13. November 2017 · Comments Off on Luring Tom Harmon (1937) · Categories: Archive 2010 · Tags: , , , , ,

Chicago Daily Tribune, Nov 17, 1937

Eighty years ago today on November 13, 1937, this Western Union telegram landed in Ann Arbor (a copy was later obtained by the Michigan Daily and plastered on the front page):

In the fall of 1937 things were a bit dicey for the football program.  Since the 1933 national championship, coach Harry Kipke’s crew had just a handful of wins on the the field.   And in November 1937 the university launched a well-publicized investigation of the program, suspecting that football players were being “subsidized.”  Kipke was sitting atop a flaming hot seat.

As the drama unfolded, eyes turned to Michigan freshman Tom Harmon.   Despite the struggles on the field (..but perhaps due to some of the questionable behavior off the field) Kipke landed the multi-sport high school superstar from Gary, IN.   In the fall of ‘37 he suited up for the freshman football team as was required back then.   Harmon’s athletic exploits in high school made him widely known in the sporting world and even as a freshman, having yet to take a snap on the varsity squad, a Chicago Tribune headline dubbed frosh Harmon a “star”.

Suddenly Harmon found himself involved in the off-field drama.  He was named in the investigation as one of the freshman football student-athletes who were allegedly illegally compensated, and soon word spread across the land that Harmon might entertain changing scenery.

Several schools were interested in Harmon’s services, most publicly Tulane.  A telegram sent by the then-southeastern Conference school was obtained and published by The Michigan Daily.  In the wired note, Tulane assistant coach Bill Bevan told Harmon, “Our offer still stands. [You] Can still enter this semester.”

trib Chicago Daily Tribune, Nov 17, 1937

When asked what exactly that “offer” was, Bevan explained it was, “an athletic scholarship,” which he added was, “perfectly legal in the Southeastern conference.”  Note that Michigan didn’t offer athletic scholarships at the time.   If Tulane sounds like a strange destination for a Midwestern kid, Harmon’s brother Gene played basketball for the Green Wave so there was a connection.

One of the potential destinations for Harmon was rumored to be Yale, but when word spread that the people in New Haven may have offered Harmon some sort of financial assistance, the school fired back hard.   They denied the claims & made it known that Harmon had applied to attend Yale in January 1937—at least kind of.    After requesting admission and financial aid, Yale sent the necessary forms.  In his only letter to the school he wrote that his credentials for admission to the Ivy League college were: “Four years of football, four years of basketball, two years of track.”

No mention his of skills with the ladies.

Old 98 of course decided to stay in Ann Arbor.  Kipke was found guilty of subsidizing players (among other things) and was fired in December 1937.  Harmon wasn’t penalized in the aftermath and would thrive during his three varsity-eligible years under new coach Fritz Crisler.   His exploits peaked in 1940 when he dodged at least one drunk fan and later accepted the Heisman Trophy.

The Drunk and Old 98
Tommy’s the BMOC
Harmon and Old Number..Six?
Tom Harmon says ‘Vote Heston’
Harmon Jitterbugs with Joan & Jinx
Harmon Goes for the Gusto

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27. November 2015 · Comments Off on Harmon Wins the Heisman (1940) | This Week in Michigan Football History · Categories: 2015 · Tags: , , , , , , ,

harmon-2_200 Did you know it was 75 years ago Saturday that it was announced Tom Harmon had won the Heisman Trophy?  Indeed, back then they voted, announced the winner and held a ceremony to honor the recipient at a later date.   So Saturday’s edition of #TWIMFbH talks a little about Old 98 and his finer moments on the gridiron (and off):

Yes, in the radio clip I said Harmon “gave birth”.  Ira busted my chops after that and wouldn’t let me edit it (to say “sired” or “fathered” which is probably a little more accurate, although I wouldn’t be against Harmon in life).

