30. October 2017 · Comments Off on On the Precipice (1903) | Little Brown Jug Lore · Categories: 2015 · Tags: , , , , , ,

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:

Tale of the Tape

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:

Armory and Jug

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.

They stayed at the Ice Yacht clubhouse – and check this out – I found this shot of the Michigan squad outside the building in 1903 via the Hennepin County Library – sweet!:

1903 Ice Yacht Clubhouse And if my eyes don’t deceive, that appears to be Yost wearing some sort of hat with a Block M on it – whoa:

Yost with Block M hat

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:

1903 Minnesota-Michigan Ticket Stub

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:

Northrup Field 1903

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:

1903 Michigan Minnesota play chart

You need more?  Get more.  Here’s your Little Brown Jug Lore.

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H/T to my man Craig Barker of HSR for the reminder and as always, the epic calendar entries in the Michigan Athletics History Calendar.  On this day in 1940 the ‘Toast to Yost from Coast to Coast’ was held at Waterman Gymnasium.  Fielding H. Yost was honored by a host of dignitaries – (Willie Heston, Tom Harmon and Louis Elbel to name a few) in an event that was broadcast on NBC radio around the country.

The Bentley Library has the original recording of that tribute.  It’s a tad choppy in spots but well worth a listen if you have the means.   The highlight for me is certainly hearing the voice of Yost as he addresses the audience.   Here’s a small clip where the 69-year old Yost recalls stepping off the train in Ann Arbor for the first time:

You get a taste of his famous “Meechigan” at about 14 seconds in, which endures today thanks to Bob Ufer, Chris Fowler and TWIMFbH.

There’s much more in the event, even a speech from then-judge Willie Heston – the star of Yost’s epic Point-A-Minute squads from 1901-1904.

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16. October 2015 · Comments Off on Yost Returns to Bust the Galloping Ghost 1925 | This Week in Michigan Football History · Categories: 2015 · Tags: , , , , , ,


Lesson:  Don’t mess with Michigan, its football team, or in particular, Fielding Yost or Benny Friedman.  You’ll pay.

Just the great Red Grange about what happened in 1925…or better yet listen to Saturday’s BEAT STATE edition of This Week in Michigan Football History:

More on that 1925 game against Red Grange here.  Or better yet, check out Craig Ross’ brilliant piece on the 1925 season mgoblog’s Hail to the Victors 2015!

You can listen to all 6 years of This Week In Michigan Football History here.  And don’t forget to catch the whole KeyBank Countdown to Kickoff on WTKA 1050AM starting 4 hours before each game, and of course live in the Bud Light Victors Lounge tomorrow starting at 11:30am.


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1925 was a special year in Wolverine football lore as it featured the return, after taking a season off, of Fielding Yost as head coach. His timing couldn’t be better and he led his beloved Meeechigan with one of the finest, arguably THE best, squads in his brilliant tenure in Ann Arbor.

The 1925 season opened with 39-0 and 63-0 drubbings of Michigan State and Indiana leading to this day in Michigan Football History – a trip to Madison Wisconsin to face the Badgers 90 years ago today. The Badgers were headed by George Little, a former Yost assistant, who coincidently served as the Wolverine head coach in 1924.

Wolverine quarterback Benny Friedman wasn’t a fan of coach Little – and he held a bit of a grudge because he felt he was unfairly sidelined when Little was in charge. But Yost put Friedman in as signal caller and the junior didn’t take long to stun the 44 thousand at Camp Randall – and perhaps exact some revenge on this old coach.

On the first play of the game he tossed a 62 yard touchdown pass. Shortly thereafter he took a Badger kickoff 85 yards to the house. Late in the game he connected with sophomore Bennie Oosterbaan to cap off the 21-0 drubbing.

The following week, October 24, 1925, the eyes of the nation turned Michigan’s trip to Champaign, Illinois to watch Yost square off against the Illini and the great Red Grange. As a junior in 1924, Grange crushed the George Little-coached Wolverines for the dedication of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium. In an iconic performance in college football history Grange tallied 6 touchdowns in that game, including four in the first 12 minutes on runs of 95, 67, 56 and 44 yards.

People talk about that game today, but they really don’t talk about what happened when Yost took back the reins and returned to Champaign in 1925.

