01. October 2010 · Comments Off on Happy Birthday Big House – October 1, 1927 · Categories: Archive 2009

From Hail to the Victors 2010:

Ohio Wesleyan was the team selected for the first game in Michigan Stadium. This was no random act. Yost started his coaching career at the tiny school back in 1897; coincidentally he faced Michigan that season. Only able to muster ten men for that trip to Ann Arbor, Yost himself was permitted to fill in at left tackle. Somehow Wesleyan managed to hold Michigan scoreless and the game ended in a 0-0 deadlock.

We are remarkably fortunate to have someone around town who actually witnessed the first game in the freshly minted stadium. Red Simmons, the inaugural U-M women’s track coach, turned 100 in January 2010 and casually mentioned to me in an unrelated interview that he went to the game with a couple of his high school classmates. I phoned Simmons early this year to talk about the experience.

“Three of us came from Redford High School,” Simmons recalled. “We didn’t have tickets but they didn’t have barbed wire over the fence. When we saw that the usher inside was busy doing work, we said ‘Go!’ , and climbed over the fence.” Simmons didn’t know that, according to The Big House, the athletic department offered free admission to Michigan high school students for the game!

Once inside, Simmons’s and his pals didn’t have any issues finding a place to watch the action. As he remembered, “it was mostly an empty stadium that day.” The official attendance as recorded by the Bentley Library was just over 17,000. The following day’s Daily put the number closer to 40,000. Simmons described the new structure as “amazing” and “wonderful”.

Michigan had no problem with Wesleyan, avenging the tie of 1897 with a 33-0 drubbing. By all accounts the stadium was an overwhelming success.

While the Wesleyan game unveiled the structure, the official dedication game was three weeks later against rival Ohio State. Tickets sold for the contest actually exceeded the 75,000 capacity. Yost conducted an instant mini-renovation for that game, hauling over the wood from the old bleachers from Ferry Field and affixing 10,000 seats to the outside of the structure.

When that Saturday arrived, 84,401 watched Michigan trounce the Buckeyes 21-0, with all three touchdowns tallied by halfback Louis Gilbert. Yost arranged for two special guests to watch the contest: Bennie and Biff, a pair of live wolverines, rested in cages on the sidelines during the game.

Any Stadium Bonds out there? – Bonds to fund Michigan Stadium
Big House Dedication -  Ticket stubs, Stadium history
Yost’s Bust – Head statue of F.H. Yost
Yost’s Shiny New Packard – Beautiful car given to Yost by alums
Freshly Minted Big House – Postcard – Great pic of ’27 Stadium

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