ferbertheadlineBillings (Montana) Daily Gazette, November 7, 1909

[Ed. In honor of Dutch Ferbert’s birthday on July 22 (1873), a repost.  Originally posted  Jan 28, 2012]

Today obviously the head coach of Michigan football team doesn’t have to look beyond campus to hit it big.    This hasn’t always the case of course, especially in the early days of the program.   While Fielding Yost’s contracts compensated him very competitively for the day, it definitely didn’t make him a wealthy man.  Yost spent a good part of the year pursuing his private business interests out of town.

Ferbert1898Do you know the story of Gustave “Dutch” Ferbert?  He suited up for the Wolverines in the mid-1890s but most notably he was head coach of the famous 1898 squad that delivered Michigan its first conference title.  The championship-sealing victory over Chicago that year inspired Louis Elbel to compose ‘The Victors’.

Ferbert coached one more season but then packed his bags and headed north, hoping to strike it rich in the Klondike.   In 1900 he traveled up to Nome and allegedly told folks he would “return rich or not all all.”

Well, there was some question whether he would make it, especially early on.  Thanks to Brian at the Bentley for forwarding this over, apparently from 1902:


Here’s the opening paragraph:

The many friends of “Dutch”” Ferbert, Michigan’s football coach in 1898, and one of the greatest halfbacks who ever carried the ball, have been fearful for some time that something has happened to him, but because it is “Dutch” Ferbert they remember his sturdy characteristics and are hoping that word will be received from him that he is safe

Well, he eventually resurfaced and yes, he kept his promise—he returned a rich man.

Thanks to the folks at the Billings Gazette for tracking down this November 7, 1909 story titled, “His Touchdown in the Arctic”.   The article describes how he made “a $1,000,000 touchdown”..and briefly recapped his quest:

The former gridiron star first located at Nome, and there the real battle to keep the gold-panning gusbest from the door began.  He tried prospecting in several districts, but with slim success.  He found work part of the time in restaurants, stores and other places.  This lasted for several years, but never a thought did he have of going back.  He started out to cross the goal line and a kick or two in the jugular from an adverse fate he considered part of the game.

Then came the strike at Deering City, and Ferbert was one of the first to hit the trail with a pack.  At the start it proved a “Roaring Camp” all right, but luck was a little shy, and then came the turn and riches in abundance.  He located some of the best claims in the region, panned out more gold than he had ever dreamed and became a bonanza king overnight.

While I’m not sure Dutch held onto his dough through the years, it’s still a great piece of U-M coaching lore.

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The new Schembechler Hall museum is quite a sight – definitely check it out next time you have the means.   According to #1000SSS “the Towsley Family Museum inside Schembechler Hall will be open to the public on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays throughout the year. The museum will be open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on those days and is free to the public.”

The best stuff (to me) is the memorabilia, the vast majority of it is on loan from the personal collection of Ken Magee, the owner of Ann Arbor Sports Memorabilia.   A couple items of note.  Ticket to the 1898 Chicago game that inspired Louis Elbel to compose ‘The Victors’:

1898 Michigan Chicago - Ticket Stub - Louis Elbel the Victors They also have a press “ribbon” to The Victors game in the display case.

This made my jaw drop – a custom-engraved badge presented to the U-M team from the epic 1909 Penn game (held in Philadelphia), when the crew of the U.S.S. Michigan came to the game and helped rally Michigan to an epic victory:

1909 U.S.S. Michigan - Penn - Michigan game

Elsewhere – one downside is that despite being a (very) spacious facility, they decided (at least for now) to not include the Little Brown Jug— not even the replica that has been on display in the museum for years. 

That said, consider #1000SSS forgiven for including this note inside the display dedicated to the LBJ rivalry:

ActuallyThat’s probably not very interesting or significant to most fans, but I was thrilled when I saw it.   The myth of Yost asking for the jug’s return really came to light as a part of the Little Brown Jug Lore series on these pages, and specifically in Chapter 8: The (True) Origins of The Little Brown Jug Rivalry

P.S. I would have tied the ‘myth’ term in the sentence with Fielding Yost but I will leave well enough alone :)

P.P.S. Speaking of 1909, one ball on the Righteous Tower of Victory Pigkins (#RTVP) is of course from the Syracuse game that year.  The score on that particular righteous pigskin?  44-0.  /wink.