Readers know the 1940 Cal game is one of my favorites; especially the drunk fan incident.  More here and my tribute:



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 at 8am tomorrow, and of course live in the Bud Light Victors Lounge across from the Stadium on Main Street.   See you out there.

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More »

Via eBay, love this one.  Check out of few frames from a comic book featuring Michigan’s Heisman winner Tom Harmon and a few of the preseason college stars heading into the 1941 season.   A true beauty.

I cropped it down to highlight the sections featuring “Tommy” Harmon, which was basically all of it:

Tom Harmon Michigan Comic Strip
In this opening frame, Harmon’s depicted with the torn jersey which is a nod no doubt to his final game at Ohio State where his jersey was ripped up during and after the game.  More on that later.   It also looks like they kinda slapped a winged helmet on his above, which is appreciated.


Tom Harmon Yale 1938
Harmon was indeed good right when he came to Michigan in 1937, but back then of course freshman couldn’t suit up with the varsity.  In the ‘38 season he was named all-conference and indeed shined in the Yale game, coming in and tossing the game winner.   Speaking of Yale, did you know Harmon actually “applied” to go to Yale after Harry Kipke was fired in 1937?  In his only letter to the school he wrote that his credentials for admission to the Ivy League college were:“Four years of football, four years of basketball, two years of track.”  LOL.


Tom Harmon Iowa 1939
Speaking of the Iowa game, it was certainly one of Harmon’s finest performances perhaps most notably, he dominated the 1939-Heisman winner, Iowa’s Nile Kinnick.


Tom Harmon vs. Red Grange
A couple things here.  First, re: his 90 yard interception return.  After Brandon Herron’s 94-yard TD return in 2011 against Western Michigan I discussed whether Herron actually bested Harmon for the all-time standard.   Differing accounts had Harmon’s interception between 90 and 95 yards.  So here’s another one claiming 90 FWIW.In the second frame above the classic sports writers (sans stubby unlit cigar) mention Red Grange, which was certainly on the mind of folks when Harmon was doing his thing, especially after Old 98 broke Grange’s scoring record in 1940.


Tom Harmon - Lifeguard
How’s Tricks, Tom?”   Hahhaa.    Regarding Harmon being a lifeguard.  True, but he didn’t do that in Ann Arbor—it was back in his hometown.  Per Sports Illustrated: “He spent the summer before his senior year as a lifeguard at the municipal beach back in Gary (“and punting up and down the sand for at least an hour a day” as TIME noted) and was in shape to rule the Big Ten again.”

I’ve read he also sold gum and worked at the campus radio station to make a few extra bucks.


98 - 6 Ohio
His magnum opus against Ohio State in 1940 is a classic—enough to earn a standing ovation from (and get mobbed by) the Buckeye fans after the game.   The drawing in the second frame was certainly inspired by this famous photo below of Harmon after the game in Columbus:torn 2
And regarding that final quote…
None of Us
…that all changes in 2013 as someone will indeed wear the 98 once again.

All in all a classic.

My only nitpick?   No mention of the ridiculous performance in the 1940 Cal game on his birthday, especially given the fan who tried to drag him down!  Dang, they could have dedicated a couple frames to that alone and I would have loved it.    More »

10. September 2011 · Comments Off on Heisman Caliber Accessories · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , , , , ,

Check out this close up of Desmond at the GameDay desk from this morning:

desmond up close

First off, you’ve gotta love the custom cufflinks.  The one on his right cuff appears to be a photo of one of his sons.  (I assume the left features another son).  Love that.

Next, is the ring.  My instincts tell me that that’s not a Michigan ring, rather, it’s a College Hall of Fame ring.  We had this discussion a few years back when I discussed the band Dan Dierdorf donned on a 2008 CBS broadcast:

Reader David, who seemed to be in the know, asserted that the ring I spotted was indeed Dierdorf’s CHOF ring:

Actually he wears one ring on each hand. On his right hand is his College Football Hall of Fame ring and on the left hand is his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring. Both have blue stones, but the one in the picture (right hand) is his College Hall of Fame ring which has a larger blue stone.