For 12 months, Yost planned and schemed on how to stop Illinois’ Grange. He went with a seven-man front and a diamond-shaped secondary. Illini coach Bob Zuppke tried to counter the wily Yost by shifting Grange from halfback to quarterback. Twenty-five times the Galloping Ghost Iceman carried the ball, and 25 times he was sent to the turf by bone-crushing hits.

The only score of the game came just before the first half ended when Friedman converted a 25-yard field goal. Michigan prevailed 3 to nothing and the Ghost legend was taken down a peg. Michigan finished the year 7 and 1, claimed the Western Conference and outscored opponents 227-3.

02. December 2014 · Comments Off on Worshipping the Varsity Man · Categories: 2014 · Tags: , , , ,

Check out the latest edition of Michigan Today for James Tobin’s piece on the Yost’s fight to build Michigan Stadium.  It narrows in on a few folks that represented the opposition to not only the new stadium, but the culture of football itself during the period.   We’re talking the mid-1920s during the first major football arms race (when giant stadiums were popping up all over the place), and some struggled with the new found popularity (and off-field revelry) that followed the growth of the sport.

The piece also includes this clip of Yost at practice in 1928 –FWIW this was after the stadium was built and Yost’s coaching days were through:

A few choice quotes – starting with Robert C. Angell, one of the leaders of the opposition:

As for the players themselves, Angell said, only a few did more in class than maintain their eligibility. Nearly all their time and energy went to the sport. “Their diplomas cover a multitude of intellectual sins.”

But the athletes were only “a few drops in the bucket of university life.” What harm could football possibly do to the thousands of other students who simply showed up to cheer?

Well, said Angell, every autumn, football became a kind of addiction for students, “many but mildly, some seriously.” The sport seized “a monopoly of undergraduate conversation… A scientific theory or a piece of fine poetry has not a chance to squeeze in edgewise.

“Around the dinner table, in one another’s rooms, walking to and from classes, the chief topic for discussion is the team’s make-up, its powers, its chances for the next game…”

And all this talk hauled students’ attention away from the real purpose of college. Their focus was not the mind but the muscles, not clashing ideas but clashing bodies on a field of battle.

“The worship of the man who can throw a forward pass thirty yards…is not likely to turn…impressionable youngsters towards the fascinating problems of science, history and literature.”

And beyond the campuses, Angell said, big-time football was exerting “a subtle degrading influence” on the public’s opinion of education.

Because of press attention to football, he said, now “the ‘college man’ is proverbially an individual with little to do but drink, make love, and cheer for the team.” That influence, in turn, was attracting “pleasure seekers with no intellectual interest”—and “how can we hope to stimulate a love of knowledge in students like this?

Yost naturally didn’t take kindly to Angell’s comments, and offered this rebuttal:

“This same Robert C. Angell is a former member of the Varsity Tennis Team,” Yost fumed in a letter to the press. “He played with racquets and tennis balls purchased by the Athletic Association. He played on tennis courts built and maintained by the Athletic Association. He went on out-of-town trips and had all his expenses paid by the Athletic Association. He wears the ‘M’ Hat and ‘M’ Sweater awards he received from the Athletic Association. The money for all these items was taken from the earnings made by these horrible football men.”

The Michigan Daily sided with Yost and offered this in an editorial:

“What are the objections?” the paper’s lead editorial asked. Angell was attacking intercollegiate football as a whole, they said, not the proposal for a bigger stadium. And that was plain nuts, since “football is here to stay.”

In that case, they said, “one finds it hard to understand how a stadium of 75,000 seats will have a more detrimental effect on the student body than one of 45,000.”

If there were any good reasons not to build a bigger stadium, the Daily taunted, the critics should state them, “but the mere fact that freshmen idolize the Varsity man is hardly a valid objection.”

Check out the entire piece here.

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10. October 2014 · Comments Off on Getting Wild About Harrys | 1930 #TWIMFbH · Categories: 2014 · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Michigan Purdue

For tomorrow’s evening affair, a trip back to 1930, a season that started with a double-header(!) in front of only 13,000 fans but was notable nonetheless.  In that year coach Harry Kipke got things working and started a string of 4 consecutive conference crowns.   October 11, 1930 was week 3 when his Wolverines faced defending league champ Purdue.  This game also marked the debut start of would-be superstar quarterback Harry Newman.  Check it out:

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 3pm.