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From my inbox, thought I’d pass this along.  Greg Kinney, the great curator at the wonderful U-M Bentley Historical Library forward this cartoon last week and I love it.  It was stored in one of the athletic department scrapbooks:


The gent on the left is disgraced Michigan football player James Joy Miller, who was dismissed after the 1909 season for failing to properly register and attend classes.  The scandal made it all the way over to the New York Times and Michigan ended up apologizing to each of the teams they faced that year.

Cook is explorer Frederick Cook, who reached or (claimed to reach) the North Pole in 1908, months ahead of the guy credited with it – Robert Peary.  At one point he promised to the King of Denmark that he would submit all the detail of his reports and findings to the University of Copenhagen.  He submitted a report, but not all of the detail the school was expecting and this happened:

In late November, drawing on his diary, he completed his promised report to the University of Copenhagen. (He chose not to send his diary to Denmark for fear of losing it.) In December, the university—whose experts had been expecting original records—announced that Cook’s claim was “not proven.” Many U.S. newspapers and readers took that finding to mean “disproved.”

So, thus the cartoon (assume in the Daily or Free Press?) that Cook and Miller failed to register.

For the record, Miller technically was registered but not until after the season on December 8, 1909.  His actual registration card is on file at the Bentley:


25. September 2010 · Comments Off on Iron Skillet Lore · Categories: Archive 2009 · Tags: , , , , , , ,

I think you know plenty about the Little Brown Jug, but if you need a refresher course head this way.   A few tidbits from recent days:

  • SMU and TCU battled for one of the college football traveling trophies last night, with Texas Christian taking home the hardware aluminum.  Check out the origins and inspiration of this tradition:

Ever wonder why SMU and TCU play for an iron skillet? The SMU sports information department has enlightened us:

According to a Nov. 30, 1946, article in The Dallas Morning News, the "Battle of the Iron Skillet" was started to prevent "mutilation of school property" by rowdy fans. The previous year, more than $1,000 in damage had been done to both campuses.

"The SMU student council proposed the skillet as a symbol of the rivalry and substitute for vandalism," says SMU Archivist Joan Gosnell.

Gosnell says minutes from fall 1946 student council meetings provide more clues. On Oct. 1, the agenda includes: "Further set up idea of Little Brown Jug Trophy," referring to the Michigan-Minnesota football rivalry. On November 12, the committee arranging an SMU-TCU banquet and trophy "was reminded of their job."

And on Nov. 19, a student reported that he had purchased the trophy — "an aluminum skillet." A motion was made that SMU and TCU would share the expense of the trophy.



Do you have any truly unique pieces of Michigan football history or did you spot a cool item in an auction or elsewhere?  Let me know – I’d love to hear about it.


This blogger rejoices over the news tonight.

So does this guy (below).  That’s Louis J. "Doc" Cooke, longtime Minnesota administrator who started Little Brown Jug rivalry by suggesting the teams play for the crock in 1909:

cook 30s 40s

If you’re not ready to rejoice, take in the entire Little Brown Jug lore series:

Part I: What Really Happened in the 1930s
Part II: Spinning Myths
Part III: Getting it Right
Part IV: 2013: A Space Quandary
Part V: Red Wing Roots
Part VI: Is the Greatest Trophy in College Sports a Fake?
Part VII: Open Questions


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A true piece of Michigan football history just sold on eBay.  It’s a postcard but no ordinary piece of mail.   It’s a 1909 postcard depicting that season’s championship squad along with a flag presented to the team by the crew of the U.S.S. Michigan:


This is a special item for me—I first noticed this a couple years ago and used it to lead my submission on the 1909 season in Brian Cook’s Hail to the Victors 2009.   Back then, the gent named Don McCord who owned a different version of the mailer forwarded me a high res version for the publication.  Here’s how it looked in HTTV ‘09:


So as you can see, the original owner of the item recently auctioned on eBay took a few liberties with the pen, decorating the front with various info including a few cheers and the score of the following week’s game against powerful Minnesota (a 15-6 victory which earned U-M the title ‘Champions of the West’, and oh, was the first time the teams played for the Little Brown Jug.)

