It’s Little Brown Jug Week.
Much has been written on these pages about what happened in the days, years and decades following the famous 1903 Michigan-Minnesota game. Here are a few nuggets that describe what was going on just before the game, thanks to a few newspaper clippings uncovered by Stagg vs. Yost author John Kryk.
Scheduled Game time: 2:15pm October 31, 1903
Series Record: Up to this point Michigan led 4-2. (Minnesota won the first two meetings in 1892 & 1893, Michigan took the next four 1895, 1896, 1898, 1902)
Hype: Billed as one of the biggest games in Western football in years, Minnesota came in undefeated 10-0, and outscored opponents 506-6. Yost hadn’t lost a game since he stepped foot in Ann Arbor in 1901, and to this point in 1903 the team was 7-0, outscoring opponents 437-0.
Tale of the Tape: From the October 30, 1903 Minnesota Journal, a comparison of the line-ups with Michigan having the 20 pound weight advantage:
Speaking of the Armory – We know now that Minnesota equipment man Oscar Munson found Michigan’s water jug inside the Armory a day or 2 after the game, and, we know that Athletic Director L.J. Cooke suspended the jug above his office in the Armory from 1903 to 1909:
Quoting Coach Yost: Before the game a Minnesota man asked him, “Are you going to beat us?” “Well, that’s what we came up here for,” replied Yost. “It will be a great game, and probably a close game. Minnesota has been playing better football than any team in the west this year…if we win this, we win the championship.”
Travel and Lodging: The travel contingent arrived on the morning of Friday, October 30th and included 21 players (the first and second teams) along with Yost, his staff, AD Charles Baird, trainer Keene Fitzpatrick. They had breakfast at “Schiek’s” before then headed to their quarters at Lake Minnetonka at around 9:30am.
While the close-up is grainy, I’m guessing what you have there is an M flanked by 03 and 04, denoting the school year and thus the academic and athletic calendar.
One other thing. Notably missing from this photo is equipment man Tommy Roberts, the man who the story goes actually bought the jug for Yost. Here he is in the 1903 team photo:
It’s not far fetched to speculate that Roberts is missing from the photo because he was off buying the jug. Mull on that.
Wagering and the man from Fargo: By all accounts many a bet were laid down on this big game – $75,000 by some accounts. Michigan by and large seemed to be favored. Putting the match up aside, since Yost’s arrival in 1901 only one team – Wisconsin in 1902 – had even stayed within a few touchdowns of his Wolverines. The Minneapolis Journal shared this detail and story of one bigshot who felt good about the Gophers:
There are too many pikers everywhere if you ask me.
Minnesota’s Final Practice: According to the Minnesota Journal the Gophers “took her final hard practice yesterday (10/29) afternoon. Unusual precautions were taken to preserve secrecy. A double force of guards watched the gates and patrolled the stands, while others kept watch from the top of the brick walls surrounding Northrop field.”’
Michigan’s Final Practice: “Michigan spent the day quietly at Lake Minnetonka. The men were given their last signal drill, and listened for an hour while Coach Yost outlined the details of the plan of attack.”
Tickets: They were likely between $2-$3 (based on Midwest tickets from the era). They were color-coded to indicate where to enter:
- Red – East (on Harvard Street)
- Green – Southwest (corner of the field, near the railroad tracks)
- Yellow – North (at University and 18th avenues)
- Blue – – Northwest (on Church Street, near the Armory). That’s where the holder of this beauty entered the field:
Gameday Weather: According to a Minneapolis Journal report, “The weather was almost ideal with scarcely a breath of wind and the field was hard and in as perfect shape as could be desired.”
Crowd: It was estimated later that over 20,000 were on prem, including around 400 in the Michigan section. By all accounts it was packed. “Nearly an hour before the game was called the seats allotted for general admission were filled and the crowd was packed six deep outside the wire fence. The grand stand filled up rapidly and it seemed probable that hundreds would be turned away.” The Pioneer Press noted, “The telegraph poles and trees are full of spectators..” …which we know from this famous photo of the game:
Tauntings: The Minnesota band entered the field before the game led by a donkey, and, ahem, “the animal wore trousers of Michigan colors.” [They didn’t get those pants from Moe’s.] When the Michigan second team players arrived they were greeted with a rousing chorus of “Poor old Mich” by the Gopher Fans.
Arrivals: The Wolverine team entered the field around 2:07pm. The Gophers at 2:20pm.
Coin Toss: 2:25pm, Minnesota won the toss.
Kickoff: At 2:28pm: Michigan kicked off to Minnesota’ Sig Harris who fumbled the ball. Minnesota started at their own 15 yard line. Then this:
You need more? Get more. Here’s your Little Brown Jug Lore.
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