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08. October 2014 · Comments Off on Charity Shmarity (1931) | The Charity Game at Michigan Stadium · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

[Ed. With the talk of boycotting Saturday’s game (or at least the kickoff), a repost.  It’s not the first time there was talk on campus of boycotting a home game, although the circumstances in 1931 were quite different. Originally published in July 2011.]


I rarely feature ticket stubs on eBay Watch but this one is pretty unique.  In 1931 the Western Conference agreed to schedule a full slate of games to benefit a fund for the many Depression-era unemployed worker at the end of the season.   The league also agreed the games would count in the tight conference standings.

A full unused ticket to the game between the Wolverines and Wisconsin on November 28, 1931 went up on on eBay:

Wisconsin Ticket Stub
Check out the backdrop of the stub with the football player tossing a bag of loot (“A Forward Pass”) to the mass of needy onlookers with arms outstretched.

It’s actually not a shock that this ticket appears to be unused given the story of this one.  Charity be damned, barely 9,000 fans (some reports say only 7,000) bothered to show up for the game.  This ticket sold for $1, others went for $2.  Regular season ducats went for between $2-$3 that season.

Why the poor turnout?

Well, it seems that early in the process of determining the match-ups for the charity games, it was decided that Michigan would square off in the Big House against Northwestern.  The teams had shared the conference crown in 1930 and were near the top of the standings again.  Thinking they could raise more money by putting Northwestern in Chicago’s Solider Field, a couple weeks before the date they changed course and pitted the Wildcats against Purdue. Michigan was left with Wisconsin.


Everyone in Ann Arbor – from Fielding Yost to the editors of the Michigan Daily — went berserk.   After the Badgers were assigned, director Yost told reporters, “This whole thing has been such mess that I won’t even venture a conservative guess on how many will turn out.  It won’t be many.”

The Daily suggested a boycott.  Students were quoted saying they “wouldn’t give a nickel” or even “cross the street” to see a weak Wisconsin squad.

Ironically the biggest benefactor of the whole event, which raised $154,000, might have been Michigan.  Northwestern ended up losing to Purdue 7-0, so those who watched Michigan defeat Wisconsin 16-0 actually saw them earn a share of the league title.

The Wisconsin win propelled Michigan into the next two championship seasons when Kipke and crew won back-to-back national titles in 1932 and 1933.

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03. October 2014 · Comments Off on Neil Snow Wants Beer, Gets Beer | #TWIMFbH (1902) · Categories: 2014 · Tags: , , , , ,

Koppitz-Melchers Brewery For Saturday’s edition of This Week in Michigan Football History, we head back 112 years to arguably the greatest calendar year in Michigan football history.  That’s right I said it.

While that’s up for discussion, there’s little doubt 1902 was one of the finest for Michigan athlete Neil Snow. 

On January 1, 1902, Snow tallied 5 touchdowns in the inaugural Rose Bowl.

Back in Ann Arbor my man Snow the undisputed was big man on campus #BMOC, and the folks at the Koppitz-Melchers Brewery of Detroit put an ad in the Cornell-Michigan baseball program telling everyone how much Snow loved their beer.  Of course he didn’t consent to the ad.

Here’s how that all played out, as well as the game played on October 4, 1902:

The full story of the 1902 beergate tale here.  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 starting tomorrow at 3pm EDT (4 hours prior to Rutgers getting their butts kicked).


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Synopsis: They might be chicken but we’re the jive turkeys.  

No, the season is not lost but what happened last night was worse as anything that has happened in recent years – seriously – including last year’s beat down in East Lansing.   Oh yes, it got ugly (ironically, mostly Chicken Little sky is falling) on WTKA on Sunday morning.  A reminder to callers, please recite your fandom credentials BEFORE your rant, please.  Oh and the Twitterverse was less than kind to the current #1000SSS regime.  

Hope is not a strategy but..that’s my strategy.  And bourbon.

Peacock Trolls:  Nice to know NBC Sports is trolling this site…did you see that photo and brief mention of Yost’s dog?    I wonder where they got that?

More »

Many of you know the story—For those who don’t read on.  For those who do, skip to the bottom for a little Jug update.

