Last Saturday WTKA played the Ufer broadcast of the 1964 Ohio State game (the 10-0 win that sent Bump Elliott’s crew to the Rose Bowl).   Dang those broadcasts are gems and this was no exception (remind me to try to get a copy of Ufer’s halftime interview with Fritz Crisler and post it here).  

If you read this site you know how I feel about that squad and their legacy—they have to be the one of the most underappreciated teams in U-M history.  I think this year a few folks have done a lot to help right that wrong, leading with historian Bruce Geelhoed. 

For starters Geelhoed has an outstanding story in the current edition of Michigan History magazine on the 1964 Ohio State game titled, ‘The Game that Turned Around the Michigan-Ohio State Rivalry’.  You can pick it up at local Meijer and Barnes and Noble stores or online here.

photo Captain Conley’s righteous pigskin – the Ohio State game ball

But foremost — Geelhoed recently published this, a 248 page book on the 1964 season itself:

Geelhoed Book If you are the type of fan who has books like John Kryk’s Natural Enemies and John Bacon’s Blue Ice on your shelf, this is no brainer— go out and get a copy.   It includes an endorsement from yours truly on the back cover.

That incredible season had so much drama—and it’s all captured here, finally, for the record.   A big hat tip to Geelhoed for pulling this book together – I know it’s been years in the making.

 

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27. September 2014 · Comments Off on Jugs, Hounds and Champions | Minnesota Pregame Photos · Categories: 2014 · Tags: , , , , ,

A few from pregame out here on a perfect day inside the Big House:

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Jug safe keeping

 

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The Official Braylon back in the house

 

DSCN6635Mad Magician and ‘64 Head Coach Bump Elliott and All-American QB Bob Timberlake

 

DSCN6631 Captain Jim Conley and Barry Dehlin

gear

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Frank “The Fudgehammer” Nunley and Rick Volk.  In ‘64 Volk pick off the Buckeyes twice in the 4th quarter to seal the game and a trip to the Rose Bowl.

Jil Gordon and Scott Robbins

My favorite Michigan artists – Jil Gordon of TrueBlue365 and Scott Robbins of The Blockhams.  Check out Scott’s latest with Ira and Sam on WTKA.

 

Photo Sep 27, 2 29 39 PM

 

Photo Sep 27, 1 12 15 PM Jon Falk preaching!  (While Steve Clarke is tweeting)

26. September 2014 · Comments Off on Bennie O. to Bump, and the Unforgettable 1964 | This Week in Michigan Football History · Categories: 2014 · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This week we start with 1958, Bennie Oosterbaan’s final season at the helm in Ann Arbor and roll up to the coach and the team being honored Saturday in Michigan Stadium: Bump Elliott and the 1964 Big Ten & Rose Bowl Champions:

You can catch all of the This Week in Michigan Football History clips here…And don’t forget to catch it live Saturday on the KeyBank Countdown to kick-off on WTKA 1050AM or inside the Bud Light Victors Lounge starting at 11:30am.

 

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24. September 2014 · Comments Off on Captain Conley & the 1964 Wolverines | The Season (Part II) · Categories: 2014 · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Conley and Bump

Ed.  On Saturday the 1964 championship team will be honored during the Minnesota game.  Earlier this year I spent a couple hours with the (lone) captain on that squad, Jim Conley.  The full version of this story is available in mgoblog’s wonderful annual Hail To The Victors mag.   Given it’s their week, here’s a tighter and yes, less spicy, version of the story of that great season.

See Part I: Starting from Nothing

 

The Season
Following Conley’s direction the team returned ready to go.  More than that, they were ready from something more—they were hungry.

A few players made personal sacrifices that fall to help stay focused.   Conley gave up drinking—at least for the most part.  “OK, I slipped a couple of times on a Saturday night after we won.  But for the most part I didn’t do it.”  Other guys on the team made more challenging sacrifices—like steering clear of the ladies before games.

The 1964 season began in Ann Arbor on September 26 with a convincing 24-7 win over Air Force.  The following week Navy’s Roger Staubach, the reigning Heisman winner, returned to town.  The rematch game got national attention but there was a lack of local media coverage—all season in fact–thanks to a Detroit newspaper strike.  

In 1963 the mobile QB had torched U-M for over 300 yards of offense (back when that was a huge deal) in a 26-13 victory for the Midshipmen.   Many, including Conley and Elliott, feel Staubach effectively won the Heisman due to his performance against U-M in ’63.  This time Staubach didn’t live up to his Roger the Dodger moniker as the defense suffocated him early on.  “Basically we ended his college career,” Conley recalled.  “Bill Yearby and I met him at the sidelines, more Yearby than me, and nailed him.  He should have got out of bounds and I was disappointed he didn’t.  That was the end of him.” 

With Staubach grounded, Michigan forced six turnovers and won 21-0, paced by a pair of TDs by back Carl Ward. 

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1 - Charm Front Conley’s 1964 Charm.   How he earned it?  Read below.  How got it in his hands? click here.

