02. October 2015 · Comments Off on TWIMFbH: A Booze Raid, a Double Header and Battling The Depression (1931) · Categories: 2015 · Tags: , , , , , , ,


19311003 Two Bucks, Two Games:  A ducat for a doubleheader (1931)

The 1930s are a underappreciated period of Michigan football, and the goings on in 1931 alone provide a representative morsel.   Click below for a spicy version of This Week in Michigan Football covers a wide range of events on campus in the wacky year eighty four years ago:

For more on the Rum Raid of 1931 click here
For more on the special charity football game played at the end of the 1931 season click here.

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 when they lace them up in Ann Arbor.  

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This morning we take a trip back to 1931 – a difficult time for the American people including those on campus in Ann Arbor. Not only was the country in the midst of the Great Depression, it was illegal to drown your sorrows as the law of the land was still Prohibition– making alcohol possession a crime.

These social forces were evident in 1931 as the year started out with a major booze raid on the local campus fraternities – all told 75 students were nabbed including the captain of the 1930 football team, a forward on the hoops team, the president of the student council and the sports editor at the Michigan Daily. The students were eventually given a slap on the wrist, but they never got back the estimated 50 quarts whiskey and gin that were confiscated by the cops.

The athletic department had other problems, namely how to get fans through the Michigan Stadium gates. The great Depression rendered a two buck ticket to the Big House a luxury, eventhough head Coach Harry Kipke had assembled a championship-calibre squad.

In a ploy to draw fans into the Big House, it was on this day in 1931 that U of M played a double header – that’s right, 2 games on one afternoon – to start the year. The opponents were Central State Teachers College and Michigan Normal, known today at Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan respectively. Naturally the Kipke’s Wolverines took both lambs to the slaughter, pitching 27-0 and 34-0 shutouts—- but only 13 thousand fans bothered to watch.

To conclude the bizarre year, the Western Conference agreed to schedule a full slate of “extra” games to benefit a fund for unemployed workers.   Michigan was originally set to face Northwestern in the Big House, which would have set-up a match of the teams that shared the 1930 conference crown. But just weeks before the game, the conference brass shifted the schedule to have Northwestern play Purdue in Chicago at Soldier Field – and Michigan was left with Wisconsin.

Upon hearing the swich-er-oo folks in Ann Arbor were steaming. Fielding Yost called the whole thing a mess, and predicted a light turnout. The Michigan Daily suggested a boycott. Charity be damned – students were quoted saying they “wouldn’t give a nickel” to see a weak Wisconsin squad.

Ironically the biggest benefactor of the whole event, which raised $154,000, was Meeechigan. Northwestern ended up losing to Purdue 7-0, so those who watched the maize and blue beat the Badgers 16-0 actually saw them earn a share of the league title and perhaps some momentum in the next two glorious years — when Kipke and crew won back-to-back national titles.


For more, check out WTKA.com and MVictors.com. For the Keybank Countdown to Kickoff, this is Greg Dooley.


Last week I talked about finding the “bottom”, that is, the end of the spiral of crappy things happening to this football team.  I don’t know if we’re there, but out there before the game Saturday you felt a weight was lifted and the mood was actually a bit festive.

Re: Big Dave – Ultimately what did Brandon in weren’t the changes he made to the athletic program.  Even the biggest haters would admit there were some things he did that worked.  For me, I’ll fondly remember his role in smoothing out the practice-gate mess (even before he was AD), bringing in the night games and adding the Legends Program.   What sunk Brandon was that he treated people like crap.

As I’ve seen (and heard behind the scenes), being an outsider, President Schlissel took a look under the covers during these past few weeks he found a very conspicuous lack of people standing up to defend Big Dave.  Take Hoke.  You are probably tired of hearing how he is a such good dude.  While very few (if any) people think Brady will be coaching next year, when he’s evaluated I’m certain he’ll have many folks to throw support his way in some form or another, because he’s down to earth, lacks a noticeable ego and relates to people.  You can be a strong leader and make major changes without being a complete cock.