PANIC(!) erupted in mid-September 1931.   The coveted Little Brown Jug, the symbol of the Michigan-Minnesota rivalry, vanished from the U-M Administration building.   A frantic search ensued sending media relations man Phil Pack (think of a vintage Bruce Madej) all over town chasing leads.  Based on a tip Pack even searched a few cider mills..but those visits proved fruitless.  /wink

Then, on November 19, 1931, the very same week of the Minnesota game that season, a car pulled up to the Tuomy Hills gas station (now the Bearclaw Coffee at the corner of Washtenaw and Stadium) with four men wearing “dark goggles.”   One of the disguised passengers rolled out a jug onto the pavement & it was scooped up by gas station attendant K.D. Smith.   While initial reports were skeptical of the authenticity of the crock, which was said to have been “freshly painted”, Fielding H. Yost himself inspected it and said it was indeed the real McCoy.  A local sports writer said Yost was full of it, calling it “a clever imitation.” 

Michigan retained the jug in 1931 but then headed back to Minneapolis in 1932.  Yost went along on the trip (Harry Kipke coached the squad) and was bombarded by the press with questions on authenticity of the trophy.   Old “Hurry Up” told them, “Why sure, it’s the real jug.  Take a look at it.  Does it look like a phony?”  [memo: Yes, it more than kind of looked like a phony apparently.]  Thankfully the Wolverines retained the jug in 1932 and Kipke, Yost and crew traveled home with the prized piece of stoneware.  And since we’re all friends here, I’ll add that U-M went onto to an undefeated season and took the 1932 national championship.

Then in 1933…on this day eighty years ago…another jug appeared on campus.  A little media outfit named the New York Times reported thusly:

1933 New York Times

Now Yost confirms that this is the authentic jug (effectively admitting he tried to pass off the “gas station jug” as the real deal).  The Grand Old Man claimed ignorance on what happened or who was involved with the thievery and the return, but openly asked for the person responsible for keep the jug the last 2 years contact him.

The full timeline events from the 1931 disappearance is here.   And all of your Little Brown Jug Lore is here.


Note 1: Commemorative?:  Attention Jug fans and Jug Brotherhood.  My spies tell me that the outfit that undoubtedly spun and kilned the original Brown Jug, Red Wing Pottery, are considering issuing a commemorative jug in honor of this special season which is the 110th anniversary of the 1903 6-6 tie (that launched the LBJ rivalry) and/or the 100th meeting between our two schools.   Nothing firm..but I’m efforting the details.  Stay tuned.

Note 2: Fourth and Long:  Unconfirmed…but there might be a little shoutout to the Jug and a Jugologist in John U.’s soon-to-be released book, Fourth and LongGet it now!

Note 3:  Follow MVictors on Twitter 

Michigan Football Tickets

** H/T goes to Craig Barker of The Hoover Street Rag for dropping this tasty morsel into the very rich with tradition Michigan Football History Calendar, effectively validating why we creating the calendar in the first place.

20. August 2013 · Comments Off on eBay Watch: Michigan’s Grand Old Man Laid to Rest (1946) · Categories: Archive 2009 · Tags: , , , ,

Michigan Football Tickets

On this day in 1946 Michigan lost its Grand Old Man—Fielding H. Yost.   This was an eBay Watch topic back in 2009 thanks to the auction of a press wire photo from Yost’s funeral procession, held on from August 22, 1946 in Ann Arbor.  The photo depicts the casket and his pallbearers:

For as many times as you’ve speculated that Yost was rolling over in his grave, now you’ve got an idea of what he’s rolling in.  Curiously the gent who composed the photo caption spelled Bennie Oosterbaan’s first name correctly (with the “ie”, often butchered as Benny) but laid an egg hammering when it came to his last name (“Oosterbaum”).  Bah.

The caption of the wire photo reads “GRAND OLD MAN OF MICHIGAN FOOTBALL LAID TO REST”.

I can’t summarize Yost’s impact on Michigan athletics in a single post and won’t really try to.  While he was not a man without flaws, he leveraged his incredible success on the football field along with his business acumen to lead U-M to build an athletic campus (for men, for women, and in spirit, for the people of the State of Michigan) that was years ahead of its time, with iconic structures like Yost Field House, the U-M Golf Course, and of course Michigan Stadium still standing and very much operating today.

The day Yost passed must have been a sad day for everyone in Ann Arbor and for the college football world in general.  Except maybe in South Bend.  It was probably a similar feeling as we had a few years back when we lost Bo or to Buckeye fans when Woody passed on.

BTW, and speaking of Woody’s demise…creepily this is not the first time a coffin has appeared on eBay Watch, as in 2008 I featured the auction of Bob Ufer’s makeshift coffin for his Woody Hayes doll:



Originally posted  March 21, 2009

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