Continuing the series on the Little Brown Jug in this, the 100th anniversary season of when Michigan and Minnesota first played for the trophy. Previous posts: Part I: What Really Happened in the 1930s – Part II: Spinning Myths – Part III: Getting it Right
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I’ve received a few questions about the Little Brown Jug since I started this series, and the most common involves an upcoming dilemma. There are 91 scores painted on the jug dating back to 1903, including 66 Michigan wins, 22 for the Gophers, three ties (1903, 1933, and 1950) with just two slots remaining in the current configuration:
The teams resume their rivalry in 2011 in Ann Arbor and the return to Minneapolis and the new TCF Stadium in 2012. Beyond that a decision will need to be made if they intend to continue writing the scores of the games on the jug.
The teams didn’t actually play for the jug in 1903—Michigan left the pottery behind after they left Minneapolis and the Gophers claimed it as prize before the teams agreed to play for it prior to the 1909 game. The tradition of painting on the jug started right off the bat thanks to Minnesota “custodian” Oscar Munson and athletic director L.J. “Doc” Cooke. Here’s a look at their handiwork:
On the left, the jug suspended in 1905 from the ceiling of Doc Cooke’s office offers a view of the score of the game with some special emphasis (MINNESOTA 6, Michigan 6).
To the right, the other side with a from the 1910 Michiganensian of the ‘Michigan Jug’ with “Captured” by Oscar with the date of the game and up top, a warning: ‘Not to be taken from the Gymnasium’. (Maybe if they would have left that warning in tact in the 1930s, we wouldn’t have had this problem).
So the tradition of painting this beauty started early and obviously evolved from the 6-6 score taking up a quarter of the jug, to today’s 91 scores (within 90 slots – the teams played twice in 1926, two wins for the good guys FWIW) arranged in four columns that nestle in pairs in between the painted M logos for each squad. The current score grid consists of 92 available slots, slight unbalanced with 48 scores on the Blue side along with 44 on the Maroon (including the two remaining slots):
One curiosity—beneath the columns of scores starting with 1903 and 1941, there is a row that spans that segment of the jug that was left blank. I have no explanation beyond that it appears as though that section is a little beat up and perhaps they decided to avoid it with the paintbrush:
What to Do
So, assuming they don’t use that mysterious row, that’ll give them two more games until they have to make a decision. The possibilities with commentary:
1. Stop putting scores on the jug. No way. I will fight you.
2. Just remove some of the old scores. That’d kill me and again, I will fight you. You can’t take off the old scores. While the first game didn’t take place until 1909, you have got to leave the 1903 tie score on their for the sake of this tradition.
3. Make the Jug bigger. There’s only one reasonable way to do this, and tossing this beauty back on the potters wheel and into the kiln isn’t it.
Per Ryan Forrey, the master potter at The Henry Ford/Greenfield Village, “You can’t re-fire the Jug. The pot would go through extreme thermal-shock which could lead to the breaking of the Jug.” Not good.
Forrey offered a possibility. “The only thing can be done in my opinion is to make an additional ceramic base and epoxy the two parts together. The paint job would bring the piece together. Of course the additional section can be made to look seamless or it can be done like the Stanley Cup where the additions are obvious.”
This might look something like this:
Original photo Danny Moloshok/Getty Images
Interesting idea and heck, at some point you are going to run out of room no matter what you do unless it is expanded. I just have trouble with changing the size of the jug – I’d almost rather lose some scores than violate the original shape of the jug.
4. Repaint the existing Score columns. You could always do this and this will have to be done at some point anyway. Part of the charm of the scores is that they are handpainted, and I think you could hold that tradition but make the just make the scores tiny. Roughly speaking, if you could shrink the whole scheme by 50% you could theoretically cram another 92 scores on this beauty taking you to 2104 – awesome. Further, if you shrink the size of the year and score, you could possibly fit another column or two between the logos adding potentially another 92 scores.
I remember that my electric football players were handpainted so I’m guessing they can squeeze many, many more scores on there. This option would maintain the current design of the jug.
5. Add new columns. I asked legendary equipment manager Jon Falk about this issue of running out of scores on the jug earlier this year. He had no clear answer so I assume nothing’s been decided. Falk did gesture toward the open space above one of the logos and suggested that additional scores could be inserted there. He’s right of course; there’s plenty of room.
There are a few ways you can go with it – you could have a single column or you could go two more columns and run them down above and even below each of the M logos. Here’s what it might look like:
This method buys you a lot of time as well. If you follow the representation above, you just added 22 scores on either side for 44 total. This would cover the rivalry until 2057 if the teams play every season after they resume in 2011. If you got aggressive you could probably squeeze eight additional scores in there without touching the logos, taking you to 2065.
6. Retire the existing Jug. [Added 10/13 based on the comments from the readers]. The question of who would get to keep the old jug would be raised, and if it’s a zero sum game you have to give the nod to Michigan. Perhaps the Michigan replica, likely a very old piece anyway, could be repainted and put into service for the next 92 games. But I really don’t like this idea.
The rivalry isn’t about playing for “a jug”–it’s about playing for THIS jug, the one left behind in 1903. Maybe the tradition of playing all these years makes that secondary but don’t you think it’s cool that they (allegedly) play for the same crock that Tommy Roberts bought for Yost back in 1903? Man, I sure do.
I actually went into this post thinking option #4 was the only way to go. But I’d be open to option #5 after pondering my crude representation. Eventually you’ll have to go down route 4 but adding the new space for scores (above) will push off that move for a couple generations. I can live with it.