On the back (opposite the address line) the owner jotted down the words to your favorite fight song along with the notes:


It’s addressed to one ‘Miss Flora Bates’ up at Michigan Agricultural College in East Lansing (!):


Most notably, scribed sideways on the front of the postcard was a note about the flag adorning the center (flipped 90 degrees clockwise):


This reads, “the flag the sailor boys gave our team at Philadelphia – a beauty!”

Indeed a beauty and here’s the story, with parts extracted from HTTV ‘09:

In 1909 Michigan won the first four games of the year but was stunned 11-3 by Notre Dame (coached by former Michigan player Shorty Longman) on November 6.  It was ND’s first victory over the Wolverines.  Two tough games remained, trips to powerhouses Penn and Minnesota.

Penn was a team Yost and crew met in the prior three seasons but had yet to muster a single point against the Quakers.  It was getting so bad that traditional eastern power Penn was growing bored with the Wolverines and pressure was mounting to drop Michigan from the schedule in favor of Dartmouth.  A few weeks prior a Penn official told reporters, “If we beat Michigan, I don’t see how we can schedule her again.”

Something was clearly different this time and it started even before the game began and when the Wolverines arrived in Philadelphia they got a big boost.  The battleship U.S.S. Michigan happened to be docked nearby and contained around 400 sailors on board “determined to see the name Michigan honored.”  The “jackies”, as they were called, decided to rally behind Yost and the boys and marched onto the field before the game bearing Maize and Blue emblems.   A gift (that flag that made it onto the postcard) was presented to the team.  And to the dismay of Quaker fans the jackies didn’t head back to the ship after the ceremony. They stayed–cheering and singing songs to honor their namesakes on the gridiron.  Michigan captain Dave Allerdice later called this gesture, “as fine a spirit as I have ever witnessed.”

Clearly inspired by the Navy men, Michigan jumped on the Quakers when the battle started just past two o’clock. Michigan struck first, set-up by a fake field goal by Allerdice who feigned a kick but instead fired the ball to tackle Stanfield Wells who took it down to the Penn three. Two plays later the Wolverines pounded across the line for U-M’s first score (ever) against the Quakers. Michigan added another touchdown a few minutes later.

After a mere eight minutes of play, Michigan led 12-0. Per the Michigan Daily, “so stunned the Quakers that they gathered in the middle of the field and decided that something unusual was happening.”

Penn tallied a late score to make it 12-6 but by all accounts the game wasn’t that close. The Daily’s recap suggested that Yost took the foot off the gas, as the Wolverines were “able to score whenever they wished…content simply to win and not wishing to disclose many plays.” In the aftermath of the historic win the players carried Yost, who toted an unlit cigar in his mouth, off Franklin Field as the Michigan faithful cheered.


After the season the gesture by the men aboard the U.S.S. Michigan lingered firmly in the minds of those on campus. In January, nearly two months after the game, the U-M student council agreed to take up a collection to fund a special tribute to the crew. Chairman of the Board in Control of Outdoor Athletics George Patterson offered his endorsement for the project saying:

“The spirit and alertness displayed by the team throughout the game was without doubt due in no small measure to this auspicious welcome from our gallant friends of the U.S.S. Michigan, and I hope that they may carry away with them on their cruises around the world a fitting remembrance of the University’s gratitude and appreciation of their friendship and good will.”

The U-M yearbook, The Michiganensian, summed up the Penn triumph in its season summary thusly: “Football is not a serious thing to many people, but the stand made by Allerdice and his men against Pennsylvania meant something.”

Regarding the auction of the postcard, a few folks clearly realized this was something special up for bid.  I actually tried to bid on this but was left way in the dust.  The auction closed with a top bid of $112.50 earlier this week.