I doubt I’ll see Desmond buzzing around in the press box but if I do, I’ll get on that.

As far as the pink pen, discuss amongst yourselves.


  • ESPN GameDay – Then and Now
  • This Week in Michigan Football History – Remy Steals Powlus’ Thunder (audio)
  • Pre-GameDay
  • Desmond on Strike
  • Night Moves – Michigan’s First Name Game (1944)
  • Hoisting A Legend

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    07. September 2011 · Comments Off on Hoisting A Legend · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , , , , , ,

    Author Bill Roose was kind enough to send along an excerpt from his new book on Desmond Howard titled, “I Wore 21: The Legend of Desmond Howard”.  The book is dropping this week around Ann Arbor and will be available at the game on Saturday.

    While we’ve all seen the famous photo of Desmond making ‘The Catch’, how about this shot from page 69 of I Wore 21 of Howard celebrating with the lineman and the madness over in the student section?  Look at the faces of the guys running up to him:


    Side note: I’m probably in that photo somewhere, over to the left.  It’s up there with Woodson’s 1997 interception in East Lansing as the greatest Michigan catch I’ve witnessed.

    Here’s a clip from chapter two, Grbac talking about the play:

    Quarterback Elvis Grbac is still amazed by what Howard did that day. “I threw the ball up and it was really incomplete, to tell you the truth,” Grbac said. “Then at about the 5-yard line, Des looks up and he goes into another gear and absolutely runs by the corner and there are not too many guys who can do that. "That was a catch that just propelled him through the entire season, because now once we got inside the 20-yard line, people were like, ‘OK, what’s he going to run? Nobody’s going to stop him.’ After that ND game we could do whatever we wanted with Des.”

    Looking forward to seeing my classmate and Heisman Trophy winner honored on Saturday.

    More details on the book and where to find it here.

    photo via this site

    I swung by WTKA 1050AM this morning to chat with Ira and Sam about the great Tom Harmon, the Big Ten Network’s #5 Icon.   The show will air Sunday at 2:30PM (and re-air at 9pm, if the Super Bowl is a dud.)

    More Harmon stuff:

    Why Tom Harmon Went to Michigan
    Tom Harmon – Big Ten Icon #5
    The Drunk and Old 98
    Tommy’s the BMOC
    Harmon and Old Number..Six?
    Tom Harmon says ‘Vote Heston’
    Harmon Jitterbugs with Joan & Jinx
    Harmon Goes for the Gusto

    06. July 2010 · Comments Off on eBay Watch: 1997 Michigan Championship Ring · Categories: Archive 2009 · Tags: , , , , , , ,

    A painful edition of eBay Watch.   Ugh.  The seller claims the band belonged to a “well known player” and is asking $5,999.99:


    It’s certainly not the first Michigan football ring to be offered up on eBay and heck, it’s not even the first time someone’s sold a ‘97 championship ring.  Maybe this is the same one just placed back on the block.

    Other rings that have been up on eBay over the past couple years:

    I think the seller is reaching on the $6K figure.  I’m guessing this would be closer to $2K-$3K item but you never know if a big shot will swoop in to grab it.

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    charles woodson heisman pose


    ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Charles Woodson wants to be known as more than a football player.

    Donating $2 million to the new University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital and Women’s Hospital gives him a chance to do that.

    The school announced Woodson’s gift on Thanksgiving before he played for the Green Bay Packers against the Detroit Lions. The money will support pediatric research by The Charles Woodson Clinical Research Fund in the $754-million, 1.1-million square foot hospital scheduled to open in 2012.

    And there:

    @MVictors  Woodson: 1 TD, 2 INT, 7 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 sack, 1 Heisman Pose, whilst covering Calvin Johnson- 2 catches, 10 yards


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