Historic Shift Afoot – I’ll probably hit more on this later, as you might guess were are living through one of the biggest regime swaps in athletics/football department history.  Off the top in no particular order:

* Late 1960s – Don Canham “wins” AD position, Bump moves out of coaching into athletic department, Bo Schembechler hired.

* Late 1930s – Harry Kipke fired, Yost’s authority suppressed when Ralph Aigler brings in Fritz Crisler.

* 2000s – Dave Brandon takes over, fires RichRod and hires in Brady Hoke.

* Today – New President Schlissel fires Brandon fired and (football coaching situation TBD).


After the jump – Arena, Mood, and more

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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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Via my Google keyword spybot sentinels…from the Escanaba Daily News (naturally!), check out this piece on 92 year-old alum August Altese (inset left).  Augie played on the freshman team in 1940 augie and suited up once more for the Victors Classic prior the Spring Game a few weeks ago.  

A few choice cuts from the story:

On taking the field: ‘“I didn’t have my hearing aids in and they just pushed me out there,” Altese said. “I was so pleased to see that everyone was clapping. They assigned me the last five minutes and I just kind of ran this way and that. They didn’t throw anything to me, but when I was warming up they threw me three passes. I missed the first two, caught the third one and fell, and I still feel it.”’

On Billy Taylor: ‘”He was a great runner for Michigan, but he boozed it up and got into drugs after graduation,” Altese said. “Now he’s running an establishment that helps people. He’s a great guy.”’

and check this out, on Tom Harmon’s sponsored-sled(!!):  ‘“As a freshman at Michigan in 1940, Altese didn’t get much playing time, and though he was on the same team as legendary Michigan quarterback Tom Harmon, he said he never met him. [Ed. The author didn’t know or point out that freshman played on a separate team.]   “Tom Harmon drove around in a coupe. He was being paid by Wrigley’s Chewing Gum,” said Altese of Harmon’s celebrity, obviously playing at a time before current NCAA regulations prevented that sort of thing.’

On Yost and his righteous leather chair: ‘“Altese also met Fielding Yost, the legendary Michigan coach who was in his later years at the time was a frequent conversationalist.  “I talked to Fielding Yost several times at Michigan Union. He was in his 70s or 80s and loved to have people come and talk to him. He had those leather chairs and he’d be there.”’

Love it.  Read the entire piece here

And re: Harmon’s nice sled, purchased no doubt with a little assistance from his powerful friends at Wrigley.  At best a gray area in the rules if Wrigley “hired” Harmon to promote their gum, and 98 bought the coupe with the money.  We know that Kipke (who recruited Harmon) was sacked by U-M due to a scandal involving a illegally paying players via fake jobs.  Promoting gum sounds like a bona fide fake job—perhaps the phoniest in the pantheon of fake gigs.  The conference didn’t allow athletic scholarships back then, and it’s clear by Harmon’s actions following Kipke’s dismissal that he needed something else (see $$$) to stay at Michigan.  LIFE magazine discussed Harmon’s off-the-field pursuits to make dough in this 1940 piece, including “distributing gum samples”…

Harmon holds a scholarship, works hard to maintain his good B average. He helps pay his way through college by distributing gum samples, selling shoes and books, running copy for a printer. In his spare time Harmon collects swing records, goes around with pretty Margot Thoms (left). He runs a sports show over a local radio station on Saturday mornings. Although he gets no pay for this show, he hopes to become a sports announcer after he graduates next June.

There were rumors abound that Harmon was nudged from Horace Mann HS (Gary, IN) towards Ann Arbor via influential Chicago alums..certainly none of those fellas in the Windy City club knew anyone downtown at Wrigley. :)   Ahh, something to chew on.