Hey, order your copy of HTTV 2010 and don’t miss out.
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25. May 2010 · Comments Off on Winged Helmet T (As in Trouble) · Categories: Archive 2009 · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

clip_image002 New York Times  – December 24, 1909

Michigan is set to release their self-imposed sanctions in about 30 minutes.   File this under FWIW, but despite what some maintain it’s not the first time Michigan has been mixed up with serious off-the-field issues.   I’ve covered a couple of these incidents on these pages and beyond, but thought it’d be a good time to review.  

These events happened years back and of course times were different.  There was no governing structure like the NCAA in place when this stuff went down, and much of the enforcement was placed on the leagues and on the schools themselves. 

Joy Miller Scandal (1909)
[Ed. This originally appeared in
Brian Cook’s Hail to the Victors 1909]
In early December 1909 the Michigan Daily reported concerns over whether newly elected team captain James ‘Joy’ Miller was properly registered as a U-M and if he actually attended enough classes during the fall 1909 to be eligible for the football team. Miller responded to the charges claiming he had switched majors and was confused over the registration process. He actually attempted to enroll back in school on December 8, filling out a card and paying his $45 dues.

While an official decision had yet to come down on the incident, Chairman of the Board in Control of Outdoor Athletics Geo. W. Patterson had heard enough and started firing off letters of apology to Michigan’s 1909 opponents. The U-M Bentley Library holds a copy of the apology sent to Minnesota in its archives. The one page missive, dated December 22, 1909, explained the situation:

The facts of the case are that Mr. Miller returned to college late this fall, registered in the Engineering Department but neglected to enroll in his classes, although he did attend some of them.

The letter closed by offering the University’s “sincere regret for this unfortunate error”, but notably, no where did Patterson suggest the result of the game should be reversed or reconsidered.

On Christmas Eve 1909 the New York Times broke the news to the world with a headline that howled “FOOTBALL SCANDAL IN MICHIGAN TEAM”. In the article Patterson addressed the question of potential penalties declaring, “As the matter stands any of the teams Michigan defeated during the year now has the right of protest, and may ask that the game be declared ‘no game’ or its result reversed. We are expecting such action.” He added, “The whole university is sick about the business.”

In early January Miller’s colleagues in the School of Engineering recommended that he be kick out of school. After ignoring several requests to return to campus to face the charges, Miller was officially expelled on January 14, 1910.

Despite Patterson’s suggestion that Michigan’s opponents could claim the results of the season invalid or even reversed, no such measures were taken. Given that the apology letters (at least the Minnesota note) were dated prior to when the major newspapers ran the full story, it’s possible that Michigan’s quick and obsequious admission of the embarrassing issue was enough to pacify its football foes.  Author John Kryk in his wonderful book Natural Enemies, agrees writing, “Michigan officials were able to save face, to a large degree, by the swift, open and decisive manner in which they tackled these scandals.”

Cloud over Kipke (1937)
Thirty years after the Joy Miller mess, Michigan was dealing with far more serious allegations.  Despite a coaching stint that featured four straight conference titles and a pair of national championships (‘32-‘33), head coach Harry Kipke was in trouble.  Yes, his teams had major struggles on the field in the mid-1930s but there were darker clouds afoot and U-M decided to let him go.   The Board in Control of Athletics issued to Kipke the following five reasons for his dismissal, and they were published in the December 12, 1937 Chicago Tribune:


Here’s a brief look at a few of the spiciest of the charges:

  • Subsidizing players.  Yes, it appears as though Michigan promised the classic nice “jobs” to incoming freshman.  According to a university report players were basically guaranteed a wage at certain jobs whether they showed up or not.  The local employer was “instructed to bill another Ann Arbor firm for the time the freshman collected for not working” [Chicago Tribune, 11/11/37].  The whole thing unraveled when a bogus “employer” wasn’t reimbursed in a timely manner and complained. 
  • Those “Private Associates”.  This was aimed squarely at Kipke’s relationship with Mr. Harry Bennett, henchman/muscle/head of security at Ford.  (Henry Ford sent his problems to Bennett and they disappeared – Or were buried up north.)  The university brass found Bennett to be a distasteful character and made that clear here.
  • Summer Practice.  Not sure if Kipke employed quality control coaches, but it was alleged that most of the team held cushy summer jobs at Ford and whilst there, even worked on their football skills, from the Tribune 12/12/1937:

    Kipke allowed fifteen Michigan football players to practice three and four times a week throughout the last summer while employed at the Ford Motor company.  The players were said to have worked in the service department under Harry Bennett, Ford personnel director.  On practice afternoons, it was reported, they were driven in a truck from their posts about the plant to a remote place on Ford property along the Detroit river shore for practice.