[Ed.  On Saturday the 1964 championship team will be honored during the Minnesota game.  Earlier this year I spent a couple hours with the (lone) captain on that squad, Jim Conley.  The full version of this story is available in mgoblog’s wonderful annual Hail To The Victors mag.   Given it’s their week, here’s a tighter and yes, less spicy, version of the story of that great season.]

“You’ve got to remember, we were a bunch of losers.”

That’s how 1964 Michigan team captain Jim Conley labeled his team before summer training camp.  But somehow this group of losers, who won just 5 games in 1962 and 1963 combined, captured Michigan’s first Big Ten title since 1950 then pummeled Oregon State 34-7 in the Rose Bowl.   Bump Elliott’s team transformed into a powerhouse that put away four top-10 squads, including powerful rivals Michigan State and Ohio State on the road.  They crushed teams led by a returning Heisman-winning quarterback in Roger Staubach (Navy), and a squad (Illinois) that featured Dick Butkus, arguably the greatest linebacker in football history.

So how did it happen?  Perhaps more importantly, why are these champions — who were literally inches away from a perfect season and a national championship — generally ignored by you, the well-informed diehards that make up the Michigan football fan base?

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29. August 2014 · Comments Off on Oh Captain! My Captain! | Captain Jim Conley on WTKA · Categories: 2014 · Tags: , , ,

3 - conleyspringgame

This morning 1964 championship team captain Jim Conley joined John U. Bacon on WTKA as part of the Fantastic Friday lineup.  Captain Conley covered a lot of ground – from leadership, to his unique set of teammates, to coach Bump Elliott – and of course shared a bunch of stories from that amazing season:

Conley also noted that the ‘64 team will be honored during the Minnesota game this year – which is great news.  Hopefully Bump (who is 89 and lives in Iowa) will be there.

 

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14. July 2014 · Comments Off on And I’ve Been Working Like a Dog · Categories: 2014 · Tags: , , , , , ,

Hard Day's Night A Hard Night’s Day – via Hail to the Victors 2014

Yo!  I’ve been wrapped up for a while with all kinds of stuff, including working on some interviews and pieces that you coming up soon or this fall.  Things will being to ramp up on these pages soon heading up the season.  Things to look for:

  • Hail to the Victors 2014 –  Within the pages of mgoblog’s annual epic preseason book, this time I dropped in a piece on the widely ignored 1964 Big Ten/Rose Bowl championship team.  It takes you through the season primarily through the eyes of team captain Jim Conley, along with some help from his coach Bump Elliott and teammate Barry Dehlin.  Earmuffs!  It’s harsh – it’s spicy – and after you read it you won’t have a problem remembering the ‘64 team.
  • GoBlueWolverine Mag – Coming out before the season, I dropped in my interview with Bump Elliott that you’ll dig – it talks about the ‘64 team of course, but also gets into Woody, Bo, Bump feeling on his own legacy and much more.
  • 2014 Game Program – Still working on some stuff for the program (a few things in the works) and I  interviewed both Dan Dierdorf and Jim Brandstatter.  You’ll get the full interviews on these pages later on.  A sneak peak:

MVictors: You have a lot of friends in the business and many with Michigan ties. Any chance you’ll have a few visitors up in the radio booth during the year?

Dan Dierdorf: I would hope so. Yeah. Who knows who might stop by? I know I’ve extended an invite or two to some of the guys. Bob Seger has a home up by me in Northern Michigan. I know I have reached out to Bob, said “Hey, anytime you want to come to a game, feel free to stop by.” We’ll put him on the air for a while. He’s got a little bit of a following in Michigan.

MVictors: He sure does. How’s Bob as a person?

Dan Dierdorf: What a great guy. Just a wonderful guy. I’m not going to lie. I’m semi-starstruck around him. I’ve just been a fan of his for so long. He’s the most down to earth guy. If you didn’t know what Bob Seger looked like, you wouldn’t realize you’re in the presence of such a star by the way he acts. You’d think this is a guy that just drove up in a truck and wanted to hang out and talk for a while. Great guy.

More to come.

 

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04. June 2014 · Comments Off on Model Athletes | Wire Photo Wednesday · Categories: 2014 · Tags: , , , , ,

WPW returns after a brief hiatus with a trip back to Ann Arbor in 1965, a few months following Michigan’s 34-7 Rose Bowl beatdown of Oregon State.   The folks at Esquire Magazine visited Ann Arbor and came to the Sigma Chi house looking for a few good men to model summer clothes.  This shot included a few of Bump Elliott’s champions strolling in the Arb:Photo May 06, 8 13 59 PM Photo May 06, 8 14 12 PM

[Left to right above you’ve got Captain Jim Conley (Sr – End) in his prime, joined by Rick Sygar (Jr. – fullback), the lovely Jane Horsfall (class of ‘65), Jane’s boyfriend Bill Laskey (Sr. – End), and student Norm Legacki.]

I recently caught up with Captain Conley recently who explained how it went down:

MVictors:  How did this shoot come about?

