckle out of the graphic on the scoreboard announcing when it was a KEY PLAY.

    This of course was right in the face of the grassroots effort to get people to stop the tired practice of shaking keys during the game.

    Mike Hart
    HBO Filming Before and during the game a crew from HBO was out getting footage for a documentary on the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry and in particular, the fans. Above, here’s part of the crew getting a shot of some youngsters out on the M golf course.