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MaraWatch - Wolverines Collection!  Go Blue

Good Wednesday to you, friends.  WPW leads off with a classic shot of the B1G football coaches meeting prior to the 1931 season:

 Kipke and coaches 1931 360785202817   Kipke description
This photo, from the Big Ten meetings prior to the 1931 season, is probably worth its $44 auction price.   On the floor you’ve got M headman Harry Kipke with Purdue coach (and former player under Rockne) Noble Kizer demonstrating life in the trenches.    Minnesota’s Fritz Crisler, who would replace Kipke later that decade, watches from the back.   Amongst the men seated is Illinois legend Bob Zuppke sitting next to the one & only Amos Alonzo Stagg.  Great shot.  Dress code in ‘31?  White shirt, tie, Brylcreem in the hair (except for Stagg).


Benny Friedman 1926 201047600870

I don’t know when wire photos started to be distributed to newspapers, but this has to be a fairly early one (from 1926) featuring the great Michigan quarterback and NFL HOF’er Benny Friedman.   Seller claims it is an original and wants a mere $30.  If it’s truly the original it’s worth over $100 easy IMO.


Iowa Depression 360685717404

The Depression was a bitch.  It was tough to get folks to the Big House in 1933, despite the team entering the season as defending national champion and back-to-back-to-back B1G champs.  Above is a shot from the Iowa game in Ann Arbor on November 11, 1933 and the Wolverines were 6-0 – despite all this but a mere 22,000 fans waddled into the Big House on this day.  (Memo to the sardines crammed in end zone—umm, spread out!!).

Michigan would go on to claim the 1933 national title after tying Minnesota the following week and blanking Northwestern in the finale.



Previous editions:


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08. November 2013 · Comments Off on TWIMFbH: Relief from The Crash (1929) · Categories: 2013 · Tags: , , ,

For Saturday’s WTKA pregame show, we step back to the first game after the stock market crash of 1929.   It was a biggie and yielded this iconic program cover:harvard MichiganDespite the financial mess just days earlier, 87,000 fans packed the big to witness the heavyweight clash.   While Yost had established Michigan as a national power long ago, the Wolverines had, up to this point, failed to beat or even score on Harvard in their four previous meetings dating back to the 1880s.   That changed on this day in Michigan Football History 84 years ago on Saturday:

Here’s the clip:

You can catch all of the This Week in Michigan Football History clips here….sponsored in 2013 by Ziebart of Yspilanti.    And don’t forget to catch it live Saturday on the KeyBank Countdown to kick-off on WTKA 1050AM or inside the Victors Lounge.

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.

01. July 2013 · Comments Off on Calisthenics with Coach Kipke (1933) · Categories: 2013 · Tags: , , , ,

Thanks to Black and Blue creator Buddy Moorehouse for sending this over.  There’s no audible sound but this clip is worth checking out nonetheless.  It’s from 1933 featuring Coach Harry Kipke, several of the players and includes some game footage and a lot of shots of the team warming up and going through drills.  Buddy found this on a recent visit to Grand Rapids to check out the Growing Up Grand exhibit at the Gerald R. Ford Museum:

I love the vintage game footage of the kick-off 45 seconds in.  The opponent throws up a double wedge but the Michigan men maintain their lanes and squash the return.  The full clip is 9 minutes and is property of the U-M Bentley Historical Library.

Also on display at the exhibit is the RIGHTEOUS pigskin from the 1934 Georgia Tech game:

1934-Game-Ball-Michigan-Georgia-Tech_thumb[1] Buddy also passed along that in honor of Gerald Ford’s 100th birthday on July 14, 2013, every PBS affiliate in the state will be airing Black and Blue.  Nice!

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I don’t if Harry Kipke liked to be photographed, or whether the press chased him around a lot but, brother, there are always a lot of interesting photos of the former Michigan All-American player and coach on eBay.  

Vacation Kipke and Sarazen Kipke Saling

Just right now you can find photos of Kipke in scenes that have nothing to do with football—[left to right above] on vacation with his wife in Florida chilling in a bathrobe, hanging out with golfing legend Gene Sarazen, and most frequently, Kipke on his boat sailing or hanging out with other people who love to sail.  I don’t know if there are any Kipke family historians out there, but I’m guessing you can piece together Kipke’s life (certainly in the 1930s and 1940s) through solely the lens of newspaper wire photos that pop up on eBay.