Capt. Conley: “It started at the Sigma Chi house. It wasn’t about the athletes because, of course, because they can’t do that, but they could do it about the student athletes. Since our house was totally filled with athletes, it was pretty easy for them to round up the right amount of guys and put this whole spring fashion thing together. The guy that was doing it apparently was a U-M grad.  He came to campus and he went and went to Sigma Chi house and said, ‘Hey guys, you want to get some clothes?’  What they did was they had all these clothes in there, and if did the shoot you got to keep the clothes.”

MVictors: Did it get any attention on campus after the shoot came out?

Capt. Conley: “Heavens, yeah. It was a lot of the fraternity guys were reading that magazine. Most of us had our nose in Playboy, not Esquire because we couldn’t afford anything that was sold in Esquire magazine. Anyway, it was funny. It just so happened that there was a good number of athletes in there and, of course, they wanted a good looking woman and we found Janie Horsfall.  It was fun. But I don’t know why they didn’t use some good looking guys! [laughs]”

* * * *

Speaking of Captain Conley, Bump Elliott and the ‘64 Rose Bowl Champions.. They celebrate their 50th anniversary this season and I just finished my piece for mgoblog’s HTTV ‘14 on their wild season.  It’s certainly not the kind of thing you’ll read anywhere else and I think you’ll love it.  More to come on these pages as so stay tuned.

 

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I recently received this note from reader (and Buckeye) Larry:

I am a huge Buckeye fan.  But I love the history of college football.  I love the history of teams uniforms and helmets too.  I know that Notre Dame was one of the last teams to use leather helmets.  The Irish wore "plastic" for a little bit in the early or mid 40’s but went back to leather until the late 50’s.

Ohio State last wore leather helmets 1946 with a guy or so a little longer.

I note that Michigan had several players wear leather in the 50’s.  But I saw one player, Denny Fitzgerald #18, wear a leather helmet and no facemask in 1960.  That may be one of the latest I have seen a player wear leather and then to have no facemask.  Maybe there was somebody else but I do not know who.  I know Bobby Layne wore no facemask for the Steelers in the early 60’s.

I enjoy your site for the historical things. I wonder if you could find out why Fitzgerald wore leather that late and no facemask.

Larry attached a few photos of Fitzgerald donning the winged leather helmet with no facemask.  I love this one:

fitz3 

This is a man’s man and this is a tough man’s game.

Fitzgerald’s athletic resume’ is impressive, from being a wrestling champion (including a gold at the 1963 Pan Am games) to MVP of Bump Elliott’s 1960 squad.   He went onto a distinguished football coaching career that spanned college football (including as an assistant in Ann Arbor), the Arena League and the NFL.  Sadly he retired prior to the 2000 season due to a lymphoma diagnosis and passed away in 2001.

I’m still digging around a bit to understand why he chose to wear the leather helmet and whether he was truly the last college player to don the cowhide.   After consulting my pal and uniform historian Steve Sapardanis, a few ideas:

1. As wasn’t uncommon back then, Fitzgerald did a stint in the military before heading to Michigan.  He may have used a leather helmet as a high school player in the early 1950s, and perhaps again in the Marines, and just stuck with it.

2. It could be because of some concern he had over the plastic helmets.  According to Steve’s bud Curtis over at Helmet Hut, in 1948 plastic helmets were banned in pro football for one year as it was thought they were causing head injuries.  Many players were still skeptical in the years that followed.

3. Of course maybe it’s just that Fitzgerald was a badass.

    Jim Conley, captain of the great ‘64 squad, wrote me and shared a few wonderful memories of Fitzgerald and in doing so, added some credence to option #3 listed above:

Denny was a freshman assistant coach, as well a wrestling asst. coach. I first met him in the fall of 1961.  He was famous for being the last player to wear a leather helmet without a face mask.  He also held the record for the longest kick off return in U-M history. I believe he is now in second place.  [Ed. Correct, he’s still tied for 2nd with his 99 yd return vs. Michigan State in 1960].

Denny was a mean rotten bastard when I was a freshman.  I mean that in a good way.  He had an angry approach to football that suited me quite well.  When Don Dufek, my freshman coach, got promoted to varsity defensive backfield coach, Denny became the head freshman coach.  By that time I was a senior and I had a great relationship with him. 

As you may know, Denny was very rough around the edges and very dedicated athlete.  I totally enjoyed hanging out with him.  My fondest memory of Denny was at the Rose Bowl.  He was given the assignment "watchdog" over our social life and we spent most of the time trying to trick him so we could go drink beer and chase skirts.  It drove him crazy.  As he continued in his coaching career he became more tolerable and much more in tune with his Irish heritage when it came to beer.  After a stint at Akron, he followed Jack Lambert to the Steelers, where he became both coach and parole officer. 

Denny died too soon and those of us who new the real Denny were blessed to have known him.

Thanks to Larry for sending the note, and of course to Captain Conley for offering those memories of Fitzgerald.