    Shortly after the dismissal Michigan hired legendary coach and athletic director Fritz Crisler.

I’ve run the eBay Watch series for a couple years and occasionally I uncover some unsettling personal details related the memorabilia involved.  In June 2008, the auction of an 1986-87 championship ring resulted in a saga ending with a former teammate contacting the player who sold the ring to make sure everything was cool.

In January of ‘08, I featured the auction of a U-M football ring that was alleged to be a salesman’s sample with the name “McCartney” adorning the side of the band.  After posting a photo I was contacted by the wife of former coach Bill McCartney who claimed that ring was no sample: it belonged to her husband and yes, he wanted it back.

Recently a seller posted a bunch of photos from the turn of the last century including one featuring an old favorite of mine, hero and captain of Fielding Yost’s wonderful 1909 Wolverine team, Dave “Pig” Allerdice sitting criss-cross applesauce:


I wrote extensively on the 1909 season in Brian Cook’s epic Hail to the Victors 2009 & I hope you had a chance to read it.  Allerdice’s 1909 crew suffered an early setback to Notre Dame but recovered, smoking fools for the rest of the season including powerful Minnesota (and for the first time, U-M walked off with a prestigious piece of pottery) along with a win over Eastern powerhouse Pennsylvania.  From HTTV ‘09, a little on the Penn game:

Clearly inspired by the raucous Navy men, Michigan jumped on the Quakers when the battle started just past two o’clock.  Michigan struck first, set-up by a fake field goal by Allerdice who feigned a kick but instead fired the ball to tackle Stanfield Wells who took it down to the Penn three.  Two plays later the Wolverines pounded across the line for the first score (of any kind) against the Quakers.  Michigan added another touchdown a few minutes later and after a mere eight minutes of play, Michigan led 12-0.   Per the Daily, “so stunned the Quakers that they gathered in the middle of the field and decided that something unusual was happening.”   Yep, they were getting there hinds kicked by a bunch of hayseeds from the West.

In writing the piece on that 1909 team I happened to get in touch with a couple of Allerdice’s relatives including his granddaughter Annie Allerdice.  So, when I saw the auction of the photo of her gramps on eBay a couple weeks back I shot her a note thinking she’d be tickled and giddy.  (“I’m a kind and thoughtful person…” thought me.)


Upon seeing the photo, Allerdice quickly shot back via email:

Do we know who is selling this?  I have the original in my collection of family photos.  My experience with the Collectors Group is they will lie, cheat and steal for a buck.

Yikes.   And sadly this isn’t the only issue Allerdice has had related to her family’s memorabilia.  Her father (and Pig’s son) David, Jr. strapped it on for the Princeton Tigers from 1938-1940 and had a fine career.   Years ago when a group from Princeton came calling for pigskin artifacts for a museum, Allerdice’s family obliged.  It did not end up well and Annie explained:

In 1968 we were contacted about a future Sports Museum at Princeton.  In 1970 they asked to borrow, his jersey, his letterman blanket, and a football, ( I still have one).   We gave them those items, a helmet, his chaps, a jersey, a blanket and other mementos, they promised to give them back after a few years on display.

When the museum at Princeton was not built, we asked for the items back.   It took 4  letters to the Dean and President of the University before I found out the items had been stolen.

Did they bother to apologize or help us recoup the items?  Nope.  Nor did they pay for them.  So, I have little or not respect for anyone making money off my Father’s or Grandfather’s work.

Sorry, but, I really have an issue with these people,  I reported it to EBAY.

She of course gave me clearance to share this sad tale.  Obviously if anyone knows the whereabouts of these Allerdice family items please let me know.  I contacted Princeton media relations for comment (and I realize this happened many years ago).

Joy Miller & The Disgrace of 1909