Here’s my favorite and this might end up in my man cave.kipke_son_ebay

Taken in May 1935 (notably after the horrific ‘34 season), on the left that’s Kipke’s son holding what you have to assume is a leather Michigan helmet.  Kipke is kneeling in a sharp 3-piece suit with a flower tie as he tangles with two baby lions at his feet.   Harry’s no fool—note the protective oven mitts. 

So what’s the deal with all of this?   First, chalk this up to a day in the life of Harry Kipke, who clearly had photographers wherever he went.   I scanned the free newspaper archives but couldn’t find anything.   If I had to guess, Kipke and his son are at an event, perhaps a graduation party or something, at the estate of his pal Harry Bennett.  As posted on these pages before, Bennett was Henry Ford’s enforcer and lived off Geddes road near town, and yes, he was known to keep lions and tigers on the property.

Ships Wheel
While I’m on the topic of Kipke I have to share photo and note sent over by reader Bob.  First the photo:


Here’s the backstory from Bob:

Hi, I am looking for information on a item I bought from Harry Kipke’s estate. It is a very large ships wheel with a football welded to the center. It has gold leaf writing which says “Birthday greetings Harry Kipke”.   It was hanging at the bottom of the basement stairs going into the billiard room. It is said H.K. was good friends with Henry Ford, Roy Firestone and Tom Edison and they often hung out there…I was also told the wheel may have been a gift from one of the Ford’s (Henry or Gerald). The wheel is 52? tall and in great shape. What I would like to know is who gave it to him and what birthday did he receive it…It is a honor owning it but feel it should be in a place more people can see and enjoy it.  Any thoughts as to where it should go?  If so what’s it’s value?   A local guy says 5K plus but I just don’t know.

So first off, I have no idea how much something like this would be worth.   It’s one-of-a-kind and you’d have to find someone who’s interested in both sailing, history and Michigan football [mgoshoe?!] to even approach finding a price for this thing.  If someone’s got a truly unique collection this might look nice on the wall, but it is so tough to say.  For starters I’d want to know who gave it to Kipke, whether is an actual from a ship (or if was it created solely as a gift for Kipke—likely, given the football affixed in the center), and the manufacturer. 


* 1933 and the Dickinson Formula
* Harry Kipke and the Fall of 1934
* Jesse Owns and Gerald Ford (1934)
* The Willis Ward Protests (1934)

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09. July 2011 · Comments Off on Dirty Harry (WTKA audio) · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , , ,

When I hopped in the car Friday morning I was happy to hear the discussion on the WTKA 1050AM morning show focused on the 1930s and in particular, former M coach Harry Kipke.   Ira took a few calls including a notable one from listener Don who broke down the whole discussion of “worst” three year stretch ever, and the fall of the Kipke era.   Here’s Don’s call:

Well done, Don.

As far as Don’s online Michigan historian, I’m pretty sure that’s me and he’s correct that you can find a lot more on that era on these pages.


Regarding the worst stretch ever, I started that discussion three seasons ago when local writers started calling RichRod’s first the worst of all time.  And despite what folks say (including our athletic department), by almost any measure the 3 year stretches from 1934-1936 and from 1935-1937 are worse, and Don adds some great points about our dismal performance against our rivals.

It’s not so much that I care if you make a statement about the worst or best or whatever.  But out of respect for those who care about the history and traditions of this university, at least mix in a “one of the” or “among the” before you drop in the word “worst” or “best”, assuming you are not willing to do the research. Right?

As far as the scandalous end to the Kipke era, you can get your fill here, to this day one of the more popular pages on this site.   His most egregious foul (at least in today’s terms) was this one:

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.

As I’ve said, there’s a reason why Bo, Yost, Crisler and even Oosterbaan have buildings named after them and Kipke has a service drive through the stadium parking lot.

Yost’s Warning to you Drunks (1933)
1933 and the Dickinson Formula
1933 MSC Ticket Application
Harry Kipke and the Fall of 1934
Smoke ‘em if you Got ‘em (1935-ish)
The Willis Ward Protests (1934)